Celebrating Daycare

I wish that everyone who has ever disparaged daycare or scoffed at government subsidies of child-care centers could have been with me on Monday afternoon. My four-year-old daughter and I went to a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Small Savers Child Development Center at the Office of Thrift Supervision, a federal agency in downtown Washington, D.C. My daughter spent much of her first year of life in the infant room while I was at work a few blocks away. For me, working motherhood would not have been possible without quality daycare like Small Savers.

The party was filled with about 200 parents, staff, and, of course, children of all ages tearing around playfully, bringing life and illumination to the drab government building conference room. The woman who founded the non-profit parent cooperative center in 1986 was honored. The director, who has run Small Savers for 13 years, was there. My daughter's teacher, an employee for seven years, recognized us immediately. A congratulatory letter from George and Laura Bush, who live across the street from Small Savers, was read aloud. The room was filled with joy. And I remembered the joy it gave me to leave my baby there, day after day, while I went to work knowing she would be cared for and loved while I was doing my job.

Small NAEYC-accredited child-care centers like Small Savers are relatively expensive. There are long waiting lists to get in. There tends to be low turnover among the staff because they are paid well and treated with the respect and gratitude they deserve. There are too few child-care centers like Small Savers in our country. Parents and children would be better off if there were more.

My daughter left Small Savers almost three years ago, and as we walked into the celebration Monday she didn't remember her teacher or the other children. But after only a few minutes she felt at ease at the child-friendly gathering. She went about the room, serving herself carrots and potato chips, laughing and playing with the other children. When it was time to leave, she said she didn't want to go, reminding me how she looked every afternoon when I picked her up after work. Happy to see me, sad to leave her warm, safe, friendly second home.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  June 28, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Raising Great Kids
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We too have a fabulous small NAYAC accredited day care that my daughter has been going to since she was 4 months old. They are like a second family--which is great since we have no extended family in the area. In fact, they knew before anyone else that I was pregnant with #2 b/c I wanted to make sure baby girl got onto the wait list for the center too! They spoiled me the entire pregnancy :-) My girls love the school and are learning a ton. They are happy and loved. We are moving soon and we will have to leave the center for a new one. Of all the changes we will have, this is the hardest. I know that I will always be able to count on them. Some of the teachers have even offered to baby-sit during the move--and drive an hour for the "honor." Day care can be great and this is just one example.

Posted by: Working mom of 2 | June 28, 2006 8:01 AM


Thank you for showing us the wonderful attributes of daycare centers. I have posted this before but I have had wonderful experiences with our Kindercares out where I live in Anne Arundel County. Both are NAEYC accredited -- the one my youngest attends now is fabulous. In addition to the care and love he receives on a daily basis, if I have any issues at all I raise them with the center director who takes care of things immediately. They offer a tremendous summer program which my son is doing now with lots of activities and fun things. There is low turnover at our center, the teachers I think are well-paid (for day care of course) and receive benefits. Many of the younger teachers are early childhood development students at the community college across the street. If they have children of their own, they receive an 80% discount on daycare costs at the school which is significant.
In addition to all that my son is learning and the care and love he receives, there is very active parental involvement. They have events for the parents at good times (end of the day) -- cookouts, parties, christmas shows, etc. I think that if you can find good daycare like this it is a good thing. When I look at how much we pay for good daycare it depresses me thinking that people who cannot afford it may have to pay for less quality day care which is why I think Leslie beats the drum for subsidized daycare.
To all of the SAHMs who say nothing can substitute for the care of your own parents, I agree. I don't see our center as a substitute for my parental responsibilities and love. It is an additional part of our lives and we love it and the teachers that teach our child. One of the teachers is getting ready to move to California because her husband is in the military and is being transferred there prior to going to Iraq. She has been there for several years and I have noticed that she is not her cheerful self this week. When I asked her this morning if she was OK, she said, no, that she was so sad to be leaving the kids (friday is her last day). That said a lot about her and the other teachers' devotion to their students.

Posted by: typical working mother | June 28, 2006 8:08 AM

When my family moved to Minnesota from New York City the hardest part was taking my kids out of the Johnson & Johnson daycare center. As a new mom, the nurses and staff there helped me more than my pediatrician or all the baby books in the world. Nannycare can be great -- but good daycare is incredible too.

Posted by: Leslie | June 28, 2006 8:08 AM

It is great to hear positive stories about daycare centers. Small Savers sound like an amazing place.

Posted by: Bethesda | June 28, 2006 8:20 AM

To all of the SAHMs who say nothing can substitute for the care of your own parents, I agree. I don't see our center as a substitute for my parental responsibilities and love. It is an additional part of our lives and we love it and the teachers that teach our child. One of the teachers is getting ready to move to California because her husband is in the military and is being transferred there prior to going to Iraq. She has been there for several years and I have noticed that she is not her cheerful self this week. When I asked her this morning if she was OK, she said, no, that she was so sad to be leaving the kids (friday is her last day). That said a lot about her and the other teachers' devotion to their students.

Posted by: typical working mother | June 28, 2006 08:08 AM

maybe the most succinct post I've seen here . day care for many is neccessary ( or desirable ) for many people , and there are great one's out there , they just cost a lot more than average , that's how the free market works . I am not exactly Mr. tax and spend , but i have a hard time justifying that kids , little kids may have subpar day care , while we waste billions on " pork " projects . We pay farmers not to grow crops , bridges to nowhere , and build 2 billion dollar submarines ( Seawolf ) the Navy doesn't even want, so why not susidize kids ? The problem is you have politicians handling it , that's one I don't have an answer for , meaning we could spend 5 billion a year in subsidies and the D.C. crowd will manage to screw it up .

Posted by: shoreman | June 28, 2006 8:27 AM

I am so glad that we are celebrating good day care today. I love the day care where my daughter goes. Everyone is so friendly and nice and they really do love her, which makes it easier for me to go to work.

I think the most stressful part of our upcoming move to a new place will be leaviing the daycare.

Posted by: Scarry | June 28, 2006 8:29 AM

Leslie, Thanks for giving quality day care the spot light it deserves. My 2 1/2 year old daughter attends a small in home day care. They have 12-14 children under the age of 3 with 4 full time worker and one part time worker. She attends an early learning group taught by a certified teacher. She is very much loved and nurtured. For us it was the best of two worlds. It had all the professionalism and consistency of a large center with the in home personal attention. They listen to the parents and tailor their "program" to each child to the best of their ability. My daughter has a language delay and they have gone out of their way to help her. They even attended a parent workshop for language delay. There are some really awesome day cares out there. While nothing replaces the love from a parent, it does take a village to raise a child. And I view day care as part of the parenting team. They have a lot more experience in child rearing and they are always eager to help.

Posted by: Lieu | June 28, 2006 8:42 AM

Can anyone give advice on the sadness I'm feeling about having to return to work and put my children in day care? My husband was laid off about 6 months ago and is having a hard time finding a job. There is no choice here, and I have returned to work, but I am somewhat distraught. My older son is doing fine (he's almost 4) but my 18-month old daughter is not doing very well with the transition. ANY advice would be so, so appreciated.

Posted by: New Working Mom | June 28, 2006 8:49 AM

Leslie,please do tell us about the daycare provisions at the Washington Post.How does it measure up to Small Savers?

Posted by: RitaMae | June 28, 2006 8:59 AM

to New Working Mom -

How much time is your daughter spending in daycare? While your husband is looking for a job, can you keep it to half days for a while to help her adjust? Also, did you or your husband spend much time at the daycare with her? I found (although my daugher was 10 months at the time, so at a different place developmentally) that spending a few hours a day for a few days at the daycare together before she started spending days on her own was helpful. Also, how is she doing when you are not there, sometimes children cry a lot when their parents leave but are fine in a matter of moments, I have seen this on numerous occasions. Do her teachers pick her up and try and distract/cheer her up after you have said goodbye? Can you call and check in during the day to see how she is doing? It took my daughter about 3 weeks to fully adjust to daycare, she was having a good time while I was not there long before then, but it took that long for there to be an easy drop off and pick-up.

Also, we never tried this, but people recommended having dad drop off instead of mom. Sometimes that is easier.

Good luck.

Posted by: Another DC Mom | June 28, 2006 9:34 AM

I have also had a wonderful experience with a similar day care, Bright Horizons at the Department of Energy. My daughter started there when she was ten weeks old, and because I work at DOE, I was able to visit her regularly and even continue nursing at lunch time for almost eight months. I regularly attend events at the center, and it has become like an extended family. The faculty is wonderful, and my daughter is happy to go to "school" every day - she just turned 2 this month. But it isn't cheap, and now that we have two children we can no longer afford it. We made the painful decision to withdraw our oldest daughter, and my husband will stay home with both girls. While I am very sad to be leaving the center, I am grateful for the solid foundation it provided my daughter in social skills, discipline and learning. I have researched cheaper alternatives and I firmly believe you get what you pay for. High quality care costs money, but when I see the benefits it has had for my daughter, I don't regret a single penny. That being said, I agree that more needs to be done to make high quality care more affordable.

Posted by: grateful mom | June 28, 2006 9:35 AM

To New Working Mom,
My daughter always did best at drop-off once we had a routine established. For us, this means doing a puzzle with her, every time. She knows that after the puzzle it hugs and kisses and Mommy and Daddy leave. She has had teachers who were great about distracting her as I was leaving. We have had readjustments when we changed daycare and when she has moved up from one classroom to the next. But we have kept the routine the same every time and she always adjusted in a week or two. Plus, the times I have stood outside listening I noticed she never cried for more than a minute after I left. It tore me up to leave her, but when I picked her up she was, and still is, always happy.

Of course, this means you have to plan for the extra time to stay with her every morning to get through the routine. Children have a hard time with change. They need to know what to expect. Daycare is so new yet, your daughter needs time to accept that as the norm and not being home with you. Try to change as little as possible about the drop-off routine as you can from one day to the next to give her a feeling of stability. And good luck.

Posted by: KarenW | June 28, 2006 9:49 AM

I love the women at my son's daycare center. Every teacher and floater knows the name of almost every child (70 of them). They know whether the child is sensitive or rough and tumble and interact with them accordingly. They provide me with wonderful ideas and suggestions. They too were the first to know about our second child since in DC one really should sign up for daycare when they start trying to conceive in hopes of getting an infant slot. I agree that these women are an extension of our family. I am grateful everyday when I walk out of there that my son has a safe, caring and nurturing environment to spend his days with his friends. My son is a little over 3 and is on the verge of being able to read which is very exciting for us and we credit his teachers because I do not know if I could have pulled that off on my own.

Posted by: mommyworks | June 28, 2006 9:54 AM

how much does daycare cost? We have established yesterday that the average nanny in DC is earning approximately $30K per year. Can daycare be more than that?

Posted by: also from dc | June 28, 2006 10:12 AM

Dear New Working Mother,
I feel your pain! Is your husband willing to take care of the children for a while and find someone to watch them during the times he is interviewing? If not, here is what I would do -- make sure you are comfortable with the place you have chosen -- that is the biggest thing. The second is that in the beginning see if your husband can drop off the kids -- when I went back to work the separation from my children was unbearable so it was easier for me to watch my husband take my children and for me to pick them up.
Then, its very important that, even though you are having a tough time, DO NOT let your children see your struggle in this. Be positive with them. Do not say you are sorry you have to leave them to go to work. My youngest in the beginning would cling to me and cry for the first week he would be at school. Its normal for your 18 month old to be having a difficult time -- its the age. I'm not a child psychologist but I recall that is the prime age for "separation anxiety" for kids. I would think that as soon as you leave, in just a matter of minutes she is having fun and joining in. When you talk about school with your children talk about how wonderful school is and tell them how exciting it is to go to school. Just be positive. I try to do that with my kids and then in the evening ask them about what they did in school.
To shoreman -- excellent comments about the priorities in Washington (children are not obviously -- farmers vote and children don't)

Posted by: typical working mother | June 28, 2006 10:13 AM

Daycare, if properly done, probably is BETTER for kids than being home all day, mostly with just one adult and a television.

I came to this opinion only in the last few years. I had stayed home with my kids in the late 70's - early 80's until they were both in school and I used very little after-school care. The daycare options where we lived back then were extremely limited and just not very good. I was very disappointed! I had come to adulthood in a feminist age, expecting to be able to work.

Since then, things have improved a great deal! The good things about well-run, professional daycare centers: Kids get socialized. They learn more. They watch much less TV!!!! There is more than one adult available. These adults are trained in childcare. They don't have housework and errands to juggle.

Caveat: Tiny babies don't belong in daycare. They need to bond with their own, personal, loving adults before they have to face others. Most daycare centers do not accept infants younger than 6 months, partly for this reason. If you have to return to work earlier than 6 months, try for part-time work or arrange for a close relative, friend, or nanny who will willingly and lovingly watch the baby until daycare is OK. Young babies need someone who is totally in love with them to thrive.

Workplace, or nearby, daycare allows parents to visit the babies and tots once or twice a day, maybe breastfeed, change a diaper, share lunch, just snuggle, or play. This can be an important "touch stone" in the child's day. You want your child to know you are there for them, in charge, and want to know about their life. (Also, you keep an eye on the daycare workers and general flow of the place.)

Probably the worst thing about even great daycare is the length time spent there. If you work 8 hours a day and then have to add on travel and lunch time, your baby/ tot could be spending up to 10 hours a day there! Try to minimize the hours by arranging work schedules that allow one parent to stay home longer in the AM and the other to leave work earlier in the PM. Or maybe, if you are so lucky, grandma could spare a few hours daily.

Parents are in charge of balancing this kid-centered experience by providing family time, trips to stores, assigning home chores, and perhaps most important: making sure the child has some time to be "alone".

As long as you don't abdicate your responsibilities as a parent and you stay totally connected with your child, it will be just fine. When hard choices occasionally have to made, choose what's good for your child. You won't regret it later.

Posted by: granny | June 28, 2006 10:25 AM

Daycare: the abdication of parental responsibility. I hardly think this is something to celebrate...unless of course one has a self-centered, socialist/feminazi agenda to pursue, such as the author of this blog.

I don't care if it's Mom OR Dad, but one of the two needs to stay home & raise the kids until they are school age.

Posted by: Registered Voter | June 28, 2006 10:27 AM

My day care was around 250 a week. I put my daughter down to part time and now it is 190 for three days a week. My daughter has been going to day care since she was three months old, but that day care took babies as young as 6 weeks.

Posted by: Scarry | June 28, 2006 10:28 AM

I was so thrilled to see Leslie's post this morning. Our daughter - almost 2 - is a Small Saver and has been since she was 4 months old. We love Small Savers, and even better, our daughter loves it. Every morning she says, "school!" when we enter the parking garage. I wish every parent had a place like Small Savers; and in answer to a poster's earlier query, day care is expensive, but far less than $30K/year.

Posted by: Small Savers Mom | June 28, 2006 10:29 AM

Daycare: the abdication of parental responsibility. I hardly think this is something to celebrate...unless of course one has a self-centered, socialist/feminazi agenda to pursue, such as the author of this blog.

I don't care if it's Mom OR Dad, but one of the two needs to stay home & raise the kids until they are school age.

Posted by: Registered Voter | June 28, 2006 10:27 AM

Some trolls are just so easy to spot! :)

Posted by: Tee-hee | June 28, 2006 10:32 AM

To paraphrase a poster from another blog, Registered Voter just likes to generate controversy/anger from other posters for kicks so no need to respond.

Posted by: typical working mother | June 28, 2006 10:38 AM

Granny, you said it so well, and so reasonably. You sounds like a great gramdma.

Posted by: Go granny | June 28, 2006 10:41 AM

This is a great story, but what about the war within that we're never supposed to forget with this column? That's that most daycare workers aren't well-paid, and many of the workers have poor language skills and child-care experience. Can we, or rather how do we change that in the U.S. so that its not just high-earners who can access this kind of care? Will we ever pay child-care workers and teacfhers what they deserve so that the field becomes competitive and the care goes up across the board?

Posted by: Jane | June 28, 2006 10:42 AM

There is never going to be (1) universally available (2) good daycare at a (3) reasonable price where the workers are (4) well compensated unless there is some sort of subsidy (private or public). One of the keys of good daycare is low child/teacher ratios. In an infant room, that means a ratio of 1 teacher for every 3 children. Thus, the overhead for services to those 3 children and salary of one teacher have to be paid with the tuition from 3 children. What is a good teacher salary? $2000/month or more, if three parents pay $1200/month (a lot, but less than what I pay), that is only $3600 to pay benefits and taxes for that one teacher, what about rent, supplies, lunches, a director's salarey, etc? No daycare facility providing infant care is making money on it. The picture does not get that much better for toddlers, I believe the NAEYC suggests a ratio of 1:4 until children are at least 3, then it goes to 1:8.

Posted by: Another DC Mom | June 28, 2006 10:57 AM

What a wonderful story, I enjoyed being an Early Childhood Educator for seven years and it broke my heart to leave the children in my care, I had grown to greatly love them.

In Canada, the pay for qualified day care workers is not much better; it's ironic that if I worked full time or even part-time in a child care setting I could not afford to put my kids in day care at the sum of $45.00 a day for toddler and $35.00 a day for a preschooler- that would about what my take home would be.

It's great to hear a success story in child care, these women and men in the field work hard and their devotion to the kids 100 percent. Thank you for highlighting this!!!

Posted by: Mom in Canada | June 28, 2006 11:00 AM

Yes, it really bothers me that some child care providers can't put their own children in the day care where they work.

I mean, that should be part of their salary.

Posted by: Scarry | June 28, 2006 11:02 AM

Okay, everyone give "registered voter" the 2 second attention they obviously need. Done.

To New Working Mom; Bravo to you for stepping up to the plate and taking care of your family! I'm sure it was a very, very hard decision but you can make the best of it.

The timing of this article is perfect for you. There is high quality daycare centers, private at-home and nanny care out there. They are not a substitutes for you or your husband but an extension of "the new family" because we are living in a new time with new problems and new solutions.

I completely agree with Typical Working Mother, do not let your children see or feel you being sad. They are amazing at being able to pick up on your signals, spoken or not. Your daughter may be having a hard time with this because you are. And that's normal, just try to find another time to feel that way. This big adjustment will take time, for everyone.

I do agree that the state your child is in when you pick them up, says a lot about how they feel about the situation. Listen to your instincts.

You have some great advice here but mostly I would just say, you are doing a wonderful thing for your family. It's not always a choice to stay at home for most folks but do not feel quilty.

Posted by: Trying to keep it in perspective | June 28, 2006 11:09 AM

Our daycare costs $1200/month for infants, and slightly less as the kids get older. It is my sense that this is a little on the expensive side, but within the normal range of what downtown DC daycares cost.

Posted by: curious new mom | June 28, 2006 11:10 AM

What about the fact that there are plenty of working moms in DC who make, oh $50k a year and for whom a $1200 infant day care bill each month (the cost of the wonderful Bright Horizons centers, if you can get in them!) means that you're spending about half your after-tax salary on child care costs? It makes it not worth it to work. Adding in commuting costs and it's simpler to decide to get by without other luxuries and stay home with your baby for a while. We're not all lawyers and engineers on this blog - some of us have non profit or government jobs that we love, but that will never pay enough to make giving someone else $1200 a month to be with our babies make sense!

Posted by: SB | June 28, 2006 11:12 AM

We have been very fortunate to have our children attend a university-based, NAEYC accredited child care center that provides care from 6 weeks through kindergarten. The center's practices exceed all state licensing requirements, the staff are hand-picked and very stable, the kids are loved by a community of adults dedicated to their well-being. My kids have been in a stimulating, enriching environment where they have made friends and learned to socialize. And my husband and I learned to become parents with the support and help of talented, trained child care professionals. I may love my children more than anyone in the world, but I don't necessarily always know what the "best" approach to some parenting issue is. To have support and reinforcement from child care providers is a wonderful thing.

Yes, the center is expensive, but we are asking the staff to do important work. And if it pays for excellent child/teacher ratios and stimulating programs, so be it. Excellent child care is possible and is better for kids than some environments (Granny is right that kids are not necessarily better off at home with a disengaged parent and the tv). Our society needs to do more to make care like this possible for a wider group of people.

Posted by: fortunate | June 28, 2006 11:17 AM

so what is the cost of these wonderful daycares. Can middle-class ( 80K per year) families afford them or are they just for the McMansion families? Daycares and Daycare tuition here is just horrendous! We need good quality daycare and affordable daycare for all regulated by the government (not headstart, please!). Why not highlight a story on a two-income family's struggle with daycare prices here in this area.

Posted by: too much | June 28, 2006 11:19 AM

I have two kids, 7 and 5, and we had WONDERFUL experiences with daycare for both of them. At one point, I was considering leaving my job and both my husband and I were concerned at how much our kids would miss out on by leaving their daycare. Daycare isn't better or worse than staying at home with mom; it is very different with advantages and disadvantages. From early on, our kids were taught how to work well with other kids, share, clean up after themselves, follow a schedule, line up for outside time, etc. They got a huge amount out of it. They also got to play and interact with other kids their age all day long. On the minus side, they had to learn from an early age the need to get up, dressed, and out of the house quickly and got less mom and dad time than I would have liked. And, yes, I think both kids are more assertive socially than they would have been otherwise. Still, there was never any question about who was raising them.

One thing I'd note is that there is no magic formula for a good daycare center. Some large ones are excellent, some small ones are not. We used one NAYAC accredited one that we didn't like; others we LOVED were NOT accredited. The best indicator of a great center is how long the staff have been there. A place with high turnover is almost always going to have quality of care issues. I also learned a ton by spending a few hours observing the different rooms in the centers and talking to the teachers.

Unfortunately, another indicator of a good place is the long waiting list. I learned after the fact that I should have gotten on waiting lists the second I got a positive pregnancy test. Because I was late to sign up, I had to put my son in a sub-par center for a month and I *still* feel guilty about it. When daycare is good it is very, very good, but when it is bad it is horrid!

In terms of cost, when we were using daycares the cost was as much as $1,200 for an infant, and drops about $100 - $200/month for every year of ahge (so the 2 year old class was about $1000/month).

Good luck to all of the moms out there searching for good child care options. For us, I'd always chose a good center over a home-based daycare operation, and even if I SAH I would have put them in some kind of pre-school from very early on. I think the experience is wonderful!

Posted by: daycare fan ... | June 28, 2006 11:20 AM

My son, almost 2, is at a Bright Horizons. I am not a Fed and it is not subsidized by the Feds so it is really expensive and we're paying almost $1500 a month. We'll have 2 in daycare soon and it's a staggering financial consideration. We can "afford" it in the sense that we're not on food stamps to pay for it, but that's about it. That being said, it is the BEST money I spend every month. My son is loved and cared for in a way i never imagined was possible and I don't spend 1 single minute feeling guilty or worried about him. They are amazing people and I dread the day he has to leave. He has a class picture in his room and he smiles so big everytime he sees it and names his teachers and his friends. When I start to panic over the cost, I force myself to realize it is temporary and kindergarten will be free. at that point we will start going out to dinner, plan vacations, and actually save money for retirement again. some have argued lately, and the research backs this up, that it is better to "front-load" the money you spend on your child's education. in other words, pay through the teeth now for the best care and pre-school. a lot of parents are putting money away for college but kids can get scholarships and loans. spend the money while they're young so they have the best heads start. anyway, a public thank you to Bright Horizons is deserved and a plea to this city to OPEN MORE AFFORDABLE QUALITY CHILD CARE CENTERS!

Posted by: Momof1 | June 28, 2006 11:22 AM

to New Working Mom - I think anxious kids pick up on parental anxiety/misgivings. If you are hesitant, angry, dissatisfied it will feed your childs unhappiness. A relaxed happy attitude about the day-care drop-off goes a long way towards making it smoother. Try not to be in a rush, but don't linger un-necessarily either.

I had a country licensed day care provider for years. We loved 'Louise' and her family like they were our own. The comfort I felt about leaving my sons there was so great, there was never a scene at drop-off time.

In contrast, after my second child was born I had another babysitter while I was waiting for a space to open up in the daycare my older son had gone to. I didn't care for that babysitter, she just didn't give me the same comfort level, and my son, a baby at the time, always seemed to be fussing. Once the spot opened up and I moved him things went well from the first day.

It doesn't have to be something that will impress your friends. For years we were the only white family with our babysitter who lived in a small house (near a nice park) in need of paint. It wasn't the externals that made us love her, it was the care.

Posted by: RoseG | June 28, 2006 11:33 AM

I pay $475/week for my two kids to be in a home daycare, $250 for the one under-2 and $225 for the other. The under-2 would actually be $275 but since I have two kids there, I get a little bit of a break. Disadvantages with home daycare: less of a price break on older kids because they can still only have 8 kids total and the two weeks that they are closed in the summer (not necessarily the two weeks I would choose but this is a minor inconvenience). Advantages (IMO): my kids have been with the same two women since 3 months old (now 4 and 18 mo); they don't change caretakers with each "class." It's also a mixed age setting where siblings are together, although the older kids do sometimes go off to do things without the babies. In the same setting, a kid matures from being a baby to being an older kid. One of the providers primarily takes care of the younger kids while the other spends more time with the older kids, having circle time, reading, teaching them their letters and numbers, art projects, etc.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | June 28, 2006 11:38 AM

i wouldn't say that an infant should be at home. i had to put my 9 week old in day care. believe me i was sooo ready to go back to work. a few weeks later when i picked him up i found him sitting in the providers lap, she was on the floor, "playing" dolls with some of the older kids. he was cooing up a storm, waving his hands around. she made sure that he was part of the group even when he was small. maybe if i hadn't been working i would have joined a playgroup and he would have gotten the same sort of socializing.

re: affordable care. try checking with your county to see what they offer. when our original provider moved we used infant/ toddler (shoot, i can't remember their entire name). they had a list of home care providers in fairfax & arlington county. they also offered to subsidize their prices for certain income levels.

Posted by: quark | June 28, 2006 11:45 AM

I may be a cynic but I think this talk about making daycare more affordable is akin to making medical care more affordable. Daycare is STILL A BARGAIN compared to what one would pay for a qualified reliable nanny. Even for two children. It's expensive to raise a child and you are always paying for something. While daycare is a temporary cost, you will be paying for pre-school, after school care, activities, college. Having a SAHP(parent) makes a difference for the first few years.

Posted by: also from dc | June 28, 2006 11:45 AM

Definitely an important issue: the cost of quality childcare. Most of the regular contributors to this blog are middle class (because most of you live in the metro DC area, which is fairly affluent). There are more choices for middle class families.

About 17 years ago, I watched the progress of the ABC Childcare bill (sponsored by Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch during an era of bipartisanship) as it made its way through Congress. This was the legislation that established child care subsidy block grants for poor working families, usually families headed by single mothers. When I lived in NoVa, there was an excess of money for the program. Here in Arizona, there's a waiting list for this subsidized childcare. Children--including the poor--are too important to leave in substandard conditions (including leaving small children home alone). So while there has been much progress and reason to celebrate, there is still much work to be done, particularly for children of the working poor.

There will always be a need for childcare because there will always be a need for parents to work (unfortunately, we don't all live in the world envisioned by Registered Voter; if I could find a way to stay home with my daughter AND earn a living, I would do it in a heartbeat. I'm only one person, one income).

Posted by: single western mom | June 28, 2006 11:47 AM

It's nice to read everyone's positive comments even though I don't agree with all of them. Didn't Leslie address the daycare topic in a more combative way just a few days ago? It's interesting to see how her combative, negative blogs result in ever-escalating negativity, while her upbeat ones tend to be easier on the eyes.

BTW - There's a HYSTERICAL article that's been at the top of the NYTimes email list for about a week now. It's by a woman writer who trained her husband how to behave around her (using positive reinforcement) while researching a book about animal trainers. Here's the link (you need to register to read)

Leslie, great tone on this blog today!

Posted by: What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage | June 28, 2006 11:50 AM

New Working Mom, I feel your pain! We started my son in daycare at around 18 months, and it just broke my heart. It's been about 4 or 5 weeks now, and he is doing great. In the morning after breakfast he says, "friends? School?" and gets all excited. I would say it took about 2 to 2.5 weeks to get to that point. At first he was really upset when we dropped him off and picked him up, but it subsided quickly. He's only there for half days, and my husband picks him up right when the other kids go down for their nap, and at first he got upset when he saw them putting down the nap mats because he knew it was time. Now he knows we will always come and he's just sitting in a rocking chair looking at a book while he waits. It's pretty amazing. When I dorp him off in the morning I give him a hug and he runs off to join the other kids and blows me kisses. So my point there is that time will take care of some of it.

I think the other advice posted here is great, and the only other thing I would add is to really trust your feelings about a place. Like RoseG, we went with a place that wasn't the fancy-shmancy one because it had much higher standards for teachers and the place just had a better feel to it. If you're comfortable, your child is more likely to be too. Good luck!!

Posted by: Megan | June 28, 2006 11:50 AM

"There are too few child-care centers like Small Savers in our country. Parents and children would be better off if there were more."

Not to be a "Registered Voter" (because I don't want to be written off as simply someone who is stirring the Mommy War pot)...but this statement rings untrue with me.

There are too few expensive, out of reach child-care centers in this country??? We'd be better off if there were more centers out there that eat up the majority of a family's second income?

I agree that quality child care is something we should strive towards. But I'm not sure that the D.C./Manhattan model of "good childcare center", which is only available to a select portion of the population who can afford it, is what we should be working for. Another poster talked about the finances of what it takes to pay a child care provider a good salary and keep the child to teacher ratio low - and that was assuming that someone can pay $1200 a month for child care for ONE child.

I'm not sure what the solution is - but I don't think that touting expensive, exclusive child care centers is it. Maybe ideas like take your child to work with you, company run and paid-for child care centers, flex schedules where mom and dad switch off (I'm not talking about mom working nights and dad days, but each parent working half time or something like that), and more accessibility to working from home with your child with you.

And for lower income and single parents who don't have those options, the improving of government subsidized daycare so that they also have the option to receive quality care for their child so their child has the same level of care that the Small Saver children of the country do.

Posted by: momof4 | June 28, 2006 11:52 AM

to new working mom:

Children will always make you guilty for leaving them at any age. My son, a veteran of pre-schools, summer camps, and nannies, still gets up when I get up and his first question of the day is: are you going to work? why? i don't want you to go.

As long as you feel confident that your child is in the good care and he is thriving there, then it is perfectly all right.

Posted by: been there, done that | June 28, 2006 11:56 AM

BTW: Briefly saw Leslie on Dayside yesterday--kudos! Didn't catch much, though (I have three televisions tuned to CNN, FNC and MSNBC at work, all with closed captioning).

Posted by: single western mom | June 28, 2006 12:00 PM

Gosh, and to think we wanted mothers off welfare so they could work and put their kids in daycare...

Maybe the steep price tag of putting a baby in daycare is good.

Babies shouldn't be sick nonstop their first year (as has happened to a friend's baby), and there are an awful lot of childhood diseases that can be fatal to children under age 2.

Americans as a whole don't save. They live paycheck to paycheck and on credit. This is a big problem.

This means that the average american family has no income cushion of even a month or so (3 months + is recommendable) for one parent or the other to extend time off from work.

One year, my parents had to take care of 5 kids on an TOTAL income less than 22K a year.

1500 a month comes out to 18K a year. For one child.

That STILL would pay for college tution right now at most state colleges, albeit not room and board necessarily.

The traditional thing was for grandmas to help babysit grandchildren, and such like that didn't actually cost money and fostered good bonds.

I'm very glad that many women can make enough money that daycare is affordable for them, but 1500 a month is more than I pay in rent-- or could afford to.

Posted by: A crazy godmother | June 28, 2006 12:05 PM

I'm a feminist. I'm a working mom. I have a law degree and a career I enjoy.

But I have to admit that I cringe about "celebrating" day care. That's not because I don't recognize that some day care providers are top-notch, or that necessity sometimes means that moms have to work, or that some moms just really want to work.

But there is just something that bothers me about a whole culture that hands their babies over to (generally) underpaid workers who care for those children in exchange for $$$.

I feel this way especially with regard to infants. Shouldn't there be another way? I don't know. Does anyone else feel these nagging doubts?

Posted by: Feminist Mom | June 28, 2006 12:07 PM

Oh, Scarry, I feel for you. When we moved back east, the hardest thing was leaving my daughter's daycare, where they just adored her. We tried to choose a new one long-distance (my husband spent 2 days of his 3-day "house-hunting" trip just meeting with daycares!), and ultimately, our first choice did not work out -- it was a great center, highly recommended, very expensive, but in the end, they just didn't know how to handle her. The toughest thing was seeing her unhappy and acting up and not knowing whether it was normal adjustment to the move, daycare-related, just a phase, etc.

The good news is, we switched her to a Montessori school, and within a week we had our wonderful, happy girl back (light bulb moment there -- along with much guilt, of the "why didn't I do this earlier" variety). I am now even more thankful for the wonderful teachers who deal with her every day -- it takes a special person to rise to the challenge of keeping my girl in line without crushing her spirit, and they truly appreciate and thrive on that challenge. In fact, the school has been so wonderful to her that we're keeping her there next year for kindergarten, and maybe even through elementary school (I'm a little gunshy after that one experience, so I'm not inclined to mess with something that is working so well). Of course, continuing to pay $800+/mo., when I'd counted on the free public schools, is not exactly a picnic, but seeing my child happy and thriving is way more important than the 85 trips to Home Depot and Applebee's that we'd otherwise probably fritter that money away on.

Posted by: Laura | June 28, 2006 12:10 PM

Feminist Mom - Yep, I agree. Not just with what you say, but in the respectful way in which you say it.

Posted by: What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage | June 28, 2006 12:13 PM

My two-year old is in a NAYAC accredited YMCA daycare. They offer a financial aid break that allows our less than 50k combined household to keep running. All I have to do is volunteer once a month to stuff envelopes etc on a Saturday. My daughter loves her "school" and in the last nine months she's actually flourished to the point she's getting beyond her SAHM peers academically. It's all about finding what's right for you.

Posted by: YMCA mom | June 28, 2006 12:17 PM

Please don't respond to Registered Voter. This person is only trying to be entertained.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 28, 2006 12:17 PM

"But there is just something that bothers me about a whole culture that hands their babies over to (generally) underpaid workers who care for those children in exchange for $$$.

I feel this way especially with regard to infants. Shouldn't there be another way? I don't know. Does anyone else feel these nagging doubts?

In "the olden days", mothers had children and took care of them. They also lived close to their family, and usually had sisters/aunts/cousins/extended family around all the time to help out, so that children got the benefit of a wide variety of adults, as well as the socialization of a wide variety of children. This also enabled the mothers to have time to do things like wash clothes, clean the house, cook meals, etc - and still have someone around to help with the child.

We don't live in that world anymore. Something like 50% of the country lives more than 50 miles away from where they grew up. We don't have extended family nearby to help. We have to make our own extended family, to get the love and support that we used to get from having family close by.

I see daycare as an extension of my family. My daughter loves her teachers, loves the other kids in class (she makes sure to blow kisses to them and her teachers every day when we leave to go home), and absolutely glows when she realizes we are pulling into the daycare parking lot, because she knows she gets to see the rest of her "family". She gets socialization 8 hours out of every day, which would NOT happen, no matter how many playgroups exist, if she were at home with me all day long. She gets the benefit of other adults to enrich her life (she has a teacher that speaks nothing but spanish to the kids, and one of her first words was gracias). She gets exercise every day, does art projects every day, eats lunches that were put together by the school nutritionist every day, and watches almost no TV because they don't have them at school. And she has loving, committed parents that she absolutely adores.

So no, I have no nagging doubts. She is a smart, happy, social and loving 14 month old, and that has not been negatively affected at all by her time spent in daycare (since she was 3 months).

Posted by: Jolie | June 28, 2006 12:19 PM

Yes I do. The problem is that 2-6 year olds are simply germ factories. They don't wash, they ooze, they wipe their nose, they catch everything that comes around and somehow transmute them into more virulent forms of disease.

I think daycare is a godsend to some mothers, but the logistics... I remember my friend saw this daycare, very clean, no toy from home rules, firm rules about who was to handle the babies.

She was only paying for 12 hours of daycare a week. Her son still got sick amazingly often right after he started daycare. Working at home with a sick kid... ugh.

Great plans never seem to quite work out when you have kids, do they? (Dodging brickbats by offended parents for stating the blindingly obvious).

Posted by: Crazy Godmother | June 28, 2006 12:19 PM

I have to second Lieu's recommendation of the center/in-home hybrid. Our kids spent two years at a great "in-home center" in the basement of a house run by 5 women, one of whom lives upstairs. It was walking distance from our house in Wheaton. They focus on 6 weeks to 2 1/2 years. The infant room is an enormous indoor playground. The older kids follow an established curriculum to get to know their colors, alphabet, numbers, etc. In fact, one of the moms was told by her daughter's preschool teacher that the teacher can always tell kids who come from this facility because they seem to be ahead of the curve. They even taught them some French and Spanish--for a while, our son could speak better Spanish than his father, who grew up with a Spanish-speaking mother! It's not a big, fancy, accredited center, but it was clean, filled with toys and activities, and most importantly, there was no question of the affection the women (most of them mothers themselves) felt towards the kids. Like Lieu's facility, there were only 12-14 kids, so each got plenty of one-on-one. Also, since there were no school-aged kids there, the kids seemed to get sick a lot less than at the two larger centers we've used--it keeps the "germ pool" a lot more limited, which is good for infants and toddlers. :)

Posted by: niner | June 28, 2006 12:20 PM

That's the kind of facility I would love to see my own kid in, Niner. The age restriction is particularly important to me as I just wrote.

Posted by: Crazy Godmother | June 28, 2006 12:25 PM

"The problem is that 2-6 year olds are simply germ factories".

Oops, I should have kept my kids out of kindergarten and first grade. Thanks for the info.

Posted by: June | June 28, 2006 12:28 PM

A little off-topic, but for parents looking for licensed daycare anywhere in Maryland, I recommend checking out: http://www.mdchildcare.org/mdcfc/mcc.html

There is a "search for licensed daycare" option on this web page; it's how we found both facilities that we used before we moved out of Maryland. You can choose what kind of care you like (in-home, center, preschool), search within a certain radius of home and/or work, and get an idea of how much it's going to cost.

The web page itself also has a lot of good info on how to choose good care for your kids.

Posted by: niner | June 28, 2006 12:30 PM

to add onto what feminist mom and jolie had to say...

on top of so many of us in DC and other metro areas not having family nearby, we have horrible commutes. do you find a day care center near home, or one near work? near home makes sense in that parents can stagger work times so the kid doesn't have to be there so long. but what about if something happens? it would kill me to sit on the metro, fidgetting for 40 minutes till i reach my stop, waiting to see her wondering how she's doing with her upset tummy/fever/whatever.

i consider myself somewhat of a feminist too...but i dream of going back to some fictionalized version of the 1950s. to live in a town where either my or my husbands parents live on the other side of town, where work for either or both of us is no more than 15 minutes away, where there is great childcare around the corner wtih loving people and boundless activites.

if our life was really like this, i might keep my cubicle job for a while to help us save a little more financially if i knew i could pop over during lunch to play or that she'd be that close in case of emergency, or that she'd wouldn't have to be there so much longer b/c of our commutes, and that grandma was always near by in a pinch. as it is, this isn't the case, and as soon as my husband finds a job, i'll be quitting to stay home with our girl full time. and i look forward to every penny pinching minute of it :)

Posted by: anon | June 28, 2006 12:34 PM

June, you're welcome, but you likely have a better immune system than a newborn to 2 year old, so you can take the risk.

As somebody with an autoimmune disorder, I have to be rather careful of causal disease transmission.

Posted by: Crazy Godmother | June 28, 2006 12:35 PM

Feminist Mom, you raise good points. I share your concerns about living in, and contributing to, a society that excels in trite sayings ("children are the future") but isn't so good at putting its money where its mouth is. To paraphrase another poster, we can build a bridge to nowhere, but we can't pay a living wage to the people to whom we entrust our most precious charges? Salaries are clearly based on proximity to money instead of social value. Like you, I am a lawyer, while my sister is a family therapist; I have no doubt she is contributing more to society, and yet I will always be paid more.

Personally, I would prefer a nanny for my baby (my daughter clearly needs preschool, which is another issue). Part of it is in his interest (that one-on-one nurturing). But part of it is simply because I would then know that his caregiver was reasonably paid, treated well, getting Social Security benefits, etc. Unfortunately, doing things "right" would mean my going back to full-time work, and we decided that the extra time I have at home now was more valuable. So we made the best choice we could -- and we're among the "lucky" ones, because we can afford a good daycare with women who dote on him (and who are paid reasonable wages with benefits).

Posted by: Laura | June 28, 2006 12:37 PM

Feminist Mom - You could say the same about teachers... turning our children over to underpaid workers who TEACH those children in exchange for $$$.
I would wager to guess that the majority of teachers and child care workers are there because they love it. If they were in it for the money, they picked the wrong profession.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 28, 2006 12:40 PM

My daughter goes to a NAEYC accredited child care center here in Seattle. (Which seems to cost about the same as what people are saying for DC, by the way, though they offer scholarships and we do have a state subsidy for low-income families.) My older daughter also went to the same center and we all love it.

When my second daughter was born we decided to take our older daughter out of care, since we were juggling our schedules anyway, and after a few weeks she decided she wanted to go back. We sent her 3 days a week, then she asked to go full time again because she enjoyed it so much.

For my younger daughter's second birthday, she invited both her teachers to her party. She was simply beside herself with her parents, grandparents, and teachers all sitting in the living room. She didn't know who's lap to sit on so she had to make the rounds repeatedly.

Honestly, while I don't think anyone loves your children the way you do, love is not the only factor in raising healthy, happy children. I'm sure parents that beat their children love them--but it doesn't make them good care givers.

Having our children in childcare is good for them on so many levels. It gives them a consistancy of schedule that I am frankly not very good at. It gives them attention that I couldn't give them if I were home, trying to do other things and slowly going crazy from lack of adult interaction. It gives them better parents--not only are we both happier and still sane, but my partner and I have learned so much by watching the child care providers. They have taught us new ways of interacting with our children, give us hints on behaviors that are troubling us, and brought out sides of our children we wouldn't have known to encourage. I am so thankful for them every day.

Posted by: seattle | June 28, 2006 12:41 PM

I started to respond to Registered Voter and then realized that it wasn't worth my time.

I am single mom with no support whatsoever. When my daughter was born, I went and worked at daycare -- I wanted to make sure I knew the people that were watching my child, and I wanted to nurse her... Staying at home wasn't an option and I was too proud to get welfare. I worked there for almost 2 years. 10 years later, I still keep in touch with some of the families and I still worry about some of the children. I treated every single child as my own. As a former child care provider, I can tell you that we underpay, under appreciate, an overwork the people that we entrust our children to. So what happens? The good ones leave when they have to, and often times, bad replacements come in.

When I hear "Celebrate Daycare" I am relieved to learn that some places are able to keep the good ones.... but then I am also saddened knowing that there are so many out there that can't afford the care.

I would love to stay at home with my daughter, but I can't. If I could choose my line of work - I would love to work with children, but I can't live off of the salary a childcare provider makes - well, not in Northern VA. My daughter is old enough to watch children herself now... I know that if I needed childcare, I don't know what I would do. Our budget is already so tight! (Yes, I am one of the few americans that can account for every penny... but that is another discussion!)

So, yes, celebrate daycare... but really, we need to find way to let everyone celebrate it.

Posted by: Single Mom in Arlington | June 28, 2006 12:41 PM

Crazy Godmother, I feel for you--our son has a primary immune deficiency, which is why the smaller facility was so appealing to us when he was younger, although he's done well at the two larger ones he's been in, too (with regular IVIG treatment).

Posted by: niner | June 28, 2006 12:45 PM

To June 28, 2006 12:40 PM:
I don't think most daycare workers choose it as a "profession." Unfortunately, it's low-paid, unskilled work. I think many (but not all) women who work in daycare do so because they're unable to obtain better paying work elsewhere.

Posted by: what Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage | June 28, 2006 12:56 PM

We've been at three wonderful daycares over 5 years. New working mom, don't forget that a place can be wonderful and not a good fit for your child or your family and that things can change. A place that's a wonderful place for your child one year can not work another as things change in your child, your home and the daycare. It's still a great daycare, just not for you and don't feel any guilt about switching. And a place that didn't fit before could be wonderful later.

Posted by: switcheroo | June 28, 2006 12:59 PM

Yeah, Laura I am looking at Montessori schools in the MO area. I'm sure she will be fine after the adjustment, it's just so hard to go through it all again after finding good care and she is so settled and happy.

Thanks for the understanding though.

Posted by: Scarry | June 28, 2006 1:02 PM

"Feminist Mom - You could say the same about teachers... turning our children over to underpaid workers who TEACH those children in exchange for $$$.
I would wager to guess that the majority of teachers and child care workers are there because they love it. If they were in it for the money, they picked the wrong profession."

I think it has little to do with "because they love it" and a lot more to do with asking how a lower income woman with a family, comparitively little training, and traditional (male-dominated) "family" values could do much else? I suppose we should add cleaning ladies, cafeteria lunch ladies, waitresses, secretaries, and manicurists to this growing list of women doing their jobs for the love of it.

These women are among the lowest paid workers doing the least valued work in our society. Most daycare providers and nannies are essentially servants to the middle (or upper) class with zero hope of doing much else.

Posted by: It's about classism and patriarchy | June 28, 2006 1:05 PM

Yes, new mom I agree with switcheroo, my daughter has been in three day care centers. One room might be great and the next rrom might suck. Don't be afraid to switch.

Posted by: Scarry | June 28, 2006 1:06 PM

I have to say that it is nice to hear a happy story about daycare, but it is critical to also understand the risks, particularly after our 10-month old son died due to the negligence of our former daycare provider (the sentencing hearing was 2 weeks ago for our former daycare person in Alexandria, VA).
A major study came out in October 2005, which compared the safety of the different types of daycare, and it found that daycare centers are actually the safest type because of the checks and balances involved in a large daycare setting. www.gc.cuny.edu/faculty/research_briefs/childCare.pdf
In particular, the study found that the fatality rate for children in private home daycare is 16 times higher than the fatality rate for children in daycare centers and that infants are the most vulnerable with a fatality rate nearly 7 times higher than children from 1 to 4.
By no means am I saying that we should all stay at home or that day care is bad, but I think that we need more vigilance regarding the health and welfare of our children in daycare, whether that means better regulations, more oversight, or subsidies.

Posted by: Grieving mom | June 28, 2006 1:11 PM

Without "upper class" working moms a lot of these women would be even in worse financial situations. Often, the wages earned by nannies support her and her family back home. Some nannies are making more money than a newly minted college graduate with a B.A. in liberal arts working for a non-profit. Contrary to the popular belief, working mothers earning a salary that allows them to afford a nanny, treat their nannies like gold.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 28, 2006 1:13 PM

Here's my take on some of people's questions/concerns about daycare. My 2 year-old daughter has been at a center since she was four months old. It has been great for her. She has actually not been that sick, except for a few colds, she has been incredibly healthy (and she was mostly bottle fed - the horror!). As for the near-home/near-work debate, I chose near home, primarily because it was the only place we got into in time, but I think it was a godsend. There are times when my husband and I have to switch off picking her up or dropping her off and we don't work near one another so it would be so much more difficult if she was near one of us but not the other. Also, it sounds great to visit your kid during the day, and I wish I could have when she was an infant, but now that she's a toddler it would be really disruptive and I don't think the teachers would like it. I love her center. I pay $18,000 a year - which is enormous but these people are looking after my daughter and I would pay more to ensure she is safe. No, I don't live in a McMansion and drive an SUV. I work at a nonprofit and my husband works for the gov't so this is a big expense for us.

Posted by: Another Working Mom | June 28, 2006 1:15 PM

Grieving Mom,

Thank you for contributing your advice. I can't imagine what you have gone through. Bless you.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 28, 2006 1:17 PM

To new working mom - I returned to work fairly early after having both my children (3 months and 5 months), but switched my son's day care when he was 18 months old. Children that age have stranger anxiety and do not adjust to new situations well. Even though my son had been happy at our original provider's house, he would cry and scream when I dropped him off for at least the first few months he was at his new day care, which was a center. I was assured by the people at day care that he was fine the minute I left and got distracted by something else. To make yourself feel better, I suggest trying to sneak a peek at him maybe 15 or 20 minutes later, when he thinks you've left, or watch him when you pick him up before he notices you. Chances are you'll see that he is having a good time. For what it's worth, my son is still at the same day care, is very happy, and wishes he could stay with his friends there next year instead of moving on to kindergarten. This too shall pass!

If you have to work, the best thing to do is to try to be happy about it. My children are now 7 and 5, and probably the biggest mistake I've made, and continue to make, is resenting the fact that I have to work. It affects my mood around them, resulting in my yelling at them despite the fact I have missed them all day. It's hard and I do not have the answer myself, but try to stay positive. Regardless of whether you believe it is better for children to have a "happy WOHM" than an "unhappy SAHM," there's not doubt that it's better to have a "happy WOHM" than an "unhappy WOHM."

Posted by: Been there, done that | June 28, 2006 1:18 PM

Grieving mom,

| am so sorry for your loss.

Posted by: Scarry | June 28, 2006 1:24 PM

"Without "upper class" working moms a lot of these women would be even in worse financial situations. Often, the wages earned by nannies support her and her family back home."

This sounds quite a bit like the argument used by plantation owners to justify how gosh darn lucky their sharecroppers were. Thank goodness because now he has a roof over his head and can send money back home and he has nice clothes to wear - he's so much better off now thanks to me and my "charity".


Bottom line: It is a problem when women are underpaid for undervalued "women's work". The upper class mom paying her nanny pittance is not rescuing anyone, rather she is perpetuating the problem.

Posted by: Classism/patriarchy | June 28, 2006 1:28 PM

I'm very sorry to hear about your child. what was the fatality rate for children at home with parents, by the way?

Infants and young children present a particular challenge because of their fear periods and their intense attachment to their parents.

I was left to babysit an infant for like 40 minutes, right at the worst age-- age 8 months, the fear period. He cried nonstop the whole time and I was not able to console him. He fought me when I held him. Very aggressive. And he had been fine with me before when his parents were there, even enjoyed my company. I was swearing at the mother for only saying it was gonna be 5 minutes... it felt like forever.

He started daycare about then as well. He also cried nonstop the first few days he was there. As the article sums up, a solo daycare provider has no backup, and an infant that simply won't be comforted is indeed at very high risk of harm.

You'd get this stage again around 18-22 months old (terrible twos). My nephew screamed nearly nonstop at a family party because he was seated next to a woman he didn't know. A fire alarm going off finally shut him up, like he had found something that could outscream him.

By age 3 or so he was perfectly social and not at all inclined to scream at strangers.

So, yes the age you chose to put a child into daycare makes a huge difference for its safety.

A child simply won't bond very well during a fear period and can drive the provider insane.

I'd rather die than work daycare, but I have a friend who worked daycare with a college degree and then became a nanny. She loves kids and wanted to teach, but realized she had an extreme phobia of public speaking even in front of little kids. She likes nannying and she has given some gentle parenting tips to her employers as well. It was fun to hear her take on Supernanny ("She's very harsh")

Posted by: Crazy godmother | June 28, 2006 1:28 PM

To Grieving Mom,

Thank you so much for your post. I am so sorry for your loss and can only imagine what you are going through. I think you have raised excellent points in your post and unfortunately I think all of us have experienced the fear that actually became your reality. And to be perfectly honest, we had looked at some in-home daycare centers (I know that many of you have had good experiences so this is my own personal opinion) I was too afraid to leave my baby with any of them so we went with a center even though it stretched our budget. I hope your grief will enable you to become an advocate for this issue.
I am just curious as to whether there are efforts in states/at the federal level to improve standards. If so, how can all of us get involved?

Posted by: typical working mother | June 28, 2006 1:31 PM

I disagree that most childcare providers are just doing what because they can't get work elsewhere. In fact, I am a lawyer earning 6 figures and I am considering becoming part of the daycare staff when I take two years off for my next child. And more importantly, all the people at my son's daycare seem to really love their jobs-- it is not only their "profession"-- it is their calling.

Regarding daycare and illnesses, my son started daycare at 18 months, he's been there over a year, and he has had a total of TWO sick days! HE has been sick no more often at daycare than he was at home with me. So please stop chiding parents who place their children in daycare because of increased chance of illness-- besides, the studies show the occasional childhood illnesses are actually good for kids-- reduces the chance of cancer later in life and fewer sick days during elementary school where missing school can really put a kid at an academic disadvantage.

Posted by: Capitol Hill mom | June 28, 2006 1:33 PM

Regarding state efforts, there were bills in the VA legislature earlier this eyar to reduce the regulation of daycare, which was defeated (fortunately). Other than that, I do not know right now. There is also the matter of funding of the agencies that regulate daycare, which is typically the state dept of social services. These agencies at both a state and federal level seems to continually suffer budget cuts. If the state/county/city agency who licenses and oversees licensed daycare is underfunded and understaffed (something that we as parents would never know!), then I would suspect that the safety of licensed daycare would suffer.

My husband and I are committed to advocacy on the of daycare safety, b/c we don't want anyone else to ever have to suffer as we, our family, our friends, and our coworkers have. So much can be done to improve safety through education of daycare providers, oversight, and some funding. Yet, the nature of the stakeholders of daycare (i.e., us mothers and parents) means that it will be a long, hard road to get any improvement.

Posted by: Grieving Mom (again) | June 28, 2006 1:48 PM

Captiol Hill Mom, thank you for sharing your experience.

There's a huge difference between newborns, 6 months, to 18 months old babies, particularly in terms of the immune system.

RSV, for instance, can kill infants under one year old of age but rarely makes older children more than mildly ill.

The same goes for many diseases that schoolage children commonly catch, chickenpox for instance.

I don't know about cancer (other than leukemia, and that link is only hypothesized).

The health of rural children could well be due to terpenes and other aromatic compounds from plants rather than increased disease load.

Or that the animal viruses related to human diseases are much less dangerous and thus vaccinate for the human diseases similar to how cowpox used to protect against smallpox. Rural children also rarely are in daycare.

I do know that many viruses DO cause cancer, and most of them are quite common viruses as well.

http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/index.cfm?objectid=32BA9724-F1F6-975E-7FCE50709CB4C932 lists the recognized carcinogens, and some viruses are now on the list, although there is evidence for more viruses than listed here.

If you wish to avoid carcinogens this will be a very interesting list to read.

Posted by: Crazy godmother | June 28, 2006 1:48 PM

There are other ways in which working daycare can be a career opportunity. The women at our in-home center hybrid (described above) were all registered for early childhood classes and training sessions with (I believe) Montgomery College (a community college). The courses were paid for out of center money, not their own salaries. Early Childhood degrees can be gateways to other careers with kids outside of daycare. For example, hospitals, including Holy Cross in Silver Spring, MD have (excellent!) Child Life specialists on staff to reduce anxiety and help sick kids adjust to their treatment. Working at this particular center is providing these women with access to educational opportunities that they might not have had otherwise. Even if they decide to stay in daycare--it would be a great loss for families and kids in our neighborhood if they didn't--they may go on to higher paying jobs at bigger centers or in other fields. One of the women even left to pursue a nursing degree and a career in pediatric nursing. It broke our hearts that she left, but we couldn't have been prouder of her.

Posted by: niner | June 28, 2006 1:50 PM

An earlier post touched on the cost structure of day care- namely, that infant care is so expensive because if there is a 3:1 baby-teacher ratio (as there should be), an infant's tuition has to cover a third of a teacher's salary.

This is somewhat true- but I think that what actually happens is that in most day care centers, the tuition paid by older kids (3 and 4 year olds who can have a 8:1 or even 10:1 ratio) "subsidizes" the babies. This is why, if you send your 3 or 4 year old to a school that doesn't accept infants, you probably won't have to pay as much.

Also, if more public school systems start pre-K programs for 4 year olds, the unintended consequence will be that day care centers will have to charge even more for younger kids- since the most "lucrative" kids will be going to public school starting at 4.

Leslie, this would be an interesting thing to write more about...

Posted by: daycare mom | June 28, 2006 1:50 PM

"I don't think most daycare workers choose it as a "profession." Unfortunately, it's low-paid, unskilled work. I think many (but not all) women who work in daycare do so because they're unable to obtain better paying work elsewhere."

I guess this is why we have to be so careful about how we choose our daycares. There are many daycare workers who take it very seriously and are educated in early childhood development. That is the case with ours. I won't argue with the "low-paid" which seems to be generally true (although probably not in our case) but I don't know about "unskilled." I sometimes have trouble getting my four-year-old to do what she needs to do. I can't imagine if I was trying to deal with several of them all day long. We, as parents, could probably use some (formal) early childhood education.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | June 28, 2006 2:03 PM

Re: babies getting sick in daycare--one of the best things I found was that my son's sitter has taken care of so many kids she can diagnose any of the illnesses that little kids get faster than a pediatrician. If I'd been home, I would probably have gone to the doctor a lot more but she would say "oh, this is such and such, he'll have a rash for 24 hours then it will go away" and she was always right. She also had tons of tricks for dealing with whatever developmental issue came along. My mom lives far away and I was the first of my friends to have a baby, so I found her invaluable in helping me learn these kinds of things or just bounce parenting strategies off of.

Posted by: Arlmom | June 28, 2006 2:07 PM

I enjoy reading the posts (well, most of them) because they reflect what I view as reality - each family finds the right solution for them. Not everyone loves "institutionalized" day care, not everyone loves a home provider, not everyone had a good nanny experience. There's no one right answer - it depends on family structure, family income, age of child, and many other variables.

I was home with my first two children for 3 years, and essentially miserable. I went to law school with an 18 month old and a 3 year old because it was simply necessary following a divorce (not my idea) and a relatively worthless undergradutate degree. I can't tell you how relieved I was to converse with grown-ups again. I also had access to the university pre-school/early childhood lab and it was wonderful. Only a few steps from my law school and my boys were thriving - socially and academically. They also had a happy, challenged, energetic mom to play with at home and much more dedicated mom-time than when I was home all day.

Baby number three arrived after a remarriage and practicing law for several years. I did not even consider staying home after that one - learned my lesson that I needed to work for me. We had wonderful daycare and actually planned the location around proximity to my husband's employment since we knew that after work it would be mom's time because I was nursing. Dad went to hold baby and play with her and feed her a bottle of breastmilk each day at lunch. This child has loved being in daycare, which she calls "school" since her big brothers go to school. By the end of a long weekend or vacation, she's had enough of the full time parents and our (yes, our) need to play with her so much and she's ready to go back to school and her friends.

That being said, I am picky about schools and day care. To paraphrase Registered Voter, I would abdicate my parental responsibility if I didn't do my research and choose the best care facility for my children. I can only recommend to visit lots of facilities and you'll know when you find the right one. My criteria: involved teachers/providers, cleanliness, bright and airy; stimulating toys and books, appropriate age guided playgrounds, no arbitrary age requirements for potty training, and an overall respect and recognigition of each child's individual needs and characteristics. We have had great luck with Montessori schools too.

One last comment - like other types of economic reality, there is a benefit to the economy of scale. If daycare is expensive, there should be corresponding advantages such as pooling resources, recruiting qualified and competent providers, providing training for these workers, benefits, and holidays (even when they are inconvenient to working parents). My personal trade off is that I am eager to be the involved, interested mom when I see my children in the afternoons and they get the better mom when I'm happy and fulfilled at work. It works for us, and that's what really matters.

Posted by: SS | June 28, 2006 2:07 PM

Amen to Rockville Mom.

I think early childhood development (and general human development) should be made a mandatory part of the high school curriculum. And not just the "babies are a drag to carry around all day" lesson.

The single greatest factor in preventing infant mortality is having a mother who has completed a basic education and is literate. (And thus can read medicine bottles, find the hospital and doctor's offices, and so on.)

Think how much more we could do if that basic education covered a little about how young humans actually grow up.

Posted by: Crazy godmother | June 28, 2006 2:09 PM

Grieving Mom,

Have you got a website dealing with this? If so, I would love to see it and would be willing to touch base with you if there is a way to contact you through the site(not through this blog -- I like the blog's anonymity). I have worked on Capitol Hill and as a lobbyist and now work in State Government here in maryland (maryland by the way has very good laws in place -- but I think staffing for the agency that oversees child care facilities could be better -- home daycare are only inspected once a year and I think they are announced inspections but not sure)and would like to be helpful to you and your husband if I can. Others with experience should consider doing the same.

Posted by: typical working mother | June 28, 2006 2:10 PM

We need better quality XX.

We need more affordable XX.

The government/big corporations should subsidize XX.

XX = health care, child day-care, education, job training ...

Our current free market system with government regulation and oversight is a constant balancing act of priorities and resources, but ultimately the greatest influence I see upon our lives is particicpation and involvement with local community. Along the same lines of "all politics is small town politics" all roads lead to the community one lives in. That community includes (in my order of priority) family, church, neighbors, civic institutions, schools, commercial concerns, government entities. Ideally priorities are set with the right motivation for the greater good. IMHO the government steps in as a safety net - not a cradle.

Congrats on keeping the conversation civil today everybody.

Posted by: Fo3 | June 28, 2006 2:10 PM

That's fanastic, SS. I'm very happy to hear that, and it's a good example of how everybody's choice has to be different to fit their needs.

Personally, I think my mom was a SAINT to deal with 5 kids at home all under age 9. None of us wants to even think about doing a similar feat at all.

I knew a single mother who was doing full-time work, school, and hauling a baby around. She said some days she wanted to jump off a bridge (with her baby) from the stress.

Once she finished that last semester of school and was able to get a better job and do daycare, her life brightened a LOT.

It is very important the mother be emotionally, psychologically, and physically healthy to be a good mother. For many that means work and a break from the kids are a must.

The 1950's was an artifical model where a woman was isolated in the house all day with the kids, deprived of a lot of adult contact.

In the past, it was more likely for women to be socializing while they worked (sewing, carding, household chores) as well as watching the kids. Heck, the sheepdog might be out there to alert them if Timmy fell down the well ;).

Every culture has their own way to rear kids and somehow the kids always seem to come out somewhat OK ;).

(I don't believe daycare is psychologically damaging to kids at all. My concern is simply with making sure infants under age 18 months are safe and not put in developmentally inappropriate conditions.)

Posted by: Crazy Godmother | June 28, 2006 2:21 PM

"The 1950's was an artifical model where a woman was isolated in the house all day with the kids, deprived of a lot of adult contact."

Amen. It does take a village. It SHOULD take a village.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 28, 2006 2:29 PM

I agree that the 1950's are pretty inapplicable to life now! My being unhappy at home really did have a lot to do with the isolation and lack of nearby family that others have mentioned too. That, and we're raised to expect college and work (at least until children) and we become accustomed to that external reward for a job well done (paycheck, raises, performance evaluations). Once at home, the work is harder and the rewards are perhaps not as obvious. I think it's a skill to find satisfaction in being home when the baby is young, the mom is tired and socially isolated. As an introvert, I was not one to participate in the mom-groups. No easy answers, are there? But I learned from being at home and by working, I hope, to respect each woman's decision based on what is right for her and for her family. And, I hope that this blog is one small way to increase awareness and respect for each of our choices, which from the postings I see here, are difficult, agonizing, well-researched, well-discussed and often criticized regardless of what side of the issue the choice falls within.

Posted by: SS | June 28, 2006 2:31 PM

Feminist Mom -- Please don't cringe on my behalf. All three of my kids absolutely THRIVED as infants in daycare. And I cringe at thinking how insane and unproductive I would have been stuck at home with them, especially because they all slept for about 12 hours a day! I think one of the problems of the "mommy wars" is that we get awfully caught up in feeling sorry for or judging other moms' choices -- often with the absolute best of intentions, which it sounds like you have. (NB: "feeling sorry for" or pitying someone can be a way of judging them.) I won't judge the way you bring up your kids -- I promise!!! -- if you support my choices. There are 80 million moms in America and the simple truth is that some of us want and need daycare for our kids!

Posted by: Leslie | June 28, 2006 2:32 PM

Typical working mother,
I'm not quite that technologically adept to have a website. Actually, this is my first time to access a blog. But, I have posted the information on the DCWM (DC working moms)listerv, and I can be contacted at winterhall88@yahoo.com
The most recent Wash Post article regarding our case is at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/15/AR2006061501284.html.

Posted by: Grieving mom | June 28, 2006 2:39 PM

Fo3, I am sure I follow your argument. Of course, it's important to be connected to one's commmunity. How does that relate to whether or not one can afford health insurance or medical care. Unless, of course, you are saying that as a member of your church you would all help your fellow parishoners with the bills. I have to admit, I am confused how involvement in the community (which is certainly wonderful) replaces financial assistance for those with lesser means.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 28, 2006 2:41 PM

On sickness ...

Both our kids got sick a lot in daycare. It was a very rough time for the kids - and for my husband and I as we needed to stay home from work if a child was sick. Sometimes it seemed like every 2 weeks one of us would be home.

Now, at 4 and 7, they missed maybe ONE day of school all year due to illness. Their immune systems are rock-solid.

There are lots of studies that show that kids with older siblings or who mix a lot with other kids in the toddler years miss less school later in life.

I'm not saying it was good that my kids were sick a lot but there is a bright side to it ...

On another note, a while ago I missed two weeks of work because my son had Chicken Pox and had to be kept isolated. I realized that in the days of mumps, measles, etc. daycare just would not have worked. I think immunizations have done a lot to allow women to return to the workplace.

Posted by: daycare fan ... | June 28, 2006 2:51 PM

Grieving mother - I am so sorry. I cannot imagine how heartbroken you and your family must be.

I would like to echo the statement in your entry that center-care is safer. We had one of our children with an in-home provider for the first 2 1/2 years, and the second for 1 1/2 years. We were very happy with her, she was crazy about our kids, and they loved her. I do not regret having done that. But since leaving her for a center we found out that there were problems in the marriage and that her husband threatened her. Not during the time she watched our children, as far as we know, but later. And yes, we knew him also and liked him. The fact is you never know what is going on in someone's house. That's not to say you shouldn't go to an in-home provider who is highly recommended and with whom you feel comfortable. But keep the lack of oversight in mind along with the fact that you have limited control over who is in the house.

Posted by: Been there, done that | June 28, 2006 2:58 PM

we should all read the washington post article that grieving mom posted here. Everything we have been arguing about today seems petty and unimportant compared to what I have just read. I can't find words to express what I feel but maybe I just want to let you know I am crying right now.

Posted by: also from dc | June 28, 2006 3:04 PM

"There are lots of studies that show that kids with older siblings or who mix a lot with other kids in the toddler years miss less school later in life."

Any chance you can provide a link to one of those studies? Sort of sounds like bs to me, but would be happy to eat my words.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 28, 2006 3:09 PM

"And I cringe at thinking how insane and unproductive I would have been stuck at home with them, especially because they all slept for about 12 hours a day!"

Wow! How judgmental is that! That women who stay home with their kids are insane and unproductive?

Actually, the more the kid's sleep, the more produtive a person can be. When I worked from home I got tons done when the kids were asleep.

Your statement is not only hideously judgmental, it is without logic and imagination.

I was never happier than the year I spent at home with my infant son. A little imagination and ingenuity went a long way towards keeping me productive and involved in the outside world and I thorougly enjoyed the cuddle time I spent with my infant. What kind of mother would go insane at that!

Posted by: coaster | June 28, 2006 3:15 PM

"And I cringe at thinking how insane and unproductive I would have been stuck at home with them, especially because they all slept for about 12 hours a day!"

I actually thought that Leslie was making a personal comment about herself. No way does this seem judgmental about anyone else or their choices.

Posted by: to coaster | June 28, 2006 3:17 PM

I'm not going to debate whether a center or home daycare is safer but I must admit that I like that our home daycare has two full-time (nonrelated) providers. Even though there may not be the same level of oversight that a center has, there is something to be said for there being more than one adult present. In and of itself, that creates a check. And there are also two people keeping up with the kids and what's going on.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | June 28, 2006 3:18 PM

"And I cringe at thinking how insane and unproductive I would have been stuck at home with them, especially because they all slept for about 12 hours a day!"

I actually thought that Leslie was making a personal comment about herself. No way does this seem judgmental about anyone else or their choices.

Posted by: to coaster | June 28, 2006 03:17 PM

I didn't think it judgmental either. I just thought she was talking about herself.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | June 28, 2006 3:21 PM

Did a quick PUBMED search for "daycare"--sorry, I'm a librarian, I can't help myself... :)

Siblings, day-care attendance, and the risk of asthma and wheezing during childhood, by Ball, Castro-Rodriguez, et. al. (U of AZ)

"CONCLUSIONS: Exposure of young children to older children at home or to other children at day care protects against the development of asthma and frequent wheezing later in childhood."


Predominance of rhinovirus in the nose of symptomatic and asymptomatic infants, van Benten, Koopman et. al. (U of Rotterdam)

"During routine visits at 12 months, a higher prevalence of rhinovirus infections was found in infants who attended day-care compared with those who did not."

Disclaimer: this was a *very* quick search--just wanted to show that there are studies that go both ways. As I think has been suggested above, it's interesting this pair of articles suggests--again, suggests, this was not an extensive search!--that infants might be at greater risk, but there are benefits to older kids.

Posted by: niner | June 28, 2006 3:24 PM

Also from DC,

I echo your sentiment. I can't even imagine being in that position, again my sympathies to greiving mom.

Posted by: Scarry | June 28, 2006 3:24 PM

Leslie's comments were not at all judgemental. Coaster, you might want to re-read her post.

Posted by: MeAgain | June 28, 2006 3:25 PM

I was just talking about myself...and actually, I really enjoyed being home during all three maternity leaves...I just don't think I would have thrived if I'd stayed home for the first 1-2 years of each kid's life. It would have destroyed my career and ability to provide for myself and my children, too. Staying home (or having a nanny stay home with your kids) just isn't the right solution for some people. Didn't mean to judge anyone else or imply that all moms would have a hard time staying home. I know many who loved those first years at home with babies, and then they went back to work when their kids were older and more independent (and in school).

Posted by: Leslie | June 28, 2006 3:37 PM

"And I cringe at thinking how insane and unproductive I would have been stuck at home with them, especially because they all slept for about 12 hours a day!"

Hmm... I wonder how I'd feel if my husband said "I cringe at thinking how insane and unproductive I would have been stuck at home with her..." about me.

Posted by: what Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage | June 28, 2006 3:51 PM

Judging by the number of times that you used the word "I", we can all assume that you are talking about your personal situation and not passing judgement on others decisions.

So, everyone please keep the hating to a minimum.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 28, 2006 3:55 PM

"Hmm... I wonder how I'd feel if my husband said "I cringe at thinking how insane and unproductive I would have been stuck at home with her..." about me."

Are you kidding? I KNOW my husband would say that about me. For that matter, if I had to spend 24x7 with my husband, I'd feel the same way. :-)

Posted by: Jolie | June 28, 2006 3:58 PM

Oh my. I just read Grieving Mother's link to her story. I have no words, but my heart is very heavy right now. I am so very sorry for your loss.

Posted by: Bethesda | June 28, 2006 4:01 PM

Being unproductive is a choice. Allowing yourself to go insane while choosing to be unproductive is in itself insane. Assuming that you or anyone else would be unproductive and insane while staying home with an infant is a judgment.

I'm not judging anyone for working or putting kids in daycare. I've done both. I cringe at people assuming that being at home with a child is some sentence for themselves or anyone else. It can just as easily be seen as an opportunity.

Posted by: coaster | June 28, 2006 4:13 PM

Yay--a really nice posting on daycare! I am a working mom of two and I am blessed to have found a wonderful daycare in DC to which both of my kids have gone since they were 4 months old. I went on many interviews when I was pregnant and settled on the one that I felt would be the best. It turned out to be better than I imagined. As other posters have expressed, nothing will take my place but I feel so good leaving them in the care of such talented and wonderful women. The turnover rate is extremely low so the teachers that cared for my daughter throughout the years are now caring for her brother. Their daycare experiences have been wonderful and I have seen both of them blossom into caring, sharing kids in no small part to their daycare experiences. Thankfully, other parents feel the same and the kids with whom my daughter started out with in the infant room remain today as they ready for their "graduation" in August.

Posted by: Gina | June 28, 2006 4:15 PM

Grieving mother, you are very brave to post and to contribute. I am so sorry for your loss and I admire your courage and willingness to speak up and seek answers and changes.

Posted by: SS | June 28, 2006 4:19 PM

Does anyone know where I can find a list of companies in the DC area that provide on-site daycare?

Posted by: arlingtonmom | June 28, 2006 4:24 PM

Jolie - Thanks for the chuckle. And I'm so sorry!
The words "stuck at home with..." imply impatience or contempt. It's interesting that Leslie chose them.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 28, 2006 4:24 PM

Coaster wrote:
"I cringe at people assuming that being at home with a child is some sentence for themselves or anyone else."

Isn't a "cringe" a form of judgement?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 28, 2006 4:32 PM

to Coaster - Leslie was talking about her own experience and how she would have reacted to being home full time. It is not for everyone and she did not let herself go insane, she chose what worked for her and her family. I read nothing she wrote as passing judgment on anyone else or their choices. Your post, however, was very judgmental.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 28, 2006 4:54 PM

Oh my gosh me again, you posted right after scary. I hope she didn't offend you or imply that she wanted you sympathy from posting on the blog.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 28, 2006 5:00 PM

Leslie, thanks for the great post on daycare! I am fortunate to have my two children at the Bright Horizons' managed National Science Foundation Child Development Center, and I cannot say enough good things about the care, the teachers, the director, the assistant director -- just absolutely top notch! My employer has an agreement at the center where staff have priority placement on the waiting list, and it is such an amazing employee benefit. More employers should look into such options to make balancing family and work a bit easier.

Posted by: Virginia Mom of 2 | June 28, 2006 5:07 PM

I live in IL and pay $200 a week for a 19-month old. It drives me absolutely batty that the tax deduction for daycare is only $5K for one child and $6K for two. Even out here in the sticks the only way you are getting that low of a price is with a low-quality in-home care provider with some scary adult/child ratios. I wish this issue was on more legislator's agendas.

Posted by: outside the beltway | June 28, 2006 5:21 PM

Hmmm...it's amazing how people make things when they really don't know. And I have no idea where crazy godmother gets her info. Her name suits her.

Most childhood illnesses in otherwise healthy children are benign. Immunizations have really changed the quality of life for children in the modern era. Most causes of illness are due to viruses (>95%) and the manifestations are usually colds or diarrheal illnesses. While young children easily pass these viruses along to each other, there is not a lot of harm done. Unless you consider the time a parent needs to take off work to keep the kid out of daycare. We worry more about fever/illness in children less than 3 months because of their higher risk of serious infection, but even then it is not that common.

As a pediatrician, I try to avoid making working parents with kids in daycare feel guilty or bad about their situation. My patients are the working class/poor and have no choice but to work. And it has been shown that early exposure to viruses as a younger child does improve their immune reaction as older children. I am sure daycare workers can do a better job of washing their hands, wiping down toys, etc. So could doctors and nurses by the way. But I think that a great daycare outweights any of the minor illnesses kids get. And there may be benefits.

And there isn't anything worse than a child that dies. Except maybe if he or she is killed by their caretaker. Tragic.

Posted by: pediatrician | June 28, 2006 5:25 PM

"In "the olden days", mothers had children and took care of them. They also lived close to their family, and usually had sisters/aunts/cousins/extended family around all the time to help out, so that children got the benefit of a wide variety of adults, as well as the socialization of a wide variety of children. This also enabled the mothers to have time to do things like wash clothes, clean the house, cook meals, etc - and still have someone around to help with the child."

Forgive me if someone already addressed this oversight, but ask someone who actually lived through those times how rosy they were. My grandmother had 9 children. Actually she had 11, but the twins died in utero. My mother was number 8. Her father abandoned the family when she was three, and it was not really her mother who raised her, but her sister who was 7 years older. If her hair got cut, washed, her shoes tied before she learned, it was her sister who did it. The oldest children were 16 and 18 when their father bailed, and they were the ones who kept the family from going to an orphanage. They are now in their 80's and never married or had children of their own, but were very involved in the lives of their many nieces and nephews. They even raised a foster child for fifteen years! In addition, my great-aunt died in childbirth (with number 7) and they all went to an orphanage. My mom always laughed when she would come to my house and see the laundry piled up because in a house with eleven people there wasn't that much laundry. At any rate, isolation is a serious problem for new mothers. I started working part-time just so I could get my vocabulary back and have some interaction with adults.

Posted by: parttimer | June 28, 2006 9:44 PM

To all the Bright Horizons fans, they also ran the J&J daycare facility I loved so much -- another mom called it "a cross between Disneyland and Harvard."

Posted by: Leslie | June 28, 2006 10:21 PM

In response to Shamu, who wrote "I don't think most daycare workers choose it as a "profession." Unfortunately, it's low-paid, unskilled work. "

Wow...you really call raising children "unskilled" work?! My son is in daycare two days a week after being at home iwth me full time for 9 mo. It's a luxury I can afford to work and pay for his daycare those days. well, in fact I run my own business so I really can't afford it yet but will hopefuly turn a better profit soon. After tending him full time until now I know his teachers are the most skilled in the most important ways and respect them highly. If your children are in daycare I hope his or her teachers never hear you express your opinion about their standing.

Posted by: madison mom | June 28, 2006 10:55 PM

Grieving mom, what you have been through is really every parent's worst nightmare. It takes a lot to post this story on the blog so thank you and I hope you find the strength to live through this.

leslie: I think you're doing yourself an injustice assuming you would have been insane and unproductive at home. did you give it a real try ? I took a total of three years off for 2 kids when they were little and it changed my whole perspective on parenting (and staying home). managing kids on your own is hard, and in some ways harder than doing basically evenings and weekends with a spouse on hand (though it is a lot less stressful in many other ways than being a working parent).

Plus I found I made a ton of new 'mom' friends which was a huge bonus. These are people I would never have met if I hadn;t taken the time off. I work full time now and no it didn't destroy my career (I was afraid about that). I think unless you are really introverted or live in a remote area with very little going on, its not hard at all to be productive, engaged, have lots of friends and adult company (work is not the only place to find intelligent adult company) and generally keep the brain cells from rotting :)

Posted by: Anonymous | June 28, 2006 11:37 PM

madison mom - By unskilled labor I mean daycare's a job that doesn't require specific training, not that it's not challenging. I've worked in daycare and am intimately familiar with just how difficult it is. But unlike doctoring or lawyering or accounting there's no degree required to do it.

Daycare jobs are plentiful. Turnover is high. They usually pay pitifully and require about the same level of education that retail sales, waitressing or housecleaning do.

No offense was meant by my comment. I hope none was taken.

Posted by: what Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage | June 29, 2006 1:44 AM

To Arlington Mom,

I don't know about companies but I know that just about every federal agency has an onsite daycare. The Smithsonian has one (its apparently one of the best), the Library of Congress has a daycare which is very good. I know there is a daycare connected with George Washington University and a private daycare over near L'enfant plaza. The House and Senate also have daycares.
All have waiting lists, however, but its just a timing thing (you need a space at a specific time, they have a space, hopefully the two will meet).
For those of you who saw Grieving Mom's post yesterday, please do read the article she linked us to. It is heartbreaking but gives an opportunity for us working moms to try to work together on making daycare a safe and fun environment.

Posted by: typical working mother | June 29, 2006 8:28 AM

"Forgive me if someone already addressed this oversight, but ask someone who actually lived through those times how rosy they were."

I didnt quote the entire thing, because its long, but parttimer, I think we are saying the same thing actually. My point was, just because moms stayed home in "the olden days" did not mean they were the sole caregivers - family/extended family definitely played a large part in the child rearing, and most people don't have that luxury available to them anymore. In our case, we get that by sending our daughter to daycare - she has caregivers that love her (even if they aren't related to her) and other babies to play with, learn from, teach and thrive with.

Posted by: Jolie | June 29, 2006 10:21 AM

In Ontario, day cares are regulated by the Day Nurseries Act; each room in a day care must be staffed by qualified individuals......Early Childhood Educators who have either a diploma from College or a Degree from University.

The Day Nurseries Act also stipulates the teacher child ratio required per age group as well; any infractions to this could quickly mean the demise of the day care in and of itself.

Here in Ontario, to work in a day care requires specific training; the course of ECE in college is strenuous and I actually had more homework and projects then my husband attending day care.

It is far from being unskilled, one must study Basic Psychology and other important courses; my mother who is a teacher thought my education was equivalent to what she was taught in Teacher's college.

Day Care workers must also work in coordination with Child and Youth Care Workers, and other variety of social agencies; besides just doing circle times and generally caring for the children. Many ECE's act as support staff especially when realizing for the first time a child is special needs.

Many ECE's are recognized teacher assistant's who help in the classroom with special needs as well as assist in the Public Board in Junior Kindergarten.

I agree that day care teacher's are grossly underpaid for all the job requirements they must attend to, but to say that one does not require specific training to work in the profession is truly a sad statement.

I can't speak for the rest of Canada, but in Ontario, ECE's must pass stringent tests, background checks and prove their worth in order to work with young children and schoolagers to for that matter.

Posted by: Mom in Canada | June 29, 2006 11:00 AM

Please excuse the typo of "I actually had more homework than my husband attending- meant to say University instead of day care :)

Posted by: Mom in Canada | June 29, 2006 11:03 AM

On the issue of daycare being "skilled," I totally understand what Shamu meant but I think it's important to realize that in the US this varies a lot by facility (though I wish it were more like what Mom in Canada describes - thanks for the info and the perspective!).

My son's daycare requires all teachers to have a degree in early childhood education, and most of them are also pursuing their director's certificate/degree. They are also all required to complete 9 hours of continuing education every year. On the other hand, some of the other places we looked had no particular requirements. I think at those centers there probably are some women working there because it is something they can get without a particular degree, but at least at my son's center, the women are all dedicated to what they do and obviously love children.

Also, just a note that you can't rely on price or "brand name" to indicate quality. When we looked at the KinderCare near us, I was shocked that they had no particular requirements for their teachers, and the woman running the room my son would have been in had no background at all in childhood development or education and seemed to be a total basketcase. And it was over $100 more per week than the school we chose! I know lots of people who have had great luck with KinderCare, but apparently the quality varies a lot by center, so it pays to look at a lot of places before you choose.

Posted by: Megan | June 29, 2006 11:20 AM

I think it is an overstatement to say that most federal agencies have daycare. Many do, but many also do not. I work at one that does not. There are waiting lists everywhere in DC, even for employees with preference.

Also, for those interested in safety statistics of various care options, here is an interesting link:


It contains comparisons of fatalities and injuries at daycare centers, daycare in a provider's home, nannies, and parental care.

Posted by: Another DC Mom | June 29, 2006 11:28 AM

I'm not sure anyone will read this since it's yesterday's blog, but I don't see one up for today yet so here you go!

I think coaster has a good point about Leslie's comments about "cringing". I realize that she was talking about her own situation, but it was still a poor choice of words.

There's so much talk about "personal choice" and "happy mommies" and "this works best for ME" that people often forget about the big picture and what's really important....the *children.*

Two of my children spent their infant and preschool years in daycare at least part-time, and two of them have been "home" with me full time. I have personal experience with both sides of the story, and while I don't feel that my older children were damaged by spending time in daycare, that they thrived there and were happy - it doesn't mean that I don't think that the best situation for children is to have a caring parent "home" with them full time.

When I hear parents talk about how "I was going insane!!" or "I would go insane!!" I say "POO." (in my head, of course. :o) ). I worked from the time I was 14 years old, through high school, college, the birth of my first two children, graduate school and a divorce, until I had my 3rd child at age 35. I loved my job and had a fulfilling career.

"Staying at home" is not a prison sentence, and if it feels like one then I challenge the person who feels that way to do something proactive about it rather than pronounce it as one and running back into the workforce, dropping off little Susie at daycare on the way. Do something that you can do *with* your children with you. Volunteer. Join a social group (a mom/child group or otherwise). Freelance from home while your child is sleeping 12 hours a day. Start a home business. Take classes. Run for local office. Join a civic organization.

I live in the Pacific Northwest (I believe a poster a couple of days ago referred to it as one of the "crunchy corners" of the country.) Things are much more laid back here - but that doesn't mean that all of the things I mentioned above are more accessible than they are for people in East Coast metro areas. I think we just embrace them more - along with the idea that being at home with your children doesn't mean just being at home watching Oprah, going to the park and trying to decide who's a nanny and who's a mommy, and being hyperactive-Buffy-the-PTA-Nazi.

Posted by: momof4 | June 29, 2006 11:37 AM

"Do something that you can do *with* your children with you. Volunteer. Join a social group (a mom/child group or otherwise). Freelance from home while your child is sleeping 12 hours a day. Start a home business. Take classes. Run for local office. Join a civic organization."

momof4, are you that much of an idiot? Some people have to earn a living. Why would you give up your career for one of those options. I guess you didn't have much of a career to begin with.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 29, 2006 11:45 AM

"Staying at home" is not a prison sentence, and if it feels like one then I challenge the person who feels that way to do something proactive about it rather than pronounce it as one and running back into the workforce, dropping off little Susie at daycare on the way.

Momof4 is not an idiot. However, she does seem to be ignoring the basic fact that not everyone wants to stay home, whether for economic reasons or other. And many of us would say, that's okay. I agree that staying at home isn't (inherently) a prison sentence but as with most of the things discussed on this blog, everyone has a different situation, different wants, needs, etc that inform how they decide to balance their lives. And they are the ones that have to decide and to deal with the ramifications of what they decide. May we all be able to figure out what works best for our families and actually be able to do it.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | June 29, 2006 12:06 PM

Some people may want to drop Susie off at day care. I think some people have exaggerated what Leslie said about wanting to go back to work and going insane if she didn't.

Also, she said it was her opinion, with her experience. I actually liked being at home for three months, having time to write, cook and clean, etc. That doesn't mean that I want to do it all the time or that I could do it all the time.

I'm just glad that most of us have choices.

Posted by: Scarry | June 29, 2006 12:15 PM

mom of 4,

I don't always agree with everything you say, but don't let people on this board get you down when they call you names.

I wouldn't even try to argue back with them becasue they will probably just say everyone is enilted to their opinion, like they always do, but then get all annoyed when you have one or when you answer their posts.

Posted by: Scarry | June 29, 2006 12:27 PM

I think its pretty clear that Momof4 was directing her post at people who say that they could not stay home because they would go crazy, not at those who say that they could not stay home because they cannot afford to.

And I think her point is a fair one. It seems like we tend to think of either working or staying at home as all or nothing, and assume that if you decide to stay home, your life will revolve completely around cheerios, finger paints, and silly songs. But it doesn't have to be that way; I was much happier as a mostly SAHM once I went back to class and also had writing project. I took several hours a couple days a week to work on something intellectually challenging, and spent the rest of the time with my son, and that kept me from going stir crazy and insane. Now that my son is older, I can imagine that if I were still a SAHM, it would be possible to take on volunteer work and stuff that I could do while still being with him.

Like Rockville Mom said, may we all have the ability to figure out what we need to do - I think what Momof4 was pointing out is that a little creativity can change the meaning of being a SAHM a little bit and might make it more interesting for some.

Posted by: Megan | June 29, 2006 12:48 PM

In response to the unskilled labor conversation, I wanted to point out that "unskilled labor" is a term that means the workers "generally have less than a high-school education, are often semi-literate, and perform basic manual labor with little or no training." The image that comes to mind is of migrant workers an factory employees. So the definition doesn't really fit daycare workers. However, when you think about it, caring for a child does not require any training. Any idiot can procreate and care for a child (maybe not well, but that's anyone's opinion). And in the U.S. (not Canada, as someone already pointed out), you do not need a degree to care for children. 12-year-olds babysit. I worked as a floater at a nursery school when I was in high school. Women open their own home daycares without college degrees. That is why the people who care for children do not get paid as much as skilled employees. They certainly make more than migrant workers!
Having said that, I think that all public servants (teachers, police, firefighters, and child care workers) are grossly underpaid and undervalued. These people protect our way of life, our safety, and the futures of our children. There are no more important jobs. We should all strive to get these workers decent benefits and good pay; heck, even great pay! They deserve it.

Posted by: Meesh | June 29, 2006 1:08 PM

To add to Meesh's remarks - This blog is full of highly educated women, but I wonder if all have received education in child psychology, early childhood development, education, etc. Yet, I believe that all feel qualified to be mothers to their children. Screening and background checks of daycare workers should be mandatory, if isn't already. Formal high-level education in the above subjects is a bonus, but, in my opinion, is not necessary to care for small children. A lot depends on whether you are looking for a safe, fun place to keep your children where they learn basics like colors, counting, learning to use scissors, etc; or if you are looking for a more school-like setting where the staff are as much teachers as care-givers.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 29, 2006 1:18 PM

And about the "going crazy" at home conversation, I think it's important to point out a simple fact: Every woman has different needs.
I know some women who feel totally content staying at home with the baby, immersing themselves in the community, and running the house; they are absolutely thrilled with their lives.
I know other women who leave their kids in daycare and pursue their careers 50 hours a week. They are thrilled that they can keep up in the corporate world and have a great family.
The bottom line is that each women needs to make herself happy to be the best mom she can be. A bitter woman will raise bitter children and alienate her spouse. It's not selfish to make yourself "whole," whatever way you need to do it! In the long run, you have no one to blame but yourself if you stop caring for yourself once you have a child.

Posted by: Meesh | June 29, 2006 1:19 PM

momof4, I certainly don't think you are an idiot, but I do disagree with some of your presumptions. First, I absolutely reject the notion that the kids get forgotten. Every parent I know, whether SAHM or WOHM or somewhere in-between, has done so in large part because they believe that IS what is best for their children. You may disagree with their choice, but that doesn't mean they just forgot to consider the kids.

Second, I do not share your apparent belief that daycare is always the second-best option, and that parents should explore every other alternative that might allow them to avoid it. My daughter is very extroverted and energetic, with a tremendous need for structure; I am the opposite. Daycare was an absolute necessity for her -- she needed that structure and stimulation the way other people need air. And I simply couldn't provide that nearly as well as the women at her daycare center; I love my daughter more than anything in the world, but I do not have training in early childhood development that they do, nor do I have the organizational abilities that have allowed some moms I know to effectively run a preschool-type program with their own kids.

Third, I am not sure how some of your proposed solutions would be any better in terms of time with my kids/avoiding daycare. If I was actually elected to office, wouldn't that mean a lot of time away from my kids while I dealt with those responsibilities? Why is it only working for pay that seems to be frowned on?

Finally, referring to SAH as a "prison sentence" is certainly hyperbole (and I'm sure wasn't intended to be read as literally as some of the posters here seem to think), but it does catch the flavor of how I would feel without my job. Yes, volunteering, joining a group, etc. could provide adult stimulation, but it's not about only that -- it's about being able to exercise a part of my brain that I simply cannot with my children. I need quiet time that allows me to delve so deeply into a problem that sometimes time seems to stop; that is, quite simply, impossible with my daughter anywhere within about a 50-yard radius (I call her "doppler girl," because you can always tell when she's coming and going). I have tried a number of the options you suggest, and so far, none of them come close to filling that need.

These are tough choices, not made frivolously, with a "right" answer is different for every family. And all parents who struggle with this deserve more than a dismissive "oh, poo," whether you agree with them or not.

Posted by: Laura | June 29, 2006 1:23 PM

OK, then. How about "pink-collar" if "unskilled labor" doesn't do the trick for you?

Posted by: what Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage | June 29, 2006 1:30 PM

I've never heard the term "pink collar" before what does it mean?

Posted by: Scarry | June 29, 2006 1:37 PM

Sure! We can use pink collar to refer to any job that is generally considered to be women's work, like child care and housekeeping. I think that these jobs get the least respect of all the labor-intensive jobs.
And isn't it funny that the majority of chefs out there are men? Is it because they have world-reknown culinary schools but no Harvard for nannies? Or is it only considered women's work if it pays dirt? Pay them boatloads of money, add prestige, and *ta da*, it's a "craft."

Posted by: Meesh | June 29, 2006 1:45 PM

scarry -
what did you write during those three months?

Posted by: curious | June 29, 2006 3:06 PM

"This blog is full of highly educated women, but I wonder if all have received education in child psychology, early childhood development, education, etc. Yet, I believe that all feel qualified to be mothers to their children."

This is true, but I would point out that there is a world of difference between taking care of one 18-month-old and taking care of 5 of them (that's the required ratio in my state). If I'm going to leave my child to get 1/5 the supervision and attention than he would get if he was home with me, I want to know that that person has some extra skills and abilities. I feel like I am competent to be a good mother, but I don't think that qualifies me to be a good daycare worker. I could probably get by without anyone getting hurt, but I don't think they would be nearly as happy and nurtured as the children in my son's class are - that takes some special talent, and an education in childhood development and education probably helps some too.

Daycare is like a lot of jobs, there are a lot of people who can do them, but not all of those people can do them well.

Posted by: Megan | June 29, 2006 3:08 PM

Laura, you make excellent points. I'll add one more. I was a mom at home, and the when baby no. 2 was 5 months old, my husband decided it was too much responsibility and left - me, the 5 month old, and the 2 year old. That experience made me realize in a very emphatic way that I would never, never, never be financially dependent on anyone again. I could afford to stay home with baby no.3 because I remarried and my husband would happily support us (including the two boys from my first marriage). That's not the only point for me. I need to know that I am self-supporting and have the means to support my children independently. Yes, I love my work, and my income allows us to do things as a family that we wouldn't be able to afford if I were home full time, and I think I am providing a good role model to my children by working. But, most important to me is having that financial independence. The blog last week about post-nuptial agreements included points realated to this too but no agreement would ever be enough for me to ensure the financial indepence that I learned to value.

Posted by: SS | June 29, 2006 3:38 PM

Oh, I wrote all kinds of stuff! I am a writer by trade, though i'm sure you can't tell it by reading the blog. I usually type to fast and don't proof read.

Those three months I wrote a lot about my daughter, I started work on a couple of children's books, which I still haven't finished. Maybe I should right a book about life on the blog.

Posted by: Scarry | June 29, 2006 3:48 PM

I'm a little late responding since this is yesterday's blog, but Leslie, I completely agree with you about staying home and "going insane/being unproductive." Not everyone thinks of staying home this way, but I gather most men do, or they'd be staying home, and I certainly do, so I don't stay home. Don't worry - I don't think your comment was overblown. In fact, you cogently articulated how at least one other person would feel about staying home with kids.

Posted by: Just a thought | June 29, 2006 3:50 PM

Leslie - It's quite a stretch to read "judgment" into my post. Yes, I "cringed."

But I didn't say I felt sorry for anyone, or that I pitied anyone. Please don't put words in my mouth.

As I said, I'm a working mom, too. I enjoy what I do. I am grateful for childcare that allows me to do it.

But there's a little part of me that's uncomfortable with the self-righteous of some working moms -- especially the ones who suggest that they'd go CRAZY if they stayed home, or whatever. They act so entitled to work. They sometimes treat motherhood as such an inconvenience to their careers. There's a part of me that thinks, "Maybe motherhood isn't for you, then."

I don't mean this in a judgmental way. I mean it in a self-reflective way, because I've thought about it even with regard for myself. It raises questions such as "what does motherhood mean to me? what do I think defines a good mother? And how many different ways can a good mother be defined?"

I think a mother who utilizes daycare can be a wonderful mother. And I think staying home to care for children does not inherently make someone a good mother. But sometimes I hear from working moms a disturbing emphasis on the self, and a tendency to minimize their children's needs.

It's about attitude, not action. A mother's decision to work or stay home does not define her as a mother. It does not make her a good mother or a bad mother. But an excessive focus on the self (and note that I said "excessive" -- I recognize that mothers are people, too) can compromise one's mothering. And sometimes your attitude about your career oozes self-focus.

Posted by: Feminist Mom | June 30, 2006 11:14 AM

For Feminist Mom (not critical, just actually wondering), if a man told you he couldn't be a SAHD, would you think he was putting a disturbing emphasis on himself and minimizing his children's needs?

Posted by: Just a thought | June 30, 2006 12:00 PM

I would just like to say the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center is great, my son was there as a toddler and we loved it, he loved it. I can't say enough wonderful things about the staff and the wonderfully engaging environment my son found himself in. He was and is an extroverted child and being at SEEC enabled him to have some amazing experiences he would not have had with his introverted mother & dad.

Posted by: working mom of two | June 30, 2006 5:34 PM

Just a thought - It's a good question. But I think of parents as a team. I cringe for the couples who put their careers before their children. It's not really gender specific, IMHO.

Parents can come up with all kinds of arrangements that work. (My husband worked part time for the first year that I returned to work full time.)

So no, I don't think that only women need to think about these questions. But neither women nor men should face these questions alone, since babies are conceived by a team. (Though I recognize that some circumstances create reluctant single parents.)

Posted by: feminist Mom | July 5, 2006 10:48 AM

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