In Praise Of Daycare

Because babies and writing don't mix.

Mama and baby

Babies and Writing Don’t Exactly Mix

When I first announced I was pregnant, and that APW wasn’t changing or shutting down, many people commented that they were “continually amazed by my energy and my ability to do it all.” My reaction to these comments was one of confusion. I mean, I assumed we’d all watched our share of babies (this has proved to be my first incorrect assumption), and knew that while babies are great, babies and writing don’t exactly mix. And secondly, I thought we all knew the answer to the question of how you do it all, right? Also incorrect.

The short answer, which seemed obvious to me at the time: help.

The long answer, which I’ve since realized is perhaps not that obvious: help. Or more specifically in our case: daycare.

But there is a reason that people were leaping to the wrong conclusion about what we’d do after the baby came: the ball is being hidden on childcare. The puzzling thing is, I don’t know why. Families that have two parents who work full time have help of some form or another. They just do. I don’t want to be the one to burst the bubble, but it’s a fact. More than that, families with two full time, working parents, assume you know they have help, because have you ever MET a baby? But the trends of entrepreneurship and telecommuting, mixed with the current cult of motherhood, have muddied the waters. We’ve taken to pretending that if you work full time from home, you can do it while bouncing a baby on your hip. We’re being asked to suspend our disbelief and pretend that women, particularly entrepreneurial women, are able to do it all. And by do it all, I mean literally Do It All, all of it, At The Same Time.

I’m Calling Housewife

The Feminine Mystique, the feminist classic about the destructive myth of the perfect middle class housewife, celebrated its fiftieth anniversary earlier this year. I read it early in my pregnancy, expecting a fascinating feminist period piece, and was gripped (and troubled) by its immediacy. Because the new feminine mystique is of the “whole mother.” The one who keeps her kids in her own care, makes organic pureed baby food, has a small urban farm in her back yard, runs a full-time business, and keeps an impeccably decorated house. Now, all of those things are pursuits I happen to personally enjoy. I love me some business running and baby wrangling, have a recently planted garden, think my house is pretty cute, and might even (ask my husband to) puree some baby food. But I don’t do all of these things at the same time. I work on making the garden and the house awesome on weekends, I wrangle a baby morning and night, and I work during the day. While my kid is at daycare.

I can’t count the number of articles I’ve read about professional bloggers, women I’m friends with, that just flat out get the assumptive facts wrong. There is the “Better Homes & Bloggers” post, “The Feminist Housewife” article, the recent “Mommy Business Trip” travesty, and the Mormon Housewife piece. (Which is possibly the most offensive?) While I’m interested in questioning the feminist implications of the “new domesticity,” there is danger in confusing cultural trends with actual people. The women discussed in these articles happen to run businesses focused on motherhood or women’s lifestyle—in some cases, awesome feminists businesses focused on motherhood or women’s lifestyle. Unluckily for them, that means that while I’m a small business owner, they’re housewives—even though we do exactly the same job. The articles always start with the premise that these women are living some sort of vaunted June Cleaver existence, living and documenting their perfect domestic lives, while staying at home to raise their children. And you guys? They’re not. Many if not most are professional women whose businesses happen to focus on motherhood. They sometimes do crafts for the same reason I sometimes do crafts: it’s in the job description. They by and large have full-time childcare and run a business that supports their families (often as the primary breadwinner, at that). But here is the weird part: they’re forthright about having childcare, yet the world somehow wants to assume that they don’t have help.

Last week, at Mom 2.0, I heard Rebecca Woolf speak. Rebecca was one of the women misrepresented in “The Feminist Housewife” article, presented as a mommy to her husband’s professional. She talked about how she recently wrote a (beautiful, must-read) post about having help, because even though she’d mentioned having a full time nanny over and over again on her site, people somehow missed it (or, to personally editorialize, perhaps they didn’t want to see it). They thought she had some secret that they didn’t—and that would be a serious secret, since Rebecca has four kids and a full-time writing job.

And the way we think about mothers and work is truly fucked. We’ve constructed a no-win paradigm—a jail for mothers. Women who stay at home with their children are deemed “privileged,” and then roundly dismissed as unimportant. (Even though caring for children is hard and important work, whether it’s done by a parent in the home, or a childcare provider.) When women work, and their partners are deemed able to support the family, their work is deemed a “luxury.” (Somehow it’s never the partner’s work that’s a luxury.) And for women who work because they have to work, to feed and house their children? Well, our worst judgment is reserved for them—the women not properly providing their children with “options.”

And while mothers are damned before they even begin, they’re doubly damned by the pervasive myth of the woman who does it all. It hurts everyone: in the public eye, out of the public eye, writing about motherhood, or working at lawyering. It puts the onus of childcare on women and their careers, while letting men totally off the hook.

People never ask about how our childcare situation affects David’s job. No one compares our childcare costs against David’s salary. And no one thinks of childcare as an investment in David’s career. All of that is on me. And funnily enough, even though I’m married to a successful attorney, my salary primarily supports our household because my salary has been the steady one for years in this volatile legal market. But it doesn’t matter. My work is still a hobby, the luxury, the job that simply pays for childcare.

This is the point at which I’m supposed to tell you that I wish I could have it all. That I wish I could stay home with my little butterball, and run a business. But I really don’t. I love my kid as much as anything else in this world, and I simultaneously want to inhale him and spend hours making him laugh at baby jokes (he goes pretty lowbrow). But I don’t really want to be home with him. I have periods every workday where I miss him so intensely I could cry, but honest to goodness? I want to be at work. And frankly, he wants to be at school. Because that’s what we went with: Daycare. Known by his daycare ladies as School.

Fuck The Nanny, Let’s Go To Daycare

I just got back from dropping my son off at daycare. When I got there, a tiny girl was standing there with her short golden curls all over the place, sobbing her little eyes out. And I hear a voice pipe up from the other room, “You’ve been asking for the baby all morning, and here he is!” “You’ve been asking for him?” I say. “He’s right here!” And she shakes her head to pull herself together, breaks into a big smile, and sounds out his name. And then he smiles his big toothless baby smile.

Before I had a kid, I thought (logically, it seemed) that having done childcare since I was eleven was going to help my mothering. And while it generally made me calmer (kids are really hard to break, y’all), its very different to be caring for a kid whose cry makes your skin crawl (hey, hormones). Instead, it turned out what all that childcare work helped with was daycare. There is a lot of heightened rhetoric around childcare, and I had been around the block enough times to know that ninety-nine percent of it was bullshit. That whole ,“Why have a kid if you don’t want to raise them?” meme? Crap. I’ve nannied some kids in my day, but I didn’t raise one of them (they would have been a damn sight better behaved if I had). That whole thing about it being awful to smell another woman’s perfume on your kid? Possibly true, but destructive if you give into it. Because there is nothing worse as a childcare provider than to work hard to build a relationship with your small charge, to begin the process of loving them, and then have the mother yank them away because she’s envious.

Because I’d worked in a lot of childcare settings, I wasn’t set on one particular kind of childcare. Funnily enough, working in a daycare at a battered women’s shelter was more or less the same job as nannying kids in Greenwich Village. Or more specifically, my job was the same: loving the shit out of those kids, though the way the families interacted with me was very different. So we examined all our options, this was my personal score card:

  • Full-time nanny: Crazy expensive, plus hard to work with the baby in the other room.
  • Nanny share: Complicated, and oddly… expensive?
  • In-home childcare: Less oversight, and no waitlists? Please, sister.
  • Institutional daycare: Ding, ding, ding!

Since day one, my kid has learned to socialize (though at first this meant lying on the floor and staring at the other babies). More important to me, as he’s currently an only child, he spends his days learning that his needs do not take priority over everyone else’s needs. He adores his caregivers. I adore his caregivers. I mean, I get access to their expert skill set. (At our daycare, almost all of the teachers have, or are working on their AA’s in Child Development, and have tons of experience. Their advice? The best advice. Lazy girl mothering, FTW.) Plus, he’s in a stable and well-run environment where there are uniform reporting practices, and I have administrative staff to bring my concerns to.

Imperfection, Pink Skinny Jeans, and Aching

What I’m saying is, we skipped the prestige options and I feel great about it. Bringing Up Bébé was the single most helpful book I read in terms of putting the idea of childcare in a broader perspective. Turns out, in other countries, daycare is the preferred option. We look down on daycare in the US, because it was developed to deal with the crisis of impoverished children, while preschool was created as the province of the wealthy. Possibly because of that, we’ve neglected our daycare system, leaving it with very little government oversight or mandatory training requirements. (Note: that article is designed to scare you to death, but does have good facts amidst the emotion.) There are great daycare centers out there (we’re in one) but they can be slim pickings. (Interestingly: we found them to be both cheaper and easier to get into than other options, but I was shocked by how few centers there were.)

I will say that my experience of daycare is bizarre. The other parents within my social circle have generally taken the more zeitgeist-y options: staying at home or using some sort of nanny care. The people choosing daycare in our area are often (though not always) older professionals, not, say, writers in their early thirties. I show up in pink skinny jeans, with my hair piled on top of my head, and a baby wearing a grey bodysuit with tiny motorcycles on it (it’s an adorable hand-me-down). I look, for lack of a better word, nuts. I look nuts to the corporate parents, I look nuts to our creative friends with creative childcare. But you know what? Our kid is happy. We’re happy. It’s worth looking nuts.

On some level, I expected daycare to just be good enough. But it’s not. It’s kind of perfect (in a deeply achingly imperfect way that seems to infuse all of parenthood). My extroverted kid spends much of his days avidly watching the other babies (he’ll refuse naps just so he can watch the other kids play). And sometimes when I pick him up, he’s burying his head in his caregiver’s neck, the way a baby does when they know they’re loved. He’s already brought home two “art” projects. And there is a tiny little girl who waits for him, blond curls a-bouncing, every single morning.

And meanwhile I work. I ache with missing the baby, and I work, knowing all is well.

Photo: Me and the kiddo, from my Instagram feed

Featured Sponsored Content

  • Thanks for being so open about all of this. Someone’s comment last week on Brandi’s post, saying how women who didn’t like their job were more likely to stay-at-home after having a baby and women who loved their job were more likely to go back, really made sense to me. If I had the dream job, if I was at least working in my field, which I am passionate about, I would be dying to go back to work. But, my experience of working a corporate job at a company that didn’t care about me (or any of their employees), having to commute long hours, waking up early and coming back home feeling like a zombie, made it clear to me that if / when I had a baby I did not want to get back to that.
    This series has been great, all 3 articles.
    And dismantling the “you can have it all and do it all at the same time” myth is something that needs to be done over and over again, so thanks for that (it’s not about having it all… it’s about being able to choose what you want to fight for, and about prioritizing things in your life).

    • I’m with you!

      I hate my job, so I’m looking for a reason to leave. On the other hand, I would like to start doing work that’s meaningful to me, so I don’t know how long staying home with a baby would last for me.

  • Kess

    Great article! Although I don’t have kids yet, I often get anxious wondering how I’m going to cope when we do get to that point. It’s great to read stuff from the other side explaining exactly how people do it.

    Also just a quick note that on IE9 it looks like an italics tag got left open! And a couple of the links that say they lead to articles actually lead to amazon book listings, but I’m not sure if that’s intentional :)

    • Corrie

      Yes, this exactly. The thing that makes me most anxious in thinking about having a child is figuring out how we would manage child care with both of us working. I am generally terrified that with my huge student loan debt (which I’m furiously working to pay down, primarily so that I have money to have a kid) we won’t be able to afford childcare. My hope is that my partner’s mom, who lives close by, will be retired by then and willing to watch the baby. She has hinted at it before. Needless to say, hearing these narratives about how woman manage childcare has been a bit calming for me, even though I feel like none would fit my particular situation. I would love to read a submission from a woman who works in a corporate environment and can’t do work from home (I work for a medium sized law firm as the manager of an administrative department – neither a substantial salary, nor work from home capable).

      • One More Sara

        My sister has actually been pretty successful combining daycare/family help. Her MIL (a substitute teacher) watches the baby one day a week, 3 days a week the baby goes to daycare, and my sis has one day off every week (she works 9 hours a day, so she is still in the 35-40 hr range). Having her daughter in daycare for only 3 days instead of 5 has really helped ease the blow of the cost of childcare.

        *worth noting, she is an occupational therapist at a children’s hospital. Her office is 100% women of child-bearing age, so the employer is hardly surprised about having to make special arrangements.

        • Corrie

          That sounds like a really great combination and it’s awesome that she is in a family-friendly work environment. I have to give props to my employer at least from the standpoint of making at-work accomodations – we have a pumping room for moms and I think our paid leave is 75% of your salary – which helps with the transition. I just wish they would allow more flexible work hours and unfortunately, being a manager isn’t something I can do part time (which would be the ideal work/stay-at-home mix for me). However, doing a mix of family child care and daycare like your sister does sounds like it could be an ideal approach if we can make that work and the family resources are available by then.

          • p.

            This probably goes with out saying, but remember that the woman doesn’t have to be the one with the more flexible, work-from-home option. Friends of mine have two kids: the mom is a nurse and so she can’t work from home, but the dad has a job that allows him to work from home one day a week. They still get a sitter/nanny though because he can’t actually work from home and watch two kids, but they pay for fewer hours of childcare on the days that he’s working from home. They also have family who helps during the week.

          • Corrie

            P. – For sure. I totally subscribe to the notion that the mom doesn’t have to be the one with the more flexible schedule. But I WANT to be that one to be home with the kid part of the time. Unfortunately, the career path I’m not – which I’m finding somewhat fulfilling – does not have any prospects of catering to that type of arrangement. The first time I tried to plant the possibility of my partner being a stay-at-home dad, he said absolutely not. The second time, he said it’s something he might consider. I figure it’s good to keep an open convo about it (even though we won’t be having kids for a few years) and keep warming him up to the idea just in case that ends up being the circumstance that works best for us (as of right now, I am the definitive breadwinner).

        • my boss had a baby about a year and a half before we had kids. our work is fairly flexible inherently, but i am completely certain that his personal experience really upped my ability to just waltz out the door because daycare called about 3 fevers, hey. (how do folks without flexible schedules do that, by the way? school is great, but they can’t stay there sick, and they get sick a *lot* at first.)

      • meg

        I really want someone to do a post about this too. However, I should highlight that we have the same childcare arrangement as people with two office jobs would have (and do have). We just have one office job and one work from home job. Sometimes he takes his first nap here, which is nice, but not materially important. He could just as easily take it there (and does, often).

        By which I mean, I REALLY want someone to write from this point of view too, but our daycare experience does pretty much apply to office jobs. If I took an office job tomorrow, our daycare wouldn’t change.

        • As I sit her at my desk in at my office job? Our childcare situations are basically identical. The only real difference is we HAVE to take her in at a certain time in the morning. (Just in time for breakfast, basically. Keeps us accountable for actually getting out of bed and to work at a reasonable hour.)

          I mean, there are a few differences, like our industry standard alternating Fridays off, which saves us a few hundred a month, but otherwise it’s basically exactly the same.

          • Offering up a big giant ditto. Meg, your post is what I would have written, right down to the little girl who loves the hell out of my kid. (I was informed that Tater is HER baby, and then watched as she smacked another kid who tried to touch him. The daycare ladies are working on that…)
            Of course, I would have thrown in less smart and informative links, more y’alls and found a way to work in a poop reference, but ya know, basically the same.

          • meg

            Baby girl would look at the kiddo, look at me, and rather pointedly say, “BYE BYE.” Also, he was at a mothers day party with the big kids yesterday and they were alllllll over him. Touching him. Kissing his face, kissing his little feet. I was trying to organize their love just enough that they didn’t knock him over as he worked on sitting tripod style (and they grabbed his hands). He rolled with it like a pro though. Daycare babies! Rolling with it since forever!

    • Rachel

      Was just coming to say I had the same issue but was able to fix it! I didn’t want you to think you were seeing things. :)

      • It’s still there, at least in Mozilla.

        • Emma

          Also – the little girl breaks into a big simile, rather than smile :)

  • Emmy

    Sometimes I’m so grateful for APW, I could just cry. I’ve been waiting through this whole series for this post and you knocked it out of the park, Meg. Thank you, as ever, for making it easier to be me.

    We’re getting ready to have children and while I’m totally psyched, I’m also totally in love with my career and not ready to set it aside. But I feel like I live in a little maelstrom of stay-at-home or work-at-home moms, which makes me conflicted about my choices. I think I’m going to bookmark this so I can read it over every time I start to doubt myself.

    • meg

      I do too, so some solidarity from over here. (To preface, we know a scattering of people with kids, we’re not the people who all their friends had kids at once, but) we know TWO other families using full time childcare, total. Crazily, even when you poll friends of friends, that’s the grand total. People always say that’s because I’m an entrepreneur, but that’s false. One of the two families who uses childcare also has a mom who runs her own business, many of the families without full time childcare have parents who are attorneys and other professionals. So anyway, I hear you. Nothing to add other than that.

  • Abby J.

    I have a feeling I’m going to be reading this post over and over. Thank you so much, Meg! I was raised by a stay-at-home mom, and my sister-in-law is also a stay-at-home mom with her 16 month old. He’s the only other baby on either side of the family, so I don’t have anyone to compare notes with on the daycare situation. I do know, however, that I definitely want to return to work in an office, and I’m lucky that my particular office has already worked out an arrangement with me that’s superflexible for the first 4 months of our daughter’s life, once she arrives in August. Hubs and I are swing-shifting, and I’ll also be able to bring our baby to the office 2 days per week. So we have a little bit of time to figure everything out, and I am SO grateful for our situation. But after November, she’ll be going into daycare full time. I’m so glad to have some perspective from someone else who does it.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    • meg

      My mom stayed home (after I was teeny tiny, and in a feminist way), and our friends are not using daycare so I had the hardest time getting advice. However! David and Maddie were both in daycare from… always… and Maddie assures me that’s why they’re both hilarious. I’m taking her word for it, because the kid is hilarious already…

      • Maddie

        Daycare! Actually, the truth is, I had a little of everything until I was five or so. I was watched by a lovely lady named Frederika as a kid, I was brought to high school sometimes while my mom was working towards graduating, we lived at home with my grandmother and uncles for a while, and then I was in daycare (or preschool, I guess. I don’t think there’s a difference where I lived.)

        To this day, I still remember my daycare ladies (Melanie and Marlene) and how much I LOVED THEM. Frankly, I loved everyone who ever watched me. I was raised by a village in the truest sense of things, and I know for damn sure that I’m that much better for it.

        • I know I’m commenting WAY late on this post, but it’s wonderful. Also, I was in daycare pretty much the whole time, and I remember a LOT of the ladies who watched me, and I LOVED them all. I was happy because I loved being around people. My parents were happy because neither of them would have been able to stay home with me and make enough money to support our family.

          I was the first kid, and very bosy, very talky, and always asking for attention (literally nothing has changed), so I’m sure being put in daycare with other kids helped bring down the “look at me!” factor considerably.

      • MeganE

        First time commenting – had to! I was raised by a single mom who worked full time. I went to daycare from 18mos (ish) til I could be at home alone after school. LOVED IT! My daycare family still ask about me when they visit my hometown (I’m 27), and at holidays back in MI I constantly run into people I knew at “Jackie’s”. Childhood stories begin, “Do you remember at Jackie’s…?.” It shaped my life, was The Most Fun, let my mom work (she loves her work, and of course we needed the income), and gave us a great network of parents, friends, and a pool of trusted after-hours babysitters! Truly the best solution for us and neither of us would trade it. Glad it’s working for you Meg. It’s good to be both hilarious & rolling with it ;)

        • Row

          I went to daycare and loved it! I called her Kinsey rather than Mrs. Kinsey. Every time we would drive by her house I would ask “Is it a Kinsey day?” Most times it would be the weekend, so they would say no. If they told me it was a Kinsey day I guess I would demand to be dropped off.

          I even named my dog after her. His name is Kinsey. Although if I knew how many people would ask me if he was named after the sex doctor Kinsey, I may have picked a different name :)

    • Kestrel

      I’m nervous about this too – all of the people I know who have kids have grandma looking after them full-time or have a stay-at-home mom. I was raised by a mom who worked part time, mostly from home (and I went with her when she didn’t work from home as she worked at a church) and (rightly so) prides herself on raising 4 kids while working part time with no external help. Thankfully we were pretty laid back kids!

      But I really just don’t see either my SO or I staying home, and thankfully we’re both engineers, so we’ve got quite a few options when it eventually comes to daycare. So it’s nice to have some advice/perspective from someone who goes the daycare route.

  • Claire

    Thank you for another great post!

    As a full-time, work-from-home mom-to-be, when the question of what we’re planning to do for childcare comes up, SO many people assume that I’ll be able to continue to work from home with a baby at home. I think some people find it self-indulgent that we’re planning to use full-time daycare, and I was sort of starting to internalize that. But no more! “Have you MET a baby?” is definitely going to be my new response! :-)

    • Amy

      I work at home full time for a major corporation and part of our work from home agreement specifies that you MUST have full time child care. Because seriously, you cannot work full time and parent full time. Hell, I can barely get an email out with the baby home.
      What working at home does offer me is the ability to have my child in day care for reasonable lengths of time (no more than 8-9 hours a day) which would be impossible if I had to commute to an office. It also allows me to be the doctors appt/drop off/pick up/run over in an emergency parent. Don’t discount those benefits, especially when they’re teeny and get all the day care germs…

      • MDBethann

        My husband works from home full-time and I work from home once a week. My office has a fantastic daycare center, but it isn’t near our house, so once a baby is on the way, we’re going to look for a place close to home for the exact reasons Amy listed – appointments, drop off, pick up, emergency parent stuff. That and baby won’t have to be there as long as they would if you factored in my hour-each-way commute.

  • marie

    Fantastic post! A few questions:

    “Full-time nanny: Crazy expensive, plus hard to work with the baby in the other room.”

    Do you think your nanny vs daycare choice be different if you worked in an office, vs a home-office? (or were price, socialization, etc sufficient for daycare to trump nanny)

    Have you/your husband had to change your working hours to better fit those of the daycare center? I’m in academia, where people tend to work peculiar hours…until they have children, when they seem to fall into a much more regular pattern of work (and are forced to become a lot better at time management!). Same for writing and blogging and law? I’m curious how your professional workday has changed, and the role that childcare plays in those changes.

    • Amy

      Most people I know who have nannies do so because the nanny means you don’t have to get yourself and the baby dressed/bag packed/out the door in the morning and then RUN to catch a train/get in a car before day care closes. Nanny means more time flexibility because what Meg didn’t mention is that jobs are rarely 9-5 any longer, leaving at 4:45/5 to pick up a kid is super early in most offices.
      Personally – I like that a good quality day care means both more supervision/structure and more interaction with other kids.

      • Kara E

        This is why a TON of my friends use nanny-shares. Big city/long commutes, and switch off some work at home days so that no one’s ever doing 100% of the running around.

    • meg

      Amy is right (and OBVIOUSLY there is no one size fits all solution). I originally thought I might want a nanny when the baby was small (even if that meant dipping into savings), but then we did more research, and found out stranger danger hits full force around 8 months… so if we’d put off daycare till then it would have been harder not easier. Already at 6 months he’s hitting a more clingy stage, but he’s already really attached to his daycare ladies, so he can cling to them just as well. But that’s a side note.

      The reason I wouldn’t have gone with a nanny personally are two fold: One, my world view is very “it takes a village” and I want to give him a community of support in his life. I work hard at that on a lot of fronts, but for me, daycare is part of the equation. Two, socialization plus him being a super extrovert. He was bored and annoyed being home alone with me by 2 or 3 months (delighted when everyone is home and it’s bustling, annoyed when just one person is home and it’s not), and a nanny would have been more of the same. It’s different for everyone, but that’s my world view + kid speaking, also SO MUCH CHEAPER, and at the end of the day, for us, I’d rather have money to put towards his college fund. (Double addendum: I never had a college fund so it’s not like I think it’s required, but if you can, hey. Many people around us can have a kid with a nanny AND a college fund, so that’s a different equation.)

      I’ve gotten more efficient and focused, and it’s gotten more important to me to be able to unplug when its kiddo time. My day tends to work somewhat like this: 7:45 check emails, 8 breakfast, 8:20 get him down for a nap, 9:30 get him up for a nap get him ready, 10 drop him off, 10-5 more work, between 7-10 some work as needed. If David were doing the drop offs, the kid would be there at 7:30, and be picked up at 5:30, so he could get his full 9 hour day in. So yeah, jobs are not 9-5 anymore, but often with the internet (yay internet) you can do whatever extra work you have after the kid is asleep.

      In short: American work culture sucks :)

      • marie


      • Laura

        Dude, according to my BS in Human Development (caveat: I took exactly one class actually on child development and my current work has nothing to do with it), 6 months = onset of primary attachment. There’s this awesome set of experiments on baby attachment style using the “Strange Situation Paradigm” in which the baby’s primary attachment figure leaves the room for a while (while a stranger stays with him) and the baby’s reaction is observed through a one-way mirror. Before 6 months? Baby couldn’t care less. After 6 months? You’d think it was Armageddon. But when primary attachment figure returns? Immediate renewed bliss (but only for securely attached babies, as it happens). Apparently secondary attachment figures (i.e. daycare ladies) can be good stopgaps, but this clingy stage is a real stage, a real milestone in his development! Science!

        • meg

          It is! (My mom has her masters in child development, which is nice. I get a source.) I read a bunch of studies while putting together this article that I decided not to link too, because they’re super interesting, but I didn’t want to imply there was only one way to do things. Anyway, in these studies, daycare kids are much calmer when mom leaves the room, because they have lots of practice knowing that she leaves the room, she comes back. The studies also showed that you can have secure or insecure attachement, but that has nothing to do with daycare or not, just… parenting, I suppose. (Not in that you need do do crazy intense parenting things, just that it is possible to deeply fuck a kid up through neglect.)

          • Breck

            Yes, indeed. I’m sure plenty of APW readers know about a bunch of these studies (all of you are serious smarty-pants…es?), but, if you don’t, the big take-away is that loving your kids (through both verbal and physical reinforcement) from a young age is the basis for secure attachment. It is so, so important to give hugs and cuddles and use loving language because it not only lays the foundation for your relationship with your child, but it seriously colors his or her future relationships.

            I don’t want to fear-monger or be inflammatory because, like Meg mentioned, there’s no need to do anything drastic. Just being loving towards your kid will do wonders.

            (This coming from someone whose parents did not do the best job at providing reliable love and support and who can now see how it affects/affected many of my adult relationships.)

    • Mags

      I’m also in academia (as is my husband) and I know that daycare will definitely mean a change in hours. We currently work ~60 hrs a week each and though those are mostly during normal business hours (I typically leave the house at 8 and return at 7-8) when our little one comes this fall he will bring a dramatic change in our hours because I have yet to find a daycare that’s open past 5:30pm (And I’ve visited about 10). My guess is that this change would be similar in families with two parents that work office jobs that require significantly more hours than 40/week and are not flexible (I really can’t do most of my work on the computer at home after the kid falls asleep). In that sense a nanny is much more convenient than a daycare for many parents; yet, surprisingly, we and most people we know with kids (who also work in academia) use daycare instead of nannies, probably because of cost (did I mention we work in academia). So you just take the change in hours, which often means less work gets done overall, and hope it doesn’t hurt your career. I also see a lot of re-prioritizing within families, which will likely happen to us. My husband is more likely to have a more successful career than me (not because he’s the man, but because he’s awesome and that’s what it takes), which means I might try to support him more by switching jobs/further de-prioritizing my career so that he can continue to work the crazy hours which he will need to put in to get ahead.

      • rowany

        This stood out to me: “not because he’s the man, but because he’s awesome and that’s what it takes”
        Um, I’m betting YOU’RE also awesome and have what it takes.

        • Mags

          Thanks for the vote of confidence Rowany. I guess what I meant was that he has a CV that will more likely allow him to move forward in a career that is extremely hard to progress in.

      • Amy

        One of the awesomest things about our daycare is that they are open from 6:30am-6:30pm. You can use any or all of those hours as you choose. They obviously suggest that the super teeny babies not be there for more than 8-9 hours/day, but that flexibility makes me feel soooo much better on days with a call that runs over/meeting that can’t be changed/etc.

  • Rachel

    One of the things I found most interesting about this post is the “help is four letter word” point. Eric and I were just discussing over breakfast how sort of curious (for lack of a better word?) I find the idea of the self-sustaining nuclear family. My mom stayed home with me at first, but when she became a single mother, we moved in with my grandma, as did other relatives over the years who fell on hard times. (My recently-divorced aunt is currently living with them too, with her two kids there on and off.) So I basically grew up in a multi-generational household and that made me a lot more aware of how having family close by is a HUGE resource for taking care of children (as well as aging relatives or sick relatives of any age or just when you need a hand with something).

    Now that it’s just Eric and me with the closest family members an 11-hour drive away, I’m realizing how hard it is to do basic stuff (like dealing with the moving drama after we bought our house or taking care of our dogs when we both ended up in the hospital at the same time) without family nearby. It seems like it took just a few generations for us to go from having extended family nearby to help with childcare (and everything else) to having to seek outside help, which, of course, costs a lot more money. I’m curious how my generation will handle this, as it seems like more and more of us are moving far away from our families of origin for work (or to pursue dreams). But I think it’s really interesting how we went from the “it takes a village” mentality to this desire for independent family units who do it all themselves.

    • Yes. I love these posts on different motherhood options and this was the one I was most looking forward to due to it likely being my own childcare choice when the time comes.

      But what Rachel is saying here is also true for me and I’d love to see a post about finding help when you’re all on your own. Neither of us have family we can rely on for any of this stuff and I’m concerned about it all from the days after I have the baby (just us and three tiny dogs to care for a baby?!) to in the future with childcare and babysitting – we couldn’t take a honeymoon because we had no dog care – who will take care of our baby if something happens to us?

      Further, the fears are if we can’t trust our families (we can’t) then how do we learn to trust strangers? Where do you find the help (hired) and how do you know if you can trust them? I’d love to be able to shrug off this fear like others about child rearing as one of those “you figure it out”. But I myself was left in the care of people who shouldn’t have been trusted because it was cheap and easy childcare and it scares me to think of shutting off my anxiety about this for my own child just to save myself the stress.

      How do you not totally freak yourself out and move with your kid to a cave? Because they don’t sell dairy free ice cream near caves and I gotta have my ice cream.

      • rys

        Friend networks matter: I dogsit, I watch kids (ok, only when they’re sleeping, but that’s just me), I bring over meals, I take new parents out to movies, I bring food over and we cook, etc etc. Perhaps as a single lady amidst coupled folk, I’m more conscious of building friend networks since I don’t have a partner on whom to rely, but mostly I see it as simply being part of a community. You help your friends, they help you. You celebrate your friends, they celebrate you. You make your friends meals, they make you meals. They need a pinch hitter in an emergency, you drop everything and do it because you know they’ll reciprocate. It takes time and effort to figure out who comprises your go-to community and it takes time and effort to build and sustain it, but it’s totally worth it.

        • Kara E

          YES! I never really knew how much my (coupled) friends valued this too, but yes, yes, yes.

          • yes yes yes! as a newly coupled (er, new in my terms) and then moved across the country lady, I miss friends! I totally value and cherish the ones I have.

      • meg

        Friend networks MATTER. We have zero local family, so that’s not in the equation for us at all. That said, you *have* to develop some sort of a support network, which means working through fears. (Anyone who had a rough childhood, my I recommend therapy the second you get pregnant to help out?)

        But you HAVE TO HAVE TO leave your kids to someone in your will, hence having to have some network of support ant trust. Those people do not need to be family. We just agreed to be gardians in a will for our friends kids, and we’re honored and thrilled. But that’s a testament to making friends family.

      • Thanks ladies, I absolutely see the value in all of this specific advice and how this is probably good advice for building friendships in general. It’s something I am just now trying to adopt into my lifestyle as I try to make more contact with potential friends and acquaintances in life.

        But… I don’t currently have these kinds of friendships and neither does my husband. And frankly, the idea that I’m supposed to create, nurture and solidify non-existant friendships all while living life, working on my own problems and trying to carry a child – its overwhelming and to be honest, making me feel worse than when I was just worried about having no one but my baby clueless husband to support me in the days after labor. So instead let me look at the situation rationally instead of emotionally and ask clearly the questions I have:

        I accept that probably 95% of our “help” will be hired help. So…how do you pick the right hired help? With daycare, if you don’t know anyone who has a kid there, do you just like tour them, surprise visits, yelp reviews? I’m just wondering when you have to do it alone (because some of us do) how do you make sure you’re doing your due diligence and giving your kid the best possible options you can?

        • mmouse

          I hear you on the “doing it alone” front. We’re new to our area (3 years) and haven’t formed many great friendships.

          As for figuring out which help to get, I had worked in several different “brand name” centers before (ones that are nation-wide corporations). I’d been in centers that were amazing and others that weren’t, but it’s hard to tell that as a parent (I once heard a director straight up lie during a parent interview). I asked about a bajillion questions during our tours. Mostly I was looking for the feel of the place – how long have the staff worked there (very high turnover is a huge red flag), which teachers work with the infants (not everyone is a baby person), what are the ratios, what is the staff training (required and on-going), what is the infant room schedule (the right answer for me was “Whatever your baby’s schedule is.”)

          We didn’t use Yelp reviews, but did do the “surprise” visit thing. I think this is the most helpful. My husband and I alternate picking up, so we both get a feel for the place. And anytime our schedules allow it, we’ll pick up at different times to see what’s happening when they don’t expect parents to be around.

          • Thanks! I myself was at times a daycare kid and it was hands down the best childcare I was given. My husband is a teacher himself so I’m hoping he will also pick up on things I might not. Ultimately, I sincerely hope that I don’t have to be concerned a regulated and law abiding daycare is going to be like life threatening for my child, but it helps to know there are ways to check up on how the kid is actually doing at daycare and if they are happy.

          • mmouse

            Kristen, another thing I believe is that most people working as a daycare provider for a significant length of time (1 year or so) actually enjoy what they do. They *like* the kids and provide good care to them. That’s why I think turnover rate is important. If the center is full of new employees, there’s a higher likelihood of employees won’t don’t actually love children (or a sign that the management isn’t great). As a daycare provider I saw those people general come and go pretty quickly. Looking for teachers who have been there a long time is a good clue.

        • Mags

          Hi Kristen,

          I totally feel for you. I never really contemplated my close friendships until I participated in a research study last week and they asked me how many close relationships I had (not including my husband), whether they were local, and whether I could discuss with them certain issues. Suddenly I became really scared about our future. But you’re completely right that now (especially if you’re working on trying to carry a child, which is exhausting) is not quite the best time to nurture better relationships.

          For hired help I would recommend that you visit as many as possible (for daycares) or interview as many as possible (for nannies/babysitters). So many daycares seem so similar both on paper and during the visit, but then those small things really matter (and you will notice them). Also, Meg’s point about oversight at institutional daycares is key; this is why we will probably choose a daycare center over a home daycare or a nanny. It’s not that bad things can’t happen at centers, but there are more people around so I feel like it’s less likely that someone will shake your baby when s/he’s crying too much. Overall I really like the idea of flexibility of nannies or the warmth or home daycares (my mom has run a home daycare for almost 30 years so I know a lot about this field), but when you don’t have recommendations to rely on (and I haven’t found many reviews on yelp) then that institutional oversight can matter. Also, you will be surprised (or at least I was) how much help comes out of the woodwork when you’re noticeably pregnant. Just yesterday a colleague (who I’m not very close with) offered to ask one of her friends if I could borrow/buy used baby clothes from them (because the timing would be right). And I’ve found people who attend a lot of daycares near where we live/work just by asking everyone we casually know about their daycare situation (granted my husband and I work in pretty large groups so we have a bunch of coworkers, many of whom are near our age and have children). But if you don’t even know of people who have children, I bet you can find them if you look. Bring your dogs to the children’s playground or stop by someone’s yard sale with children’s items. Also, of course, the internet. And if you’re really interested in a particular daycare/nanny/babysitter you just need to ask for references.

          Good luck!

          • Thanks! I forgot about utilizing folks at work. It should definitely be a help to ask for recommendations.

            And I don’t mean to poo poo Meg’s or anyone’s advice on building these relationships – its super important especially for people like my husband and I with little to no family/family support. I’m not pregnant yet (well, I could be maybe) but until I am, I’m going to try figuring this all out with the friends I do have. A part of not feeling like I have close enough friendships is definitely due to me being me (and like Meg suggested, therapy helps tons) and its scary to ask for help, to ask someone basically if they care enough about you to be there for you. At least it’s scary for me. But if I think about it, its for my future kids sake so it shouldn’t be avoided just because its scary.

            I probably wouldn’t be comfortable (save a very good friend recommending someone specific) with in home daycare or a nanny. I like the safety of numbers as you beautifully stated. And I think it probably benefits the kid more, just like I think home schooling isn’t as good for a kid as classroom education. So hopefully choosing that route will help alleviate some of the excessive anxiety about it.

          • mmouse

            Another thing to add about oversight. You’re right on that there are more eyes watching, so there is less “bad behavior” in a larger center. There are also the upsides of having extra employees to take over for illnesses and things like lunch breaks. I know it’s hard for me to be On (as Morgan mentioned below) with my son whom I LOVE. It must be infinitely harder to be ON for other people’s children all day, every day as home-based providers are.

          • Also, in terms of oversight? Our daycare uses a webcam that I can log in to whenever I want. I love it. I only sporadically check in, but it’s so, SO comforting to see my baby happily sitting in Miss C’s lap, or eating, or frolicking like a puppy with the other kids in her room.

            We do pay a lot of money for daycare, and the ability to watch her whenever I want was a huge selling feature for me.

          • rys

            The other thing to remember is that the friends/non-family network of support may not be people who are the same age. A very good family friend recently died — she was about 15 years older than my parents, but lived up the street and became a good friend and support for my parents (we called her “aunt”). My mom recalled their friendship forming as follows: she needed a spoon to feed me as a baby (they had just moved), and this person (who they only vaguely knew from synagogue) came down the street with 3 options “because babies sometimes have preferences.” From there, the friendship and support and community blossomed.

            There were a number of people like this, people we called aunt and uncle who were of no blood relation. They were my parents’ friends — college friends, work friends, synagogue friends who transcended the label of friend and stepped in when needed. Some were my parents’ ages, some were not. Some had kids, some did not. It didn’t matter. From this I learned that nurturing the community around you is one of the best ways to live, and when you do this and need help, people will step up.

            {This is not to pressure anyone into friendship-building, but simply to say that support networks form in intentional and unintentional ways. Seize opportunities — my mom returned the spoon, clean, and with a small gift (a plant or something), and from that good things blossomed, to be cheesy and shit.}

          • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

            Seconding what Rys said. Whenever we moved, there were adults at our church who took care of my sister and me during worship. My adoptive grandparents spoiled me as much as their blood-grandchildren. And have inspired me as much as my blood-grandparents.

        • meg

          You tour them, you look at reviews, and you pull records from the public agencies that monitor them (they’ll tell you how to do that). We didn’t know anyone with kids in daycare either, so this is exactly what we did. (Just a note, we didn’t do surprise visits or anything, though you can. I drop off and pick up the kid at random hours sometimes, which is the equivalent of doing surprise visits, and all is well.) Also, 95% of our childcare help is hired, there is nothing wrong with that, and you shouldn’t have to feel badly about it. You do your best picking, and if you feel like it’s not working, you switch it up. I’ve found it to be VERY clear how my kid is responding to daycare situations, and when they’re good, when they’re fine but not a good fit for him, and when they’re bad.

          Side note about abuse, etc. This is something I thought about in very no nonsense way, because it’s part the history of some of my family members. To be frank, it’s one of the reasons I like daycare. There is a big supervised staff. It would be pretty complicated for abuse to happen there. For me, in home daycare and nanny care posed more risks. Or as one of the moms in Bringing Up Bebe said, “If my kid is going to be one on one with someone, I want it to be with me.” This does NOT mean that I think other forms of care are bad. It’s just interesting to me that good Institutional daycare has the most oversight, but it’s the least prestige option in the US.

          But do spend some time thinking about who you’re going to leave your kids to, if it’s not family. It’s a hard question, but a really really important one.

          • Don’t worry Meg, in our combined effed up family structures or lack thereof, we have a shining beacon in my hubby’s sister who I love like she was my sister too. She and her husband are wonderful parents and I’ve already warned her that they are not only the best but only option as far as emergency parents should something happen to my husband and I. Unfortunately they live 3 hours away so aren’t available for immediate/local support but I’ve already told her she’ll be taking up texting when we have a kid even if I have to pay for it. I need someone I can contact with my crazy/worried/weird childcare questions and she’s all I got. I consider myself lucky to have them, they’re the only real family I have other than my hubby and some folks don’t even have someone like her, so counting my blessings, I’m not without them entirely! It’s important to remind oneself of that I think, to keep life in perspective.

        • Brittany

          My mom has run an at-home daycare basically my whole life. She would tell you, and really any parent-to-be that the best thing you can do is set up visits during daycare hours. Ask about food. Ask to see a typical lunch menu. Ask how they are licensed. Read the whole contract. Ask who they recommend for back up (for when the daycare is closed). Call that person and ask about the daycare provider. Then, ask for the phone numbers of parents who use them. Call those numbers and see what the parents say. If you don’t like what you see and hear, even if you can’t articulate why, it’s not the right fit. My mom is great at her job, and still has had issues with families being not right for her daycare “community.” The most important thing is that you feel comfortable with where you are leaving your kid. Also, most states have a lot of oversight and rules for licensed home daycares. They are regularly inspected, and even the tiniest things are enforced, as my cranky teenage self would tell you when my mom got annoyed at me for the thousandth time for leaving my unplugged curling iron or nail polish in child’s reach in my locked bedroom!

          • The best daycare I ever had as a child was a home daycare. It’s a great alternative if you can find a well referenced provider who you trust. References are very key, but parents seem pretty keen to share when they’ve found a good home daycare solution.

    • This rings a huge bell for me. While I didn’t live with my grandparents, they lived very close by and we were at their house very often while we were kids. Because of that, my mom had help when she had PPD, and when my brother instantly started screaming every night when the sun went down. And I was able to develop a very very close bond with my grandpa.

      I remember NPR ran a series about inter-generational households maybe a year ago? And I definitely think you hit on the same note, Rachel: somehow we got it in our collective heads that the “traditional” way to do it is just mom, dad, and 2.5 kids. In reality, inter-generational living was the way to go- both for babies and for aging parents- for centuries.

      I hope there’s some APW readers out there living in an inter-generational household who can speak more about that experience. I’d love to hear about it.

      • Rachel

        I actually didn’t even know to call it “multigenerational living” until I read this post on APW last year:

        Huge lightbulb moment! I didn’t know there was a word for how I lived…it was just “my family.”

        I hope to write a post about my experience in a multigenerational household at some point this year, though I can’t speak to the childcare aspect of it yet! But the shock of going from a lifetime of that to being this little family unit has been kind of shocking.

        • Lauren

          I am also working on a post about wedding planning from inside a multigenerational house. It sounds like we may complement each other! :)

          • I’m so excited to read both of these posts, in particular because of the five years that my family and I lived ten hours away from any family! I love hearing from new perspectives.

      • Addie

        I can’t speak for inter-generational living but I have lived with my sister, her husband, their two kids and a dog for the last two years. Part of it was because I moved across country to switch careers and take a huge pay cut. Part of it was that I wanted to be part of seeing my niece and nephew grow up. I was never close to my aunts and uncles growing up and I didn’t want that for my niece and nephew.

        And let me tell you, it’s been kinda awesome. Once you get past the part where you are a grown ass woman living with her sister’s family. My sister works really weird hours (ie before 8am and after 5pm most days) so getting the kids to school really does take all three of us. I take the youngest to school every day because her school is 6 blocks from my work. Most of the time I do homework with the oldest and provide the buffer between school ending and parental return from work time. When one kid gets sick, at least one of us is available to stay home. We joke that we all three parent in 8-hr shifts so no one gets burnt out. It’s crazy and I’ve had to give up on any semblance of privacy, but it’s a great way to be around kids fulltime without it being a full time thing. Plus, my nephew and I get to go on “dates” all the time to movies and Johnny Rockets (cuz I’m really a 10 year old boy inside).

        This past Mother’s Day my sister sent me a text: “Happy Mother’s Day! You raise them too.”

        • meg


          Will you write about that?

          • I can try. Did I mention that my sis is a small business owner and I moved there to work with/for her? So yeah, she’s my little sister, landlord (of sorts), co-parent (also of sorts) and boss. That took a lot of negotiating.

        • Brenda

          This is beautiful. Pretty much the only thing that makes me sad about being an only child is that I won’t have nieces and nephews. You sound like a great aunt :)

    • Lauren

      I was raised in a multigenerational household AND I moved back in for a year after college. I cannot tell you the amount of crap I got for moving back in to save money and stay close to my fiance (because duh? Why would I waste $700 + per month just to end up moving in less than a year, which was/is the plan anyway?) Friends, teachers, professors, random strangers all had -something- to say about how I was throwing my life away.

      Add to that my mom and dad continue to get flak for living in my grandmother’s home and not their own, even though she is extremely disabled and unable to care for herself. My other family members almost openly disdain my parents for “freeloading.” It’s absurd.

      Moving away, far from family is in the cards for me, too, and I’m petrified. It will be nice to get a break, but it will NOT be nice to be without the support system I’ve come to rely on.

      • My mom gets some of that flak, too, though her situation is milder than your parents’- she lives about three doors down from my grandma, and checks in on her daily (usually twice), does the shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc. . .And yet some family members act as though her full-time job as a personal trainer is something she can do whenever she wants (heaven forbid she have a client on a Saturday morning when there’s a baby shower to attend later), and don’t clean up after themselves very well at Grandma’s house, as though they don’t know Mom is the one cleaning. . .?

        I lived with my Grandma for about nine months before I moved halfway across the country with my partner. It was definitely difficult for my mom because she missed me AND I helped a lot with Grandma. But they adjust. My brother stepped up, my uncle stepped up. And honestly? Even though it’s tough to be away for the good stuff, it’s really nice to live my daily life without the added pressure of being who I was at age 6 or 12 or even 18. I needed the space to continue the serious growth that started while away at college.

        Your fiance will be your support system. For me, I often feel guilty for relying on him So Much, especially during our first months, and even our first couple years being out here- but really, that’s what he’s there for. He’s your new little family now, so you’ll build that support together (and cry a lot about missing people).

      • Rachel

        Lauren, I moved back in for a year after my first year away after college and it was, hands-down, the best thing I could have done for my career (AND my personal life!). It’s so frustrating that people don’t get that it makes a LOT of sense for a LOT of people.

        I’ll echo what SarahE said about relying on your fiance…you will. And I’ve found myself building close relationships with people who remind me of family members…our Realtor was SO a mother figure, my coworkers remind me of certain family members too. It’s taken a couple years to build those relationships and it’s not the same as having family nearby, but it’s a great start and it’s incredibly comforting!

        • Kara E

          I moved back home for a year after college too. Good move financially and personally. It let me reestablish a lot of relationships–including those with my family–as an adult instead of as a child. Plus, it let me head off to grad school (and finish it!) debt-free.

      • MDBethann

        Neither my sister or I moved back home after college, but my sis did move in with me after college so she could save money for grad school. We’re 5 years apart, so growing up we often had a tough time relating to one another because we were at such different stages. Just when we were starting to relate, I went to college 3 hours away and wasn’t home much in the summer. Then I moved 6 hours away for grad school. Once I settled down and had my own condo outside of DC, it was a great option for her to find a job related to her field and save money for grad school. She just had to help pay for food & utilities. I got a compatible roommate and insta-best friend. I am incredibly grateful because I think we’re closer now than we would have been if she hadn’t moved in. She’s been in Boston for 5 years and I’m in Baltimore, but we’re still super close.

        There’s a difference between living with family to move forward and/or help and living with family to “free-load.” Unfortunately, I think Hollywood comedies have stereotyped adults living with their families more as “free-loading” than helping one another. It’s sad, because as other posters have noted, inter-generational living is more traditional than our culture tells us it is.

    • deeanna

      Exactly indeed!

      I just read “Why Have Kids?” by Jessica Valenti. While I found a lot of the book to be rather inflammatory, the underlying thesis is that our generation is having more difficulty with parenting and being HAPPY with parenting, because we’re trying to Do It All ourselves. The nuclear family really has replaced the larger, extended family where you didn’t have to worry so much about who was going to take care of your kids.

      One solution I’ve thought of in this regard is enlisting in the family that is your friend network. If you have a friend that is a stay at home mom, can she watch your children? Can friends all combine together to help with daycare drop offs and pick-ups?

      Second, I *am* seeing a lot more parents moving to where their adult children live. Often the adult children have moved to attractive places for jobs/love/etc that suit the parents once they have an empty nest. I know several couples who have had parents do this and significantly take on a childcare role.

      • One More Sara

        I had to go into town today to get my cell phone fixed. A friend of mine was recently laid off, so he is currently a stay-at-home-husband. He lives literally 2 blocks from me, so I dropped off my kiddo at his house so I could get in and out of the store in half the time. It was marvelous. Asking friends for help FTW.

    • meg

      So much of current parenting culture is tied up in this idea that we can be should be must be self sufficient as family units. Worse, it’s gotten to be something of a contest: what mother can do the most without help. When I occasionally get trapped in it, Maddie points out that it’s about the mom’s ego, not about what’s best for the kid.

      But the thing is, we’re literally not biologically designed to take care of kids with just two parents. That was never ever the way it was done. Which, funnily, is why this is in tradition month. I actually regard our choice of daycare as really traditional. Families have always had help. We don’t have a multi-generational home or a village, so this is our extra hands.

      But also, building a community of a collection of friends has been key to us.

  • Thank you thank you thank you thank you. My 2-year-old has been in daycare since she was 14 weeks old. She has thrived. She is social and bold and talkative. Guilt about her going there has been piled on me by others. When I hang out with stay-at-home moms I have to fight the urge to hide the fact that she goes to daycare. I don’t know what the image people have of daycare is – dirty neglected kids in cold institutional rooms eating slop? Our daycare sounds a lot like yours – bright and lovely with caregivers who are loving educators. The best best best part of it is that at 2-years-old my daughter is part of her own little community. She understands what it means to be part of a group, to share and take turns (well, sort of, as much as a 2 year old can). She has friends and stories to tell. At the dinner table each night we all talk about our days. It is working and it is great.

    A giant YES to needing more honesty in our talk of motherhood. I had a boss that acted like she did it all – ran a business and mothered 3 children. Then I met someone that worked for her household. Turns out she had an assistant to meal plan, grocery shop, and cook. A housekeeper. A nanny. All secret, she would just smile when people asked how she did it all. What we need is for women like her to say exactly what you’re saying here: I have help. Everyone needs help, we can’t do it all. Thank you and Rebecca for saying just that.

    • meg

      You know, and we’ve built the narrative in this effed up way. So she feels like she needs to lie, and then people find out, and she gets mocked for it “A cook! My god!” Which in reality: do what works. If you run a business and work 12 hour days and can afford a cook, get a fucking cook already. (Be a job creator!)

  • So good! Thank you Meg!

    This is a bit off topic but it drives me crazy how women are NEVER considered “the breadwinner.” My husband and I just bought a house and everyone we dealt with (lawyer, builder, etc.) acted like I was contributing NOTHING. They knew what my job was and knew the company I worked for and if my husband and I traded jobs/companies, they would have likely assumed he made double my salary (which I basically do) but they treated me like a non-person.

    • I’ve been thinking about this comment for a while trying to figure out if I’ve noticed this type of thing and I just haven’t. In part because I think I’m pretty oblivious to this sort of thing. Add to that I don’t really care what some stranger thinks of me or my value and that I am the bossy/control freak/not afraid to tell sales people to take a leap person in my marriage and I guess it equals this not being something that resonates with me.

      But I’m curious now and wonder if I’ll pay more attention the next time we’re in this type of situation to see if it happens. If it does, I’m happy to shame them on behalf of you and all other ladies who see and are bothered by this stuff all the time. Kinda like I try and point out when my mother-in-law is crossing boundaries or laying guilt trips. Not because they particularly bother me, but in solidarity with my beloved sister-in-law who finds it hard to laugh those things off!

      • Robyn

        I didn’t really notice anything like it before until we bought our house. It was similar to how people assumed my husband didn’t have anything to do with wedding plans (the vendors always directed questions to me). Not to downplay that sexism but I think assuming that a highly paid, well educated engineer doesn’t have a role in buying her house because she has a husband is more damaging than assuming a dude doesn’t care about flowers.

        • I never receive any correspondance from our real estate agent, despite both our names being on the list and written requests.

        • I never receive any correspondence from our real estate agent, despite both our names being on the lease and written requests that they contact both of us at all times.

          Oops double post – except this one doesn’t have spelling mistakes

    • meg

      Don’t get me started. I never had a problem with it, but with motherhood, all the language is around daycare as an investment in YOUR career, YOUR work being a luxury, etc. We don’t think about it, but it’s really not ok.

    • Not Sarah

      This reminds me of when I bought my place. I was treated as a woman, as a young person, and as a first-time home buyer by many people involved in the process. I was not treated as an intelligent, educated person or a qualified home buyer by nearly enough people. It’s quite frustrating. I’m so glad I wasn’t doing it with a husband or I probably would have been a non-person as well despite also making a good amount of money.

  • Excellent article! I work full-time, so our kiddo has been in full-time day care since he was 6 weeks old, and we couldn’t be happier with the situation. I knew that while I wanted to be a mom, I would struggle with being a stay-at-home mom, and honestly – I think our 1 year old actually prefers the way things are. He’s incredibly social and is excited to see his friends every day (so much so that some days, while he is happy to see me, does not want to leave). I love that he’s happy and getting to socialize and make friends. He’s learning sign language and how to share and interact with others, and I think he’d be sad if the arrangement ended. I know if I was a stay-at-home mom I could find mommy groups, but for this kiddo – he needs daily interaction with other people to be truly happy and I get that. I’m an introvert, so I need alone time to recharge, but he’s an extrovert, so his recharging happens when he’s chasing other 1 year olds around. I am ridiculously grateful for day care and the positive effect it’s had on our lives.

    • Jo

      I just heard a piece on NPR yesterday about how in Mexico they are trying to get people to switch from calling “single mothers” to “female head of household.” Conjures up a really really different image in your mind, doesn’t it!? (Unless you actually know a single mother, in which case, not at all)

  • Daisy6564

    My mother was a stay-at-home mom. My aunts were not. My whole life may parents repeated the message to me over and over again that my aunts were selfish for wanting careers and that kids could not be properly cared for and loved in daycare.

    I have been very conflicted about this as I have reached adulthood. I like working. I don’t love my job. But I like working. I like getting up every day and having some place I have to go. I like having goals and positive feedback.

    As an adolescent I saw my mom struggle with a lack of positive outside feedback, she was often starved for attention by the time Dad and the kids got home. As shallow as it is, I feel like I need positive reinforcement to feel fulfilled. I need to feel like I am making a difference in society, beyond just my home. I also worked in a lot of child care jobs growing up and know that extended time with babies can be terribly boring.

    At the same time, watching my coworkers send their tiny babies into daycare makes me nauseous. A three-month-old is so little.

    I have many friends who mixed a few days of day care with a few days of grandparent care or worked longer shifts fewer days. I am now trying to set myself up in a career that will allow for a creative balance before I have kids. My fiance sees care of future children as equally his responsibility, and he will stay home with them sometimes too.

    Thank you Meg for pointing out that no one truly does it all. I can assure you that even my stay at home mom did not do the June Cleaver style baking and homemaking.

    • One More Sara

      Re your first paragraph: Am I the only one who finds it oddly comforting to recognize that *everyone’s* parents have screwed them up in one way or another? Sometimes it’s big, and sometimes it’s minor, but for the most part, everyone also turns out to be more or less fine, law-abiding, contributing members of society. It helps me admit that as a parent, it’s pretty much guaranteed that I’m not going to get everything right, and that’s okay. Normal even. And that realization helps me not to freak out (or calm down during a freak out, bc let’s be real here. At one point or another, all parents freak out) over something that probably won’t have a huge effect on my kid’s life in the long run.

      • You are not the only one!

      • One of the ways I work through the anxiety of potential motherhood (which is brought on in large part by scars from my own childhood), is acknowledging I can’t ever be as a bad a parent as I had. I’m too smart and too aware and while I’ll make a million big and small mistakes, I’ll never damage a child of mine the way I was damaged. Which is a big relief in its own way. Everybody gets messed up in their own way and even those of use who got REAL messed up, can turn out ok in the end too. Plus, the fact you’re even aware and worried about it? In my mind that makes you already a great potential parent.

        • My husband and I were just talking about how we fully expect to make mistakes and screw up our kids, but we will ABSOLUTELY NOT make the same mistakes. (Insulting me to my face, ignoring sexual abuse because it ‘might upset the neighbours’, playing favourites.) I came out okay, and with therapy, relatively undamaged, but the bar is set rather low for being a better mother than my own. Which is pretty comforting.

      • Kara E

        Nope, not the only one at all. My mom is from a huge family and it always strikes me as funny the way the same “errors” turned my mom and about half her siblings into the most wonderful people I can imagine being related to – and a couple of the others into doofuses.

    • Daisy6564

      I want to be clear that my parents were fantastic parents. My sister and I are both very well adjusted, kind people and we have a very close relationship with each other and our parents.

      There was just a lot of rhetoric in my house around my parents’ decisions regarding parenting, finances, etc. being the best decisions. I am sure a lot of families do this. It is tantamount to teaching by example, and talking out your decision-making processes to inform others.

      As an adult I have had to question whether the best decisions for my parents will translate into the best decisions for me. For most things I will follow their example, for some I will research other options.

    • meg

      Three month olds are little, but the only real issue for me was the hormonal one. He was FINE at daycare. Actually, he was way better than fine. At 3 months he REFUSED TO NAP EVER if I was around, because he was obsessed with me, and would do anything to stay awake and be with me. We called daycare “The Spa” because he would get there and pass outtt. Like “Holy shit, staying up to hang out with mom was exhausting. I need a BREAK.” And he’d nap for 3 hours.

      When people talk about little littles in daycare, the thing they fail to bring up is that… he used to sleep for… 70% of his daycare day, easy. Plus, it turns out, its harder to send them when they’re older and have separation anxiety. When he was tiny, once he adjusted to being there, he was totally unmoved by me leaving. Food, cuddles, a place to nap? DONE.

      • MDBethann

        My only concern with sending really little babies to daycare is one I’ve gathered from watching my friends and co-workers do it for a number of years: illness. Developmentally and socially, it may be great for them, but kids in daycare seem to get sick about every other week or so. And not just sniffles and head cold sick, but stomach bugs and ear infections sick. Which is horrible for the kids and the parents.

        That is the only part of daycare I am NOT looking forward to when we have little ones. And it is the only part of daycare that makes me consider a nanny or nanny-share – fewer germs to go around means healthier baby and parents until immune systems are a bit stronger. And I say this as someone who worked in a fantastic daycare center during high school and college.

    • Not Sarah

      My mom (love her dearly, but) goes on and on about how an aunt and uncle waited to have children until their house was paid off and then their kids were raised by nannies and daycares, so they didn’t really raise them. My mom stayed at home with us. My aunt and uncle both had very valuable and personally/intellectually rewarding careers. Their kids? Well-educated (Master’s and PhD), ambitious, and great personable people.

      Another pair of cousins that were raised by a mom with an in-house daycare are floating through life and not really caring about going anywhere and still choosing to live at home.

      A friend from high school, his parents both worked so they had to learn how to cook. My mom stayed at home, so I didn’t learn how to cook until I went away to college. Or how to do laundry. Learning those things while still at home would have been way easier.

      I really don’t think that a stay at home parent is conclusive evidence on how the kids will turn out. They have their own personalities, people.

    • Marisa-Andrea

      I’d also like to point out that the even the women who did the June Cleaver style of homemaking didn’t really do June Cleaver style of homemaking. Many women in the fifties and sixties found that image stifling as well because they didn’t want to be at home with their kids all day and didn’t find housework fulfilling either. That isn’t to say that some women WOULDN’T like it because we all have our stuff that floats our boats. But I think that image of June Cleaver is a VERY idealized image of what a housewife was, even to the women of that era.

      • MDBethann

        I have a feeling that Betty Draper is probably more realistic than June Cleaver, or at the very least, housewives of the era were somewhere between the two.


    Just posting to provide a different audience perspective here. I know absolutely nothing about babies, daycare, nannies, you name it! There’s no babies/kids in my extended family and I work in at an engineering company. We’re still in the ‘everyone is getting married’ phase of our lives so not too many friends are having babies either. I’m not even sure I want to have kids, but this article was really interesting to read and get some perspectives that I would have never thought of. Thanks for some different things to think about!

  • Thank you for such a thoughtful and wonderful post. It is great to hear so many perspectives on childcare.

    Most of my friends that have small children are in a different kind of predicament; both parents work full-time and they cannot afford childcare (institutional or otherwise), so their parents (the child’s grandparents) step in and babysit for free from 8-5 every day. I know this arrangement works better for some than others, but I do feel like this is becoming a common practice. I wonder if anyone else in the APW community has heard of this?

    • Katelyn

      That’s what my parents do for my brother’s two boys every Monday and Wednesday. My dad especially loves it because he was working full time when his own babies (me and my brother) were little.

    • yes. i think there are *huge* class implications around childcare. it’s odd, because the first thing everyone says about childcare is how expensive it is, but then it’s as if folks form all their other opinions about it without that in mind. like how meg’s post indicates that in her circle being a stay-at-home mom is viewed as privileged – because in my circle it’s more likely to be the “well, there’s no other option” monetary choice (and clearly both views hold a lot of truth and a lot of lies). i’ve know a lot of folks with one partner working nights so that someone could be home with the kid all the time. that person was usually sleeping (or trying to), but at least they were there “in case something happened”. opinions on the “right” way to provide childcare are all over the place, but i know very few people who actually have the luxury to choose (which we at least kind of do have) – it is usually a case of making do.

      also, as a foster parent, the idea of functional childcare options being available is huge to me. no, it’s not going to do anything about abuse, drug addiction or parents who don’t care – but most kids end up in the system for neglect, and frankly i don’t know how you expect someone *not* to neglect their kids when they have to actually choose between money to feed/house them and someone to care for them (obviously it is all a lot more complicated than that…). plus, we get *free* daycare, but when they go home: tough luck, kid.

      • meg

        GOD we need public daycare in this country. It’s absurd. You get public school at five… GOOD LUCK MAKING IT THERE.

        Though it’s funny. There are lots of class implications about childcare, but man does it cut both ways. Having a kid in daycare, you see all these other class things come out. You only use daycare if you can’t afford something BETTER. Which? Just, no.

    • mmouse

      Most of the young mothers who work at my school have this arrangement: their mothers or mothers in law watch their babies. I’m unsure if it’s because of not being able to afford another type of daycare or if it’s just because they have that option. Although my co-worker who’s mother watches her son asked me how much we’re paying for childcare and almost choked on her lunch when I told her the number.

    • So we are in a somewhat similar situation. We both work full time, but can’t afford daycare (daycare for infants around here comes out to be TWICE our mortgage amount, which is just insane). So we are still trying to figure out our options.

      My family lives far away (and they are not anywhere close to retirement anyway, since my mom was a young parent), and my MIL agreed to watch the baby one day a week, which is awesome. But that leaves us the other 4 days a week to figure out…

  • I love our daycare. It was a tough adjustment for me, after the year of mat leave. (And by tough, I mean the first week was one of the worst weeks of my entire life.) But now? It’s amazing. My little introvert daughter is being forced to interact with more people than just me and David, and she’s so much more open and friendly because of it. She’s bonded beautifully with her main carers. To the point that when I picked her up yesterday she was sobbing because her beloved Miss C had just left. And that just makes me feel warm fuzzies that my little baby loves someone else – the more people she loves and who love her back the better.

    We spend a large chunk of change on daycare. Which includes 3 meals a day, and flexible hours, and accredited staff at a provincially monitored place, and daily “report cards”, and a daycare cam so I can log in and watch my kid whenever I want.

    I had a year at home, which was great, and am now at work, which is also great. J’s only in daycare 4 days a week, because David and I both get an assortment of Fridays off. I’m pretty sure I’m a better mother now that I’m not with her 24/7. Because babies are hard, and boring, and a lot of work, and it’s fucking tough to be ON all day. It’s easy to hand your kid a pile of blocks while you surf the internet. But when you only get 3 hours a day together? It’s SO much easier to be ON for 3 hours. On, and engaged, and playful. Our Fridays off together can drag, unless we have playdates and errands. Our evenings together, on the other hand, are delightful.

    Tl;dr: Daycare surprised me by actually being an awesome choice.

    • I’m facing this exact situation in the face. I’ve been applying for teaching positions, and if I’m hired, I’ll be returning to the workforce after a year at home with my little boy. I’m worried about those first few weeks, but reading your comment gives me hope that it will, indeed, get better.

    • Kestrel

      I was wondering how daycare might affect introverted children…

      If my SO and I have children, and if introversion is genetically linked, well, let’s just say we’ll have king or queen of the introverts. I was raised by a (work part-time but) stay-at-home mom and I would have been terrified and absolutely exhausted. But perhaps had I been placed in daycare earlier, it may have been easier.

      • My kid? Total introvert. Got her fear of strangers (including grandma!) 5 months before developmentally normal. She, and I will not lie, hated the first 2 weeks of daycare when she was 12 months old. She cried at drop off for the first month (though was fine when I checked her on the webcam from my office 10 minutes later). Now? 2.5 months in? She’s desperately in love with one of the carers. She’s happy and is thrilled to go there every morning, and yes, still thrilled to see me every afternoon. She’s substantially more outgoing, and now waves to strangers on our walks. She’s still slow to warm, and will not go to other people before she’s ready (even grandma) but at least now she’s eventually willing to be held by other people.

        She will probably always be an introvert – personality is a pretty fixed trait. But I’ll argue that the early socialization is probably good for her, because she does have to live in the world and interact with people. Babies at 3 or 6 or 12 months are very, very resilient. Much more resilient than say, kindergarteners, in terms of getting used to new routines quickly.

        • Brenda

          I completely agree. I’m an only child and an introvert, and I went to daycare from age 2 (or maybe before). I’m sure I probably didn’t like it more than I liked it, because I’m like that, but I think it was important for me to be with other kids and learn how to get along with them.

          The introvert’s biggest life lesson: other people are here, and they’re not going away.

        • Not Sarah

          I didn’t go to daycare. My parents sent me to preschool to learn socialization and I hated it. Hating school for the people around all the time is one of the few things I remember about my childhood. I argued with my mom so much about “please can you just homeschool me already???”

          And you know what’s worse for an introvert than years of preschool and school? Work. Way less time off and alone time.

      • thursday

        I distinctly remember being intensely jealous of my preschool classmates who got to stay after school for the daycare program. They got to do Fun Things and I had to go home and play alone because my mom stayed at home my entire life. (And still does. I’m 32 and I moved out over a decade ago.)

        So I grew up in that image of the lone nuclear family (also we moved multiple times, and eventually we all just gave up making friends.) My fiancé on the other hand grew up in a communal house and the idea of asking for help from friends/family/friendfamily is totally natural to him. I…am going to have to learn how to do that.

    • mmouse

      I think you’ve mentioned a lot of the “hidden” benefits of daycare (I do love the “report cards”!). Especially the point about being ON. I’ve become a more efficient worker, because I want to get my butt out the door and get home to spend those evening hours together – and I don’t want to bring a bunch of junk to do after he’s asleep! When our son first started daycare I remember thinking “Today is the longest day of my life” every weekend, because I’d re-adjusted to not having to be so ON.

    • meg

      Yup. Family time has become focused time. Work time has become focused time.

      And he gets great quality time at daycare too. Oddly, I find one baby for long periods boring. A whole bunch of babies with other daycare workers? Much better. So things are always happening there. Even if adults aren’t interacting with him, he’s watching other kids play.

      In short, he gets loads of quality time now, and I’ve re-prioritized in a good way too.

  • Good article, but I found my hackles being raised when I got to “Fuck The Nanny, Let’s Go To Daycare.” I realize that it isn’t intended as a personal attack against nannies, but it very easily reads as one. I’m personally sensitive to this, as my sister has worked as a nanny or most of the past decade. She’s been a live-in nanny, she’s been a part-time nanny. Currently she nannies for twins, 20 hours a week.

    And you’ve been a nanny, too, which is how I am damn sure that this *wasn’t* meant to be or even sound like an attack. It’s probably just that the section title is funny, but funny-harsh. Blah. Probably reading too much into this. Over thinking in the morning.

    Still, putting this out there, in case I’m not the only one who did a double-take at this point in the piece.

    • meg

      I have been a nanny, I was being funny. I’m super clear at every point in the piece that different daycare options work really well for different people (as we have been with the whole series).

      • Yup, and I acknowledged both of those things in the 2nd paragraph of the comment. All I am saying is that the section header was more jarring (to me) than it was likely intended to be.

        • meg

          You should meet me in person ;) Way more jarring humor than I allow myself to have here.

          • Per the book talks, I can definitely attest to that. Um, I didn’t find you jarring, just much more blunt — perhaps because my humor is very dry. But you are also super funny and engaging and smart.

  • A

    I’m so glad to be reading about positive experiences with daycare. I’m just a few weeks in…I look forward to going to work, but then I also miss him so much I could cry.. on my days off I think “I miss this all week!” It is a strange feeling. Maybe it is just coming to terms with not being able to have it all! I do like our daycare, feel very fortunate that we can afford it. I guess I will feel more comfortable with the situation as it becomes more routine.

    • nicole

      How old is your babe? I’ve felt more and more positive about it as my child has gotten older and I see more and more benefits.

      Another thing that helps me is focusing on what we gain by having two incomes: the ability to go on vacation, save for a new car, buy treats every so often. While I sometimes envy my stay-at-home mom friends, I see the tremendous sacrifices many of them make. Of course that is worth it to them and that is laudable. There are tradeoffs either way, and I think it’s helpful to remember why we do what we do.

      • The deal my husband and I made about me going back to work after a year of mat leave was: stay home and vacations are road trips, go back to work and we’ll go to Europe in the fall.

        Yeah. Straight out bribery. (He also knew I would be happier at work, and wanted me to try it before deciding to stay home. He was right.) We’re just working out the details of a 3 week Scandinavia jaunt right now!

        (I love my life. And my husband. And my kid’s wonderful daycare ladies.)

        • Ooh, where in Scandinavia?

          • Still a bit in the air, but it looks like Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, day trip to Estonia, then back to Iceland on the way home.

            Ambitious with a 18 m old baby? Perhaps. But what the hell, why not try?

      • A

        He is only 11 weeks, so I imagine it will get easier as he gets older, and I can see the benefits a little more clearly! (I think he likes daycare? seems to work out? naps and eats? He likes lots of noise and other people, so I think he has fun? Hm.)

    • Amy

      I switched daycare centers after a week at our old one. They were technically *fine* but not a great fit, and the older kids were not as engaged as I liked.
      I (purely by luck and happenstance) found our awesome awesome center and they had an opening. I luuurve the day care ladies and everything they do for our kiddo. That being said? I think not doing day care until the baby was 6 months old and a bit more mobile/independent would have been nice if it had been doable for us. It wasn’t a big deal for him to go in at 5 months, but baby who can sit up on his own vs. baby who can’t is kind of a big difference.

      • meg

        It’s an over/ under thing. I’m glad we started him earlier. It was easy at three months. If he were starting now that he can sit up (and is clingy) it would have been way harder. He used to just lie around and smile at the other babies. Now he sits around and smiles at the other babies.

    • meg

      I still miss him so much I could cry. So it goes, you know? That means I really love being with my kid. I also miss work sometimes, though not in a way that makes me cry. It’s all just imperfect, but I’m so happy I like mothering enough that I miss him to the point of wanting to cry sometimes.

      • A

        Ooh, good point! I am glad I like mothering this much, too!

  • Kristen

    Thanks for this post. Daycare needs to be discussed more broadly and yes not given such a bad stigma. I’m in a similar situation; I work from home full time, but my son goes to daycare. Before he came, I was truly expecting to have the “mom guilt”…..feeling horrible for not spending all day with him, missing milestones and having “strangers” raise him. My mom and my MIL were both stay-at-home moms, so my husband and I both felt very mixed about daycare and not having one of us home with our son. To our surprise, we’ve found daycare to be quite the godsend! Our son absolutely loves it; seriously since we dropped him off at 3 months (now he’s almost 14 months). He learns so much there from the other kids and is so distracted by exploring and playing. After seeing him in this environment, my “mom guilt” has really not been an issue. There are days I miss him like crazy, but I know that this time apart is good for me and him. I was seriously just telling my husband again this past weekend, I am happy with our decision. Sometimes I wonder if I stayed home with our son if he would be who he is today – would I be able to keep him entertained enough? Would he reach all the milestones he has so quickly? Could I come up with well-balanced meals that he would enjoy eating? How would I keep up with organization and cleanliness while taking some breaks for myself? Daycare has made a difference for our son and our family. And guess what — we’ve not missed 1 milestone!! So, if you are thinking about daycare and the “mom guilt” is creeping up on you or someone is telling you “you’ll miss so much!” Maybe you’ll be lucky to have a similar experience as us; give daycare a chance!

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you. This post is perfection. We don’t have kids yet, but I’m already freaking out about the societal pressure (although most of it is from my own mother, damn it) to not put our future children into daycare, lest we out ourselves as completely irresponsible parents who don’t want to be with their kids. Frankly, I think that’s bull, and I hate that it’s even a thing.

    Thank you for such a lovely post on why daycare works for you. I hope that with posts like this and people like the ones in this community, we can work to destigmatize daycare. :)

  • Caroline

    Thanks for this Meg. As someone who wants to work when she has kids, and who will probably need childcare (unless my fiancé stays home) and will be unlikely to be able to afford a nanny, it’s great to see some people love their daycare and find it to be super beneficial.

    It’s interesting. I’ve definitely been doing some thinking about how feminism and parenting and help are so complicated. For the most part, when we hire childcare help (whether a nanny or a daycare), we hire poorer women, often minority women, often immigrant women. Women who sometimes ( often?) leave their own children on the care of someone else (sometimes countries away) to care for our children. (My own nanny when I was a child had a teenaged son who lived with her the first few years she was my nanny (I adored him!) but then he had to go home to Chile.)

    And yet, if we don’t hire help, we can’t really pursue careers, we have little house to be stay at home moms (or occasionally stay at home dads.) That’s awesome for some people. Not for me. I need structure, I’m ambitious, I like gettin up and going to work every day (although it sometimes sucks.) I would be a terrible stay at home parent because I suck at having no structure/creating structure for my days. So we will probably have help. My fiancé may work part time to care for the kids, or may be a part time work at home dad (requiring childcare), but we will be one of the many families hiring help.

    I’m not really sure where to go with it, because I’m confused by it. It’s a discussion that is sometimes left out of the conversation though. When I was a nanny, I didn’t have sick leave. I didn’t have healthcare insurance. I I had ha children, I would have been very limited in my choices of childcare given the amount I made (and yet, it is a LOT of money for a family to pay for the care of their child.) I do think it is interesting/problematic that women remain the primary childcare providers. Yes, most men spend more time parenting and on housework than they used to, but it is still women’s work to be wiping butts and noses all day. It’s just often not mom’s work, but it is still usually a woman’s work. Like I said, no idea what to do with these concepts, but we’ve been discussing them in my women’s studies classes at school a lot.

    • Oh, man. Race and class and power and child care providers is something I think about a lot.

      I mean, here I am, a middle class white woman paying a young recent immigrant Chinese woman and a similar aged Ethiopian Muslim to look after my kid. And while I think that’s actually a great thing (yay diversity! my kid loves both of them!) I also feel weird sometimes. I’m more strongly aware of my privilege, I guess, and that can be uncomfortable. Especially as talking about it just makes you look racist, and I don’t know how to explain that’s not my problem – it’s that I feel weird being in a position of power, I guess. I’m paying their salary to look after my kid. It’s a win all around, I think, but I still feel weird some days.

    • Anu

      Speaking as an immigrant woman of color and someone who is actually fairly privileged, I think that as long as you are fair in your dealings with the people who work for you, there is no need to feel guilty, any more than you’d feel guilty about hiring someone to fix your car or mow your lawn. At the same time, I do understand where you’re coming from, but I don’t think not hiring someone is going to fix the inequities that are baked into the system, and would probably make the individual situation for your potential employee worse. I remember reading about how most nannies are paid under the table in the United States, and that’s something I would like to avoid if possible when I have kids, as it will make the situation in retirement much worse for these nannies. I’m not sure how practical that is though (I’ve heard that most nannies prefer to be paid under the table too), so I’ll have to wait and see. In a sense though, your situation and your nanny’s situation are parallel, in the sense that you’re both getting someone else to take care of your child while you work to make money. What would be ideal would be some form of childcare subsidy that would allow the wage paid to the nanny to go up to a reasonable level, while at the same time not increasing the burden on families too much. Then maybe even your nanny could afford good childcare right in the US! That would be my ideal. And in my mind, there are strong economic reasons to try to accomplish this too — it’s not just a sop thrown to working women — because it would help women working outside the home get over that little hump when their kids are very small and stay in the workforce, which would probably have very positive effects on the US’s GDP and other numbers economists care about.

      • The paid under the table thing is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, when you are making very little, not having taxes taken out of your paycheck is useful. On the other hand, so many thing, like housing subsidies, require you to have a W2.

        As my sister discovered, if your employers aren’t reporting you and giving you a W2, you can’t file your taxes the easy way, so even if you are technically and employee, if you want to file your taxes you have to do so as an independent contractor, which can end up being frustrating and complicated when you have no idea what you are doing, and the usual free tax help you can get at the library doesn’t want to touch that. If you push for your employers to report your income and give you a W2, they might decide that they don’t want to deal with you. It can be sticky.

        • thursday

          My fiancé is basically a nanny (at one of his three jobs) and … well, we think we finally got his taxes right this year, maybe…except he’s legally self-employed which means he makes 1/2 what I do, but pays 2/3 as much in tax. Which is just….what.

      • Caroline

        I agree it isn’t something to be guilty about, but when we’re talking about feminist choices and work, I think it is important to talk about the fact that we haven’t really changed the gender balance of childcare, and talk about the class and race issues involved. I know for myself, I hadn’t even considered the issues involved until this semester, and while I don’t think it means you shouldn’t hire a nanny (as you said, taking away jobs is CLEARLY not the solution), it seems like it is important to discuss and consider.

        Also, my understanding is that nannies are rarely paid over the table. (That may just be my experience though. I’ve always been paid under the table for nannying.) While that can be beneficial in the short run for the nanny (no taxes on the income), it can be deleterious in the long run, as you said (no social security on it, and fewer protections). I think that paying over the table becomes unaffordable for most families quickly (increased wages to cover taxes and living costs, plus having to pay all the employers side of the taxes, etc), but that doesn’t mean that’s a good situation.

        Also, I’m not sure about in other states, but in California, there is a big movement to get pretty basic worker protections for domestic workers (which includes nannies.) Things like getting paid overtime, breaks (although I don’t know how that works for nannies, as when watching kids, you can’t exactly say, ok kid, break time see you in 30), eligibility of workers comp coverage, and more pretty basic stuff. So while perhaps individually, many people treat their nannies well, we clearly have a big problem with how many domestic workers (including nannies) are treated. (

        • Caroline

          I just want to be super clear that I think that help is really necessary to have a career, and sometimes, super necessary just to stay a sane parent even if you are a stay-at-home parent. I’m not bashing on that concept, and I think it is AMAZING that we’re talking so openly about it here and breaking down the myth of “doing it all, all by yourself.”

      • meg

        I think this is basically where I come down on this (really important) discussion.

        One of the reasons I didn’t want a nanny is that I didn’t feel that I could afford to pay someone a living wage + health care, and I was totally not ok with anything less than that. (I used to write checks for my wealthy bosses nanny. She paid both of us $12/hour in NYC with no benefits. I was barely getting by and I was 22, this woman was in her sixties and had HELPED RAISE MY BOSSES HUSBAND ALSO. Seriously? And you’re still fucking her over?) After that I just couldn’t have a nanny unless I felt I could pay them fairly, and we just can’t.

        My kids caregivers are very multi-ethnic, which I think is a plus, not a minus. They’re mostly not immigrants (except the owner, a European immigrant who’s doing very well for herself) and not paid under the table. This is a career for all of them, which I also love. Plus, one of his caregivers just went on mat leave, and I asked her what she was doing for childcare when she came back. Answer: bringing the baby with her. YAY!

        That said, do I think they are making what they are worth? I’m SURE they are not. But to make that happen, I think we need real policy change in this country. Anyway, that’s not to say it’s not all complex. More that the way we’re currently doing it makes me feel ok (and one of the daycare centers we looked at did NOT make me feel ok about it).

    • One More Sara

      Semi-related: My family had a cleaning lady who came every other week when I was growing up. When she started, it was fairly obvious she didn’t have dental care in her home country (some missing teeth, and the teeth that she had weren’t in the best condition). She still cleans my parents’ house, and she has gotten new teeth sometime in the past few years. I’m pretty sure her child(ren) paid for them, so I’m also assuming that they are doing pretty well for themselves. I always get so long-winded, but I think my main point is that when people immigrate from a disadvantaged country to an advantaged one, it’s their children who benefit first. So to make a long comment longer, I think as long as you are paying your help (be it cleaning ladies or nannies) a fair wage and, you know, treating them like human people and not The Help, you are doing everything you can.

      • Row

        I agree with this. My great grandparents immigrated for Italy and worked 12 hour days 7 days a week for… their children. My grandparents went to college and my parents went to graduate school. Often people who immigrate are doing it for the future of their families, and in a few generations they will be the ones who are running things. It is really short-sighted to see them as invaders/interlopers and look down on them.

  • Laura C

    Thanks for this post. I was a daycare baby myself, and I made friends at daycare were in my life for years and in a few cases to this day. My parents, too, made friends with other parents from the daycare, and those relationships helped them deal with summers once I was in school — they’d go in on babysitters together, or coordinate to send me and a friend to the same camp, stuff like that. Plus the friendships. So daycare was a really important part of my life, in a good way, and it’s been a little … weird to see how few of my friends have sent their kids to daycare to this point. I’m like “when I have kids am I supposed to have a nanny? is daycare just not done anymore?” This post is such great perspective.

    • meg

      I know. It sort of seems “not done anymore” in our social circle. It’s so odd.

      • Try working in a very corporate environment! I have been scorned by some for returning at all, and others for not having a live in nanny.

  • The whole most people with careers have help thing? My sister tells me this almost all the time. She has time for any celebrity mum who is upfront about having help. She points out that help can and does include: childcare of varied forms, cleaning, cooking and gardening. I know stay at home parents who need help as it is a big job and sometimes someone else to do a weekly clean makes it easier to keep on top of the job of caring for a human being. Help should not be a dirty word. Needing help should not make people feel like they are failing, getting help is amazing.

    We need to stop the false narrative of doing it all, and posts like this help us to get there – thanks Meg!

  • Katelyn

    Sorry, I don’t mean to be random and off topic…but your hair looks wicked cute in your photo :)

  • Cleo

    My mom was as close to a modern June Cleaver as you could get when I was growing up. She quit a job in advertising to stay home with me and my sister.

    She cleaned, cooked dinner every night but Saturday, entertained me and my sister, and made us entertain ourselves and wrote books — pictures books and middle grade novels, which, after many years of hard work, was able to foray into a money-making career (anyone who writes with any seriousness knows it’s a career long before you have any earning potential). She was a classroom mom and field trip chaperone, went to PTA meetings, and helped us with our homework.

    My dad had a full time job and helped with homework and gave my mom a break on Saturday mornings (he’d run errands with us), but my mom was the linchpin in the operation.

    My point is that I grew up with a mom who worked (a tad unconventionally) and stayed home and cooked dinner and we didn’t have a nanny or go to daycare. We started pre-school at 4 years old for a few hours 3 days a week, but nothing full time until kindergarten. Day care is a foreign notion to me and it always seemed scary. This post helps de-stigmatize it for me. So thanks.

    • Abby J.

      It’s interesting, but my situation growing up was exactly the same as yours and that’s part of the reason WHY I am choosing daycare. My mother quit her job as a guidance counselor to stay home with us while my attorney father worked full time. She did a great job – took care of the house, cooked all our food from scratch (with the occasional pasta dinner made by Dad) and devised all sorts of educational entertainment for me and my brother. We went to public school, but when Mom felt I was too small to start conventional first grade, she homeschooled me and organized a once-per-week homeschool co-op out of our house so I had group class experience.

      It was amazing. I had an almost idyllic childhood. But when I look back it as an adult, I feel sad for my mother. She had no extended family in our city to help her, and she completely gave up her beloved career to do it. When she tried to go back to work when we were in high school, she found out that all her degree credentials were so out of date she’d essentially have to go back to school and get another degree from scratch (despite having possessed an M.Ed. when she left work) to be eligible to work in the school system again. And my mom would have been GREAT at it.

      I also think not having an example of a working woman around my house growing up really hurt me when it was time to go to college, pick a career field and find a job after graduation. I literally Had.NO.IDEA what to do with my life or even how to pick something. My dad had never ever wanted to be anything other than an attorney in his entire life, so he didn’t have any useful or practical advice for me other than “Pick what you love.” And my response to that was, “What does that even mean?” I want to provide a different sort of model for my daughters (and sons, but especially daughters), even moreso since I’m expecting my first daughter in August.

      So, daycare it is for us. And I’m loving all the stories from daycare children who made so many friends. Thank you everyone!

      • Daisy6564

        I echo your thoughts. As a child, my mom was a rock star. Room mom every year, Girl Scout leader, PTA president, etc. She took us on educational field trips all summer long and planned great activities.

        Like you though, I began to notice when my sister and I reached high school that mom’s steam ran out. She was unemployable because she quit her job in accounting before computers were wide-spread and has next to no computer skills. She has never gone back to work.

        I fear taking years out of the work force raising kids only to have nothing to do once the kids are in college. Although a really appreciate my mom’s sacrifice, I do not think I could do it.

      • aelle

        Yes yes yes. My mother was an eco-mom 20 years before it was a thing – stayed home despite being the more educated of our parents, wore her babies, made some of our clothes, was super creative and crafty. She didn’t homeschool, but did adopt many homeschooling practices when we were home – lots of home science projects, crafts, there were usually 40+ library books in our house at any given time, etc. We kids also got to walk home for home-cooked lunches every day. I am super aware, and grateful, at how her dedication allowed us to blossom and really have a kickass, carefree childhood.

        On the other hand, I realized embarrassingly late in life that I would probably have to work at some point in my life (and for more than just a couple years after college to kill time until I “got” to stay home). And that it was probably a good idea if I enjoyed what I do. And that it was kind of unhealthy to have always assumed that my life fulfillment would come from motherhood.

        On a more dramatic note, I realized just how much she really sacrificed when my father left and she was left with no marketable skills and a huge gap in her employment. My fiance and I have concluded that no matter how well things are doing now, neither of us should put themselves in a position of total economical dependency on the other. That’s just too dangerous, and as far as I’m concerned, not what I want to model to our future children.

    • meg

      You TOTALLY can work and stay home. My mom stayed home and wrote books too, high five! You can’t stay home and work full time without help though. That’s where it becomes not a thing.

  • Carla

    As much as I love kids, this is one of the many reason why I don’t think they are a good idea for me…for us. I think if those decisions (SAHM, WAHM, etc) is giving ma panic attacks even before I had a partner, its not a good idea for me. My mother worked full-time outside of the house long before I was born and almost 35 years after I was born, she still works full-time (same place) – this will be her 43rd year there. I don’t want my life forced into servitude for an employer that doesn’t give a crap about me.

    As negative as my comment sounds, posts like this help solidify my decision even as painful as the decision to not have children can be at times.

  • mmouse

    My lunch break is nearly over & I haven’t read all the comments yet, but thank you for this. Thank You. I feel the same way about daycare (oddly enough, I also have many years of working in a daycare, so maybe is a factor?) and feel like no one in my real life acknowledges that daycare can be a great option. At work, all the other moms with young children have parents who watch their children. They hear he’s in daycare and I get the “oh…” response. It’s never the “How great!” response that moms who have family “nannies” get. Our family reacts similarly. My mom & dad did alternating schedules when we were babies and my mother-in-law stayed home to raise her children (as does my sister in law). I understand that they all chose what was best for their families, but they don’t seem to see that choosing daycare is best for ours.

    And, oh my stars, the reaction when we say our son will still go 2 days a week once I’m done teaching and off for the summer? I don’t want to go into all the judging there!

    In short, I love our daycare for so many reasons. Our son loves our daycare. I even smile when I smell the “daycare smell” on him, because I know he’s been cuddled and played with and loved. And isn’t that what I want for him in the end?

    • meg

      THE DAYCARE SMELL. <3 Me too.

      And if I was off for the summer, I'd have to keep him in part time daycare for his sake (if I could). He was sort of devastated during his one week spring break, and so over the moon when I took him back. He misses it there when he's gone.

      • I’m already trying to justify the cost of at least one day a week daycare for J when I go on my next (still highly hypothetical) mat leave.

        • One of the ladies in my family runs a daycare and has had a 4 year old boy with her all year. She just his newly 1 year old sister and their mom took a full year mat leave. Depending on the child and the care, sometimes daycare makes sense even when a stay at home parent is available.

      • mmouse

        I had him home with me for spring break, too and took him one morning so I could go to the dentist. His face lit up like Christmas – he was giggling and shouting (he was about 5 months). I ended up letting him stay the whole day and driving back and forth to nurse him every few hours. I didn’t have the heart to pull him out when he was having such a good time.

  • Laura

    This is so interesting, thank you for your perspective, Meg. I went the nanny route, because for us it was actually cheaper and just made more sense given my odd hours. As a freelancer who works at home 90% of the time, what I really needed was part time care, with the option of adding more hours as needed. Luckily we found a wonderful nanny who was willing to work with a flexible schedule as long as we could guarantee 15 hours a week. It’s perfect for all of us. Daycare for an infant in our neighborhood of Brooklyn is about $2000 a month. We couldn’t really swing that anyway! The cost of childcare is just bananas.

    • jess

      So that’s what I have to look forward to in a few years, huh? I love my neighborhood in all it’s overpriced glory, but sometimes its just ridiculous. We’re starting with the dog expenses in a few months…I can’t really fathom the whole baby or family thing.

      (PS. come to the nyc meetup! June 14th!)

  • Jenni

    Bravo, mama!!!!!!! Parenting is so deeply complicated and individualized. You captured that perfectly. So happy that your family is happy. xoxoxoxoxo

  • I’m glad I checked in on practical wedding today and read this manifesta of a post :)

    We both work outside the home in careers we love and our 2 year old is in a daycare where she gets education and nurturing that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

    So much of what you wrote rings true for me and is validating to read. Thanks for this, I will revisit it again and again.

  • Loved this whole post! Especially as a former nanny, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time thinking about how I would do it when I have kids, and I frankly have no idea. But I am SO GLAD I read this because it seems like such a great option. Thanks for sharing, Meg. Loved every bit of it. And, I’m really happy you and your baby are happy. :) That’s what makes it the best. Yeah!!

  • Katie

    The premise in the very first paragraph of this post is so curious to me. That help, whether extended family, daycare, or nanny, is how new parents keep living their lives and doing their jobs does seem pretty clear to me. That the combination of work and parenting, even WITH full-time daycare, is still admirable is also apparent.

  • Kara E

    So…this is actually a decision that I’m struggling with pretty actively right now. I’m 8 months pregnant and plan to take off a big chunk of time to spend with Baby after he/she born. My work (professional/corporate, but project-based) is going to be pretty flexible on when/how I come back and my husband’s is not at all flexible. Given our lives, it makes sense that I take advantage of the flexibility I’ll have, but part time childcare is almost harder than full time – at least in terms of finding quality care. I’m on the wait list for the daycare at my office, but nothing feels quite right.

    • Ilora

      Part time care generally is tougher to get (I work in a daycare) because once someone takes say mon-wed it’s much harder to find someone else who wants the thurs-fri. I can’t say for the U.S. but up here in Canada our parent fees only just barely cover the staff wages and building upkeep so we need to be full at all times and there are always people on the wait list wanting full time care. If you have any friends or family who’d be interested in taking a few days you could maybe arrange to share a full time spot? That may not help you at all but I thought I’d put it out there as an option.

  • We don’t have kids yet but once the time comes, I would like to stay home with the baby & work my part-time, at-home job. That’s the plan anyway. Who knows what will happen once we actually have a baby! If something else works better, I’m open to it. I have friends who stay home with their kid(s), work part-time with part-time daycare, work full-time with nanny or daycare, etc. Each Mom is happy, as are the kids. There is no one size fits all solution!

  • Laura

    Hey, so, on a related but slightly tangential angle, agree or disagree: One of this country’s biggest but most underdiscussed social problems and barriers to gender and class equity is access to good, affordable childcare.

    • meg

      Yes. correct.

  • I worked at a daycare for a while when I was job searching. I had a hard time with it at first because I felt that I had a master’s degree, people skills, and killer work experience and was changing diapers for $10 an hour to pay rent.(That’s a way better pay than most daycares in our region, btw.) I got over my inflated sense of self-worth pretty quickly when I realized that what I was doing was loving the crap out of those babies and giving parents a sense of relief that someone was loving their child all day long in a safe environment. I felt that because of my job, other women (and men) could do the job they loved or needed to do. In a small sense, I’m contributing to my community. And now? I would totally put my child in a good daycare and because of the career I have now, will probably do so when the time comes.

    • mmouse

      I just turned 30 this year and have been struggling with the decision to quit my public school teaching career and go back to working in a daycare. Beyond the financial issues (daycare pays so. much. less.), I was stuck on this idea that working in a daycare was a “step back”. I kept thinking “30 year olds don’t work in daycares if they have other options”. I don’t know where I’m getting this idea from, but it was disturbing to me.

      I’ve decided to keep teaching for now (because the fiscal part is a real killer), but I would love to make the switch and have a daycare career. Caring for those children is no small contribution; I feel like it’s one of the most important jobs there is.

      • meg

        It’s because we don’t value caring for children. I mean, that’s really what it comes down to. We devalue women and men that stay home with their kids and do it. We devalue women and men that do it for a living.

        It’s stupid and horrible and pointless. These kids are going to grow up to be our future citizens. Surely the work of loving them and caring for them has great value?

    • Minimum wage is $9.75 in my province, across the board, including food service. I can’t imagine paying my daycare ladies *only* minimum wage for the hard work they do.

  • Angie

    We currently use a nanny share with a family that has the nanny living with them. There are 3 other families that bring their kids to the house. It has worked out wonderfully for us and we feel so lucky. The nanny share was hands down the cheapest option in our area and gives us the flexibility we need for our schedules since my husband usually works from home, but has to travel one week a month. Our 8 month old has been happy there and the other kids – between 18 months and 3 years – love her and interact with her.

    For me, it’s a mixed bag though. I never anticipated wanting to be a stay-at-home parent, and we even talked about the possibility of my husband staying at home if we could afford it. But I agree with the first commenter – if I had a job I loved it wouldn’t be so hard to leave my child everyday. But working a job I’m unhappy in, with a long, stressful commute, leaves me worn out, and by the time I get home and eat dinner, I have less than an hour to spend time with the baby before putting her to bed. It breaks my heart a little to have so little time with her everyday because of my current routine. It makes me want to be a stay at home parent. It also doesn’t help that most of my friends with kids stay at home or work from home – so there isn’t much of a support network to look to when I’m questioning our situation and choices. Its all a lot more complicated and exhausting than I ever would have imagined. But at the same time I can’t imagine a world without my daughter in it.

    Finding the balance to “have it all” or to have what is the “most right” for your family is exceedingly tough unless employers, spouses, friends and families all pitch in too. I really believe work-life balance is the biggest key here no matter what your family make up is. If we could create a working world that generally allowed options for telecommute, flexible schedules, and provided accessible and affordable day care, imagine what the conversation would be then?

  • Wow. I just got married a week ago and while kids are not on the brain yet, I want to give a huge AMEN to this piece. Thanks, Meg, for calling us out on our bullshit. I’m so glad that you and other strong women are going before me and blazing a modern, feminist path.

  • Oh, daycare. I remember as a child hating the daycare I was in. I would cry and hide everyday. Not sure why. I was eventually saved by my beloved Grandma who took over.

    Having that experience to look back on, mama grizzly kicks in when it comes to daycare for Duncan. I had exactly one week to research all the daycares in the Denver/Boulder area and pick one before I went back to work after he was born. I ended up going with my “gut” (I’m sorta known for that here) and picking a daycare where I could say, ‘yeah, those are my people’.

    We’ve never looked back. I love them and I love my son’s school. In fact when it came to buying a house in Feb. I insisted that we find one where we wouldn’t have to change schools. They are my help.

    And he’s got baby stalkers too. Duncan, Duncan, Duncan! I’m like whoa- step off, kids. But actually when Duncan had a bout of separation anxiety, there was a kiddo there that made sure he had Duncan’s favorite book ready for him as soon as we arrived each morning. That kid was my help.

    Having come from the roller derby community, I knew moms with all kids of different care situations. Out of my best girls: one used an in-home daycare, one hired a nanny, two use grandparents, two started their own in-home daycares, two do rotating shifts with their hubs to always have one of them watching the kid, one was a true stay-at-home momma, and then there’s me using and recommending my daycare.

    For now, my help is the perfect help for me and my family. Duncan makes the rounds at school every night giving snugs to all the teachers before we leave.

    I suppose if the day ever comes where things change and Duncan cries and hides at daycare, we’ll either find a new one or punt. The unknown. And not anything I worry about.

    On another note about the idea of “help”: when Duncan was diagnosed with a speech delay the one thing that I knew was that I needed help. A truly qualified pediatric speech pathologist that could help me and most of all, help my son. The idea that we can do it all is nonsense. I worked in special education and knew that I was still completely unqualified to help my son with his speech acquisition and development at the level he needed. Unrelated example: When I found a bit of melanoma last summer I knew I needed help then too. I probably don’t need to go on.

    The rhetoric surrounding “moms doing it all” is just ignorant, misinformed and well, fucked.

    • meg

      “When Duncan had a bout of separation anxiety, there was a kiddo there that made sure he had Duncan’s favorite book ready for him as soon as we arrived each morning. That kid was my help.”


      • You crack me up. I think it’s really, really important to acknowledge people that make a difference in your life, so I got down to that little dude’s eye level one day and thanked him. He just looked at me like I was crazy. So I gave him a high five. That went over better.

        But kids, man, kids before a certain age, care so much about everyone in the world around them. People forget that or dismiss it. Kids will take care of you and each other.

        • mmouse

          I had a little boy in my preschool once who had never been away from his mother in his life (literally, not even one day or night). He was devastated by having to start school. He’d cry at the window for hours. Man, did those kids rally around him to cheer him up! There was one kid in particular who would just stand there with him, looking out the window in comforting silence, like “You’re not alone, buddy.”

          Young children can be so much kinder, empathetic, and understanding than adults give them credit for.

          • meg

            Now I’m just falling apart. Good lord you guys.

        • Louise

          “But kids, man, kids before a certain age, care so much about everyone in the world around them. People forget that or dismiss it. Kids will take care of you and each other.”

          Yes. And by acknowledging what he did, you helped make sure he’ll continue to find ways to help people. As an elementary teacher and member of society, I thank you for taking the time.

  • Brenda

    I’m not in the having children stage yet, but as someone who experienced several different types of “non-traditional” (but really actually much more traditional than we think now) care as a child, I’m really interested in the conversation.

    My parents always had a bit of a gender role-reversal going on – my mom was the practical, no-nonsense breadwinner and the disciplinarian in the family, and my dad was the arty, never really decided what he wanted to be when he grew up one. My dad stayed at home with me for the first few years, and then I went to daycare from two onwards. I don’t think I liked daycare much, because I’m naturally introverted and shy and a bit of a scaredy cat, but I learned that sometimes we do things we don’t want to do and it’s okay. As far as I’m aware they were lovely, and my mom was happy with them. I was a white minority of one in the daycare, which I think was great.

    I was also a latchkey kid once I started going to school, getting myself up and ready in the mornings from about seven and hanging out at home by myself while my dad worked down the street, something which I think people look at with horror these days. I liked the independence and being responsible for myself, even though I did get anxious if it took my mom too long to get home (but that’s because I’m anxious about everything. I still get worried if my husband is out for a run for longer than normal). It worked because I was naturally responsible and happy to just sit at home and read or go to my friends houses to play.

    I also went to my grandparents every weekend for years, which I credit with my having a very close relationship with my grandmother now (even though I live across an ocean now and miss her terribly).

    So – stay at home dads, yay! Daycare, yay! Grandparents, yay! Age- and personality-appropriate independence, yay! Doing what works for your family, your kid, and your finances – triple yay.

  • I have always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. I’ve never really had career aspirations, just mom-aspirations. My husband doesn’t want me to be a stay at home mom so your post is really refreshing for those of us who will most likely be using day care, and not because we have jobs that we want to be doing. If you can do it, why can’t I? Just because it’s not my first choice doesn’t mean that it’s a bad choice. Thanks.

    • meg

      Solidarity fist bump. To be honest, for most of my life I had a lot of mom aspirations. (I just thought I could do it while running a business full time when I was in my early 20s? Whoopsy.) But you know what? I still get LOTS of mom time. Most of it more quality time than when I was home with him all day, because it’s really focused. So you’ll still get that!

    • But why do your husband’s wishes have more sway than yours? If you want to stay home, why shouldn’t you?

      • deciding to stay home is a very different decision than deciding to work. it is much harder to reverse and makes you completely financially dependent on the other partner. it would be terribly difficult to do without full buy-in from all parties.

    • Ilora

      I felt that way for a long time too, I never really had anything in particular in mind for a career, I just wanted to be a Mom. I eventually decided that since I want to be a mom because I love kids I should find a job working with them. I now work in a daycare and it’s wonderful. Its especially helpful in keeping me strong about waiting a few more years to have kids :) I get lots of cuddles during the day and get to go home to my own personal time at the end of the day.Obviously this isn’t for everyone (and definitely not for the money…) but for me it’s perfect.

    • Winny the Elephant

      I think we all deserve a partner who wants us to pursue what is important to us. If your parenting philosophy is strongly rooted in being a stay at home mom, this is probably a discussion you should have had before you got married. I get that becoming a stay at home mom isn’t something that you can decide to do without his input but if it’s that important to you and you believe strongly in it, then I would have some hard discussions with my husband about it. Can you sacrifice things to make you being a SAHM work? Is he willing to sacrifice those things? If he’s not then you’re unfortunately at the point where the partner you’ve chosen doesn’t have the same parenting and lifestyle philosophy as you. I don’t think I could be happy if I really wanted to be a SAHM but felt like my partner wasn’t supportive. That’s a big sacrifice to make for my marriage. I think most APWers would agree that the reverse, a partner who pressured you to stay at home when your career was very important to you, would be unfair.

      You may have a partner who simply doesn’t earn enough for you to be the stay at home parent. I know a lot of women who would like to be SAHMs but they are the primary breadwinners in their family. Sometimes it becomes more of priority to spend your life with the right person than to be the SAHM you always wanted to be. But you have to make sure you are the one establishing your life’s priorities- not him.

  • Marisa-Andrea

    I really believe that the cult of total motherhood (and the idealization of motherhood) is an insidious campaign to get women back in the home and to make them stay there. It started in the 80s and has been ratcheted up ever since. Total motherhood is particularly damaging because if we can’t get women back in the home in domestic bliss then we can at least make them crazy by constantly telling them they don’t measure up while heaping on loads of maternal guilt. Those narratives tell us that it’s ok for us to work, but only if we NEED to (implying conversely that if you’re working simply because you WANT to then you’re just selfish). It’s ok for us to work, but only if we’re perfect super human beings. We can be career moms but only if we’re also domestic moms. And at the end of all of that, we also need to feel incredibly guilty for the time we’re spending away from our children. This internal tug of war is supposed to rule our psyches for the rest of our lives.

    I call bullshit.

  • The whole US-ian thing against daycare was something I was oblivious to until recently and frankly boggles my mind. Everyone I know went to daycare. Everyone I know with kids has their kid in daycare. Daycare is why there are Canadians under 18, I think.

    • Lulu

      I have to say that I don’t like blanket statements about the US when there are so many regional/socioeconomic differences in this country (I hated Bringing Up Bebe for this reason). I grew up in a small midwestern town and everyone I knew went to daycare. I now live in the metro Boston area and I definitely know more SAHM (compared to none), but at least within my social circle most everyone with children has two working parents and takes advantage of daycares. Maybe this is because the people I know I tend to know from work and they have put a lot of investment and passion into their work, but I know 5 times as many people whose reaction to being a SAHM is “I could never do that” than “I would/do love this choice.” Certainly the cult of total motherhood and some anti-daycare people exist, but I feel like this is one of those things that is more NY Times Trends piece than reality.

  • Del

    At a recent visit to my father’s place, it came up (again) about our plan for me to follow my career and for hubbie to be the primary caregiver. My father asked me, “but do you know real women who actually DO this?”. “Do what?” I asked, “Work? Yes I do know women who work. It’s called a stay-at-home husband. or daycare. or a nanny. or is a few years school. or countless combinations of the above.” His inability to comprehend something other than a stay-at-home or work-very-little mother baffles me. Far from think it is amazing and admirable that hubbie is excited to devote his time to raise children, rather than pursue a career he’s dispassionate about, is seen as shameful. defies logic.

  • Meg! It was so nice to meet you and your adorable sitting baby yesterday, and so fortuitous that it was the day before this post. So, now you know that there is at least one other writer in her early 30s (okay, “mid” 30s) who uses ye olde institutional daycare. My experience has been similar to yours, though. I know just a couple of people who use in-home daycare, even. Everyone else either stays home, has family to fill in around part-time/flexible work, has a nanny or nanny-share, or some combination thereof. I am always asked first if I have a nanny and then whether the bug’s daycare is in a home. Which I find so funny, because like you, I find an in-home situation (unless I knew the person) to be more risk than I am comfortable with. And what you said in a comment about not being able to have a nanny if you can’t pay them a living wage… so resonated. I have thought so often that to provide another person’s livelihood is just so far beyond my means. But I had NO IDEA until after we’d made the choice of a daycare center (based on finances, logistics, dependability, professionalism, and the benefits of socialization) that I would be such an oddball. Nice to know I’m in good company.

    • In my circles? Corporate daycare is the “good” answer and dayhomes are what you do if you can’t afford a “good” daycare. Because: oversight! backup! training! certification! nutritionists! accountability!

      And I keep hearing scary stories about dayhomes. Never about daycares.

    • Winny the Elephant

      Nannies scare the bejeezus out of me. Really you have no idea if that person is qualified, is trained in food safety, first aid, child development etc. I’ll take the highly qualified people who work at daycares any day over a nanny. I’m totally with you, I prefer an institution with oversight. Plus daycare programs are carefully designed by early childhood educators with child development and child centred learning in mind. I think they’re great places but it just doesn’t happen to be fashionable right now to be in favour of daycare. Screw fashion.

  • ItsyBitsy

    THANK YOU! I love this post and this whole series. I’m currently engaged, not quite ready for kids but talking in vague terms with my fiancé about them…. and freaking out a little. All of these write-ups have been serious anxiety-reducers for me. This post in particular is a welcome reminder of how awesome daycare can be if that’s what works best for your family.

    Also, “… burying his head in his caregiver’s neck, the way a baby does when they know they’re loved” made me 1) tear up, 2) really miss the kids I used to watch, and 3) want to hug you for appreciating your daycare people. It’s so great when a parent recognizes how much you care for their kid.

  • Frances

    “I look, for lack of a better word, nuts. I look nuts to the corporate parents, I look nuts to our creative friends with creative childcare. But you know what? Our kid is happy. We’re happy. It’s worth looking nuts.”

    That is such a brilliant, and brave, sentiment.

  • Wow, you’re back in your skinny jeans?

    I love working and I love my baby, but there was never a moment’s hesitation that I wouldn’t be going to back to work. I spend a lot of time staring at photos of her on my desktop, Facebook and emails, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The trick for me now is having dinner ready by the time my husband finishes up her bath.

    Oh, and yes, there is a little girl at daycare that stands by the door and waits for me to drop Lilli off. She just adores watching the little baby.

  • Alanna

    Meg, I am reading Bringing Up Bebe and it’s the single most helpful parenting related document I’ve clapped eyes on. I’m 4 months pregnant and had not yet commenced what I thought would be a necessarily epic period of researching all the different choices you can make about EVERY THING to do with child rearing. Now, I’m not even going to! I feel a sense of relief that is hard to adequately describe.

    I am just so happy to think that some of my wishes for parenthood (keeping my own identity, raising kids who are somehow not jerks) may not actually be matters of straight up luck, but goals I can pursue with less fuss than I thought.

    To speak more broadly about the value of this series and the value of this article in particular, thank you SO MUCH for giving these choices light and air-time. I live in Oakland, CA too and was really intimidated by the Mommy Culture of the East Bay and Bay Area at large. Now I feel like I can hold my own, in a feminist way, heavily informed by French mothers. :D

    Thanks again!


  • Victwa

    I love, love, love, love, love our daycare. We started with a nanny share that was near my work (not near our home) 4 days a week, with me thinking that it would be a good idea to have our daughter home with me one day a week, so I could “work from home” while she was there. Ha ha ha ha ha! I felt like a terrible parent (please, child, don’t have any needs right now so I can actually have this phone meeting) and a terrible co-worker (ok, didn’t answer any emails the past 2 hours because I was dealing with a baby). Then we found a daycare less than a mile from our home. It’s a daycare/preschool so she can stay there until she’s ready for kindergarten. I love them. Love them. And my daughter (now 10 months) is SOOOOOO happy to be there– when the door opens, and she sees one of the husband/wife team that runs the place, she bounces up and down in my arms and couldn’t smile more. I feel like I’m about 400 times more focused, knowing she’s in a place with people who are devoting their whole day to the children there, a place that has a much better set-up for crawling babies than our house, someone planning art projects (even for babies!) or other educational stuff, and also a place where she’ll be eating home-cooked meals every day after she’s a year old. (They print out a menu– it’s awesome and totally not what I would be doing while trying to work from home.)

    I was a daycare baby. I am super close to my parents and have never once felt like I was shuffled off to have someone else parent me. I adore my job and know that I am never someone who could be happy being a stay-at-home parent. (My fiancé, on the other hand, was the stay-at-home parent with my stepdaughter for a year, and he loved it. If we could afford it, we might have had him stay home– but that is not an option, and I’m fairly sure she’s having more fun than she would if her dad stayed home every day with her.) My daughter has been called “the world’s happiest baby” by friends, and while I think she has been lucky enough to be naturally easy-going, she is clearly not suffering from her day care experience.

    I recognize that day care is not for everyone, but it has SO been for me and I know I’m a better mother because of it. There is nothing great about feeling stressed because you’re trying to do it all, all the time. In fact, that really sucks. My child is being cared for by people who have a lot of love for her. As someone who was a teacher and then foster mother for a year, I fully believe that many, many people are capable of caring for and helping to raise my child (and that they will all bring different strengths to the table), and I really want her to grow up believing that her network of support is strong and goes beyond just her father and me.

  • marbella

    It took me 2 days of this being an open tab to get through it, because I had to read all the articles you referenced… eek!
    I just wanted to say thank you for including pieces like this. I know you don’t want APW to become parent centred, but I love that you’re including pieces like this about the thoughtful decisions you and David are making. Like Maddie said, I feel like you’re my older sister boldly going where I haven’t yet (and will probably go before my IRL older sister, and in a different way). Thanks Meg!

  • Ashley

    Holy shit! Holy shit! Can I just say thank you for this even though I’m sure you’re going to be all thanks for what. I have been waiting and begging to see some woman, any woman, not fall into the myth of the all consuming mother. To even read that that you want to be away from your baby is mind blowing for me. What a breath of fresh air! I have been waiting for a woman that I could look up to, and relate to who is not ashamed to say “Hey I’m still a person with other interest and wants and needs separate from my child.” Gosh I can’t even begin to tell you how stifled I feel by the idea that we as woman are supposed to give it all be it all do it all and sacrifice it all, you have given me that light at the end of the tunnel. You are three still small voice reassuring me that I’m not crazy for thinking yes you can love your baby but still love yourself and other things too and maybe even just as much you love that baby. Like I said at the beginning holy shit and thank you Meg, thank you do much.

  • Pingback: What's The Word, Bird? | The Glamorous Housewife()

  • Ilora

    I have to give a huge Thank You to Meg and all of the commentors for this post. I work in daycare and the attitude I get from people when I tell them about my job is awful. I have several vivid memories from when I was in University and having people ask what I was studying, I’d always start with the program title (Early Childhood Education and Care) and then have to explain further. Nine times out of ten they would then say “Oh, but you’re so smart!?!” (with that look that says ‘well you must be lazy if you’re settling for that’) And every time I wondered why that was a bad thing…I went to school, I’m licensed as an Early Childhood Educator (ECE), Infant/Toddler Educator, and Special Needs Educator, I’m passionate about my job and the kids I work with, and I provide families with the opportunities to do what’s best for them…how on earth am I settling?
    Anyhow, I just want to say thanks for all the positivity, I love my job and know that the families I work with appreciate me, but this makes me feel better about societal attitudes. You folks rock :)

  • Tara

    I love this. Thank you. I recently got my PhD, finished the monster of a beast of a dissertation while loving on my little man and working full-time. The feelings of guilt when I had to write and “ignore” him were often like a tidal wave. Now, I’m working at my first 40 hour a week out of the home job and my son is in a Montessori school (he’s 13 mo). It’s been 3 weeks and he is absolutely thriving. I had some of those fears about feeling guilty like I should be raising my son. But dammit, Hilary was right, it does take a village. And B loves Ms. Lisa. And I miss him. And when I pick him up he rushes towards me and buries his head and I bury mine and we love each other. And I’m happy knowing that I’m doing something he can be proud of. Daycare makes this possible, and it doesn’t make me lose my mind. Thank you for articulating all of this :-)

  • sarahmrose

    I realize this thread is pretty much over since it was written nearly a week ago but for anyone who comes alone reading the archives or such, I just want to put in a plug for au pairs! My family had them until I was 9 and I was one myself for a year.

    Au pairs are usually young women (but sometimes men! I had a guy au pair when I was 5) from other countries who want to live abroad and get a cultural experience and are willing to work part-time taking care of kids so it’s not super-expensive. A typical situation with an au pair is that s/he lives with the family, helps with the kids up to 5 hours per day, otherwise has free time and/or takes language or other classes, and on top of free room and board gets pocket money (the standard level at the moment seems to be about $400 per month). And the au pair becomes a part of the family, plus you get the whole cultural exchange aspect.

    Obviously, not everyone has an extra room to spare or wants to share their home with another (young) adult but if you’re willing and able, it can be a great, less expensive alternative to having a full-time nanny if that’s something you’re considering, or a supplement to daycare/school. I loved my au pairs and loved being one too.

    It’s also great for bilingual families or families who want their kids to learn another language…my family did it in large part so we would maintain our second language. Since I married someone from my mom’s home country, we’re probably going to do the same thing if we are able.

  • Thank you thank you thank you thank you for writing this post! I don’t have children yet, but hopefully one day they will be a part of my life. I also adored Bringing Up Bebe because it was the first thing I had ever read that echoed my (pre-kid) sense of what I wanted in motherhood. Your post did the same thing. In the years since I have started considering becoming a mother, none of the options my friends chose for themselves sat well with my understanding of myself, and yet I heard no one singing the praises of daycare. You bring up excellent points that daycare is not always easy to find. Still, I have such pleasant memories of going to daycare and as a grown woman, I am so proud and respectful that my mom knew herself well enough when I was born to understand she enjoyed her work and wanted to go back. I am so surprised that nannies often come up as the first option. As you mentioned, a good daycare is really . . . school. It’s an engaging, socializing, fun experience for a little kid, and the best part is that the child starts to understand who they are as little individuals. I’m sure nannies can teach too, but the caretaker relationship is so different. Daycare makes home time that much more enjoyable because there is so much to talk about, plus the family has a better shot at appreciating each other when they all come back together. Really appreciated your perspective.

  • janet

    wow girls – It depends on what our priorities are. If the most important thing in life is getting what we want for ourselves there’s no end to that – it’s a bottomless pit that never gets full.

    So I guess having children is in one of the boxes to get “checked off”. Baby here, check, back to work to get more of what we want.

    So are children posessions to be “moved around” until we need them to satisfy an empty spot in our lives? It appears that our children are “in the way” – so we find someone else who has TIME to care for them, because we are so busy with our own lives!

    What can be more rewarding than our children – born from the union of 2 people who love one another – our very own flesh and blood. What a privilege to hold, nurture, care, discover, teach and love this little life and to have a front row seat as this amazing person unfolds before our eyes.

    WE CAN’T MISS THIS INCREDIBLE time of DISCOVERY with our very own children! There’s a reason our children are born specifically to us – not into a childcare pool – for whoever is available to care for them. WE WERE HAND-PICKED to be their parents, no one can love them like we do, but someone else can earn our spot in their lives if we decline that opportunity.

    Sure – we all have interests. We can pursue our passions along with our children. INCLUDE them in our lives. How amazing to have some learn with us, love what we love, share life with us, grow family history together? They learn to listen, sing, paint, draw, articulate, evaluate, discern, create, write, construct, plant, care, imagine, coordinate, enjoy – what a privilege – we are their PERSONAL MENTORS! They learn they are valuable from us.

    One day a week for them to join others while we pursue other interests, take care of business, grows us and also sends the clear message where our priorities are – dedicated to what’s best for lives in our family. Keeping this in balance protects all of us. We can’t PRETEND what we love – they’ll know what’s most important to us.

    WONDER what we would think if our children said to us “Mom, Dad – I’m so busy – I’ll find some other children who aren’t too busy to run and play and laugh with you, to hug your neck and learn new things with you – I’ll be back as soon as I get all this IMPORTANT stuff done” Our own family putting us aside – we’d be in shock!

    Thinkin’ it over – along with you. LET’S DON’T TURN DOWN THIS BIG CAREER MOVE – LIFE SHAPER EXTRAORDINAIRE!!! Our life, our home, our world is better for it! We’re changing history!!!

    • Winny the Elephant

      Aaaaand this is why articles like this one are written. Because I am not a selfish bitch just because I put my kid in daycare.

      P.S. the nuclear family set up, where parents alone should be responsible for childcare, is a North American construct, ever heard ‘it takes a village’? Daycare workers are part of that village

  • Lauren

    Thank you!!!! This is exactly what I needed to hear at the moment I needed to hear it. I love my job and I recently got very upset at the pressure on me (but not an ounce on my husband) to figure out what to do when our baby is born. He is due in about 3.5 months and I fully intended to go back to my job after 12 weeks and put our son in daycare – I was excited at knowing a couple great ones. But when I told other people my plans they looked shocked an disgusted! “Why wouldn’t you just quit, if your husband can support you?” “Don’t you do daycare that’s for children over 2” or “can’t you just work remotely?”
    But I didn’t want any of that. I WANT to be in the office, in a creative environment with my fellow web designers. I love my work and I love my office. This doesn’t mean I won’t love and miss my son, but no one asked my husband if he planned to work remotely or quit. I was very upset. I was also confused because the people telling me this were people who already had kids! Perhaps I was the ignorant one.
    But I’m not. I know that daycare is right for us and me going back to the job I love is right for me.
    After getting my confidence back on our decision I found your article and it was exactly what I needed. Thank you for sharing this and thank you for your honesty!
    It’s hard on a working mom these days and I am proud to be joining you in the “working mother with a child in daycare” group. Because it is a really great group to be in!

  • Pingback: Friday Finds | With Faith & Grace()