Daycare Is Hard for Every Parent


My brother-in-law and his wife had a baby several months ago, and now that their maternity/paternity leaves are up, they're facing that dubious milestone most working parents are all too familiar with: the First Day of Daycare Drop-Off. And thus will begin a new chapter in their lives, one I hope goes smoothly for them.

I had, by and large, a completely positive experience with the daycare we used for our boys. The people there were amazing and wonderful and kind, and both my kids absolutely thrived in that environment.

Still, I didn't want to have to use a daycare. I never did. Jesus, if I could have figured out a different solution back then, I would have.

I remember what the routine used to be like when my first son was a baby: get up at Riley's rooster-crow hour to feed him, play with him for a while, get myself ready for work, get Riley ready for the day, drive him and his bottles and toys and extra outfits to the center, make sure he's all settled and run off while he's in a good mood, drive to work, work all day, drive back through epic Seattle traffic with plenty of time to spare before the center closes because if you do not show up by 6:30 to get your kid, they call Child Protective Services oh my GOD, get Riley and his empty bottles and toys and laundry back in the car, drive the rest of the way home in thick traffic while desperately singing the phrase "merrily merrily merrily merrily" over and over like a demented parrot in an attempt to soothe my crying child who is lulled to sleep while driving ONLY if the car is actually moving and not when it's stuck in a sea of red lights for eleventy bajillion hours, get him inside and feed him/put him down for naps/entertain him until his bedtime, turn on the dishwasher, and stagger to bed.

That was with ONE kid in daycare. Eventually, we had two.

Of course, my husband helped a lot and it wasn't always just me in charge of dropoff and pickup, but no matter what, it was never easy.

never felt quite right when I walked out the door of the center, my arms strangely unencumbered by the carseat and this nagging feeling of having left something incredibly vital to my existence behind. When I drove on to work and entered an entirely separate world for the day, I was comforted knowing they were in good hands ... but it hurt, sometimes. It felt scary to be 20+ miles and god knows what kind of traffic situation away from them.

I didn't have a choice, though. I had to work, and we couldn't afford a nanny. What other option was there? We didn't have family nearby, we didn't have a dutiful and unusually trustworthy German Shepherd.

When my husband and I talked about having children, it was always a given that I'd go back to work. I had no concept of how hard it would be, nor could I have predicted the stress it would add to our lives—dropping off, picking up, sitting at work with one eye fixed nervously on the phone.

(Oh god, the phone calls. Once we had two children who seemed to have a knack for absorbing germs and passing them back and forth, I started getting calls at work on a near-weekly basis. If my husband and I weren't panicking over who could ditch work to run back for a barfing toddler, we were fighting over who was going to take the following day off because you KNOW the other kid was going to get it.)

As wonderful as our center was, every day our kids were there was difficult for us. I don't actually think it was difficult for themthe boys always seemed to enjoy it, and our oldest talks about his time there with great fondness—but I am so, so incredibly grateful to be working from home now. This lifestyle is not without its challenges, to be sure, but it has been a giant relief to move on from the daycare days.

My brother-in-law and his wife have had a lot of heartache about using childcare, and I hope they find it to be a loving and trustworthy place. I hope they figure out a good routine, and I hope their phone calls are few and far between.

I know it will be hard, though. It is for every parent. But I suspect that this is what parenthood is all about—compromises, imperfections, and doing the very best you can with what you've got.

Was daycare hard for your family? What advice would you give to new parents using it for the first time?

Image via Linda Sharps

back-to-work, childcare


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nonmember avatar Fanny

Thats so sad that women have babies just to let somone else raise them.

nonmember avatar Carrie

Nice article. Our experience with our first baby was positive, too. We found an in-home daycare with a sweet as can be catholic mom. She was a lawyer who decided to stay home with her own kids and opened her house to a few kids to keep some money coming in for her part. She also had lots of child development classes under her belt, so she knew what each child needed. She was attentive, fun, creative and loving. Our son was held and cared for. My husband worked only five minutes away so he could be there quickly if needed. The one and only downside was the cost. It almost put us in debt. Our son was there from 3-9 months old, and we actually shed a tear when we had to pull him out. We've taken him back to visit since. Thankfully my mother-in-law was willing to take him on Mondays so I could log a long day at work then the rest of the work week my hubby and I staggered our schedules so one was home and the other was working. SO glad that's done with now. It was forced on us, though, when I was laid off...and 7 months pregnant with our second kid. Now I work from home part time for a friend's company. Strange how things have worked out for the best.

pezch... pezcharlotte

I wanted to start the comments off with a positive comment since I am sure this is going to turn into a nasty thread.  The best advice is to do your research and find the best daycare center that you can afford and more importantly the one that feels right to you.  We are very lucky to have found a great center where my daughter is thriving.  She loves being there and I am convinced that she is learning more and growing more there than she would if I stayed at home.  Our days are long with both of us working, spending time with our daughter and doing all of the little things that must be done because she is at daycare.  The important thing is that it is working for us and for her.  The other advice I would give is don't be afraid to call during the day if you need to. My center is completely fine with me calling each day if I feel I have to. 

nonmember avatar MotherGooseAmy

My advice is to go to work knowing their child is in a clean, safe, loving environment getting all kinds of stimulation they wouldn't get at home. Also, do NOT fixate on the details of baby's day. Do not wonder what he is doing every second or they will make themselves crazy. Also, remember that babies sleep for several hours a day, and when they are napping, just the same as when they nap at home, they aren't wondering where their parents are. Both my kids went five full days of daycare starting at 12 weeks. Both are wonderful, happy boys who love all kinds of people, follow directions and play nicely with other kids. Also they've learned skills like clearing their plate at the table, waiting their turn and saying please and thank you. I too, sent my kids to daycare with trepidation, fear of germs and a double dose of mommy guilt. Looking back, I have no regrets at all. If had a do-over knowing what I know now, I wouldn't have changed a thing. IMHO, BIL & SIL are giving their baby a wonderful gift. What great parents they are!

twins... twinsforlove

We use a home day care! ITS AMAZING my friend has opened her house to watch kids! Shes a single mom of 5 and the older kids go to school so she takes a few sets of twins (she has twin girls) and watches them for us! I was so nervous at first but my kids love it! My son crys when i leave and runs to the door but with in 5 min he is laughing and flirting with the little girls!!!! Try seeing if one of your friends or one of your friends friends have any in home day cares?? Its a lot more comforting to me honestly. My kids get to socialize and I get to go to school and even some times she watches them later so I can go on a date with my boyfriend. But really i love in home day care IF you know the people or know about it

nonmember avatar Jess

Was it hard? With my first (10 now), not really. But I was young and naive. With my second (11 months), it was (and still is) hard. To the point where I leave work early sometimes just to get her because I feel so guilty not being with her. I also feel so empty. My body feels so much lighter because her 25lb body isn't wrapped around mine, and it's not a good feeling. The center she is at is great, and the women are AMAZING. But it took three centers to find one I liked. My biggest piece of advice, trust your gut. I enrolled her at Place #1 because it earned the "#1 Daycare" award in our area. I didn't feel right about it from the start, but figured it was the guilt/nerves talking. The third day I picked her up, I read her chart that said she had had juice, fruit and crackers. She was six months old and NOT eating table food (which they knew). But I was told "she has teeth, she should be eating." We never went back. Go with your gut, and hopefully it will get easier. Although I'd love to be able to quit my job and stay home with her every single day.

pezch... pezcharlotte

I have to add though. We looked into home day care and we weren't comfortable with it. So again, this just reinforces: research research research. Do what feels right and best to you.  I know there are some very good home daycares out there but for us we wanted something different. Just do your research, do unannounced drop ins, call, and go with your gut.


kjbug... kjbugsmom1517

Every family will need something different. We tried the route of having a family friend watching our oldest and ran into problems like she wasn't dependable, she would intentionally go agaisnt what needed to be done such as no orange products due to horrendous diaper rashes from it and potty training she wouldn't even try. Then we tried the center route. We pulled sooo many strings just to be able to afford it.... now im home with my youngest who will be 4 this summer and she's never set foot in a daycare setting. She went to preschool for alittle while but we truely couldn't afford it... ya just gotta do what's best for ur family. And really consider the costs. Daycare is insanely expensive.

Liviann Liviann

Though it was really difficult financially, I will be forever grateful that my husband was a student when we had our daughter and was able to stay home with her. Until she was 20 months old, we only hired baby sitters for a few hours here and there. It made leaving my baby to go to work a little easier since I was leaving her with her daddy, and I didn't have to get her ready and drop her off. By the time she started daycare, she was easier to get ready in the mornings and she was really ready for the interaction with other kids. She loves her "school" now. (She's almost three).

So, due to that experience, we have decided I will stay home with our next (due in a few months) for at least a year while my husband works. I just can't imagine dropping an infant off at daycare. And the cost for two kids full time in daycare? Holy balls! Yes, it wouldn't eat up my entire paycheck, but what little that would be left isn't worth it to us when all the stress of getting two kids to daycare (and pumping 3x a day at work) would entail. What I wouldn't give to have family who could watch them, but that's just not in the cards.

ashjo85 ashjo85

We're very lucky to have my dad 5 minutes away to watch my daughter during the week. It's STILL hard no being home with her, but it's the best solution. We couldn't afford a daycare, it wouldn't have been worth it. Now, number two is on the way, and hubby is going to quit his job to stay home at them since I make most of the money now. You do what you have to do for your family, and you make it work. The kids will be fine.

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