*Disclaimer: this post is a complete documentation of my experiences. No one else’s. If you choose to leave a hateful comment, I reserve the right to remove it.
Ok ya’ll, things are about to get real honest up in here. I’ve had this post drafted up for a month but finally decided to share it. If you are blessed to be a stay-at-home mom, and/or wouldn’t touch daycare with a 10 foot pole, then this may not be the post for you. Feel free to keep on movin’, and come back tomorrow. This is also not going to be a post arguing why being a working mom is better than being a SAHM. Because God knows I wouldn’t touch that argument with an even longer pole. So, before you get your panties in a bunch, let’s all take a collective deep breathe. I am simply sharing our daycare journey, and what’s worked for our family.
My friend Heather shared a fantastic post on the benefits of daycare from a teacher’s perspective. If you haven’t read it, you should! I really appreciated it! She shared some wonderful positives to daycare, and I applauded it from afar. What I didn’t appreciate, was a specific comment. Mostly to the tune of, “how dare you boast of the benefits of daycare, why aren’t you boasting about all of the bad things?” As a full time working mom, it really rubbed me the wrong way, but also made me think.
Motherhood is hard enough, and what makes it even harder is negativity. Especially negativity in an area in which you have no control. For some of us, daycare is an option. We choose to work because we want to. For some of us, daycare is the option. We work because we have to. And for some of us, we fall somewhere in the middle of those two scenarios. With the world we live in, there are negative daycare articles oozing out of the walls, ridiculous viral videos about kids getting injured or abused at daycare on the news everyday, and blog posts claiming that sending your kids to daycare is irresponsible and harmful to their development. There is not much GOOD news or praise about daycares. But there is also not much out there about what it’s actually like being a daycare parent, and how finding that perfect daycare can sometimes be pretty difficult. (Not all daycares are created equal!) Maybe there is and I’m just not finding it, but I really feel like it’s pretty heavy on the negativity and worst possible scenario these days. I’ve struggled to find real experiences with daycare that are both honest and encouraging. As a first time mom, who never had any experience with daycare prior to the day I dropped my child off for the very first time, it’s been a tough road so I thought I’d share my story! The good, the bad, and the ugly. Because let’s be real – there’s way too much sugarcoating going on these days!
First, let’s get this out of the way. Even if we could afford it, I don’t want to be a stay-at-home mom. At least not right now. I always thought I would, because my mom was, but I honestly don’t want to stay home full time. I believe I am a better mother to Adeline because I work, and a better wife to Adam. And again, that is what works best for our family. (If you are rolling your eyes right now in disagreement, that is a-ok. We all have different opinions on the topic. And like I said, feel free to move along and skip this post.)
I’m going to divide my story into chapters. Specifically 3 chapters, because that is how many daycares we have now experienced. (And because as the old saying goes, third time’s the charm.)
Chapter 1 – Daycare One: The Newborn Days
The Good. I went back to work at exactly 12.5 weeks in January 2016. The daycare center we had enrolled Adeline in was two blocks away from my office building. A mere three minute walk. The center had several hundred children in its care, ranging in age from 6 weeks to Kindergarten and even an after school program for Elementary age. Needless to say, it was a baby factory, as my coworkers lovingly referred to it. Several of my coworkers who were also young moms sent their littles there, as did many of our friends, so we had heard nothing but great things. We toured it, met the director, and had a good feeling. The week before Adeline’s first day, I took Adeline by to meet her teachers, and explain her reflux issues and other habits. I loved her teachers upon our first meeting, and truly felt like they would be a blessing to our “new normal.” Adeline started out going 4 days a week for the first 6 weeks, then started going 5 days a week. She settled in after a few rough first days getting used to the environment, but soon she really seemed to do great! She always seemed to have a blast, and was moving and grooving right along with her new little friends! It really was so cute, and our family had landed in a great new daily routine. It was hard, don’t get me wrong, and many, many days I struggled with jealously towards my SAHM friends and bitterness towards our financial situation. But, because it was so close, several days a week I would walk over on my lunch break to check in on her or give her a bottle. It was amazing having her so close, and it really helped me feel more confident going back to work. Of course, there were days where I cried walking back to the office after checking in on her, or I wanted nothing more than to run down there, scoop her up, and call it quits for the day. But, as we all know, time flew by and before we knew it it was time for her to transition to her next classroom in July. From January to July we learned A LOT about how to function as a family with two full time working parents, and although it was hard and extremely tiring, I wouldn’t change anything. It made us stronger parents, I think.
The Bad. In July, they moved classrooms. This is where things got tricky and my mama bear instincts really started to become stressed. Like I mentioned, we loved her first teachers. They loved her. We felt very confident in their care, we were Facebook friends, and honestly would gladly have asked them to babysit on the weekend! They were fantastic. Before I dive into her second classroom, remember that it is HARD on littles to make these transitions. It is a brand new environment, new kids, new teachers, new everything. So, a little bit of chaos and tears is to be expected. But when Adeline moved to her new classroom, nothing felt right anymore. I constantly worried about her, was frustrated at her teachers’ lack of warmth and friendliness, and complained numerous times. As a mom, you just know when your child isn’t happy. For a while I just figured it was because “it’s just a stage”, or “it’s just the new transition” but I knew it was more than that. She cried, like screamed, at drop off every, single, day. I remember feeling so defeated because I knew we just had to deal with it.
The Ugly. I don’t want to share these complaints to scare other daycare moms, but I wanted to be honest in my experiences! (I have plenty of GOOD to share too, don’t worry!) Her new teachers, honestly, never seemed like they wanted to be there. In fact, the teacher that was there in the morning never even spoke to Adeline at drop off. She never even smiled at drop off. Her afternoon teacher was literally always sitting down when I got there, and never interacting with the kids. I don’t think either of them ever learned Adeline’s name. I can’t tell you how many times I found Mary Ellen’s bottles in Adeline’s box or bag. (I don’t even want to think about the possibility of them giving Adeline the wrong bottle!!!!!) At pick up one time, someone had written on Adeline’s daily report card that she’d had “Mac n Cheese” for lunch. WHAT?! She was 9 months old. (I sent all of her bottles, and ONLY MumMums/Puffs for snacks.) When I complained, they laughed it off saying oh we must have just written it on the wrong sheet. Doubt it. At this point, Adeline was still screaming at drop off, and also at pick up. Thankfully, God works in mysterious ways and my new job allowed me to work from home, which meant we would switch daycares. It appeared we had dodged a bullet!
Chapter 2 – Daycare Two: 10-14 Months (The weird middle months)
The good. In August, I began a new job working full time from home. Our previous daycare was downtown, which was a good 20 minute drive away so it made sense to switch to a daycare much closer to where I would be during the day. We found one in our little suburb not even five minutes away, and it seemed like a good fit. They had an opening right away, we really liked the director, it was a little less expensive, and her teachers seemed to be good teachers with a lot of experience. It was so nice having her so close, and with my new schedule, I could easily drop her off right before my first meeting, and pick her up really any time in the afternoon as my work load allowed for it. I thought we had landed in a great place. But boy were we wrong.
The bad. It didn’t take long for the issues to start surfacing. At first they were little issues, that I chalked up to being “that picky mom” who wanted to have her cake and eat it too. Some of these issues included: Adeline still cried at drop off every single day, she was in a classroom with babies way younger than her (I just assumed it was because she was at the tail end of a room transition and would be moving up soon), and the afternoon floaters who came in after her teachers left never seemed to know WTF was going on. All things I can live with, but pretty annoying. But then things got worse.
The ugly. I tried really hard to understand the issues we were having, and I met with the director numerous times to voice concerns. However, the straw that broke the camel’s back wasn’t just a single straw. It was like a 12 pack of 2 liters. One. Thing. After. The. Other. And also a little comical looking back.
First, one day I sent Adeline to school in her little pink Converse shoes. When I picked her up, the white toes and soles of them, were BLACK. Like tar black. I freaked out at the floater that was in there and of course she had no idea why Adeline’s shoes were now black and dirty as heck. I ran into the director’s office and she didn’t have a clue either. LIVID. Her classroom didn’t go outside, didn’t go on the playground, nothing. Finally we figured out it was because the carpet in her classroom was SO dirty! I’m not even kidding, I can’t make this stuff up. So after Adam called the director, also livid, they agreed to replace the carpet with hardwood (which supposedly was already planned) and to give us a gift card to purchase a new pair of shoes. Long story short, we got new shoes, and they replaced the carpet with new wood floors.
Second, the daycare was having a Fall Fest one day in October. Kind of like a mini indoor carnival inside for the kids and fun activities for the babies. They were ordering cute shirts for all the kids to wear that day. So, we placed an order to get Adeline a shirt. Fall Fest came and went and we never received a shirt on that day. When I asked the director, she just laughed it off. “Oh yea, there was a mix-up with our shirt lady so I wasn’t able to order Adeline’s shirt. Sorry!” Sorry? So the other kids got a shirt but you just didn’t order my kid’s? Needless to say, we STILL haven’t gotten our refund and the director in my mind is officially a lazy piece of poop.
Third, one day I thought I would pick up Adeline early to surprise her. When I walked in her room, she was sitting in a high chair with some of the other babies. And she was eating a snack. CHEESE PUFFS! CHEESE. PUFFS. Not just Cheetos, which would have been equally as bad, but CHEESE PUFFS. Let’s just feed the kids cancer sticks while we’re at it. I quickly pulled her out of the high chair and asked the (again) floater who gave her these cheese puffs. “Oh another teacher brought them as a fun Halloween snack.” Once again, I went off on her and told her that was completely unacceptable to feed an 11 month old cheese puffs and that I never gave them permission to give her anything like that. Just like with her first daycare, I always pre-made her bottles, and sent the snacks I wanted her to eat.
Fourth, and this is what really did me in. One day at drop off her teacher thought she’d offer up some non-solicited advice. “Adeline really needs some vitamin C” (or whatever vitamin she named, I don’t even remember) Okkkk and why is that? “Well her hair is really thin, and I read a lot, and I’ve been doing this a long time so I just know. It’s just really obvious that she’s missing something because her hair is so thin.” Okkkk well my pediatrician has never been concerned with her hair. (Side-note: Adeline HAS A TON OF HAIR!) “Well, sometimes pediatricians are just book smart, and they don’t see it day-to-day like we do.” Okkkk thank you for your expert daycare worker advice.
The very next day, at pick-up, Adeline was standing up in her crib screaming, and all the other kids were either in their cribs crying or sitting on the one tiny rug because they weren’t big enough to crawl away. That very second, I grabbed Adeline, didn’t say a word to again, THE FREAKING FLOATER WHO WASN’T EVEN HER TEACHER, and drove straight to a brand new daycare down the street I knew was supposed to open soon.
Thankfully, the new daycare had literally just opened two weeks prior, and the director gave me a tour right then and there. I told her all about my troubles at the other daycare, and how desperate I was to find a better option, and within five minutes I was filling out paperwork to get her moved over! Godsend? Yes.
Chapter 3 – Daycare Three: The Happily Ever After
The good. You know how when you’re jean shopping and you slip on a pair and think, “this is it!” and they fit perfectly? Or when you’re house hunting and walk in and it just feels like home? Or when you finally put that last piece in the puzzle? That’s how I felt walking into her new daycare. I think I almost cried tears of joy because it just felt so right. As the director gave me a tour, and listened to my concerns and questions, I just knew we’d FINALLY found the best fit. About two weeks later, Adeline was officially enrolled and it’s been nothing but GOOD ever since.
- It’s not a daycare. It’s a preschool. It emphasizes learning and sticks to a strict curriculum.
- They stick to a schedule, everyday.
- The classrooms are set up in stations, sort of like different learning stations. There are tables and chairs where they eat and do crafts. A play kitchen, and a reading area, and different toy areas. Everything is labeled with pictures and words to help teach them association. The baby and infant classrooms are a little different because they have cribs and baby appropriate toys, obviously, but even their classrooms are less daycare-y and more school-y.
- The teachers interact with the kids, sit with them when they eat their meals, and are constantly teaching.
- The whole center is so clean, like so, so clean. Of course it’s also brand new, but they are constantly cleaning, and sanitizing.
- The building is locked with your unique key code, and your fingerprint.
- The director sends out weekly emails to all the parents to talk about what the kids are learning, and any fun projects they’re working on.
- There are monthly meetings to get the parents involved and keep everyone up to date.
- The teachers all seem excited to be there, and seem to really care about the kids.
- Adeline is always happy to see her teachers, and they almost all know her name, even teachers from other rooms that occasionally float over to hers. Every day at drop off, and pick up, multiple teachers speak to her and joke with her.
- It’s obvious that she’s learning, and her teachers always tell me what they worked on or learned that day.
- They work with them on things we would have never thought to teach her. For instance, her body parts. One day she came home and had learned “where’s your nose?” and another day, she’d learned to pat her legs to the beat when we sing the ABC’s.
- They do arts and crafts almost every other day. This is a huge perk for me because I have no education experience and have no idea other than Pinterest what to do with her age most times!
- It’s only 7 minutes from our house, so I can still be pretty flexible with when I drop her off and pick her up.
So far, no bad, and no ugly. We feel very blessed to have stumbled upon this new daycare. It truly could not have come at a better time. There are far fewer days now where I worry about her, or feel like I need to go check on her because I know she’s in great hands and is having so much fun!
There have even been multiple occasions where I’ve gone to pick her up, she’s run over to me and hugged me, then ran back off to play some more and I’ve had to chase her down and carry her out kicking and screaming because she didn’t want to go home! Most days when I peek into the window to see how she’s doing before I go in, she’s just playing her heart out with her little friends, or she’s sitting down eating her afternoon snack. It’s adorable and I’m so thankful for her new environment.
I share all of this to say, if you are a daycare mom, or about to be, just be patient. And be picky. There is nothing stronger than a mother’s intuition and you will find the perfect fit. Sending your little one to daycare does not make you any less of a good mom than a mom who chooses to, or can afford to stay home. We are all making sacrifices, regardless of our unique situations.
We LOVE sending Adeline to school 4 days a week where we know she is absolutely thriving. Thriving in ways we simply can’t give her if she stayed home with me all day everyday. She is learning developmental skills that are right on track with where she needs to be, vocabulary we may not use at home, good social skills, how to play with others and play independently, how to nap in places other than her crib at home, how to listen to and respect other adults, how to be told “no” by someone other than Mommy and Daddy, how to cope with being away from Mommy and Daddy, and she’s being exposed to germs that are strengthening her immune system. For our family, daycare is a good thing, and I will never regret sending her. Of course, there are still days where my heart aches to just go pick her up and spend the day with her, and some days I do keep her home or pick her up early, but for the most part, she learns and grows much more at school than she does at home with me binge-watching Sesame Street while I work all day on my computer.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading! I hope it helped encourage other new moms who may be fearful of daycare, wondering what daycares are really like, or just trying to survive those first few weeks back to work. It will get better. I promise! You are a good mom, and you are helping to provide for your family, and your child is thriving. Plus, you get to experience that joyful moment when they see you walk into their classroom and they come running up to you with the biggest, goofiest grin on their face!