On Day Care, Attachment, God’s Will, and More!

Should Christians Use Day Care: A thoughtful look at the issues

It seems like I really waded into some trouble in this post regarding the Roots of Empathy. I compared daycare centres to institutions, and several in the comments took exception to that.

I’ve been mulling over whether it’s worth writing a long post on my reasonings behind what I think of daycare, and I was rather hesitant initially, because I know it’s a sore spot for so many. In the church we do tend to judge each other by our choices with regards to childcare, and I don’t want to perpetuate that.

But at the same time, if there’s anything that I really stand for, it’s this. So I’d be a coward not to address it. I know there are some who will be offended by what I say, but please understand that I do this after a lot of prayer and a lot of thought, and I don’t do it lightly.

So let’s start with first principles, and then we’ll move steadily outwards looking at childcare choices, discerning God’s will for our lives, and more.

1. Children Learn Through Attachment.

A child’s brain before the age of 3 is very different from a child’s brain at age 8. When children are young, they primarily learn best when they feel very attached to a specific caregiver, or perhaps to a few close caregivers.

They need to feel secure and attached before they are really able to explore the world and their place in it. When children don’t feel secure or attached, their ability to learn well is hindered. They may learn academically, but their social skills are hurt because their feelings aren’t as acknowledged or affirmed. Therefore, any childcare arrangement must be one in which a child is able to attach to a safe caregiver.

2. Children Need to be Kept Safe.

A parent’s primary responsibility is the safety of their children. What is most likely to harm children? Other children. Little supervision. Unfamiliar surroundings so that they feel scared and act inappropriately. And above all, diseases.

Here’s an excerpt from a column I wrote on the subject five years ago:

Day care certainly is a germ factory, since at any one time 16% of day care children will be ill, and 82% will attend anyway. Both the Canadian and the American Pediatric Associations say that day care centres are responsible for the epidemic of ear infections. Day care children are also three to four times more likely to be hospitalized than other children, and at least 50% more likely to die overall.

But physical illness is not the only problem. A 1998 study published in the Child Development journal found that the levels of cortisol—the stress hormone—of children in day care centres are opposite to everybody else. Most people start their mornings with high levels which peter off as the day wears on. Day care kids’ levels peak in the middle of the afternoon. The more these kids are in day care, too, the more likely they are to insecurely attach to their mothers and to exhibit behaviour problems in school.

If a child’s safety and health are most important, we must consider these factors when deciding what to do.

3. We Have a Moral Obligation to our Children.

Our children do not have an obligation to fit into our schedule; we have a moral obligation to raise them the best way that we can. For some that will mean daycare, because single parents often don’t have a choice. Especially if you have to accept subsidized care, you often have little choice except the big daycare centres.

But many who say they “don’t have a choice” really do. I don’t mean to be harsh, but we can all make decisions to spend less money. You can move to a smaller community where housing costs are not as great. You can choose not to have a second car, even if it means you drive your husband to work everyday (I did this for years). You can choose to live in an apartment rather than a house (did this one, too).

Our children did not choose to be born. We chose to have them (even if they were accidents)! Therefore, we have an obligation to give them the best, safest life there is.

4. The Daytime Caregiver Should be Someone With Whom the Child will have a Steady, Ongoing, Loving Relationship.

Here’s one where I may differ from many Christian sisters. I don’t necessarily believe that it must be the mother who stays home with the children. I just think that it must be someone who is very close to the child. One of the other pediatricians in my husband’s group of doctors works while her husband stays home full-time with their two toddlers. She has greater earning potential, so he’s home. And he does a great job with the kids–taking them to the Y, taking them to the park, reading to them, etc.

One of the happiest periods of my life when the children were very small (1 & 3) was the time when I worked half-time and my husband worked half-time. We were both earning equivalent amounts of money, and so it didn’t make a difference who worked. For six months we split it, and it was so much fun! I got the intellectual stimulation of working two and a half days a week, but I also got to be with the kids. But so did Keith! And he grew a lot closer to the girls during those months, which has had a big impact on his relationship with them, even to this day.

I also think grandparents can be wonderful caregivers. I have several friends who have used grandmothers–in one case, even both grandmothers–to care for their kids while they worked. I wouldn’t necessarily consider this ideal, but it’s pretty close to it! I can tell you that I’m going to be a wonderful grandmother, and a grandmother is in the child’s life, is concerned about the child’s feelings, and can really give excellent care. So can aunts, for that matter.

But what if you don’t have family? Are you then stuck? It is harder, no question about it. I didn’t have grandmothers who were in a position to look after my children, and I don’t have sisters, either. But a close friend from church could also fill that role, especially for single parents who don’t really have a choice.

5. Institutional Care is Not Fun and, I would argue, not fair.

We live quite near the largest daycare centre in my small town. It’s also one of the most expensive, and the one that those with government subsidies use. In other words, this is the “cream of the crop” of daycare centres near here.

And this sort of thing is what I see everyday:


Imagine two women, probably aged 19-20, pushing two strollers with 5-6 children each. In each stroller, at least one child is crying. The two caregivers, though, are chatting with each other at the Stop sign, oblivious to the children’s wails. There’s really nothing they can do, anyway.

My children didn’t always nap at the same time everyday. They didn’t always eat at the same time everyday. They wanted to explore the world, and some days we did certain things, and other days we did certain things. When they were in the process of losing their afternoon or morning naptimes, some days they would nap, and some days they wouldn’t, and that was okay (though a little aggravating for me!)

In an institutional daycare centre, there is no room for individuality. All the children nap at the same time, in cribs lined up, one after each other. They eat at the same time. They often have to sit in a stroller, or in a seat, or in a high chair, waiting for the caregiver as she gets everybody strapped in before she serves lunch.

The daycare centres may look pretty, with painted walls and lots of toys, but it doesn’t stop the fact that it is an institution. Children must conform to the schedule or everything is chaos.

Do you remember when your baby was 10 or 11 months old, and how challenging that child was? Imagine having 4-5 of the same age, and you’re the only one caring for them. Could you do it well? Likely not. The children may have more toys at daycare, but there is a reason why we don’t tend to have four babies at a time. It’s hard to look after four kids of the same age all at the same time. Kids are very demanding at that age. They need you to rock them, and talk to them, and look out for them. Could you do it well if you had four?

I know moms who look after 6 kids under 6 at the same time. It is tiring. But it is not the same thing, because the children are not all the same age. It is much easier to care for a sibling group of various ages than it is to care for four children of the same age.

One of the joys of childhood is being able to explore, relax, and learn about the world. They don’t do that in the same way when everything, by necessity, has to be regimented.

Don’t blame the caregivers, though. Daycare is one of the most challenging jobs, and thus has one of the highest turnover rates. That’s why kids rarely have consistent caregivers at a daycare centre. I have had wonderful friends who worked at a daycare centre who recently quit. Both in their forties, they raised four beautiful children each. They are great moms. But they weren’t great daycare workers because, they said, it’s an impossible job. You cannot provide that many kids with the kind of love and attention a parent can. And the kids bit them and the other children. They hit. They cried for their mothers, even after months of being in the centre. Not every child cried, but enough did that it made my friends really sad. They felt like they were enabling something that was dysfunctional, and so they quit to do something different. Their conclusion? “You just can’t replace a mom.”

6. Your primary responsibility is to your family.

I remember reading Floyd McClung’s book Living on the Devil’s Doorstep: From Kabul to Amsterdam when I was just 19. He was the founder of YWAM, and took his family to live in the red light district in Amsterdam. He was busy with his ministry. Then he began flying all over the place raising money and awareness.

And one day, after being away from his family for an extended period of time, he felt God telling him something. And this was the message:

I have given the world to the church to save. But to you individually I have given your family. You serve your family first, and then the world.

That stuck with me, even before I was married, and I have often come back to that thought when I’m trying to make decisions about my life. This is a fallen world that desperately needs help. But God has given that world to the church, not to you individually. To you individually He has given your family. And thus your family is your primary responsibility. You don’t leave them for something substandard so that you can fulfill a role that is the church’s. We must all have a place in the Great Commission, but it comes after our role in caring for our families.

I don’t believe this applies only to moms considering daycare. I think it applies to men, like Floyd, who are also balancing ministry. I do not believe God calls us to sacrifice our children for ministry.

In fact, I would argue that 1 Corinthians 7 supports that.

I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs, how he can please the Lord, but a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world, how he can please his wife, and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs. Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit, but a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world, how she can please her husband. (verses 32-34)

In the context that Paul is speaking, he is giving advice about marriage. And he is telling people it is better not to marry because then you can be fully devoted to the Lord. Once you’re married, you can’t.

Think about this for a minute. If Paul thought that you should always be fully 100% for missions outreach, whether you were married or not, he would have said something like, “Do not let your feelings for your husband or your children distract you from ministry.” But instead he acknowledges that a married person will be concerned about his or her family. It’s natural. It’s the way it should be. Hence, if you want to be fully devoted to ministry, you should not marry. Otherwise there are always other considerations. You have to worry about your own safety, because others are counting on you. You have to worry about finances, and a house, because others rely on you. You have to worry about their safety. So you can’t be as devoted to the work of the Lord. Hence, Paul says, if it is possible, don’t marry.

Thus, I think another principle, when it comes to insitutional daycare, is that God would not call a family to choose this for their children in order to advance His kingdom in another way. Perhaps there may be exceptions, but I think those exceptions would be few. When you are a mom, your primary responsibility, within the will of God, is to your kids. I do not believe that God would call you outside of that.

And remember–your children are only young for a time! I’m now 40, and my kids are both teenagers. I’m in a position to do much more ministry than I was at 26, and quite frankly, I’m better at it now than I would have been then. I also still have 25 years before traditional retirement (which I don’t even really believe in, anyway). And even when the kids were little, I was still involved in ministry. I just did it in a way that allowed me to be home with them!

So where does all of this leave us? I would say these conclusions:

1. When you have pre-school aged children, who are still at a very vulnerable place in their development, your primary responsibility is to ensure that they have a safe, caring place with a caregiver that they can attach to.

2. That caring place should not be an institutionalized daycare centre, with numerous children and a turnover of caregivers. If you must use daycare for financial reasons, then choose one run in a home by a Christian friend whom you trust. And take all the precautions to ensure that it is a safe home. Don’t assume anything.

3. Don’t put your child in daycare just based on standard of living. If you need daycare to afford a house, choose an apartment. Give up the second car. Move to a cheaper city. Put off your education if you need to, or take it part time or online. You can never get these years back, and your child needs you.

Those are the conclusions I’ve come to. I do not write all this to criticize those who make other choices; it is just that I feel strongly that institutionalized settings harm children, and to not speak up because I fear hurting people’s feelings seems cowardly.

Here in Canada, the Liberal party keeps pulling out the “universal child care” option as a platform in their elections, claiming that they speak for children by wanting to increase the number of day care centres. They do not speak for children. They speak for a worldview, an ideology that they want to promote, that is essentially “anti-family values”. If they cared about kids, they would instead support tax breaks for families so it would be easier for one parent to stay at home.

Often day care is sold as being “for the kids”, a fun place where they can be stimulated and made “kindergarten-ready”. It isn’t for the kids. And as Christians, we need to stand up and support policies that would make it easier for parents to stay home, make it more likely that marriages stay together, and less likely that single parents would be forced into this in the first place. Instead of government doing anything, let’s demand a smaller government that lets us do the things that are important.

I hope that clears up my views. I also don’t want the comments to become a “fighting arena”, where we label people as bad or unChristian. I think it’s fine to express an opinion, but please acknowledge that others have the right to theirs. I’ve now expressed mine; if you disagree, feel free to explain why, and I will not assume bad motives on your part. I just ask that others who want to comment do the same thing: don’t assume bad motives on anyone’s part, and don’t malign anybody’s faith (or lack of faith!). Let’s just talk about this like friends!

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Comments

  1. Terry @ Breathing Grace says:

    >I can't think of anything to add. Even the part about husbands providing primaricare was okay with me (are you surprised?). As a general rule it presents some challenges long term, but we're talking about what's best for kids here.

    I applaud your courage, Sheila.

  2. Terry @ Breathing Grace says:

    >I meant to say, primary care.

    That was an odd typo. Excuse me.

  3. >What a great post! I babysat for numerous families with children during my teens and early twenties before I married. I thought it was great when the children attached to me and loved being with me. Sometimes more than their own mothers. But I knew that when I had children, I wanted them to prefer me over a sitter. I have made the choice to stay home. It isn't always easy. We have had to do without a lot of things, but my children are more important to me than things.

  4. Kelly@Tabitha's Team says:

    >Although I can't agree that God would never call a mother to put her child in daycare (which was my mainpoint of contention last time, I do agree that we work against the idea of universal child care and making it a standard for everyone. Ive seen and experienced too much in my own life, in the lives of great Christian friends, and in teaching toddlers in Sunday school that contradict some of the stereotypes about daycare kids to agree with all that is said here. I would also caution those who are choosing childcare that leaving a child behind closed doors with a trusted friend or even family member is unfortunately not always the safest thing for the child. But I also say that as someone who is married to a detective who specialized in child abuse and I see the awful side of broken trust more
    often than most. So my view is biased.

    Aside from these things, I absolutley believe that the value of motherhood is being brutally attacked, and I so I see addressing this fact as attacking the problem at the root. I have written about Hollywood portraying mothers as bored, purposeless and parents of my generation telling their daughters that "smart girls" don't stay home with families. I believe that if women are brought back to the realization that the sahm life is a great choice and not a place for the "unsmart," that if men will be taught once again to revere and honor their wives in motherhood, that if Hollywood would stop showing 50's wives as poor souls and victims, this daycare thing would not be a mass issue.

  5. >Kelly, you're absolutely right that some home daycares are horrible. I think with at home day care you have the two extremes: they're either the worst, or the best. Because you don't have other adult eyes on the caregivers all day, it is very possible for the children to be neglected and even abused.

    On the other hand, it's often at home daycares where you find the best care that most approximates being at home.

    So the challenge for a parent is to figure out which is which, and appearances don't necessarily tell the story. Some of the worst daycares are decorated the loveliest.

    Parents must figure out which is which, and that's hard!

    And I agree, too, that if we valued motherhood more, this wouldn't be as much of an issue. I also think the other thing that's wrong with society is that labour prices have fallen over the last forty years, so that it's harder to have a middle-class lifestyle on one income. But that's a subject for another post!

  6. >I admire your courage. This is something I feel extremely passionate about and I think my views are pretty spot on with yours (from what I've read).

    I've worked in daycares-once in a newborn room and once in a toddler room. That newborn room was a nightmare. I lasted 2 days and was heartbroken to see the care that tiny, helpless infants got (or did not get actually).
    I'm also a firm believer that in most cases (I know there are exceptions) when working is said to be necessary it really isn't. It's just hard to make lifstyle changes sometimes.

    I have loved both of these posts and have admired you for speaking out on them.

  7. Anonymous says:

    >I think this is a much more thought out post than your previous one (the main issue I had was your stating that children in daycare was the same as being abandoned entirely by their parents–was this your own opinion or actual research?).

    I think it probably sounds easy to SAHMs to say "make the financial sacrifice and stay home" because it's something you were already doing. In real life it's complicated (for example, my husband's job does not have health insurance for dependents–which means me and my daughter would not be covered–as a health care professional myself I am not going to voluntarily go without medical insurance, nor do I think that would be the best thing for my family). Or to have the husband stay home…in our case this would be much more feasible currently than me staying home, but it is not something my husband is not willing to do…and I'm not sure I want to go back to full-time work. So as you can see it's a complex issue.

    As I've said, I don't have my daughter in a day care center and I hope I never have to. But I do believe parents can raise their children right even if they do find themselves placing them in commercial day care.

    Nurse Bee

  8. >Great post! Mu husband's company used to have many "family-friendly" policies like childcare during school vacation weeks and for sick kids. They sound great at first and then you realize they are just aimed at keeping the employee at work and not with family when needed. I think universal childcare is similar–it sounds geart at first but when you probe it it really hurts kids. Of course, some people truly need it and others can choose not to use it, but I think once something like that it out there it expands and becomes the norm.

  9. Herding Grasshoppers says:

    >Well said, Sheila.

    Perhaps it's a subject for another post, but too much of this is driven by a confusion between standard of living and quality of life.

    Julie

  10. Kelly@Tabitha's Team says:

    >Nurse Bee,
    I just want to say that I admire you for making the sacrifice you make for the well being of your family, and for noting what we all have left out- loving and submitting to our husbands, which comes above our children. Our primary responsibility is to God, then our husband, then our children. We need to submit to our husband in these matters and what his wishes are; sometimes that will mean going to work.

  11. >Have I told you ever how much I like you? I pretty much agree with everything I've read that you've written, and in particular really like this post. :) I've been thinking of ways to teach my children the things I've been learning (I was a mom who put her kids in child care when they were younger, but now I abhor the idea because I understand my responsibilities as God gave them to us who have children). I'm going to share this article with them and hopefully have some discussion about it – a great teaching opportunity with them. Thanks!!

    Sharon

  12. Anonymous says:

    >I worked in the Daycare field for a long time and, as some say there are exceptions to the rule of the type of people who work in daycare. I have my E.C.E. training and a lot of part-time workers thing that daycare is an easy job. It is not..you have to learn about child development and so forth. It certainly made it easier to learn about our precious charges. I am a Christian with prayers, God provided 2 others who are also Christians so we had the three of us, the 3 Musketeers, if you will working in a secular school environment and it was the best Daycare in the neighbourhood and nothing like it since we left!..However I agree that I would never put my child into the daycare system since I know it breeds a lot of aggression cause they have to learn to defend themselves against the other children. We had to teach them how to become autonomous and we were very affectionate. We did out best not to play favourites and I know a lot of others who did not have the same outlook at the kids that we did…looking at them through God's eyes!..
    It was the best experience of my time in daycare and the children had lots of good memories with us to look back oh. Sadly there are people in the system who should not be in daycare since they treated it as babysitting…we had a program that was geared to their ages and we planned our programs accordingly every week. We also doled out a lot of love and we prayed for our kids also. Again..not every child should be in daycare but if they absolutely had to thenI guess it is between them and God but not me..since i know there are a lot of bad daycares out there giving the rest of the great daycares out there a bad name. And yes, i had a lot of sore throats…we were based in a school and all that..
    I am not excusing daycares or decrying them but i am saying it is hard to find really good ones that really care and have the qualified staff..that is the difference but since the govt wont provide the money for qualified staff the daycares rely on support staff…ie with no training and that is where i find some of the problems come in!!..
    I dont like large daycares either and i do find a lot of your points quite valid.
    I have 2 girls now and I have been home with them since they were born. My mom-in-law was able to help me out when i had a one day a week job..PTL..but not all have the extended families to do so.
    We must learn to put them on a prayer list continually as Daycares are certainly not where our kids should be..again..we must pray about this for our own selves..
    Sorry..not sure if I am making any sense or not but this is what I saw and how I feel..
    My kids were also in the public school system and I had to take them out and homeschool them for a few years..now they are attending a 'homeschooling-school' so to speak..they are learning at their own pace and it is a Christian based program..
    As you say..not an easy choice in life..Take care to all..in my prayers. Pat

  13. Terry @ Breathing Grace says:

    >I agree with Kelly with respectto submitting to our husbands in this area.

    I certainly never meant to inply that we are to rebel against our husbands. I do believe we should attempt to work with them to find a solution that is best for the kids. But certianly, we are to submit to thier leadership.

    Regular readers of my blog (and Nurse Bee is one of them) can attest to my consistency in this regard.

  14. Anonymous says:

    >Apologies to those who read my thoughts and said..wow..i really know why i do not want my child in the system..she is not very educated..re how my thouhts came across!!..
    apologies..shouldhave read my comments over first before clicking send!!..
    that was just my gut reaction..but I do support what Sheila says and that there are exceptions to every rule.
    You have to weigh the pros and cons with lots of research and lots of prayers. Many of us go into parenting without much thought as to what an amazing and important thing it is to raise another human being. Again, not an easy thing to do by any means. When I put my girls into the public school system, The Lord impressed upon me to be in constant prayer thereby revealing to me that they would be influenced by another mindset. The same goes for the daycare system..any how..it could go on and on and I will end by saying that I did put my girls into daycare when my mother-in-law could not look after my girls for that 1 day of work.They both hated it thoroughly. The care was pretty slack and did not impress me one bit..
    so again, pray and seek God in all things..
    not an easy task raising children who are so impressionable. God bless you all. Sincerely, Pat

  15. Anonymous says:

    >Sheila,
    Thank you so much for this post. I usually read you daily, but didn't have time yesterday. My kids and I had an awful, awful day, and reading blogs just was not on the agenda. Our day yesterday was actually so bad that I had a conversation with my husband about me returning to work, and dumping them all in day care. It looks good on paper. My field is personally fulfilling, and lucrative. We could buy a second car, stop renting, get health insurance, even for my special needs girl, and (gasp) go on vacation!!! Your post brought me to tears and made me realize what I and my girls would be missing if we chose that path. Thankfully, my husband already knew, and shot me down instantly, but it was so encouraging to read this beautifullywell stated explanation of staying home, and sacrificing the trivial material "rights" I want to cling to, and instead raising my amazing kids. So thank you for impacting my family's life by helping me to change my perspective. -Kristi

  16. >You are one of the few that will stand up and say something. You said it well and I agree 100%. Before I would even date my husband, I made sure we were on the same page about me staying home with our future children if we made it that far in the relationship. I told him that even if we have to drive older model cars or eat beans and rice all the time, I was staying home.

    We'll celebrate 10 years in February and have 2 wonderful little boys – 3 1/2 and 14 month. We don't drive the fanciest cars and we don't eat out much but otherwise, we make it just fine.

    I think it's all about priorities and choices of what status people want to live at.

    I don't say any of this to toot my own horn. I say it to support what you've written and to show staying at home with children can be done.

  17. kristen G says:

    >Thanks for this post. When I was in Grad school and pregnant, I got very little support (from colleagues) for my decision to drop my career and stay home with my baby.
    That was almost 20 years ago. I've gone through times when I felt my brain was turning to mush and I wasn't "using my gifts" but in the long term I have no regrets.
    There is just nothing in life you can do that will be more important than raising your children (nothing that I could do, anyway)

  18. Persuaded says:

    >Wow, girl… you got nerve!;-D

    You know, I originally got my degree in Early Childhood Ed with the great idea that I could work in daycare and then when I had children of my own they could come to work with me. Sheer brilliance, eh? Well, not surprisingly my plan didn't work out so well in real life. Once I worked in institutional daycare, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was no way I'd ever want a child of mine in a similar setting. Over-my-dead-body was my general line of thinking, actually. And the center that I worked in was exemplary as far as such settings go. I have provided child care in my home as well, and even though I believe I provided excellent care to the little ones in my charge, it was in no way equal to the care that a mother provides. Children- especially babies- need to spend the vast majority of their time with someone who thinks they are absolutely wonderful beyond description, someone who is utterly besotted with them. As a child care provider, I cared about the kids, I wanted the best for them and was even attached to them in a mild sort of way… it just isn't enough. No way near enough.

    Have you ever read the studies by Jay Belsky? Very enlightening… a clear correlation between such things as aggressive behavior/time in day care was found. Also enlightening was the reaction to the publication of these studies: Belsky was attacked, largely on a personal basis. Really quite sad. Anyhoo… thanks for taking this issue on Sheila. I really think this is an issue that needs to be discussed.. often.

  19. >Persuaded,

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment! It's so good to receive some from those inside the industry, because I don't have that perspective, and I can't speak as authoritatively as you can. Can you let me know a few of the specific things that made you say, "over my dead body"?

    Also, I have read the Belsky studies. I have a book on it and how he was attacked. Sad, really. But that's what social science has become: politicized so that it no longer can provide unbiased studies.

  20. Persuaded says:

    >OK, specific things that made me feel I could never leave my child in daycare… here goes:

    -I have seen infants only a few weeks old being laid down with a propped bottle. I have seen infants not getting their diaper changed until just before pick up time. I have seen the "daily reports" (the record given to parents at pick-up time) falsified on a regular basis. Daycare staff quickly becomes immune to the cries of the babies. There is absolutely no urgency in attending to infants' needs. And I think most heartbreaking to me, staff barely responding to overtures from babies- their smiles, coos, reaching out is ignored or met with indifference.

    -The activity of toddlers is restricted inappropriately. They are put in playpens or similar. Toddlers are put into highchairs way before needed for mealtimes and left in them long after they are finished eating. Little or no interaction with toddlers while they are eating, or playing for that matter. Life for a toddler in a daycare is 100% adult directed. "Walks" mean being pushed around in a stroller along with a half dozen other kids… no dawdling along looking at every little rock and bug tolerated! Naps happen, not when a child is tired, but at the same time as every other child the same age. I have seen little ones sitting with a bottle, so exhausted that their little head is falling to the side and jerking back up, repeatedly. They aren't allowed to lay down until the clock says naptime. Not until every single other child in their group has been pottied and readied… often by then the child is overtired and irrational. When it's wake-up time, every child is woken up and required to move on to the next activity regardless of whether they are still exhausted. Toddlers in daycare frequently are aggressive with each other, pulling hair, pushing, grabbing toys, biting. Although staff give lip service to curbing aggression, there is only so much one can do. Staff quickly become indifferent to much of the aggression.

    -The infamous and all important ratio- maintaining the regulation caregiver/child ratio is overwhelmingly important in any daycare. It takes on a looming importance to the extent that caregivers will be shuffled about from room to room just to keep the numbers right. Kids will be shuffled around from room to room as well. There is often outright lying going on if a licenser should happen to show up at an inopportune time. Once when I happened to visit a daycare during a licenser's visit, I was asked by the director to "hang around in the infant room" until she left, hopefully giving the impression that I was staff and the facility was maintaining quote. I declined.

    - I should note that all of these things were seen in a top notch facility. Although I know that outright abuse does occur in some daycares, I have never seen any. All that I have described is considered just the basic level of compromise that happens in group care.

    Yikes.. I reread this and I know I sound absolutely vicious about daycare. In spite of all I have written I do have a very soft spot in my heart for most daycare workers. They have a very very hard- almost impossible job. Many (all?) of them enter the field with the very best of intentions, but the reality of institutional daycare changes them. It is a tough line they walk, and my heart goes out to them. Still, I think if parents really knew what was happening once the door of the daycare closed behind them, they would grab their child and run for the hills.

    Just my 2 cents… and I hit the publish button with trepidation…

    • sasha dence says:

      Thank you so much for this! Some of it seems so obvious — I wonder why we don’t think it is possible or fail to consider it. Reading it I remembered a couple of times in daycare watching just what you saw and was too scared to mention it to anyone for fear I would be criticising daycare, or the parents who put their kids there. Thank you for your courage!

  21. >Persuaded–

    Thanks for that insight! None of it really surprises me, but it's great to have it written down!

    I think one thing you touched on was something I wanted to emphasize more, but it didn't come out much in my post. I like the way you put it: it's adult centred, not child-centred. So you can't stop and look at a rock if you want to. That's one of the most heart-breaking things for me, when I think of how my girls grew up. They were always exploring! But in day care you can't because then you lose control of so many kids.

    So thanks for sharing! We appreciate your perspective.

  22. >Sheila, Terry, Persuaded… anyone else weighing in here,
    What do you think we can say (or can we say anything at all) if a close, younger friend decides she wants to work and puts her child in day care? Do we opt for relationship and not say anything? Or do we try (in love) to say something? What kind of links/information should we share (if you think we should say anything)?

    This is such a tough spot to be in… my heart hurts for a friend who is choosing this for her baby.
    Thank you.

    • sasha dence says:

      Just lost a potential friend on this issue. Wow is it *volatile*! Her brother’s child is in fulltime daycare and, according to him, he “loves it” (the child, that is). Very touchy issue. Even saying that I put my own daughter in daycare (parttime) 20 odd years ago for 18 mos (and regret it), as in, I understand the financial need to do so, didn’t help. I think, Sheila, another thread on this issue would be timely. When you think of what is at stake — finding ways to address this issue seems to me important. If women do have a choice — how to persuade them to choose for their kids?

  23. My Miracle Baby says:

    >Hi. Greetings. This post is really good and blog is really interesting. It gives good details.

    Child Care Centres

  24. >I agree with you on most levels. I see a correlation between how we treat our young and our elderly. Just pay to have some one else take care of them. There are a ton of nice people out there who work in these institutions, but they can't take the place of the parents. I watched a little girl in my home for a school year. She was 6 months old in the beginning to 15 months old at the end. For at least 6 months she had an ear infection/inner ear infection. The mom never took me seriously that all of a sudden she was fussy and just cried most of the day. I honestly started to feel so angry at the little girl because she would just cry and cry. The mom was rarely around her kid (maybe 2 hours in the evening and then on weekends). It's wrong that I spent more hours with her child (for terrible, terrible, terrible pay too). She worked and her husband worked- both had good, well-paying jobs and I don't think they both had to work. She was put into the daycare at her mom's school the next year.

    As a stay at home mom to two, I have to be honest and say some days I wish I could go to work (though I never really worked outside of the home full-time) because it is hard raising them, but I know it's the best for my children. And soon they will be grown and gone off to college/have their own families etc.

  25. >Great post! My husband and I chose for me to stay home simply because I didn't want strangers raising my kids. I didn't want other peoples ideas/values/thoughts forming my little girls –
    However, please note, I don't judge others that make the choice to use daycare (whether if they have to or want to). It just wasn't right for my family.

  26. >I'm an early childhood teacher (diploma and degree in early childhood education) and a Christian. I stayed home full-time with my kids when they were little and they were the best years of my life. I wouldn't trade them for anything.

    I don't disagree with what you wrote – in fact I agree with almost all of it. But the picture you paint of daycare centres is very different to the picture I see daily. Perhaps it's different in NZ and if so, then I'm glad for it. I work with children from 0-2 years of age and we have a teacher:child ratio of 1:4. We'd prefer 1:3 but it all comes down to money. One thing we work very hard at doing is to keep the same routine at home going in the centre. This means children are eating and sleeping according to their needs and not centre routines. We don't use highchairs or other restraints and we work hard at making the environment as home-like as possible. Fortunately, very few of our children attend full-time (most are just for a few half days a week while mothers work part-time or to give parents a much-needed break) as I do struggle with loving my job and my conviction that children should spend the majority of their time at home with one parent.

    I believe that God's perfect plan is for children to be raised at home but sadly this is not always possible. Marriages end and mothers are forced to go out to work; husbands are injured and the wife has to work. And perhaps other reasons that I haven't thought of. Our response is to support those mothers that find themselves in such a situation.

    God bless you for sharing what you believe, Jules

  27. >Right-on sister!!!! It's about time someone said something like this. I have been a stay-home Mom for almost 9 years to my 3 boys. We live in a tiny townhouse, have 1 used minivan, and we don't have cable TV. My kids couldn't be happier and are not deprived in any way. I hope more Moms can make the right choice and forego that second car/big house/yearly trip to the Carribean…. to stay home with their kids as was intended in God's Plan!!!

  28. Nitheesh says:

    >I actually enjoyed reading through this posting.Many thanks.

    Day Care Centres

  29. Final Year Projects says:

    >Lovely Blog, I love babies, I really came to many details about Daycare Centres. Keep Blogging.

  30. Dropped in here from your post, “Is Being a Stay at Home Mom More Stressful?”. Thank you for both that one and this post. I am a newish stay at home mom (my baby is just over a year old) and I’ve been feeling discouraged. This post especially has been really encouraging. There isn’t a big cheering section for stay at home moms, so it’s really wonderful reading this kind of article. Being a stay at home mom is important and is valuable. Thank you for explaining some of the ways.

  31. stephanie says:

    I know I am a little bit late commenting on this post, but here goes anyways… I also work in a child care center in ca in the infant room and just want to say that some schools are different. It is an extremely expensive school, but the ratio for infants is 2 to 1 adult (half the legal limit). This makes all the difference in the world! We don’t have high-chairs at all, we sit with them on the floor or at a small table, the children are changed very regularly, have tons of attention and stimulation, have accurate daily reports and follow their own schedules and needs. We can love on them and interact with them so much more because of these low ratios. Of course this still cannot compare to a parent caring for their own child, but if you need to or choose to put your child in day care, there are better options, but it is impossible to know which schools are the “good” ones after mommy says bye and the doors are closed.

    I hope to stay at home with my kids someday because I totally agree that it is important to raise your OWN kids if possible. But for newlyweds like me living in our culture, it seems unattainable. It helps to see how others choose and MAKE a way to stay home. Love your blog!

  32. I wish some could open their minds and expand their worlds. It is not your place to judge or criticize. What is Christianity?

    And do you think because you google a photo of a woman pushing a stroller around with a ton of kids in it you have proved that all daycares are sub-par? How dare you judge.

    My child never went to a daycare, but this post infuriates me for all the other mothers out there that are working hard and doing the best that they can.

    Congratulations to you for being such an upstanding mother.
    sarah recently posted…Sponsored Post | NEXT Brand Small StyleMy Profile

    • Sarah, what I am saying is that day care is NEVER as good as a mom who loves her child. It just isn’t. For some moms, they have no choice. But it is never the BEST choice. And I think that we should want what is best for our kids.

      If you do need day care, then I’d encourage people to try to find a single caregiver with whom the child can find a bond, rather than a day care center, which tend to have notorious turnover rates of staff. That just isn’t good for a baby or a toddler. It juts isn’t. And I won’t apologize for saying that.

      I understand people thinking that I’m judgmental, but I do think that it’s important to talk about these vital issues when it comes to parenting, because children are so important. So if you think I’m wrong, please tell me why. You stated that showing a picture of a bunch of kids in a stroller isn’t an argument, and I’d agree. But the thing is that I DID make an argument; quite a long one. So if you don’t agree, please tell me: which point is wrong? What do you think is actually the truth? Why not engage the argument, rather than just saying that I’m wrong. If I am, then please tell me where, and then we can have a fruitful discussion!

  33. Wrapped in His arms says:

    I am a working mom with a career in childcare. Our family’s lifestyle did not allow for less than 2 incomes. My children have been in childcare (not DAYcare) since 2 months of age. I work in a Christian program and my children have been blessed to be enrolled in the same program. Having a stay-at-home parent is something I would encourage couples to discuss before having children.

    With a career in this field, I whole-heartedly believe that the best possible care for children is given at home with loving parents or family members. Unfortunately it isn’t always a choice and families must do the best they can. For me, the best I could do was childcare. Working at the program I knew the teachers and could stop in their classrooms as needed. It still hurt to know that someone else was providing the care that I wanted to. It also hurt because I knew that my work responsibilities sometimes wore me out and home responsibilities suffered. My children have had a few teachers who did not do a great job and they have had some very hurtful social experiences. Childcare is not perfect and nothing replaces the quality of care a parent provides. Even in a Christian program, the system will fail. But it may be the best option for some parents. I will always encourage parents that if they need to work, to keep their child at home and do childcare on a more part time basis than full time. Children need their families.

    • Thanks for that comment! It means a lot especially coming from someone who works in the field. You’re right: some parents will need to put their children in some kind of childcare. But this is not ideal, and we should do what we can to minimize the number of hours or to minimize the impact on the child by using good caregivers.

  34. Related to commercial daycare- Do you have any insight on homeschooling instead of public school? Or have you blogged about that and could reply with the link?

  35. Wow… Great post. It is very timely because I have been considering sending my son to a “daycare” here in Germany. We are from the US and we live in a very small town with no other Americans and not a lot of English speakers (I.e. we are not military or in a town / near a town with lots of expats). We don’t have any help… I wish that I felt 100% about my decision to send him 3 hours on Monday and 3 hours on Friday from 8 am to 11 am. That way we eat breakfast together and then we have lunch and naps at home. In my mind it is similar to if I had found a babysitter. I love what you wrote and if I was in the US I wouldn’t consider it, but its been tough. Of course part of me doesnt want to send him… And I know that if he isn’t responding well then I can just take him out. He will be close to 2 years old. But I just don’t have the support / network like I would have in the US. I know each person has to make their own individual decisions. It’s just not so cut and dry sometimes. We moved here and got some great benefits. We have one car and my husbands commute went from 45 minutes to 5 minutes (now he can bike or walk). I will start doing a small amount of consulting work on the side. Like I said…. Sometimes I feel like its time to send him soon for just 3 hours and sometimes I feel bad that I’m not coping better here. I guess I can always look how he’s doing. If he isn’t doing well then it was too soon and I can try again in a year. It’s just so tough to always “know”.
    Judi fox recently posted…50 Inspiring Notes from GodMy Profile

    • Hi Judi,

      Thanks for writing! I just want to say, though, that I think 3 hours on a Monday and 3 hours on a Friday are really different from day care full time. Six hours a week isn’t that big a deal; spending most of his waking time away from you is.

      I’m so sorry it’s so tough for you there! I pray that you’ll get some friends you can really talk to.
      Blessings,
      Sheila.

  36. I found this article and the comments helpful as I ponder my child are options. I have an almost 2 year old and an infant on the way in a few months. For my sons first year we got lucky and we had a Good friend doing home care. She kept him for almost his first year. I loved that he could nap whenever he needed to and not on any certain schedule other than his own. I just took him 3 days a week. I worked 2 and then took him to her one day so i had an errand/chore day. It seemed pretty perfect. I think having that time to get things taken care of made me a better parent to him when we were home together.

    Then our friend quit doing home care. I actually think I found one of the better daycare facilities. The directors seem to really care and take good care of their staff. I haven’t experienced any turn over in staff. It’s just that every 6 mo to a year he has to move up to the next “classroom” and get all new “teachers”. He has really struggled with these transitions. I now have another home care option that I am considering. It seems like the kids would have more flexibility in their routines and she seems to care well for the kids she works with now. It would be nice to not have to change staff every year. After reading this article it helped me rethink my concern about my 2yr old being the oldest. I was thinking that would be bad for him, but some good points have been made for the struggle to meet kids needs when they are all the same age. So maybe this would be an okay thing. I also was thinking of taking my son every day for the first few month when his baby brother is born, but this makes me think that the struggle of managing both might be worth it. Or perhaps I will only take him for partial days when I am utterly exhausted!

    I actually am a counselor and I have counseled many stay at home moms. I have come to the general conclusion that part time work is the ideal situation or a lot of Families, especially now that one income families struggle so much and Moms just don’t have the social support they need. Unfortunately with many career paths part time just isn’t an option. This is where I would love to see more social/political attention given…to things like job sharing or benefits for part time workers,etc. I do think Moms should take some no guilt time or themselves if they stay home because it will make you a better Mom!

    Thank you for discussing this topic. I agree that it is verrrry Important!

  37. The first blog I ever read from you discussed why we should focus more on encouraging people rather than critiquing them. I found the blog poignant and well said but as I read this blog, I can’t help but wonder where the encouragement is. It is hard being a mom. It is hard in our economy to live on a single income. It is not impossible but it is hard. It is scary to send our children to daycare, to a sitter or even to a relatives house; as moms we always worry. I understand that in many ways you are trying to make a political point; I see that you are passionate about which you write but I can’t help but to wonder what your goal of this post is. Do you want to vent, motivate, encourage or shame? You made some beautiful points on how and why it is important to put family first even above ministry but the rest of the piece… well… was more of a turn off–cold. Encourage mommies. They need it.

  38. sasha dence says:

    Thank you Sheila! In particular, for the quotation about putting mothering above ‘ministry’ — a big issue in our family. But thank you so much for clarifying this! I have felt — uncertain — about my belief that putting the welfare of the family before all else, is legitimate from either a christian or secular view point. I have felt like I was wrong to do this but my own childhood had convinced me too forcefully that attachment should not ever be compromised. If anything, I think you should say what you’ve said here even more strongly. The pain of poorly attached or unattached children is life long and all but permanent. As well what you say about empathy as the base of conscience is spot on. Without a firm foundation of empathy, first and best learned by parents being empathetic to a child’s need to attach, conscience is seriously compromised. However well fed are kids, or immunised, or educated or clothed or whatever — what does it mean if the conscience is disabled? I disagree a bit about with the belief that it doesn’t matter if it is either the father or the mother that stays home with the children. While it is true that a loving parent that knows his/her child and is famliar with his uniqueness, can be suppplied by either parent, both are not the same to the child. Here, the age of the child is a factor. To a baby, his/her mother is his/her first choice. Biology has ensure that the baby knows her mother’s voice, smell and face. Babies are more attuned to their mothers in every respect and thus, feel safest in the early years with her. If we could interview babies, that’s what we’d here because studies have shown that a baby can ‘see’ his mother’s face even when his vision isn’t well enough developed to ‘see’ anyone else’s (including his father’s). Should biology trump necessity? Maybe not, but it should be strongly considered. As Penelope Leach wrote, the gold standard is still, from a baby’s p.o.v. his mom. That may not be possible of course and I’m not saying that loving fathers (and once kids are older, it makes little difference if it is the mother or the father from the child’s p.o.v., especially if he is the more loving one) can’t substitute for loving mothers. But for a baby, it *is* a substitute. Isn’t it saying something that in the most affluent and educationally advanced civilisation one earth in history we can give out children so much that was never possible in the past, freedom from childhood diseases, good nutrition, excellent education, etc. but deny them as a matter of ‘the norm’ the thing that they want most. Their mothers. It’s just weird.

  39. Thanks so much for this post. I have recently have gone back to work, but I am so torn on what to do. I agree with you on this 100%, but feel as if credit card bills and loan payments are drowning us. I took almost a year and half off, just started a job, but now Im regretting accepting the offer. I feel guilty for not being with my baby all day like we used to. Its only been a week and Im wondering if I should quit now and try to get our of our car loan, sell it, or cut bills more than we have already. I’ve been praying hard and trying to rest and allow the right decision to be shown, but its not easy. Its just so nice to hear someone who thinks and feels the same way, every friend I have told my feelings to has a “everyone has to do it” kind of response.

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  1. [...] a sacred trust. Children were created to need mommies and daddies, not to need schools or day cares or extra stimulation. Even if your life feels chaotic, that’s okay. At least your children [...]

  2. [...] discussion about day care–it was controversial then, and I’m sure my thoughts are still [...]

  3. [...] it’s dividing parents into two types: those who are the good ones, who put their kids in day care where they can “learn”, and those who don’t put their kids in care, who obviously [...]

  4. [...] here will be upset by that, but I think each family must figure out what works best for them. If the children are cared for within the family, I think that’s wonderful. And one of the best six months of my life was when the girls were small and Keith and I were taking [...]

  5. [...] have more than enough money for one parent to stay at home who instead opt for their child to go to day care so that the parents can pursue a career. Here’s a paragraph in that article that stood out to [...]

  6. [...] for all your feedback about yesterday’s daycare post! I’m enjoying the [...]

  7. [...] whether it’s my opinions on daycare or that women should at least try to look pretty for their husbands, I tick off lots of people who [...]

  8. [...] this mean every woman should stay at home? I wouldn’t say that, although I do have serious reservations about day care centres. But what I do believe is that the fact that it is stressful should not mean that we choose to not [...]

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