High Price of Day Care?

I can't stand most media reports about day care, because they seem designed to terrify and guilt-trip working moms. The reports are never about quality day care, which I've found to be a godsend in my life as a working parent. However, an article on the high price of day care, which ran in the New York Times last Wednesday, is well worth reading.

The findings were objective. Unsettling, too.

The article reported on a day care experiment in Canada. Synopsis: 10 years ago the Quebec Family Policy started subsidizing day care at government-approved centers, ultimately spending $1.4 billion a year to offer care at only $7 a day. Mothers who suddenly had an affordable way to return to work did so in droves and gave the economy a lift.

Great so far, right?

Then three well-respected economists analyzed the well-being of the children (and parents) in the program. They found bits of good news -- but most of it was bad. On the kid front, higher levels of anxiety and aggression in the kids versus other Canadian children, greater risk of obesity and behavioral problems, better prepared for school. The parents reported being more depressed and less satisfied with their marriages than other Canadians.

In the United States, we're in the same boat: Almost two-thirds of children younger than 6 don't have a parent at home with them during the day, up from roughly 33 percent 35 years ago (when many of us were kids).

My working mom heart says: It can't be true that day care is bad for kids and parents. I know in my situation it wasn't -- my three kids all thrived in day care. As did I -- knowing they were safe and well-cared for while I was at work.

Another voice says: Of course it's true. I remember kids in day care who weren't thriving, young children who were away from their parents and the comforts of home for too many hours a day, too many days a week. I remember one day care dad who campaigned for the center hours, 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. five days a week, to expand. His children were both under 5.

So what I have to say is: Yes, it's true, quality day care is no magic bullet for working parents (or their children). But beware politicians and conservatives who use this study to alarm and guilt-trip working mothers into quitting their jobs or hiring nannies or begging grandma to baby-sit instead of using day care. Because good, affordable day care is a critical component of success for working parents. But what this study shows is that employees also need flexible hours from employers, so we can give children and ourselves what all families need to thrive: time together.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  June 21, 2006; 10:00 AM ET  | Category:  Raising Great Kids
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You know in the mommy wars, people talk a lot about sacrifices and choices, but there are angles there are often missing. For many mothers, staying home isn't about giving up their own self-fulfillment because their kids needed them at home, it was a financial decision. When they take out taxes from their paychecks, there isn't enough to cover decent daycare for two or three kids.

Posted by: college kid | June 21, 2006 10:31 AM

Just a correction. The program offers daycare at $7 per DAY not $7/hr. I was wondering how one considered $7/hr inexpensive for 40-50 hours a week.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | June 21, 2006 10:35 AM

So true. A lot of the 5.6 million stay-at-home moms are at home because their paychecks don't cover childcare.

Posted by: Leslie | June 21, 2006 10:36 AM

Daycare I don't know about (we've always staggered shifts or used family) but the price of camps shocks me. I agree with the comments above, sometimes people are home just because the math doesn't add up to their working.

Posted by: Fairfax | June 21, 2006 10:39 AM

I'm glad this is being discussed. We have a great daycare situation now. My oldest went to Kindercare here in Anne Arundel County from age 3 months to 4 1/2 -- when our youngest was born the cost of infant care had really skyrocketed so we moved them both to the state-run daycare -- we had heard decent things and the cost was reasonable. The experience was mixed at the 2nd daycare -- our oldest had a lot of fun but our youngest when he reached about 18 months old began to experience certain traits that I think were related to the attention (or lack thereof) he got at the daycare. When he was two we moved him back to the Kindercare near our house and our oldest started going to the afterschool program at his elementary school. The experience has been really amazing -- the hours are great, both our kids really thrived at Kindercare and get lots of attention from their teachers. My older son's after school program is phenomenal and reasonably price ($200 a month for afterschool care is great)
Its affordable for us but those who make less are really in a bind or might not find a good place. We've never been big on in-home daycare or having a nanny -- there is no one to watch what is going on except for biannual checks from the state. While lots of people might be turned off of institutional daycare, both my kids are very social, are learning things that they might not learn in a different environment and seem well adjusted. My little one comes home every night with a new song he's learned or a new letter or number and chatters about all of the things that he did that day.
Maryland does, however, have very stringent regulations regarding child care facilities which makes me feel better.
And, just a big plug for Kindercare. They have facilities around the country and are accredited by the NAEYC which does the accreditation for daycare facilities.
I think asking grandparents to be the daycare providers is a big commitment -- I know of one family where the grandmother watches 6 cousins, including an infant, which I think is really above and beyond.
The biggest thing I would say about finding a good daycare is go with your gut. If something isn't quite right when you visit then don't send your kids. And if you see something happening that shouldn't be, report it to the center director -- if they are a good facility they will take care of the problem quickly.

Posted by: typical working mother | June 21, 2006 10:40 AM

"A lot of the 5.6 million stay-at-home moms are at home because their paychecks don't cover childcare."

Presumably if Mom was hit by a bus, Dad would have to fork over the money for daycare, as he would be unable to quit his job and stay home to take care of the kids. The question, therefore, is whether Mom's salary can cover half of daycare, and whether Dad's salary can cover the other half.

Posted by: Lizzie | June 21, 2006 10:48 AM

I am a product of day care. I also was in pre-school. I am not aggressive. I am responsible, successful working mother. As a matter of fact, by the time I started kindergarten, I was so advanced that the teacher saw fit to place me with the children that had been home with a parent for the first five years because "I would help them learn". Thankfully, my mother saw this as code for" your child is too advanced and we need to bring her down a notch". So while there may be validity to the study, in reality it may not be true in all cases. Certainly not mine.

Additionally both of my children are in day care with a learning format and are thriving and very intelligent. My only concern as a working mom is being away for so long during the day - but that's my issue to resolve. Otherwise, they are just fine.

Posted by: On the Comback | June 21, 2006 10:50 AM

I know this isn't going to make parents happy, but I think there are some children who, no matter how good the daycare center is, will not thrive in daycare. Maybe introverted kids don't do well in daycare. (As a young child, being around so many other children and adults and having no "space" to myself would have made me mental. I still thank my mom for not sending me to kindergarten because it gave me an extra year of solitude.) Maybe there are other personality factors and maybe things going on in the child's homelife have an effect. On the other hand, some kids who would be bored and listless at home alone with mom and maybe one other sibling might thrive in daycare. We can't keep thinking that all children are alike and there is some magic daycare situation in which they'll all be happy and thriving. I wish the people who come up with the statistics would find a way to measure which children are better suited for daycare and which would be better in, for example, their own homes with an adult such as a relative or a nanny.

Posted by: Happy Introvert | June 21, 2006 10:50 AM

Leslie - I saw this study, too, but I wondered about the quality of care in those centers, and I wanted to know if you had been able to track down any more details about the care in those centers. Government-approved here in the States does not mean much. It varies widely from state to state. In some places, a 1:6 ratio for 2 year olds is acceptable, yet the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) believes that a 1:4 ratio is more appropriate for 2 year olds.

The bottom line is, that though I do wholeheartedly agree that moms and dads need more flexibility to meet their kids needs, parents also need to pay attention to their kids and recognize when they need help! My daughter is 3 and doing well in preschool in a NAEYC-accredited center. However, several of her classmates are not: inappropriately acting out, fighting, hitting, not listening, etc. I've spoken with those kids' parents (casually at birthday parties), and they don't get it. They believe their kids are just fine, even though the staff (college-educated, including graduate degrees) believes they have some behavioral problems. Maybe that father petitioned for longer hours was doing so because he wanted to work, not because he had to work. And that's the sad part.

Posted by: Ruth in Arlington | June 21, 2006 10:52 AM

Day care is a abdication of parental responsibility, pure & simple.

Posted by: Registered Voter | June 21, 2006 10:55 AM

Daycare can take a chunk out of your salary, no doubt. In some professions it's good to take the hit just for the 'foot in the door' effect. In IT if you're out too long your skills aren't worth anything. If you can keep your skills current and tread water finacially for a few years you may still end up ahead in those later tutition heavy years when you're able to work and command a senior level salary.

If you don't have a career where this is the case, then it would make sense to stay at home.

Posted by: RoseG | June 21, 2006 10:55 AM

It is true that QUALITY daycare is what makes the difference. When my eldest was born, we originally preferred the idea of a center versus a home daycare but availability is what decided us on a home daycare. But it has worked out really well. In Montgomery County (MD), a home daycare can only have up to eight children, which I personally would think insane if there was only one adult. But in our case, there are two full-time (non-related) adults taking care of eight children. My eldest has been there for almost four years, starting at three months old. She has been with these same two loving, teaching women (zero staff turnover) for all of that time. These women know and love all the kids. My daughter knows (and has for a while) how to write the entire alphabet and spell her name among other things. There are a couple of other children that have been there about the same amount of time. For a while, including my two kids, there were three sets of siblings. My daughter will go off to pre-K in the fall but before now, there is no way I would have wanted to put her somewhere else.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | June 21, 2006 10:57 AM

"The question, therefore, is whether Mom's salary can cover half of daycare, and whether Dad's salary can cover the other half."

Hirshman makes the same argument. I think it's silly. If you're paying more for daycare than the lower-income parent works, than you are paying to work. If you think it's worth it, that's fine-- but know that you are paying for that privilege. I know of several dads (as well as many moms) who decided to stay at home because they didn't want to pay to work.

As for the stay-at-home parent being hit by a bus... well, this is why most financial planners urge both parents to get life insurance, even if one is non-income earning.

Posted by: Ms L | June 21, 2006 11:00 AM

Leslie, please delve further into the topic of day care costs. The fact that decent day care is so expensive, especially for infants and small children, is a major factor in many families' decisions about who returns to work and when. For example, at the (very good) day care that my children attend, costs are so high that there are hardly any kids there whose parents earn a salary below the upper-middle range. (The few that do attend receive "scholarships.") When we exclude this topic from our discussion of work-family issues, we ensure that the discussion will only be relevant to upper middle class families.

Posted by: randommom | June 21, 2006 11:02 AM

I do agree about the high variability of day care. When my daughter was little, we kept her in a home daycare because I feel it most closely resembles being her being home with us. It was a very wonderful experience, and we are still friends with the family - in fact the Mom at one time was the PTA president and worked at my daughter's elementary school. I have a bias about places like Kindercare for kids under 3. Mainly due to the institutional type environment and the large staff turnover.

Once my daughter hit age 4, and had been going to preschool too since age 3 she was bored by the whole home daycare. We had an awful experience for 6 weeks last summer (she was 9 and they were verbally abusing her) but most of the time my husband is a SAHD.

Posted by: Another Working Mom | June 21, 2006 11:04 AM

I agree that some children just won't thrive in a daycare setting. But perhaps there are other reasons for the increased aggression in daycare children. More violence on TV, or something. I don't know. It's depressing.

Posted by: Thought | June 21, 2006 11:05 AM

I completely agree with Happy Introvert. I also think there are far too many variables to draw a "global" conclusion of Daycare = good or Daycare = bad based on this one study. Not only are kids different from other kids, but daycares are different from other daycares.

Private, non-employer-subsidized daycare is extremely expensive in Fairfax County. $1000/month and up for infants. Assuming that you decide to take that step, you do need to interview several daycares (caregiver-to-child-ratios, and, frankly, intelligence level and likability of caregivers) to find one that fits best for your child. (Not necessarily the one that fits best for you. You may have to get up earlier and drive further.)

My wife and I are extremely happy that our son is walking, climbing stairs and talking far before the average age for doing such. He's comfortable around new people and knows how to play with other kids.

I think that someone who uses this study to say that all daycares are bad for all kids either isn't understanding what this study can be used to conclude, or is seeking to spin these results to reinforce their own pre-existing opinions.

Posted by: Proud Papa | June 21, 2006 11:07 AM

We are moving and having to switch care providers. I'm actually going to be saving money - $900/month rather than $300/week as I spend now, but cost isn't the only issue. I am terrified that I can't get lucky twice in finding quality day care. I love our current provider and how good she is to my son. I just hope the next one is jsut as good.

PS there was an article in Friday's post about a NoVa home daycare provider sentenced to jail in the death of a 10-month old. That story panics me beyond belief.

Posted by: NewMom | June 21, 2006 11:11 AM

Isn't it amazing how well traditional day care worked. Mom stayed home and did it right for the kids. It didn't cost much either. There weren't 3 SUVs in the driveway, either.

Posted by: Steve | June 21, 2006 11:11 AM

I too get upset over bad news on daycare. My daughter has been at a wonderful daycare since she was 4 months old. She is happy and healthy and I would much rather have her there than home with a nanny (would most like to have her with me more...). However, we pay a big price for it - about $18,000 a year, which makes most people fall out of their chairs when they hear that! I usually go on to note that it is year-round, no Christmas/Spring breaks, and 9 hours a day, etc.. 18K comes out to be almost half of my take home pay so it has made us put off having another child as at that point it makes no sense for me to work (esp. if you throw in my $200/month commuting costs). I'd like to continue to work, at least part time, but at my current job that is not an option as the powers that be won't allow it. If we have another child, a nanny is still not worth it as I would want my eldest to be in pre-school at least part time to keep her socialization up and that costs a lot. So, what to do? I will most likely become a full-time SAHM, which, is certainly not the end of the world for me but not my ideal.

Posted by: CC | June 21, 2006 11:13 AM

As I said, institutional daycare is not for everyone. Both our kids were in two different Kindercares and the staff turnover is low at both locations.
I cannot say the same for the state-run daycare though which was the problem. The clincher for us and why we moved our son was that I began noticing that when I would bring him in in the morning, they would coo over him and hold him. I would then leave and look back and they would just look irritated and put him down as soon as I left.

And no, daycare is not an abdication of parental responsibility -- its a reality of life for many working parents. I would be curious as to the age/income bracket and marital situation of "Registered Voter" and whether he/she has children as well as life experiences related to daycare or if a spouse chose to stay home. Are you Ann Coulter in disguise?

Posted by: typical working mother | June 21, 2006 11:14 AM

We can't keep thinking that all children are alike and there is some magic daycare situation in which they'll all be happy and thriving. I wish the people who come up with the statistics would find a way to measure which children are better suited for daycare and which would be better in, for example, their own homes with an adult such as a relative or a nanny.

Posted by: Happy Introvert | June 21, 2006 10:50 AM

When we decided to put our son in part-time day care at 18 months, I found the website www.zerotothree.org to be really helpful in thinking about the different types of daycare and what is best for your child. Our son is very sociable and so we decided to go with a day care center - he's there only half days and so far has done great (though I do see a little more aggressive behavior, but am not sure if that is due to the day care or to his approaching two). But the site recommended for children who are more introverted or less boisterous other types of settings, such as in-home or one-on-one, and also gave good advice on what to look for in a particular center to make sure it matches your child's needs.

Posted by: Megan | June 21, 2006 11:15 AM

"Isn't it amazing how well traditional day care worked. Mom stayed home and did it right for the kids. It didn't cost much either."

How is this "traditional?" One of my grandmothers worked her whole life. She owned a sandwich shop and after my dad and aunt were done with school for the day, they were expected to go wash dishes and flip burgers until closing time. My other grandmother was a farm wife who set my mom to work picking cotton - literally picking cotton - when she was 5 years old. To imply that women as non-productive household members are somehow "traditional" is classist beyond belief.

I'm sure my maternal grandmother would rather have sent my mom to a nice preschool or daycare than putting her to work, but they needed the money.

Posted by: Lizzie | June 21, 2006 11:18 AM

Let me add the 2cents of an oft-forgotten group of working parents--single moms. My ex-husband does not pay support of any kind, he just decided to stop and the courts can do nothing. So, I work because I have to. I think not working and going on welfare or living on the streets would be an "abdication of parental responsibility," don't you?

I also work because it's important to me, and good for me--and my daughter. I'm fortunate to have had great daycare for her since she started daycare full time at age 1. I do pay for it, but it's worth it to me, for her to have low caregiver ratios, high levels of enriching activities and a safe place. Now, I am lucky to have a senior level job in a great corporation, which does mean an occasional long day--but I work hard in order to give us a comfortable life--not in an extravagant McMansion, by any means.

That said, I certainly wish there were more federal tax credit for childcare costs--not the paltry $400 to "offset" the $13,000 per year I pay. Subsidized childcare is available in America, if you're a federal government employee, with lower costs, care centers at your place of work, which incidentally are paid for by taxpayers, and enrollment preference over the general, taxpaying public.

Posted by: Single Mom in VA | June 21, 2006 11:19 AM

Please - let's not take the bait put out by Registered Voter and Steve. It's smells terrible and is better avoided in favor of relevant points.

Posted by: cb | June 21, 2006 11:21 AM

When my daycare expenses got too much, I completed my master's degree and applied for a job with a $10k raise to cover daycare costs. That's what fathers do. They step up to the plate and pay for it.

Posted by: Don | June 21, 2006 11:22 AM

One added component to the day care conundrum is that, while good daycare is expensive for individual families, especially with more than one child, day care employees are typically paid very low wages, particularly in comparison to other professions. My son goes to a wonderful after-care place that pays its employees well and offers benefits. The turnover is low and the quality is high, but it is expensive. While I don't often advocate government involvement, it is hard to see how this question can be resolved without some federal subsidies.

Posted by: Kris D | June 21, 2006 11:23 AM

Hmmm, not quite sure why these findings are surprising. The NYTimes article indicates (1) that the number of children in daycare increased 50% in a very short period of time (likely leaving the centers understaffed or forced to hire less experienced employees); (2) that the child per provider ratios were "on the high side," whatever that means, (3) that the educational content of the centers was mediocre, (4) that the program had the effect of discouraging anything less than 8 hrs a day in daycare, and (5) that the centers in the study were the government-approved ones (and so likely adhered only to minimum standards, since they likely wouldn't get reimbursed for going above and beyond). So basically, warehousing a huge influx of kids for 8+ hrs a day with inexperienced workers and a lousy curriculum -- and it's surprising this didn't work well?

This study doesn't give me any concerns about good daycare, because the facts there don't even come close to reflecting that kind of environment. It does, however, reaffirm the seriousness of the issue for those who simply can't afford the astronomical cost of high-quality daycare. We pay over $2K/mo. for two kids -- that IS a full-time salary.

Finally, a broad study can't reflect the individual differences that are so critical to determining the "best" situation for each child. My daughter would have been miserable stuck at home with me -- she is energetic, people-oriented, and craves schedule and order; I am just the opposite, and so would find it extremely difficult to create the kind of scheduled, ordered environment she craves. So a daycare center was perfect for her. On the other hand, my son seems far quieter; what was perfect for her may be overwhelming for him. But we are lucky enough to be in a position to choose the best environment for him -- a choice many others don't have.

Posted by: Laura | June 21, 2006 11:25 AM

Let's think about the working moms keeping your children. Shouldn't they be well paid for their skills(I'm sure you expect your employer to pay you well for your services), they are dealing with the most precious thing you have yet we want to go cheap on them. 9 hours a day educating, entertaining, feeding,etc groups of children is not the easiest task in the world. Not including insurance, health (bending, running, cleaning, etc) costs and related costs. Should the state subsidize the desires of modern couples (moms and dads) want the certain houses, cars, jbs & the kids?

Posted by: Michelle | June 21, 2006 11:31 AM

When my second child was born I tried staying at home, I was bored out of my mind. Even meeting with other SAHMs and joining groups were filled with discussions of breastfeeding, which child has new teeth and which kid rolled over, sat up, held a spoon, or crawled, or walked or talked for the first time. The joy of spending time with my child was unmatched by the joy I felt when my husband returned home everyday so that I had another adult to talk to about what was going on in the world at large and not just the world of SAHMs. He saw how miserable I was and said I should go back to work. I come from a line of working moms and the children that grew up in the family are highly functioning adults/moms/dads. I really think it's all about what works for you and your child/ren. My child was placed in at-home care at a moderate price and all of us including my little one were happier for it. When I'm at work I'm a great employee and when I'm at home I'm a great mom! When I was a SAHM, I was not a happy mom and now my child is thriving. Just because you're a SAHM doesn't mean you're a good mom and just because you're an WOHM doesn't mean you're a bad one.

Posted by: MBAmom | June 21, 2006 11:31 AM

To Single Mom in VA,

If you check -- I believe it is $2500 for daycare credits in addition to the federal tax credits. Also, I don't know if your employer offers this but there is a "flex fund" that many employers offer which allows up to $5000 in tax deductions for daycare. In regards to child support -- the state of virginia does offer assistance in obtaining back pay -- it doesn't necessarily have to come from the courts. Here is the link to their site.

http://www.dss.virginia.gov/family/dcse.html

In Maryland they have recently passed a law linking child support payments to getting occupational licenses (you have to be paying required child support if you want to have an occupational license.)


Regarding cb's comments -- you are right -- I saw them and just felt they added no value but had to say something......I forget this is just a blog sometimes

Posted by: typical working mother | June 21, 2006 11:34 AM

Really, Leslie, you should actually read the study rather than report breathlessly on what the NY Times puts out. That Times piece was pure op-ed, despite being put in the business section. Of course, it's hardly surprising that you're unclear on the difference between editorializing and facts.

The Quebec study demonstrated that while increase in child care went way up, increase in maternal employment went up by only a third of that amount. In other words, a number of women were moving their kids from informal to formal daycare. Many other women were using daycare when in fact they weren't employed.

The negatives were entirely self-reported by the parents and teachers. The positives were easily and objectively measured. The negatives were not broken down by group--were they caused by the kids who were suddenly put in daycare? And were the kids who created the negatives the ones that had just been put in daycare? Were they the ones whose mothers worked already and had used alternative care?

We don't know the answer to any of those questions.

Myself, I don't really care about these miniscule isseus with daycare, because they pale against the damage done by a mother who can't pay for her children. So I don't have any vested interest in proving daycare doesn't have mild negatives. They don't come near the damage caused by a mother whose only support comes from welfare.

Posted by: Cal | June 21, 2006 11:34 AM

It looks to me like some of the negative consequences that the Canadian study pointed out, especially aggressiveness, are considered positive traits by Americans.

Many of the commentors (sp?) in favor of day care so far point out how advanced and social their children are because they attended daycare. Intense early socialization and the necessity to compete for the day care provider's attention with other kids (usually more kids than a child would encounter if he/she was just at home with siblings) will easily become the fierce competitiveness that parents know their children will need to compete in life, from youth soccer through to college.

In addition the parent's competitive instincts are satisfied by being able to boast about their children's advanced skills.

Therefore, instilling aggressive behavior in children is an advantage in America, because we all know that life is about winning and being #1 at everything we do, and without competition there would be no reason to live.

Posted by: Kid Free in Alexandria | June 21, 2006 11:35 AM

When I was pregnant with my second child, a coworker asked if I was planning to stay home after the birth. My response was, "If I can't afford to stay home with one, why do you think I can afford to stay home with two?". Daycare was about 30-40% of my salary, but we needed the rest of the income and I also carry the health insurance. By the way, no SUV's in my driveway, but there are 2 10-year old cars.

My children both did well in daycare. When I was a child, and the moms were home, the toddlers were left in playpens with toys and the moms took care of the house, laundry, etc. If the daycare providers are loving people, why are they automatically considered worse than family? Many grandmothers are young enough to still be working themselves. Others are deceased or have health problems or are just older (70's) and do not have the energy or desire to be taking care of babies and toddlers again.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 21, 2006 11:37 AM

Wow, federal employees get subsidized day care? That's news to me! My husband and I are both feds, and we have not encountered this. We feel lucky that we do both have onsite daycare, but it is private, not subsidized. Maybe there are other branches of government (military?) where there are subsidies.

Just wanted to be clear on that!

Posted by: curious new mom | June 21, 2006 11:41 AM

There is one small bright side regarding the high cost of daycare my wife and I have been paying, and that is: when it comes time for our kids to begin college, it won't be as much of a financial shock as it's portrayed to be. We've paid almost $80k for good daycare in the past 5.5 years for our two kids, and have at least $28k more before the youngest is in 1st grade.

In the meantime, we've been paying into a college savings fund for them. So when college comes in 12 or so years, we will likely have just as much take home pay then that we do now.

I realize how fortunate we are to be in this situation, and that it doesn't address the social issues and any other daycare conundrums, but personally, I'm glad to know that if we can swing things now, we'll be able to swing college in the future, and I can mostly disregard the fear-inducing headlines about college tuition bills.

Posted by: Half Full | June 21, 2006 11:41 AM

The catch 22 about daycare is that we want/need it to be less expensive, but we also think that people who care for our children well should get paid more. We always talk about how little teachers, etc are paid. We decry when daycare providers are sub-par or good ones have to leave to make a living, but in if they were paid what they're worth for taking good care of our kids, then daycare would just get more expensove

Posted by: Anonymous | June 21, 2006 11:44 AM

Good points, Kris D. Until women are willing to pay other women a fair price to raise their children, mediocre daycare will result. Good daycare centers are the result of caring women being willing to take care of your kids for paltry wages.

And don't jump on me for saying "women". As was pointed out, how many women say "It costs more than half of MY salary to pay for daycare" without mentioning that it should be considered half of each parents' salary (single parents aside)? Also, we don't see many men working in daycare because the pay is far too low.

Posted by: Equal pay | June 21, 2006 11:45 AM

When talking with the other women/couples in my pre-natal yoga class and our lamaze class, the ONLY ONE who knew what she/they were doing about child care was the one who had a mother-in-law near by who was going to watch their baby. The rest were still trying to figure out how they could afford day care vs. an au pair vs. a nanny vs. one parent staying home.

Throw on top of it the fact that some women who knew they were going to go back to work were wondering how they were going to swing a 6+ month maternity leave b/c the waiting list was just that long at every single day care center they looked at. These were women in their 3rd trimester, still stressing about how they were going to balance a career and family life and still pay the bills and starting to wonder if they'd still have a career after taking so much time off or if they'd even be allowed to take that much time off (since FMLA is only 12 weeks).

To me, this is what's sad about the child care situation, at least in DC. We decided we'd rather make sacrifices for me to stay home than make those same sacrifices and have more than half my salary go to child care costs each month. Then my husband was laid off, so cut short my materenity leave was and now I'm the breadwinner and he's a SAHD. We're barely getting by, but we're happy and it's made us realize that when he does find a job and goes back to work (since I hate my job and he has much more earning potential), that we WILL be able to swing it on one salary and that it will be totally worth it.

Posted by: j | June 21, 2006 11:50 AM

"Subsidized childcare is available in America, if you're a federal government employee, with lower costs, care centers at your place of work, which incidentally are paid for by taxpayers, and enrollment preference over the general, taxpaying public."

I am a federal employee at one of the "subsidized" childcare centers mentioned above, but I want everyone to be clear about what that means. My center is a NAEYC-accredited center located in my office building, and I do get a priority preference because of my status with a sponsoring agency. But the "subsidized" part really adds up to just this -- the agencies pay the rent for the space in a downtown DC office building. Parents pay for everything else, staff salaries, food for the kids, you name it. It isn't the free ride that people believe it is -- We pay approximately $800 per month for preschool, and infant care is well over $1100 per month this year. And, one more thing, I pay taxes too, you know. . .

Posted by: fedemployee | June 21, 2006 11:51 AM

curious new mom | June 21, 2006 11:41 AM

Pretty sure there is a daycare in the GSA building at 1900 F st that is Federal-parents-only and Federal subsidized....

Posted by: To curious new mom | June 21, 2006 11:53 AM

This is meant to comfort parents of kids in daycare - I went to day care from ages 2.5 to 5 - and it was a bad daycare! Not abusive, but the workers just plopped us in front of the Donahue show all day and ignored us. It was all we could afford.

Still, life goes on. As I look back, it's a very small part of my childhood (and by the way I went on to go to college on full scholarship). So yes, quality daycare is key, but with lots of love from you, the kids will do fine.

Posted by: Daycare kid | June 21, 2006 11:54 AM

If a parent can't afford to provide quality day care that would reasonably be expected for a child BEFORE they get pregnant, then they should not get pregnant. Child care prices did not suddenly appear or raise 200% the day after your baby is born.

Obviously "stuff happens" some children need more special care, jobs get lost, and that's understandable.

But when you're talking about "things in the realm of planning out"- don't have a baby unless you can afford it.

While I agree that having a work environment that is flexible for ALL people's lives is a good thing, we shouldn't expect the workplace to do a massive overhaul just because people choose to have babies.

Posted by: Liz | June 21, 2006 11:55 AM

My husband and I agonized over what to do about child care. Our first baby was cared for by her grandparents for the 1st 5 months after my 3 month maternity leave. Then, we were lucky to find two different loving and caring nannies. The second nanny was with us until my second daughter turned 15 months. We still kept our hours flexible and tried to get home as fast as possible. We lost our nanny to her own family issues and were lucky enough to get both of our kids into an excellent center associated with my work. They have both bloomed over the last few weeks. I still worry and wonder if I should look for another at home care situation, especially for my younger daughter(under 2 years).We are lucky enough to be able to afford good care. Why do some comments here seek to inflame an already guilt ridden decision for WOHMs? No one deliberately chooses substandard care for their kids; they do what they can manage from a time and money standpoint. Negative comments about abdicating care do not help....

Posted by: Sunniday | June 21, 2006 11:56 AM

Registered voter wrote: "Day care is a abdication of parental responsibility, pure & simple."

That's a really interesting statement that would make a great debate topic.

In the case of welfare mothers, our culture has agreed that indeed daycare for their children is the preferred place, as these mothers must work at paid jobs outside the home if we are to consider them morally upright. (In my view, there's also a racial subtext here, too).

But for white, middle-class women, registered voter's statement is often invoked.

I have the opposite view. I think poorer people of all colors have access to lower quality care and would be better off staying at home with their children. Wealthier women have better access to good care and their children are probably less harmed by that care. There are always exceptions, of course.

I was a sahm for one child and working mother for the other. For my first child, I did not quit my job. It was the early 90s when the economy was terrible, and my husband's job (we thought) was in jeopardy of being eliminated.

At the time, our incomes were equal, so to give up half our income while worrying about losing the other half would have been foolhardy. But the bigger concern, of course, was health insurance.

To us, we were fulfilling our responsibility toward our baby by keeping our jobs, rather than quitting.

Posted by: Kate | June 21, 2006 12:01 PM

"Why do some comments here seek to inflame an already guilt ridden decision for WOHMs?"

Unfortunately, people like to judge each other's choices, especially on this issue. Sunniday, sounds like you've worked out a great situation... read Monday's blog, which attacks SAHMs, to see that attacks happen from both sides of the spectrum.

Posted by: Ms L | June 21, 2006 12:06 PM

Oh, come on, Liz, do we really need to again explain the idea that the whole of society has an interest in bringing up the next generation of American citizens? I for one really don't need to sift through that same tired debate that's been on this blog repeatedly.

Can't we please get past the "You had 'em. Leave me out if it." mentality? It's so old and so short-sighted.

And while I'm at it (being exasperated, that is), do you really believe that only people who can afford high quality day care in this country should get to have children? It's not exactly the "If you can't afford a BMW, don't buy one," argument. Do you really advocate that no one should be able to have kids who are, say, housekeepers, janitors, McDonald's workers, etc? Good grief.

Posted by: cb | June 21, 2006 12:06 PM

"But when you're talking about "things in the realm of planning out"- don't have a baby unless you can afford it."

Few people can actually afford to have a baby, and money is the least of it. If you wait until you can truly afford it, you may simply be too old or too tired to have children.

What you're saying is you should either be very wealthy or very poor to have kids and the rest of us should forget it!


Posted by: Kate | June 21, 2006 12:10 PM

Our oldest has had four daycare providers in her life. For the first year, me as a SAHD. Then three years with an absolute gem of a woman who had a daughter the same age--they are still best friends. Unfortunately, they moved too far away to make it practical to stay with her. We had one brief, "bad" experience with another in-home provider (not abusive or anything, just didn't really relate to a bright, energetic four-year-old very well). For the last six months, she has been with another caring, exceptional in-home provider. Our soon-to-be-newborn will start there, just after the time kindergarten starts for the oldest.

Cost is a serious issue, even with in-home care. While our provider would be worth it if she charged twice as much, we couldn't pay it. For lengthy and irrelevant (to the present discussion) reasons, our oldest cannot attend public school kindergarten. So we'll have private school tuition and infant day care prices to contend with. It will be a severe challenge, even in our modest house and zero-SUV lifestyle.

Posted by: Brian | June 21, 2006 12:14 PM

We (my husband and myself) look at daycare in terms of my salary (it's almost half, see above) because my husband makes about 4 times of what I do. He is in a high-stress, very time consuming job (law firm). We could not afford to live here if he did not have this job (we can save the discussion about selling your soul and unhappiness as the price you pay for a high salary for another day) I, on the other hand, chose a lower paying job in part because it is a lot less demanding - I work 9-5, no weekends and can leave on a moment's notice if daycare calls me to pick my daughter up because of a fever or something. My husband most certainly cannot and can never get out of work in time to pick her up. Therefore, there is no question in our household of who would quit their job. Besides the salary aspects, my husband would not be happy staying at home whereas I could probably handle it better. I have a lot a admiration for men who stay home as it can't be easy for them and I am jealous of couples who have the choice of who can stay home.

Posted by: CC | June 21, 2006 12:15 PM

Kate wrote:

"That's a really interesting statement that would make a great debate topic.

In the case of welfare mothers, our culture has agreed that indeed daycare for their children is the preferred place, as these mothers must work at paid jobs outside the home if we are to consider them morally upright. (In my view, there's also a racial subtext here, too).

But for white, middle-class women, registered voter's statement is often invoked."


Oh, BRAVO!! This is the best comeback I've heard on this issue in a while. Excellent!!

Posted by: Alexandria | June 21, 2006 12:18 PM

RE: subsidized child care for federal employees.

Here is a link to the Office of Personnel Management, which specifically outlines the "childcare subsidy" that agencies are allowed to offer employees.

http://www.opm.gov/employment_and_benefits/worklife/familycareissues/childcare_subsidy/index.asp

True, not all do. I know firsthand that the Dept of Labor does, for example, as my best friend gets a subsidy. And no, she's not a "lower income" employee, as a GS-14 level Special Asst. So, please, don't tell me that if the federal government can pass laws allowing use of *taxpayer* money to give subsidies, on top of tax breaks, that this can't be something we can prioritize for all working parents. Oops, but does that then say it's OK for parents to put kids in daycare if they don't work for the federal government??

Posted by: Single Mom in VA | June 21, 2006 12:21 PM

I just saw a posting that claims that federal employees have subsidized daycare! Where? The rates that our center charges are among the highest in the metro area. They claim that GSA charges them market rent. We left that center because the high rates were not reflected in high quality.

Posted by: Federal employee | June 21, 2006 12:22 PM

I agree with the statement that perhaps that canadian children in daycare had behavioral problems due to other outside influences (TV, etc), I believe that we are even having the same problem here in the states w/o large child care subsidies.

I am a single mother and luckily I do receive child support payments (from a father that works overseas and fears losing his passport). I also have a masters degree and work full time with an income almost three times the national poverty level. If I did not work, I would probably be on welfare or something because child support does not come close to even covering the cost of rent. I would then be accused of being one of those 'lazy mothers' that is loafing off the system. ALso, I love what I do and feel that I am making a difference in the world

My daughter was born the last week of my last semester of grad school, and it was tough not having money and being willing to work at temp jobs, etc.. but not being able to afford to. Baby sitters demand $10-$15/hour, and the job at startbucks only paid $9/hour or the temp agency $12. At this time I was fighting for child support and there was no money coming in.

I find that the US says that there is a 'culture of life' but does not support this with programs to help parents with childcare (or health insurance support) to back this up. We should really be looking to the Canadian study to see how something similiar to that can be implemented in the US, so more middle class families can be better positioned to raise their families.

Another problem is the availablility of childcare in DC for infants and toddlers; it took me YEAR to get my daugther into a daycare, and I had to pay for a nanny until then which took more than half of my salary (plus all of the child support). When I look at craigslist and dcurban moms the general thought that is that if you put your child into day care (rather than be home or with a Nanny) it is akin to neglect and substandard care... the choice for me was both financial and to socialize an only child. SHe is thriving.

Posted by: another single mom | June 21, 2006 12:23 PM

Say all you want about how many kids that have been in daycare come out okay and well adjusted, the fact of the matter is, NO ONE, I mean NO ONE will provide the amount of love and care to kids other than their parents. So day care or no day care, the kids are way better off being cared for by their parents. Having said that, I am a working mom as well, but my husband and I are fortunate enough to be able to work out work shifts that allows for our kids to stay at home. It is a sacrifice both mentally and physically and a challenge in our relationship but it is well worth it. So I guess what I'm trying to say is, the key is for EMPLOYERS to work with their employees and be more family friendly.

Posted by: Janette | June 21, 2006 12:24 PM

Has it ever occurred to most of the posters who are paying a fortune for childcare that they should be pushing for state subsidized quality care and paid child-rearing leave? Why are all of you accepting paying the equivalent of twice the minumum wage for child care? Why is the only alternative staying at home?

Posted by: Paying college tuition now | June 21, 2006 12:27 PM

Leslie,

I'm with Cal, and think it would help if you were a bit more careful when you report on the NYTimes article. Or better yet, it would be great if you could read the actual study and talk about it, not just the discussion of it in the Times.

As a topic, the link between daycare and aggression in children has come up before now, and has, not surprisingly, led to great media attention. This does not mean that the attention has been accurate, or that we can all assume a simple 1-1 ratio of "child-in-daycare" to "aggression." The matter is far more complicated.

What I'm asking therefore is that you, as the person providing the food for thought, please be more careful when discussing this firebrand, and try to present a fair and reasonable set of points. I fear that all you've done here is allow those whose kids are in daycare to feel fear, guilt or shame, and those whose kids are at home to feel contempt.

Please therefore 1) read the actual study for all of our benefit, and 2) look at some of the articles that demonstrate the controversies this topic has sparked. (A very brief internet search would do it).

We deserve better on this one, and I'm sure we'll appreciate your efforts. Thanks.

Posted by: Mass Prof. | June 21, 2006 12:28 PM

I went to two or three highly recommended day cares when I was offered a part-time job and was in tears because I wouldn't put my son in any of them. One that I remember was a small room with a dirty couch and everyone watching TV. Then I walked into one with a big room with nothing but kid toys and furniture, no TV and a nice backyard. My son jumped out of my arms to play with the other kids and that was his second home for over three years. All that time, whenever I would come to pick him up there was this little girl at the gate saying that her mom was going to be the next mom. It broke my heart because for all those years she was always the last kid picked up. She had the same situation when the kids went to school and we all used the after school program. She was actually kicked out because her mom was always late. That girl was, and still is, very anxious.

If you have the type of job where you work long hours, it could be that using a nanny or a grandma is the better choice. Maybe that research should be listened to.

Posted by: np | June 21, 2006 12:29 PM

Just to clarify- as some other feds have been doing- onsite day care in federal buildings is not free. The space and building services are free for the center but since day care is so personnel intensive we still pay quite a bit- at my center it's at least $1000/month for a baby.

By the way, many day care centers that are not in government buildings are also in space that is provided free from some organization- like a church, for example. Just recently, there was an article in the Post about how although there is great demand for day care in the DC area, it's practically impossible to start a new center without someone giving you free space because rents and property prices are so crazy here.

It's practically impossible to afford day care in a center (whether good or bad) unless at least one parent is in a high paying professional job. What are other working families doing- if any of you are reading this?

Posted by: randommom | June 21, 2006 12:30 PM

liz said: "But when you're talking about "things in the realm of planning out"- don't have a baby unless you can afford it."

I just have to add: Even married people with 2 incomes and a huge mortgage and lazy ovaries to boot can have unplanned pregnancies.

If some one told us we could magically get pregnant when we did, we would have put that opportunity on hold for at least another year, when we hoped to be able to "afford" having a child. But fate/God/mother nature had other plans and now we're paying our bills but being frugal with nothing left over each month. And LOVING it.

Posted by: j | June 21, 2006 12:33 PM

"Grandma Daycare" always seems so wonderful to those who are lucky enough have willing retired/non-working parents nearby, but having a family member care for kids doesn't always work out. My best friend arranged for her mother-in-law to watch her infant daughter three afternoons a week so that she could go back to work part-time, and it ended up being too much to much for grandma to handle. The baby was too heavy; the mother-in-law didn't want to come to their house ("What would I do there all day?" Um, watch the baby...) so they had to haul all of the requisite baby equipment to her house AND take it back, because "there wasn't enough room" to leave extra supplies there. It was not a pretty situation, and needless to say, it didn't last long.

I agree that not all kids thrive in daycare. We're lucky that ours have, and to echo another sentiment already raised by others, that we can afford it. Our experience encompasses two large centers from infant to school age programs, and one small in-home facility for infants and toddlers run by five women (one of whom lived upstairs with her family), which was kind of the best of both worlds (large centers and in-home). It was in the basement of a house in our Wheaton neighborhood, which was incredibly convenient.

I love my own mom and my two mother-in-laws (who were all working moms, one of them a single working mom) dearly and trust them completely with the kids, but I could never bring myself ask them to take full-time care of them--even if they did live near us for that to work. I just feel like it's too much to ask.

Oh, and regarding how much daycare workers get paid: I worked daycare for about six months in 1995. I enjoyed it; watching one of my three-year-olds write her name for the first time is still one of the highlights of my career in education. But I left because a retail job that I applied for--RETAIL--was going to pay me $2.50 more an hour, and I desparately needed the money. That's what hurts me the most when I hand that check over every week: knowing how much of it actually goes into the pockets of the women (and one man! They just hired a man, yay!) who bend over backwards to teach, entertain, feed, and change my kids every day.

Posted by: niner | June 21, 2006 12:38 PM

To single mom in va:

Unfortunately, very few federal agencies offer the subsidy program that you speak of to their employees. My federal employer does not. As I understand the workings of the program, it is a means tested program that is set by each agency that participates and it provides some tuition relief. All federal centers are required to provide tuition assistance to families and my center does as well, but that does not offset much of the cost, unfortunately. Who pays for the tuition assistance program that my center offers? Families that donate funds, and the occasional recycling money that comes from one of our sponsoring agencies.

At my federal day care center, only one of the participating agencies provides the "subsidized" program to their employees. So the existence of a federal center that is open to ALL, but prioritizes federal employees, does not have anything to do with the subsidized program that you mention, just to clarify.

Posted by: federal employee | June 21, 2006 12:39 PM

Janette wrote:

"Say all you want about how many kids that have been in daycare come out okay and well adjusted, the fact of the matter is, NO ONE, I mean NO ONE will provide the amount of love and care to kids other than their parents. So day care or no day care, the kids are way better off being cared for by their parents."

Have you truly never heard the stories of children who are neglected and abused by their parents? Or those who provide adequate basic care, but plop the children in front of the TV all day? If you truly feel that no one can be as good as a parent, how will you be able to send your children to school? My children are grown, but they were in daycare, after-school programs, and summer camps. Trust me, they always knew who family was and what the family values were.

Posted by: bjt | June 21, 2006 12:41 PM

Janette: "...NO ONE, I mean NO ONE will provide the amount of love and care to kids other than their parents. So day care or no day care, the kids are way better off being cared for by their parents."

That's pretty simplistic, no? That statement ignores that children don't thrive solely on love. Love is probably the most important component, but children also need exercise, good meals, socialization, etc. Would you argue that they could not get these things being cared for by Grandma during the day?

Posted by: Frank | June 21, 2006 12:45 PM

Both my husband and I are also "happy introverts" who were raised by SAHMs. To me, there is a strong pull to provide our future kids with a nice, quiet childhood at home like we had. However, maybe our upbringings reinforced (or possibily caused) our introverted tendencies in the first place. I remember as a kid being terrified of being dropped off at birthday parties. We both went to nursery school, so it's not like we were completely isolated. I am curious as to whether daycare can prevent a child from becoming introverted or teach an introverted child how to become more outgoing. Or are kids born with introverted tendencies, and being in daycare will always rub them the wrong way? Not that there's anything wrong with being introverted - I just think that being comfortable dealing with new people is a good quality and not all kids will learn this skill from their parents.

Posted by: Introverted Kids? | June 21, 2006 12:46 PM

>>Say all you want about how many kids that have been in daycare come out okay and well adjusted, the fact of the matter is, NO ONE, I mean NO ONE will provide the amount of love and care to kids other than their parents. So day care or no day care, the kids are way better off being cared for by their parents.>>

Well, I guess it's true that my 3-year-old son's teachers might not throw themselves under a bus to save him (although then again they might...), which I would do without hesitation. But they do care about him, and love him, and frankly provide him with a lot of things I could not or would not provide him if I stayed home. For example, 8 other little kids to play with. A fenced in outdoor space full of play equipment. An indoor gym where he can run and throw balls to his heart's content when it rains or snows. A real potty just his size. Etc, etc, etc. If I stayed home, there is no way I would spend all day reading, singing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider," fingerpainting, doing the hokey-pokey...frankly, he'd probably watch a lot of TV while I cooked, cleaned, did laundry. Don't see how that's "better off."

Posted by: Arlmom | June 21, 2006 12:50 PM

I would love for Leslie to tell us about the daycare situation at the Washington Post. Surely a big important company like the Post cares so deeply about its employees, it must have a state of the art, affordable daycare center on site?

Posted by: RitaMae | June 21, 2006 12:53 PM

I think parents who choose to create new children in the world without having the resources or taking the time and energy to prepare properly for raising a child are doing so out of a selfish need to be a parent.

I think most parents have all the best intentions, but I don't think just because a person can have a baby means it's a good idea.

I'm also not going to list out a rubric of what a "possible parent should have" because that would be arbitrary and there are always exceptions and stipulations.

I do think the workforce and prioritization of the world would be better if it took the "human" element of life into account more than a "bottom line of finances" into account.

But I do think we'd be a lot better off if we put having financial security and dealing with the world as it is NOW ahead of some need to create another baby.

Posted by: Liz | June 21, 2006 12:56 PM

Liz,

Aren't you lucky that your parents didn't share your views.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 21, 2006 1:03 PM

To Introverted kids?:

My mom stayed at home with me and used an in-home daycare for my two younger brothers when she went back to teaching. I think that I definitely could have used (and still could!) some more socialization skills. I've always hated team sports--every day at recess in elementary school, I sat out in the outfield during kickball and refused to play--and even now at work, I tend to try to control projects when I should collaborate or designate the work. I think more socialization at a younger age would have helped me realize sooner that I'm not the center of the universe, and that I can't always have it my way. (Husband, are you reading me admitting this? :) )

So, do I resent my mom for NOT putting me in daycare? Absolutely not. Being a working mom now myself, I appreciate that she put her career on hold for five years to care for me. I have great memories of shopping, cooking, gardening, and just hanging out with her. My middle brother, on the other hand, always knew every one in our small hometown, was very social, outgoing, etc. The rest of the family joked
about how we were all constantly referred to as "Mike's dad," "Mike's mom," "Mike's sister," etc.

Is this empirical evidence that you MUST put your kids in daycare, or they'll be introverted control freaks like me, versus social butterflies like my brother and son? No. But I've seen a lot of benefits from having my own kids in daycare. Try it part time at first, if that's an option financially for you.

Posted by: niner | June 21, 2006 1:08 PM

Yes day care is expensive and it's worth every penny. What is interesting in the postings is that 1) day care seems to be primarily a mom's issue - comparing cost to mom's salary and questioning whether mom's employer will be flexible when child care issues arise; 2) certain male posters certainly seem to resent women working and feel as though a woman's place remains in the home; 3) people seem to accept that the father's earn more than the mothers; and 4) there is a presumption that a mom at home provides better care than a day care facility. I say hogwash to all of these items.

Day care is a FAMILY issue and both parents should be involved. It is day care that allows both my husband and myself to work at jobs we enjoy and find fulfilling and both of which contribute to the support and well being of our family. We expect both of our employers to be reasonably flexible regarding child care issues. We expect to pay for quality day care and we pay quite a bit. It's our responsibility as parents to examine the options and choose what is best for our family - and that means the quality of care and the ability of both parents to earn an income as well as utilize our degrees in a way that we each find personally satisfying. It is not acceptable to me that my husband should earn more (we have the same degrees and essentially similar professions)or that my income is comparative in value only to day care costs. My working is about far more than the bottom line of take home pay. I am also a much better working mom than I was a SAHM and I have more patience and more excitement about the hours I am with my children. My children see a mom and a dad who value education and productive work lives. They see both of us share child care responsibilities, both of us involved at their day care and schools, both of us cooking and contributing to household chores. It is important to me to provide this model to both my sons and my daughter.

If quality day care means that my children are in a loving, supportive and socially engaging environment for the mimium number of hours a day (thanks to flexible scheduling) AND means they see their parents working as a team so that both work lives and home lives can be balanced, then I think day care FOR MY FAMILY is a good thing. What works for us may nor work for everyone but each family has to make that decision based on their own needs and circumstances. There just are no absolutes. It seems that the problem with the study, and with any study, is that either side of the issue will pick and chose those parts that seem to support that side. No study can remove the bias of the researcher or the person who reads and interprets the results. No study can tell me whether day care is the right decision for my family, or whether one type is going to work better than another. It has to be a choice made by each family and I, for one, will try a little harder to respect those choices - even when they are different than mine.

Posted by: SS | June 21, 2006 1:08 PM

Liz, unless you can 'list out a rubric of what a "possible parent should have"', then how did you come to the conclusion in the first place? Ideology? Gut-Feel? SWAG?

If you want to point at something like the poverty level (of income) that's at least something. But it is lacking to use the term "not having the resources" and then not say what that means to you, because what you're then saying is that you reserve the right to subjectively judge whether someone has enough "resources" in your mind to raise a child.

If someone rendered an opinion to you based on that criteria would you even consider it?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 21, 2006 1:08 PM

In response to Equal pay, I don't think that ALL men have chosen not to become daycare providers. My husband loves being around children and not a single day care center would hire him. They all assume that any man who likes being around children MUST be a pedophile.

As to the subsidized federal care, I am in the military and yes, they do subsidize care....for the junior enlisted personnel who do not make alot of money. The subsidy is adjusted based upon your salary. If you make more you pay more. I kinda think it's unfair that just because I earn more, I have to pay more for the same quality of care. If people like me didn't subsidize the daycare of those who made less, they probably would have to quit their jobs and stay home. But I"m sure there is more to the subsidy equation than I am aware of.....

As for the person who thinks it is irresponsible to CHOOSE to have children KNOWING how much childcare costs, well, lets just say that when my husband and I flirted with the idea of having children, he was set to finish school in the summer and have us move back to DC in the Fall where he would have a full time job as a teacher. We got preggers in March, thinking that our plans were in place. Well, my husband (for reasons I still don't understand) failed student teaching and has to take an extra year to complete the program. I"m going to give birth in December and relocate without him for the final three months of my pregnancy and guess what? Some how, I'm going to have to come up with $2K a month for two kids in daycare(a third of my salary, when before, in Louisiana, it was only 1/12th of my salary), pay the mortgage (another third of my salary) and the other expenses while my husband finishes school and stays unemployed in the spring and hopefully gets a job after that.

Let's just say that the "stuff" that happens isn't planned for and to ASSUMME that there are people out there that CHOOSE to have kids WITHOUT planning how they are going to pay for it is just plain ignorance.

Posted by: tlawrenceva | June 21, 2006 1:08 PM

First, I'm an ardent supporter of women who want or need to return to work after having kids. But this is a tricky issue.

I worked at a daycare in the summer of my sophomore year at college and it was the SINGLE WORST JOB I've ever had. I know all day-care centers are not created equally so please take my story with a grain of salt. But here's why it was so bad:

• The program was billed as a summer camp. I was hired to plan and implement activities but given zero resources to do so (no budget, no planning time, nothing).

• No training provided to care-givers. I think it was assumed that if you were a women you had what it took. There were short periods of time each week (due to scheduling and staff issues) when I was the sole care-giver for 40+ 6-12 year olds. It was literally all I could do to keep the kids from tearing each other apart. Yes, at this center we routinely exceeded the legal child-to-care-giver-limit due to frequent yet unpredictable schedule issues.

• In addition to being the hardest job I've ever done it was also the lowest paid.

• At best, there were some happy moments for some kids there playing with their friends. A worst it was an inadequately supervised free-for-all. Kind of like a never ending grade school recess. The good news is noone got hurt under my watch.

Posted by: Friend | June 21, 2006 1:14 PM

First, I'm an ardent supporter of women who want or need to return to work after having kids. But this is a tricky issue.

I worked at a daycare in the summer of my sophomore year at college and it was the SINGLE WORST JOB I've ever had. I know all day-care centers are not created equally so please take my story with a grain of salt. But here's why it was so bad:

• The program was billed as a summer camp. I was hired to plan and implement activities but given zero resources to do so (no budget, no planning time, nothing).

• No training provided to care-givers. I think it was assumed that if you were a women you had what it took. There were short periods of time each week (due to scheduling and staff issues) when I was the sole care-giver for 40+ 6-12 year olds. It was literally all I could do to keep the kids from tearing each other apart. Yes, at this center we routinely exceeded the legal child-to-care-giver-limit due to frequent yet unpredictable schedule issues.

• In addition to being the hardest job I've ever done it was also the lowest paid.

• At best, there were some happy moments for some kids there playing with their friends. A worst it was an inadequately supervised free-for-all. Kind of like a never ending grade school recess. The good news is noone got hurt under my watch.

Posted by: Friend | June 21, 2006 1:15 PM

"No one deliberately chooses substandard care for their kids; they do what they can manage from a time and money standpoint."

And now people are jumping on posters who are shocked that parents don't bother thinking about day care until their kids are nearly born.

One of Linda Hirshman's points (see Monday's On Balance) is that women get degrees that do not set them up to earn the high incomes and thus, when the issues of day care and what can be afforded arise, usually the woman quits her job to stay home, in part because hers is the lower salary. Of course not everyone can "afford" to have children, but I am tired of women with good educations and good jobs not doing a better job of planning their lives to support their children. If you spend six months trying o get pregnant, surely you know you are going to have to either stay home or work after your maternity leave and thus you should be looking at care options for your child. It's foolish to pretend it doesn't mean anything to you until the child is actually born, but I also have seen many parents wait until the midnight hour to decide what to do about their new child. In some ways, I think the guilt of leaving their child causes many mothers to subconsciously choose not to plan properly for what happens when they go back to work.

Posted by: Why not plan ahead? | June 21, 2006 1:16 PM

I pay $425 a week for day care. It is a brand new facility, with a 2:1 ratio and so far, low staff turnover. They are attentive and caring. Frankly, I think my child enjoys being at day care as much as being at home, as they have more structured activities and she definitely enjoys and benefits from the other children and caregivers, and they are focused on caring for her all day. Frankly, on my days off (I take off one day a week) I do play with her a lot but also try and do the laundry, run errands, etc. I know that noone can give her the same kind of love and attention that I can, but I also think that she gets a very valuable kind of attention from caregivers who have planned activities, regular breaks for themselves (unlike me!) and a well-outfitted facility.

In DC and close-in suburbs, daycare (especially for infants) is nearly impossible to get into (wait lists of 1 year and more). I was happy to pay any cost to get into a facility that I was comfortable with, even if it means staying with a higher paying job that I don't always like. I agree that this is a societal problem that needs broad and creative solutions. But I don't think you can paint any one childcare solution with a broad brush. I am aware of very substandard day care centers, hear horror stories about in home facilities with poor care (and no other adults to witness what is going on), heard of neglectful, tv watching nannies, and have observed stay at home parents with - sorry - poorly socialized and even developmentally delayed children because they did not interact much with other kids.

Posted by: c's mom | June 21, 2006 1:19 PM

Introverted Kids, read up on Introverts and Extroverts. You are not "made" into one or the other, you're born that way. Some socialization is good for everyone, and introverts have to learn to live in an extrovert world, but for the most part, trying to force extroversion on an introvert is very anxiety producing. I learned in my own good time. Once my mom said that she saw me alone on a playground and told my teacher that it worried her. The teacher said, "Oh, don't worry about her, she has friends when she wants them."

Posted by: Introvert | June 21, 2006 1:22 PM

To SS:

Excellent points, particularly that day care is a FAMILY issue rather than a mother's issue.

That said, my husband and I have the exact same degree--we met while getting our master's degrees, in fact--but what he chose to pursue with his (federal government) happens to pay twice what I do with mine (academia). Sure, I wish I earned more, but my career choice is more to me than a paycheck, and if one of us decided to stay home, it would most definitely be me, out of financial necessity, even though he'd actually probably make a better stay-at-home parent. So, I can't dismiss points 1 and 3 as hogwash, since that's the way it just the way it is with us. And I realize that what you're pointing out as problematic is that these things are generally accepted and assumed, but in some cases, as I said, that's truly how it is.

Posted by: niner | June 21, 2006 1:29 PM

Every child is different, so whether a child thrives in day care, even really good day care, depends on that child. My daughter who was adopted at 12 months of age from China, would have done miserably in five days a week of day care. I had thought I was going to be returning to work-full time when we came home from China, but my job disappeared due to the change in administration, so I was suddenly home full-time. It turns out that was the best thing I could have done for her in terms of starting the attachment process. But even today, at age 6, I have to be careful about how much time she spends in any sort of after-school activity because of my work schedule in order to continue to work on the subtleties of the attachment process. Clearly high quality day care must be made more available, but we also need to be tuned into how each child will react to that experience.

http://punditmom1.blogspot.com

Posted by: PunditMom | June 21, 2006 1:32 PM

No one seems to making the distinction between daycare and preschool. By two or three most kids can be in more of a "preschool" type environment and are generally more capable of handling the emotions that go along with being left alone without a parent for some of the day. My daughter didn't like it for the first week or so, but we talked about it and after a week or so the three and a half hours she spend there she really enjoyed her friendships.

Posted by: LDB | June 21, 2006 1:32 PM

"Liz,

Aren't you lucky that your parents didn't share your views."

What a pathetic comeback. My parents DID share Liz's views, so they planned financially for me and my sister and they left us well provided for, even though my father died young. If you're smart enough to get an advanced college degree you ought to be smart enough to do some planning for your kids' welfare.

Posted by: Gag | June 21, 2006 1:33 PM

Oh, so only smart people, who can afford a certain lifestyle, should have kids. I got it.

Posted by: to gag | June 21, 2006 1:37 PM

That's not what I meant. I mean that a lot of smart people continue to ignore the realities of raising children and are shocked and amazed when they have to pay a lot for daycare.

Posted by: Gag | June 21, 2006 1:40 PM

I spent 9 years in post-high school education. That was followed by four years in a fellowship. I have a successful and rewarding career. Without my career, I would not be happy. And, therefore, I would not provide for my daughter emotionally the way that I do now. My daughter is in daycare...she does not suffer from a lack of love.
Importantly, she will benefit from watching her strong, intelligent, independent mom. What better female role model could I provide her with?
I am in no way slamming the SAHM. I think she is a wonderful role model as well. I'm just making a point: a working mother is an excellent example for our daughters and sons.

Posted by: Career Mom | June 21, 2006 1:42 PM

Seems this "discussion" precludes that most employed mothers have a choice. My siblings and I (4 total) were raised by a single working mother with a high-school diploma before the Food Stamp Program or Medicaid was even thought of. I was also a single parent of two. I suppose it depends how you define "thrive", and what exactly you're striving to accomplish. Paying the rent & utilities on a single minimum-wage salary IS an accomplishment! Not requiring day care (and the extra expenditure involved) was up to us kids-our job was to behave ourselves as if Mom was with us AT ALL TIMES, not just when someone was looking. Our extracirricular activities were cooking & cleaning duty, along with homework and maintaining a minimum "B" average once we started school. Not living up to expectations was not an option, but neither was the modern version of day care. Nowdays it would be called "child neglect", I suppose, but it's funny how we all turned out to be solid, hard-working community members!

Posted by: LisaB | June 21, 2006 1:48 PM

My husband and I have a FABULOUS day care (NAEYC) center for our one year old daughter. She has gone there since she was almost seven months - I was home four months and my husband was home almost three months. She is a particularly social child, so the center environment really fits her personality. We hope any other children we may have will fit the center as well. I work part time and am home two days a week with my daughter. For all of those SAHM and WOHM, I have to say that part-time work is the best. I feel so lucky that I am able to stay in my challenging job, but cut back on my hours. (my boss was part time for a few years when her two daughters were born a decade or so ago, so she is very supportive!) My daughter and I have a great time at home, but she also thoroughly enjoys her days at school. My husband works nine hours days and has every other Friday off - so he has some time at home with her too.

My husband and I are both attorneys for the federal government. We realize how great we have it - very decent salaries; great flexible jobs with interesting work. In addition, our daughter's school is subsidized by my husband's agency. As many comments have mentioned, most subsidized government centers aren't really that much cheaper - the agency only pays for the rent, but we are lucky to have a subsidized center that is actually subsidized - we have fabulous care (a Bright Horizons facility) for only $500 a month in the DC area. If the family makes under $70k it is even cheaper and the price continues to go down on a sliding scale. The $$ is great because it allows me to work part-time while still paying for full time care. (one problem with part time work is often you don't get paid much and it is VERY difficult to get part time day care or nannies).

We are definitely glad we went the day care center route. It has been a great socializing experience for our daughter. Her teachers love her - in fact I think they WOULD walk in front of a bus to save her. No, she doesn't get the same attention that she does at home with me or my husband, but it teaches her (so far an only child) how to share and take turns. She is exposed to a new experiences, new people and new toys etc that she just wouldn't get at home with me. Her teachers all have some level of college education and have given us some wonderful advice for various issues that have come up. We value what they have to say and my husband (who picks her up and drops her off) talks with them two or three times a day (often at lunch too when he visits) about our daughter's day. They have a totally open door policy and welcome parents and grandparents at any time.

Incidentally, my husband and I both considered staying home with our daughter. But, we both decided -- independently -- that work was for us after we each spent our time home with her. (I also thought I wanted to work part time, but i think my husband thought he was going to love being at home). Working full time I make more than he does, so we could have done it either way.

Posted by: arl mom of 1 | June 21, 2006 1:51 PM

Career Mom, my mom was strong, intelligent, and independent and she did not have a paying job. Please don't think only "working" women are good examples to their daughters. Haven't we moved past that yet on this blog?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 21, 2006 1:52 PM

Wait a minute on that "subsidized Fed daycare" thing. There are only 110 centers nationwide, and there are a million employees. Do the math. Then, read that ONLY lower-grade employees get a break. And read that it is market-driven, fee based service. Feds are NOT getting some terrific break, by and large. In fact, up to 50% of the parents may be non-Feds. So, does it make sense to imply that there is substantially subsidized daycare for a million Federal employees with only 110 centers, income ceilings, and a requirement that agencies divert their own appropriate funds. No. My agency doesn't. And the vast majority of Federal parents can't use the centers. They are good places, usually, don't get me wrong. But then again, who's kids were killed at Oklahoma City? Freedom isn't free, and Feds aren't getting rich putting their kids in harm's way at market rates. Save me the "taxpayer" money garbage for a bridge to nowhere or Secret Service coverage for John Kerry wakeboarding trips.

Posted by: FedDad | June 21, 2006 1:56 PM

I really tried to highlight that I don't think SAHM aren't good role models. I do think they are. My mom was SAHM, she is my idol.
I just want to point out that some women choose to work because they enjoy working. Not because of the pay check.
And that those women actually have something to offer their children. They are role models IN ADDITION to being loving caring wonderful mothers.
My mantra has always been: happy mom=happy baby
Staying at home makes some people happy and working makes some people happy. Either way, there advantages and disadvantages.

Posted by: Career Mom | June 21, 2006 1:57 PM

Although we put our child in daycare for short stints, we have engineered and compromised our working lives so that one of us is home when our son gets on the bus in the morning and off the bus in the afternoon. In fact, the only time our son is in daycare is during the short stints between school years.

I value that we are raising our kids. I'm sure that there are a lot of good parent proxies out there (and probably can better prepare children academically). But I didn't have children to ignore them.

Quite frankly, if I could convince my wife to give up her job and stay home with our son, I would. But she claims that we need it financially. I've looked at our books (she's the bookkeeper in the house) and see that we can meet all of our commitments on just my salary. Sure, the standard of living would fall some, but it's not like we'd be eating cat food for dinner. It seems to me that her argumen for work, then, is more about personal fulfillment than financial need.

In the end, though, while quality time is important, the quantity of time is just as important.

Posted by: Daycare is So-So | June 21, 2006 1:58 PM

FedDad, Buy Anon 1:56 a bridge to CareerMom's post, so he/she can read what CareerMom actually wrote about SAHMs....

Posted by: Anonymous | June 21, 2006 1:58 PM

I hope all the feds that are blogging here are on their day off or lunch breaks.

Just kidding - I'm at work too.

Posted by: Taxpayer | June 21, 2006 2:01 PM

My mom was a highly educated career woman. I suppose you could say that she was a role model, but she was a role model of the mother I never wanted to be.

As a career woman working mother, you will only be a positive role model to your children if you're also a good mother.

Posted by: np | June 21, 2006 2:01 PM

My mom was a highly educated career woman. I suppose you could say that she was a role model, but she was a role model of the mother I never wanted to be.

As a career woman working mother, you will only be a positive role model to your children if you're also a good mother.

Posted by: np | June 21, 2006 2:01 PM

NO ONE, I mean NO ONE will provide the amount of love and care to kids other than their parents. So day care or no day care, the kids are way better off being cared for by their parents.

True, parents probably love their kids more than other people, at least most parents. But it is not true that good childcare workers don't give sufficient love for the child to thrive in a day care setting. I went to day care as a child, and really loved my daycare teachers. I also felt loved by them, and still keep in touch with one of them.

Posted by: Rockville | June 21, 2006 2:02 PM

Bad childcare (whether with mom, grandma, in-house or at a facility) is incredibly sad. Good daycare can be wonderful -- for the right child and parents. There is no one size fits all for kids or parents, no magic bullet for our country (or any probably any country). The more solutions, the more choices.

My kids' experiences with daycare were great, especially at Johnson & Johnson. The building was 22,000 square feet and had two full-time nurses on staff. Every teacher had a degree in early childhood education. An amazing perq. AND it was subsidized 50% by the company. Boy was I sad to leave when Perry dragged me to Minneapolis...but I did find a lovely small Montessori school there called Child Garden.

But I have seen bad daycare. I agree you can tell right away if you trust your instincts over stats and facts.

To Mass Prof & Cal -- If you read this blog regularly you will see that I'm not an expert, an academic or a reporter. Not trying to be. Lots of posters write in about corrections or more details if the subject is their area of expertise, and their expertise is greatly appreciated. It would be great if you could do that too when you find my opinions lacking depth. This is a conversation - not a "let me ram my thoughts down your throat" kind of thing, and I want lots and lots of other view points and opinions.

Curious New Mom -- there is a great Fed daycare downtown called Small Savers, at The Office of Thrift Supervision, 1700 G Street NW. Tel 202 906 6312. I believe the director is still Carolyn Mackey. Very high quality staff, low turnover, wonderful place.

And thanks Rockville for the per day/per hour catch, especially so early in the discussion!

Posted by: Leslie | June 21, 2006 2:03 PM

My daughter is in daycare and is doing great, we are lucky we can afford great daycare for her. My husband and I are two well paid government attorneys, with a modest house in DC, older cars and relatively low debt. We receive no subsidy (I think that is very rare), there is not even daycare on the premises that we can pay top dollar for. Daycare (when you can find it) is REALLY expensive and I have no idea how people who earn less can do it and not be living on the edge. We are bracing for the financial impact of a second child.

I agree that adults need to know what they are getting into when they are having children, but childcare costs are simply out of control and quality childcare benefits individuals and the community as a whole.

Nobody complains that government supports public schools, a public education is an entitlement and a priority (quality of public schools is the number one issue in the current DC mayoral race). Why is there such hostility to the idea that government should help support quality daycare through real tax breaks (to parents and schools)? Why is this more of a supplamentation of parental responsiblity for children than providing public school? We as a society benefit from children raised in a stimulating and loving environment. Really, this is more valuable to me than lots of the pork that the government does pay for.

Posted by: Another DC mom | June 21, 2006 2:05 PM

To Taxpayer -- I'm at home today - not sending in a comment while I am on the taxpayer's dime - and my daughter is sleeping. At my agency we are not allowed to do this sort of thing at all from work - whether it is a break or not. Also, my agency is a self-funding agency. We use no funds from income tax. All of our funds come from the fees that our registered entities pay.

Oh and believe me... my husband and I pay a lot of taxes too.

Posted by: arl mom of 1 | June 21, 2006 2:07 PM

"If you read this blog regularly you will see that I'm not an expert, an academic or a reporter. Not trying to be. "

You don't have to be an expert, academic, or reporter to say "I haven't read the study, but this NY Times opinion piece doesn't sound very encouraging about its results."

More to the point, you clearly accepted the Times piece at its word and expected everyone else to do the same. That, too, does not require academic credentials. Merely a functioning brain.

Posted by: Cal | June 21, 2006 2:12 PM

The taxpayers cover my transportation to and from work every day. You would be amazed how many employees decline this perk because they don't want to deal with public transportation.

Posted by: June | June 21, 2006 2:12 PM

I'm hoping to get pregnant within the next year or so, so these are issues I'm really grappling with. I know its hard to make a decision like this until you are in the midst of the situation, so I have a question for the moms who left their jobs because their take-home salary didn't amount to much after paying for day care... How do you account for the fact that your salary would likely increase in time? Yes, maybe my salary or my husband's salary alone would just cover day care without leaving much left over, but I make a lot more money now than I did two years ago, and I hope that I'll be making more money in three years and that salary would likely have a lot more left over after paying for day care. I read in Money magazine that women who take time off and then return to the work force make about 30% less than their counterparts who never left. That's 30% less to pay for braces, or set aside money for college.
Anyway, I'm not trying to point fingers and get people riled up ... its just something I'm thinking about and wondered whether I'm alone.

Posted by: potential mother | June 21, 2006 2:16 PM

Great thoughts Potential Mom! Don't just stay home because it's easy to say that you're "paying to work". You won't get raises if you quit your job. If you truly want a career, try to keep working and push for better wages or move to a company that will pay you better or be flexible about your childcare needs.

Posted by: LC | June 21, 2006 2:21 PM

"To Taxpayer -- I'm at home today - not sending in a comment while I am on the taxpayer's dime - and my daughter is sleeping. At my agency we are not allowed to do this sort of thing at all from work - whether it is a break or not. Also, my agency is a self-funding agency. We use no funds from income tax. All of our funds come from the fees that our registered entities pay. Oh and believe me... my husband and I pay a lot of taxes too."

You certainly covered yourself in that response :) And BTW, pretty sure taxpayer was joking, but guess it went over your head.


Posted by: scum | June 21, 2006 2:22 PM

NP said: As a career woman working mother, you will only be a positive role model to your children if you're also a good mother.

...Sure, but as a SAHM, you will only be a positive role model to your children if you're also a good mother.

The point is that being a SAHM does not magically turn you into a good mother or role model.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 21, 2006 2:22 PM

If your employer offers a flexible spending plan for dependent care then I think you can consider that 'subsidized' daycare. They are just doing paperwork, the federal government is doing the 'subsidizing'. For a two income family those pre-tax dollars are worth somthing, and I much prefer that to state run care.

LOL - look at what 'state run' emergency care did to David Rosenbaum!!! opps - sorry my tooth hurts - no snack for you.

Posted by: AnnG | June 21, 2006 2:22 PM

Dear Leslie,

Small Savers I think is one of the best federal daycare centers in DC as is the one where treasury employees go and the Smithsonian employees go (the House and Senate also have daycare facilities too). But the waiting lists are huge. Unfortunately if you are not a federal worker with that particular agency you go to the back of the line. If you are not a federal worker you go even farther back. I signed up my unborn child (I was 8 weeks pregnant)for daycare paying the registration fee at 15 federal centers in the DC area and a couple of private centers and my son finally admitted to one 2 months after he was born. By then we had found daycare closer to home. I received letters from 3 of them 2 years later saying that I was still on the waiting list. Just wanted to point those things out.

Daycare is the most difficult for infant care -- its very expensive and hard to find I think because the ratios have to be very small (which is a good thing but makes finding care difficult).

Posted by: typical working mother | June 21, 2006 2:22 PM

Potential Mom is making a good point. If moms decide to leave work because they feel what they are earning isn't enough after paying for daycare, then do they think about their next raise and perhaps their next promotion. Isn't this what dads do?

Posted by: Alexandria | June 21, 2006 2:25 PM

I always love the people who assume that parents who stay at home raise better, happier kids. My son, who is now 12, started in daycare at about 4 months of age. At the time I had no choice, as his biological father walked out when I was 6 months pregnant (Liz, if I had only planned for that one!!). When I remarried I chose to continue working for many reasons and was lucky to find quality daycare. My son's a well-adjusted kid who gets good grades, isn't agressive and seems pretty happy. He isn't perfect, but I have yet to meet a kid who is (especially a 12-year-old boy!!).

Compare that to my previous neighbor, who stayed home with her child from day one. She spent every day alternating between watching TV and chain smoking on the front porch. Her kid is an absolute noodle, who is mean and vicious and always one step from failing in school. I describe him as a kid waiting for a bell tower, and I completely expect him to be on the evening news one night for killing someone.

Now I am not dumb enough to make a generalization that, based on these two examples, that day care is right for everyone. But those of you who live in la-la land and can make sweeping statements that parental care is the best option for all kids really need a does of reality.

Posted by: Tired Mom | June 21, 2006 2:32 PM

Yes, and reality is Tired Moms two examples. Please.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 21, 2006 2:35 PM

I've read over all the comments on this page and i have one question: everyone talks about how well their "social" child fits into daycare. Is it possible that this is the parent's perception? I find it hard to believe that every kid fits into daycare. All of this would be much more believable if there were people who find that day care DOESN'T work for their child.

Posted by: Jerry | June 21, 2006 2:36 PM

Jerry, did you read the observations from the introverts that they did not or would not have enjoy(ed) daycare?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 21, 2006 2:49 PM

I find that I just can't relate to many of the comments posted over the history of this blog. I don't live in DC, I enjoy staying home with my soon to be kindergardener and I will enjoy returning to work this fall, with an already lined up employer. Life seems to be different here in the flyover states. I don't know, can't most careers take a small break in the context of thirty years? I don't get why, if you can afford it, you put a three or four month old in someone elses care. Yeah, to some extend it is boring, but it is also throughout history a time for bonding and elemental learning on the part of the baby. I am not talking about a zillion years here, I am talking about two or so years until they are more capable of separating comfortably.

Posted by: Not in DC | June 21, 2006 2:51 PM

Not in DC, I do think its different here. The moms I've known who are trying to get back after taking a year or two off have had difficulties and have had to settle. Maybe its because we are hyper competitive here, but I think it would difficult to take a year or two off and pick up where I left off. But I guess that comes from spending more than a decade in a city where the second thing that comes out of your mouth after you meet someone is "where do you work."

Posted by: Anonymous | June 21, 2006 2:54 PM

>>All of this would be much more believable if there were people who find that day care DOESN'T work for their child.>>

My SIL pulled her twins out of center-based daycare because she was unhappy--they were only there for a few months, seemed anxious and fretful, regressed on the potty training, etc. But they are home with a nanny, it's not like she quit her job to stay home because the center didn't work out.

My other SIL went the other way--she felt that the woman who ran the home-based daycare she had the kids in was too focused on her own children at the expense of the "paying customers," and mostly they all watched TV. My niece and nephew are in a center now, although it is so expensive that my SIL does a split shift three days a week so that she can pick them up a lunch time and hand them off to my brother at dinner (the kids are only at the center for half days on those days, so it's a little cheaper). But again, despite the horrendousness of the schedule those days (she works 8-12, then 5-9), she does it because she wants to work, keep her career moving forward, keep their health benefits, etc.

Posted by: Arlmom | June 21, 2006 2:57 PM

I think it's important to emphasize, in particular to all those "no one else can love your kids as much as you can so therefore no one else should care for them" posters, that just because I love my kids - and am pretty darn certain that I'd meet anyone's definition of a good mom - doesn't mean I'm the best and only person to care for them 24/7. My husband and I are both working in rewarding and flexible federal jobs, and we pay just under $2K/month for non-subsidized daycare - a pretty significant chunk of our take-home pay. I am fortunate to have a job that I feel is important and socially beneficial (investigation of consumer frauds, in particular those that target elderly, disabled, immigrant, low-income and other vulnerable populations). That brings up a question that some posters ignore when they argue for the "traditional" SAHM model - is staying at home to raise your kids the ONLY noble calling a woman can have? Should my pediatrician quit her job for 5 years because she's expecting in a few weeks? How about police officers, counselors, public defenders, school bus drivers, etc? Would our society be a better place if all women were expected (and shame, shame, shame on you bad mothers - don't you love your kids enough? - if you do otherwise) to stay at home the whole time their kids were pre-K age? When I do on occasion feel overwhelmed with guilt (I'm only human) for having my two preschool-aged kids in daycare, my husband the pragmatist reminds me of another important point: I am just not the sort of person that can spend entire days playing with Matchbox cars and singing ABCs and taking walks to the park to chat about kid stuff with all the SAHMs. Granted, I LOVE to do that stuff on weekends, evenings, vacations, my one weekday off per week (though I find that I have so many errands and other unavoidable household tasks that the day off is hardly a stay-at-home-and-focus-entirely-on-the-kids day). But the bottom line is, if I was at home everyday with the kids, particularly in the Pacific NW climate which is very often not conducive to outside activities, I'm sure there'd be many times I'd end up sitting them in front of a TV to watch a video for an hour or so, or begging them to play by themselves so I could have just a few minutes to myself to read a book, or getting irritated and whiny right alongside them when they're bored and stir-crazy on one of our interminable rainy days. It would NOT be the full time child-centered, age-appropriate and educational(not to mention social) activities that our great daycare provides. Even something as simple as the facilities (3 different outside play areas, situated in a big city park, an endless selection of books and toys and bikes and climbing equipment) is something that I couldn't possibly offer if they were home full-time.

And just so no one thinks I've got some inherent anti-SAHM bias: I was raised in a home daycare, I mean literally, my mom was the provider. My mom happens to be a St. Francis-type (animals and small children just love her - she's about the warmest and kindest human being one could ever hope to meet) and her daycare was wonderful and loving. She was just a natural. She went to the library every Saturday to get a new stock of books for the kids, she had endless ideas for crafts and other projects, and we didn't have a TV anywhere in our living area (only one in the basement rec room, which was rarely used). She actually had multiple generations in her daycare from two of the families: she cared for the children of two of her previous daycare kids. She was loved by so many people. When she retired a few years ago, after 25 years, several of the parents and previous daycare kids organized a huge surprise party at the local park where she and her kids spent so many hours. She was hugged and thanked by nearly 50 people whose lives she'd changed enough that they went out of their way and their busy schedules to come out and wish her well, many after not seeing her for years. (Just the other day she told me about being at the mall, and noticing a big football-player type high school kid looking at her, and the next thing she knew he was hugging her and saying, "Remember me, Mrs. B?") So I had a SAHM, but I also had a working mom who will probably be remembered and cherished by more people than most of us in our working lives. Would the world have been better off if she didn't work, and all of the teachers and other working parents who depended on her had to look elsewhere? Did those parents do a disservice to their kids by sending them to her? Not all daycare is like that, of course. Our kids go to a center, not a home. But the whole point is that it's not so black and white. No one can tell me that I don't love my kids enough because of the choices I've made. No one can tell me that my mom, or others like her who love the kids they care for, are somehow inherently deficient caregivers. There's enough guilt and judgmental finger-pointing in this world. Most parents do the best they can within the framework of their options and abilities, and hope for the best for their kids.

Posted by: not B&W | June 21, 2006 2:58 PM

The rich can afford good daycare. The poor are stuck with the bad daycare.

To some, this is terrible. I'm sure others think it's great.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 21, 2006 3:00 PM

I stayed home for six months after the birth of each of my 2 children before putting them in daycare. I think it is rather simplistic to say that it is always best if a parent stays home with their kids. When my kids are at daycare they don't watch TV, they have music class, fitness class, play outside on a great playground and do a lot of art projects I wouldn't have the time or patience to do. Furthermore, they aren't being supervised by someone who is trying to do the laundry, clean the kitchen, wash dishes, run errands . . . . The teacher turn over in my children's classes has been low -- my daughter has the same teacher's my son did when he was her age and I know the teacher's care very deeply about my kids and I'm always amazed at how calm the kids rooms are when I go to pick them up. For all of these reasons I feel that the big check I have to write each month is worth it.

My son is naturally introverted and daycare has been great for him. His teachers understand his temperament and have worked hard to help him learn how to speak up for himself and join in those activities he would enjoy while respecting his need to play by himself at times or watch from the sidelines. He's learned that people other than his parents can teach him and care for him. He's learned to share and has a very clear understanding of what behaviors are not acceptable. He's not yet three and comes home telling me things about the weather, insects, hamsters, dinosaurs etc that I may not have exposed him to if I had stayed home.

When I think about whether I've done the right thing by going back to work I look at my two young nephews who stay at home with my sister-in-law -- they are far less able to handle new situations, panic if their mother leaves the room, have trouble playing unless an adult is actively involved, melt down if they have to share their toys and expect everyone to think they are as brilliant as their mother tells them they are every time they put crayon to paper. Since their mother doesn't work they have no money for preschool and no plans to save any money for college.

Posted by: Mom of 2 in daycare | June 21, 2006 3:01 PM

I used to live in DC as a young staffer on the Hill, so I know a little about the "culture". But I think it has changed a bit since I was there in the early 90's.(smile)

Posted by: Not in DC | June 21, 2006 3:01 PM

To Not in DC: I don't disagree with you when you talk about staying home with your child. In fact, my choice will be, when I have a child, to stay home at least one year. However, I think that the answer is, no, a lot of careers can't afford a small break in the tougher job markets such as NYC, SF, DC, etc. Depends on the job also.

I personally couldn't find another job as good as mine or one that paid me so well and was so satisfying without looking long and hard. I'm in a specialized field. Lots of women and men would jump right in and grab my job if I took, say, 1 year off. Future employers would ask what I was doing that year, and some would not want to know that I was home with my child, although I think the number who would hold that against me is lower than everyone thinks.

Posted by: DC worker | June 21, 2006 3:02 PM

The NYT piece, op-ed or not, is not the first time the subject of child development and daycare has been studied. Surprise, surprise, it is not beneficial for child development to be in a daycare situation 12 hours a day. Why are we suprised about that? It's just common sense. Children need socialization but not from 6 weeks. And NOT 12 hours a day. It is actually very bad for a baby's nervous system to be in a noisy environment for prolonged hours. A lot of people wrote about positive experience with day care centers. I have no doubts about the value of a daycare/preschool but, if you notice, most preschools have cirriculum that is really designed from 9-12 -- the most alert and productive hours of small children. A staggarded approach, in my view, is the best -- enroll 2 year olds 2-3 days a week, 3 year olds can go 5 days a week, and from 4 on they can stay for an extended day (5 at the latest). Of course, this arrangement only works if one parent works part time or pays a full time child care provider, or (and this is my dream as a working mother) works during the hours the child is in pre-school and makes up the difference in hours in the evening from home. Clearly, this is the solid middle class upper middle class solution.

Posted by: some common sense | June 21, 2006 3:02 PM

hey daycare is so-so, if it's such an important issue for you why make your wife quit her job. you said it was important to you, why don't you quit?

i love how people like janette are somehow able to measure love. i have a question for you, since love is measurable who loves your children more you or your husband? i was lucky to have 2 very fine providers for my son. to say that i loved my son more than they did is a disservice to them. they loved him differently. the santimonous blather that somehow being a mom or dad means you wear a halo. oh puh-lease.

Posted by: quark | June 21, 2006 3:07 PM

B&W, that's a great story about your mom. I wish that all daycare providers/workers were women and men who chose it as a career, trained for it, and were paid well for the excellent work they do. Then we probably wouldn't have so many anxieties about leaving our kids because we would know they were with very qualified and dedicated people. Sadly, that's not always the case.

Posted by: DC worker | June 21, 2006 3:08 PM

Most of the discussion of day care focuses on day care centers, not family day care homes. Day care in homes resembles the extended family, with a small group of children of different ages. More often than not, the care giver is the mother of one or more of the children in her home.

Children in family day care "graduate" from being the youngest to the oldest, thus practicing changing roles in relation to both the care giver and the other children, with the older kids "helping" to care for the younger ones.

Centers, on the other hand, group kids of the same age together, a situation almost certain to foster aggression, as kids the same age generally want the same things (e.g., caregiver attention, toys, preferred space, etc.).

Yes, centers generally offer more "academic" training, but this is not necessarily a good thing if the cost is failing to learn how to respect others. "Sharing" is so much easier if you are helping a younger child rather than giving in to a rival.

Based on my experience in a child-care research project, my wife and I selected family day care for our two children to ensure that they received flexible and loving care all day long and were not part of a regimented "class" based more on maintaining order than attending to individual needs.

There was never a day when either of them cried about wanting to stay home from day care!

Posted by: Jesse Blatt | June 21, 2006 3:15 PM

We actually moved here from Chicago last summer. My son had been in daycare there and while I started work immediately, my husband didn't start till August so had a month to be a stay at home dad. He worked really hard at it too. He looked up library events to take him to or anything else age appropriate, took him to the park, swimming pool, and would make him healthy meals etc. One day, while at the park, my son asked my husband, Daddy, when can I go back to school and be with my friends. My husband then realized that school played an important social role for my son. Now of course this isn't true for everyone, but I know for my son he thrives in that envirnoment. 2 pieces of advice to make it work though:

1.) If you can, have one parent go into work really early so he/she can pick up child early. I think when kids get picked up later, it makes them anxious.

2.) I think TV plays a big role in how kids behave. I only let my son watch the Nick Junior programs on Sat. and nothing else during the week (He's three). I'm surprised at how man boys in his class are exposed to Spiderman type cartoons. True my son picks up things from his friends about Power Rangers, but he's still a lot calmer than some of the boys.

3.) Also, spend more time picking out your daycare than you would pick out shoes! I started looking a year in advance. And consider places you wouldn't have thought of. Many universities have excellent facilities (my son goes to one). They give first priority to students and staff, but usually have openings for the general public as well. Also talk to the director and teachers and get a sense of their philosophy. I really clicked with my son's school way of looking at things (including nutritution, discipline, and development). If you don't agree with their fundamental philosophy you'll have problems later.

sorry, for the long post.

Posted by: new to DC | June 21, 2006 3:15 PM

"I am not talking about a zillion years here, I am talking about two or so years until they are more capable of separating comfortably."

This would be impossible for me. Even if you disregarded the difficulty of taking this kind of time off when your work depends on an active security clearance (which can only be maintained while you're employed; leave work for 2 years and you have to be re-investigated), two years off would cost me promotions and well into five figures in raises.

My husband is a teacher and could probably take a few years off without too much damage to his career, but when I asked him about it once he looked at me like I had lobsters crawling out of my ears. He has already planned his career to allow for greater flexibility when we have kids, though, since he knows that given our career choices, my earning potential outstrips his by several orders of magnitude.

Posted by: Lizzie | June 21, 2006 3:17 PM

My children were in a family home day care. I loved it and the children did as well. However, after I read in the paper that the woman's teenage son was picked up in a drug-bust (crack) at someone's apartment, I immediately moved my children. She said that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but I couldn't take the chance that one of his 'friends' would accidentally drop something that the kids might put in their mouths.

My younger daughter cried for weeks at the daycare center and I will never know if it was because she missed her daycare provider whom she loved, or because she was her separated from her sister (by age group).

Staying home wasn't an option and I felt that there would be more oversight at the center where there was actually a staff and not just one provider. By the way, I remained friends with the woman and actually felt bad that her stupid son did something that impacted her being able to earn a living. She was a single mom who did daycare to be available for her children. She was actually a great mom - sometimes kids do things in spite of you and not because of you.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 21, 2006 3:26 PM

Daycare providers AND teachers don't make nearly what they should for the jobs they do. So we don't always get the people who would enrich the lives of our children. We live in a nation that pays athletes and entertainers far more than it pays those defending the lifestyle we enjoy and those watching out for the next generation.

Yet, try and get along without the men and women willing to put on a uniform. And try and get along without the men and women who take care of your kids.

Posted by: Military Momma | June 21, 2006 3:33 PM

I'm waiting for women who quit their jobs to discuss the question asked above: Did you consider future raises and promotions when you decided you weren't making enough to continue working and paying for childcare? I'm not judging, I just want to know the thought process involved. Did you think about the impact a year or two out would have on your future career and earning potential?

Sometimes I know that there isn't much hope for a raise or promotion, but a lot of women on a career track know that, in a couple of years with one company, they are quite likely to rise. Also, I've worked at many nonprofits where, unless I made a major screwup, I was guaranteed a decent raise each year.

Posted by: Curious | June 21, 2006 3:33 PM

I have a couple of friends with young children who negotiated shorter work weeks in order to have a couple of days off with their children or worked shorter days so they could pick up the child early from daycare. In fact, one friend was offered a new job at 30 OR 40 hours per week, her choice, and since she has a new baby, she chose the 30 hours. The organization was thrilled to get her.

How many moms are trying to negotiate shorter hours and flex-time before leaving the job altogether? If you are planning to return to full-time (40 hours) later, it could be a great option for not losing so much ground in your career. I also work at a non-profit and they have flexible work hours that seem to work well for parents and nonparents alike.

Posted by: More flexibility | June 21, 2006 3:42 PM

I work at a nonprofit and the raise is an automatic 4% each year - about the same as the increase my daugther's daycare every year. So, it's been a wash for me. Last year, to honor my good work, they gave me a (gasp!) 5% raise! Let me tell you, the difference between 4 and 5 percent of my salary was less than 1 week's tuition at daycare! I should add that I have a job a lot of people would could kill for so leaving it would be tough but having a second child would make it difficult to justify financially.

Posted by: cc | June 21, 2006 3:48 PM

I am actually amazed at the one income couples in DC area. I don't know how they do it. We have a not-so-old house with reasonable mortgage (because my husband can't fix anything buying a cheaper older house would have been a disaster), a hyandai, and a old volvo station wagon. We are paying for summer camp, music lessons, foreign language lessons, sports, 1 week vacation a year, pre-schools, college fund and so on. If one of us did not work these expenses would still be there. And I don't think that I am paying for extravagant thigs for my kids --these are the things they need to develop themselves in this competitive world we are living in. Childcare is expensive but nobody said raising kids will be free. You might as well to open your wallet -- fist preschool, then college. Maybe I am not showing a lot of common sense in this post...........

Posted by: some common sense | June 21, 2006 3:49 PM

When my son was born, my husband stayed home with him full time for the first two years. When he turned two, we put him in daycare three mornings a week until he was three. When he was three, he began going in for longer hours (9:00 - 4:30) We never left him longer than that. The adjustment was gradual for him, and he seemed to thrive in daycare. It was good for my husband who was going back to school at the time also. I know this is not possible for everyone, because people have demanding work schedules that do not always allow them to keep daycare hours short (or relatively so). But I feel sorry for kids who are in daycare 10 - 12 hours a day. No child should be left in daycare that long on a regular basis. I do consider that abdication of parental responsibility. If you can't spend time with your kids at least in the early evening hours, why bother having them?

Posted by: Rockville | June 21, 2006 3:56 PM

Common Sense, I hear you. Are you funding your retirement? It really opened my eyes when Suze Ormond said, "Your kids can get college scholarships but you can't get a retirement scholarship." She suggests funding your retirement first and then setting aside money for college.

CC: Although your job is great now, will you never want or receive a promotion and a jump in wages? I moved within my nonprofit, to a position I enjoyed as much as my previous one, and jumped $16,000.

Posted by: Saving | June 21, 2006 3:57 PM

My previous post needed the following paragraph... We use on-base daycare for our daughter. Part of our payment subsidizes care for troops with smaller salaries, fine with me. Care is highly regulated both in the daycare centers and in home care and our experience with both has been outstanding. There's a perpetual shortage of slots at the on-base daycare, it's next to impossible to get infant care. And six weeks of maternity leave seems to be the best we can hope for.

We have a happy, funny girl who can't wait to go to school each morning and leaves reluctantly at the end of the day. She'll have her share of "therapy moments" later in life, we all do. But that's our experience and I fully support all the parents (and non-parents) on this blog.

Posted by: Military Momma | June 21, 2006 4:02 PM

to saving: Yes, I forgot to metion funding the retirement. I think the best we can do for our children is not to burden them with taking care of us and their own family. I am the "sandwich" generation -- I want an easier life for my kids.

Posted by: some common sense | June 21, 2006 4:03 PM

This would be impossible for me. Even if you disregarded the difficulty of taking this kind of time off when your work depends on an active security clearance (which can only be maintained while you're employed; leave work for 2 years and you have to be re-investigated), two years off would cost me promotions and well into five figures in raises.

I think it is fine to figure in the costs to a career that come from deciding to stay home with kids or to put them in daycare less hours. I also think we sometimes fail to figure into this equation the cost we are expecting our kids to absorb if we put them in daycare too soon or hours that are too long. Don't get me wrong, I am all for mothers working, but I also think it is wrong to leave little kids in daycare 10 - 12 hours a day, especially as infants. I know in some cases (like if your husband abandons you when you are 6 months pregnant) this can't be helped, but as a rule, I think we need think about what is best for the kids before we have them. If we conclude that the only way we can raise kids is by putting them in daycare 10- 12 hours a day so we can work, then we need to re-evaluate whether we really should be having kids.

Posted by: Rockville | June 21, 2006 4:05 PM

to rockville: you are so right. when i was looking for a day care for my oldest child who was turning two I visited one of those centers where they accept infants from 6 weeks. It was in Bethesda, a center with a great reputation. The room with little babies made me want to cry -- for them, for their parents who are forced (I am assuming they are forced because who in their right mind would put a 6 week old in a daycare) to go this route. I ended up putting my son in preschool 9-12 and hired a nanny to take care of him the rest of the day.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 21, 2006 4:10 PM

The weird thing about the "sandwich generation" is that some middle-aged parents today are caring for kids and their own aging parents (the grandparents) while other sets of grandparents are financially supporting their kids and their grandchildren! Maybe that's how some of these couples who are earning high wages can afford big houses, two new cars, private school for their kids, expensive vacations: I know for a fact that one of my former boss's wealthy parents were paying for the house downpayment, private school for two grandkids, lessons, tutoring programs, and annual camps for both grandkids, etc.

Posted by: Maggie | June 21, 2006 4:10 PM

Re: "I am actually amazed at the one income couples in DC area. I don't know how they do it."

Depends on how you define area.

Either A) The working spouse makes $150k+; or; B) They live in Gainesville or C) They aren't paying market price for housing (inherited/parents purchased/home bought before 1995)

Posted by: Anonymous | June 21, 2006 4:11 PM

Oops, I meant "some of these couples who are NOT earning high wages". My former boss was making a modest salary and his wife made less.

Posted by: Maggie | June 21, 2006 4:11 PM

FWIW, Studies have shown that children learn social skills from adults (google Larry Edward Shyers), not from other kids (makes sense, doesn't it? how can kids teach each other things they don't know?)
Therefore, it's not surprising that long hours in group daycare (and presumably less one-on-one time with adults) might result in poorer social skills, including more aggression.

I'd like to see these studies used to improve daycare by better reflecting on what different kids need (eg introverted kids might need the opprtunity for quiet and privacy), instead of just making working parents feel guilty, then rationalize that the study doesn't mean anything about *their kids*, because *their kids* are thriving (certainly I'm not the only one who has noticed that in the stories in these comments, none of the parents whose kids were struggling in daycare had any idea?)

Working parents are nothing new, but institutional daycare is-- maybe we don't have it right yet?

Posted by: formerly of NoVA | June 21, 2006 4:12 PM

C) They aren't paying market price for housing (inherited/parents purchased/home bought before 1995)

That's true, not everyone is stuck with the expensive housing situation. Some are sitting on huge profits -- but then, they also they are paying high taxes.

Posted by: Good point | June 21, 2006 4:14 PM

Reading all these posts has been very educational and I find it so difficult to believe that folks out there literally blame parents who complain about costs for having children. As a country we are not keeping pace with our retirement growth. Women are waiting longer to have children or choosing not to at all for a variety of reasons, one that is typically work. Procreating and contributing to the populaton is important. Has anyone seen the statistics on social security lately? When the program was created there was a 16:1 worker/retiree ratio. We are down significantly and projected to decrease even further.
Having children and starting a family can be wonderful for those involved (despite all the stress and major lifestyle change) and I look forward to the day when I start one. But daycare costs concern me. Big house? Fancy car? Yes my house costs a lot but I would hardly define it as grand. 2B/1B in a developing neighborhood yet because I am a relatively new homeowner, the costs are quite high. I am planning for the future but it kills me to read some of the insensitive comments some folks have against others. We are all members of this society and contribute to it. Raising productive, intelligent and respectful children will help us continue in the years to come. Support from family, spouses and employers will help facilitate this process. Otherwise more college-educated, professional women like myself will stop having them all together and where will that leave us as a country?
I don't think we're heading in a great direction at the moment.

Posted by: J | June 21, 2006 4:21 PM

Even if you have a $2000 all-inclusive monthly mortgage payment (which seems reasonable for a $300K house) one salary does not cut it. Even for Gainesville... Inheritance/wealthy grandparents maybe the answer.

Posted by: does not add up | June 21, 2006 4:23 PM

Another answer is: They are in debt up to their eyeballs.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 21, 2006 4:28 PM

>>>That's true, not everyone is stuck with the expensive housing situation. Some are sitting on huge profits -- but then, they also they are paying high taxes>>>

Never understood the big flap over housing/land taxes going up as a result of property appreciation. They municipal appraisals are always lower than market value, they signify equity in the house, they can be rolled into the mortgage escrow and the taxes are deductable. Equity means emergency borrowing power....like when you have to build an au pair suite on the house because the resulting increase in home value is more than the cost difference between day care and au pair....

Posted by: Anonymous | June 21, 2006 4:37 PM

Tired: Thanks for the great real-life story. I myself was a complete "accident" baby, and the fact is that my birth and necessities growing up DID cause a lot of unnecessary stress and problems that wouldn't have existed if they had only had their first child.

Am I still happy that I was born? Yes. Accidents happen and unplanned things will kick us in the ass everywhere we turn.

But when we're talking about things that CAN be planned for and are not- only to have so many parents wailing at the other end...I just don't know how to respond to that.

We really don't need so many babies. We need more people who put themselves in secure, stable, responsible positions and THEN decide whether they want to foster a child or not.

That doesn't mean there aren't problems to deal with- we DO have babies now and we DO have to figure out how to make them grow into the best generation they can be. Companies DO need to become more balanced on the human side of things. But not because someone chose to have a baby and can't afford to adequately provide for it.

Posted by: Liz | June 21, 2006 4:42 PM

Janette wrote:

"Say all you want about how many kids that have been in daycare come out okay and well adjusted, the fact of the matter is, NO ONE, I mean NO ONE will provide the amount of love and care to kids other than their parents. So day care or no day care, the kids are way better off being cared for by their parents."

Sorry, Janette, but you've only got it half right. I agree with you 100% that no daycare provider could love my kids as much as I do. However, any one of them worth his or her salt could provide better daytime care. I admit it -- I am one of those mothers who never liked doing art projects, endless hours at the park pushing a swing, playing Barbies or GI Joes, etc. I couldn't stand not having a minute of time to myself to even go to the bathroom. I was no good at trying to juggle laundry, grocery shopping, and housecleaning while entertaining bored and energetic preschoolers. I was perpetually exhausted, stressed, and cranky. When it became apparent that stayiing home with my children had resulted in clinical depression, my husband was the first one to push me back into the workforce, and we were all happier for it. Some women simply are not hardwired to be caretakers.

Does that mean I am a bad mother? I don't think so. My two teenagers are happy, well adjusted honors students who have never had social problems like aggression. We have a great relationship and truly enjoy each other's company now that I'm no longer depressed and they no longer are in that clingy stage of following me into the bathroom! My 5-year old, also a daycare kid, can't wait to go to "school" in the morning and gets upset if we pick her up "too early." She's bright, engaging, and probably overprepared for kindergarten. Best of all, during the 8-10 hours she is at daycare, I know she is not mindlessly watching TV while I struggle with my sanity.

BTW, I'm now a fed working on a military installation in Illinois. The policy here is that DOD civilian employees can place a child over 2 in base daycare only if a space is available and there are no military personnel on the waiting list for the slot. My daughter is in base daycare and my older two kids attended the base summer camps. Here I am charged the same subsidized rates as military personnel, which are ridiculously low compared to private daycare centers in the area, but I don't know if this is the policy across all of DOD. Its a great perk, for which I am eternally grateful. My husband served in Desert Storm, though, and I am also a veteran, which makes me feel a little less guilty about accepting the benefits.

Posted by: MP | June 21, 2006 4:57 PM

"We need more people who put themselves in secure, stable, responsible positions and THEN decide whether they want to foster a child or not."

Liz, some people are going to jump all over you, but I completely agree. Sure, lots of folks have accidental pregnancies or unexpected problems with their children, and they make the best choices they can. On the other hand, it would be great for society in general if more people really thought through their choices and made decisions based on realities such as income potential, housing and childcare costs, need to support aging parents, etc.

Posted by: Curious | June 21, 2006 5:01 PM

Geez, when people stop judging and actually start discussing on this blog, the posts sure drop off. I was hoping for more debate about the costs of quitting v. staying at work and trying to move up to a better position. We've had some good comments in the past hours, at least.

Posted by: Curious | June 21, 2006 5:17 PM

Very interesting points. After reading these posts, some very informative, others mudslinging, I am very happy with my choice. I was laid off 2 weeks after returning to work. I would have spent all of my severance and savings just looking for another job while my baby was in premium cost daycare. So, I decided to stay home. Not a decision I had expected to make. However, I couldn't stand a 2 hour commute just to pay for my water bill. Now, 5 years and 2 kids later, I am still home. But harbor no, and I mean NO bad feelings about moms that work. I just can't believe some of the statements I have read here. Sometimes the best care isn't given at home - kids in front of tvs, drowning in the bath tub, and the "horrors" of day care - kid falling of the changing table, being in a wet diaper for hours. Can't we just be happy with the choice we made, and not making ourselves out to be martyrs for doing it? I don't know when I will return to work, but it will be work, not a career. My children are still and will always be first.

That being said, I do sometimes harbor jealousy for some of my friends that don't work AND have nannies.....

Posted by: va sahm | June 21, 2006 5:17 PM

Typical Working Mom -- my third child got into Small Savers even though I don't work for the gov't. I got on the list when I was three weeks pregnant. Note to Potential Moms, at least get on daycare lists early even if you're not sure what you are going to do!

I personally always preferred "institutional" daycare vs. nannies, relatives or small in-house centers. I understand people who want to replicate the family feeling, but I always loved that my daycare center was a business, professionally run, with measurable standards. (The ones I chose were also always bright, cheerful and "homey.") I also really appreciated that when a caregiver was sick, it was handled professionally with a substitute, not someone who came to work sick because she had to -- or with a last minute call to me that I had to find alternate care.

To each her (or his) own!

And yes, quality daycare is incredibly expensive. I believe that childcare providers should be very well paid, and that costs money. It's terrible that lower income families, who need good care as much as wealthy families, can't afford it. But through gov't subsidies and scholarships, they SHOULD have access to good daycare as well -- just as we all have access to firefighters and policemen and ambulance services. It's that important.

Posted by: Leslie | June 21, 2006 5:26 PM

Well said, Leslie.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 21, 2006 5:28 PM

curious

I returned to work after 4 month maternity leaves with each of my two children who are now both teenagers. I don't know that I can rightfully comment about your questions regarding the costs of quitting and losing potential increases because I never actually quit. However, I will say that over my almost 30-year career I have seen that some people are promoted because of talent and skill, some because of who they know, and some because of longevity. And I have seen people who have not advanced because of lack of those things. Others were held back because of the perception of unreliability (running out for sick kids =).

I guess that you must weigh the culture of your workplace in your decision. The future is promised to no one. People relocate, retire, quit, companies fold. Look at the information you have and definitely also consider your instincts. It would be much easier if we all had a crystal ball.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 21, 2006 5:54 PM

curious,

I think it depend on whether you view your job as a "job" or a career. And further, do you work to live or live to work. When I was young, single and upwardly mobile I left DC vowing never to return. Too many people thinking that my job was more important than who I was beyond my title. I wanted more time to kayak, and persue hobbies. So, I left DC for less competitive, and fewer 60 hour weeks. pastures. I am a SAHM now and have never viewed my job as what defines me, however.

Posted by: to curious | June 21, 2006 6:10 PM

I worked in Day Care for a year and a half. It was incredibly rewarding; I fell in love with every one of my infant students. There were beautiful days where we played outside or one of them mastered saying my name or walked for the first time all on his own. There were other days when I felt like all I did was change diapers and clean the classroom, days when one of them would fall and bump his forehead badly and I would feel like a failure for not having stopped it from happening--and having to explain it to Mom and Dad. We did our best to make learning the priority but with a ratio of 4:1 infants to teachers it sometimes felt like there wasn't enough time to do it all. (I've been out of the industry for a year, but I know that NAEYC recommends only 3:1 for infants. Our center may have switched by now to gain accreditation.)

Many of the kids did thrive at our center. The teachers who stayed there (we did have fairly high turnover, half the staff changed just in the time I was there) were loving and very good at what they did. Still, something that came up sometimes in conversation was that most of us fully intended -not- to send our kids to Day Care. Not everyone has a choice, of course, but we felt like our parents were paying too much and we were getting paid too little.

I was living with my parents at the time (I was 24, a college graduate) and making $8.25 an hour. I got better rates babysitting for the neighbors. It was still rewarding in other ways, but it's not the sort of salary one could live off of. I welcomed the overtime pay I got when we were short-staffed (too much of the time), but then I didn't have kids or a husband waiting for me to find spare time for them. And even when I did work overtime, there were kids--little babies--who spent more hours than I did at the center. There were infants who would arrive at 6:40 am (ten minutes after we opened) and leave at 6:20 pm (ten minutes before we closed).

This was in Springfield, Virginia, and I know what commutes and pressures these parents were facing. It still broke my heart for these kids I loved, whose faces lit up so completely when Mom or Dad showed up to pick them up, to be stuck in a classroom and a playground for twelve hours a day away from the people they loved most.

The best day care in the world can't compare with being in your own parents' arms. And Day Care can't be the best unless the employees are valued and well-payed (we had the first, but the second...if you want college educated, properly trained caretakers and educators, you're going to need more money to compete with the other jobs that will pay those same people more).

And child care is expensive enough without paying for the best workers. It's a tough problem; I don't know the solution. As for me, if I can--I'm staying home with my kids when I have them.

Posted by: Keb | June 21, 2006 6:20 PM

Federal Employees get subsidized daycare?!?!? Did any of you actually read the fine print on that OPM citation? It says that it gives agencies the *ability* to provide subsidies. I work for an independent agency that gives absolutely no thought to providing subsidies or even setting up a daycare center.

The forecast for next year's federal budget is bad to really bad. Do you really think that agencies looking at critical program cuts are giving out daycare subsidies to employees?!?!?!? There may be a few cases of this, but I have never actually met someone who has received a daycare subsidy as a federal employee.

The idea that each of us is collecting a subsidy check or getting some massive discount at a federal daycare center is of urban mythos proportions! Totally ridiculous. I certainly wish it were true because I am currently paying $1400/mo for one full time kid and one after-school care kid. Believe me- if this is actually taking place it is certainly not widespread.

Posted by: T. | June 21, 2006 6:21 PM

As the author of one of those terrifying articles about day care, I think it's hilarious that you think all people have to do is go out and find quality day care -- like it's readily available. Where I live, the only quality center costs more than $300 a week per kid. The other centers have either closed down or have tons of complaints against them (and are terrifying). I found one home day care provider who didn't have the TV on all day, but decided to take my son elsewhere after I left some immunization records for her at the top of his diaper bag and, at the end of the day, she asked me where they were. His diaper was full and hadn't been touched in an eight-hour day. Thankfully my husband's schedule allows us to hire someone in-house at a reasonable cost, otherwise it's really unlikely I'd be working.
The article I wrote didn't include any of my personal experiences, but I decided to write it after becoming amazed that I couldn't find quality (and reasonably affordable) daycare anywhere.
It sounds like your paycheck is a bit larger than most. You might want to research what kind of quality day care you can find with an average paycheck. Hopefully the situation is better where you live, but where I live it's pretty abysmal.

Posted by: reporter mom | June 21, 2006 6:22 PM

Curious -

There are so many factors involved in deciding whether to stay at home or work and pay for daycare that the correct answer is very situational.

I was on active duty when I had my first two children. Quitting was not an option. After leaving the military I took a job as an associate at a law firm. Since the firm didn't think my six years of military legal experience counted for much, I started at the bottom of the salary scale. While I made enough money to make it financially worthwhile to work, the cost in time was simply too high. The firm considered 40 hours a week to be "part time" work and constantly pressured me to work longer hours. I hated the job so much that I quit the second my husband got a raise.

Unfortunately, my husband and I did not think that decision through very well. We were so anxious to get out of the pressure cooker that we didn't sit down with the budget and figure out if we could survive on just one salary. We just assumed that we could cut enough expenses to make it on his newly increased salary. Unfortunately we were wrong and over the next year developed mounting credit card bills. After I returned to the workforce as an attorney for federal gov't, we spent several years paying down our debt. I've progressed far enough up the salary scale that we can pay our bills, fully fund our retirement account and still have money left over at the end of the month for college savings. My oldest is in high school while my youngest child starts elementary school in August, so I will be trading daycare bills for college tuition
bills. As another poster said, it will probably seem fairly transparent.

My sister left a career as a metallurgical engineer to become a SAHM. She wasn't all that happy in her job. As a SAHM she also had more time to be a church musician, which she found very fulfilling. After 15 years as a SAHM, my sister found that her engineering degree was utterly worthless. However, she found a new career as a music software quality technician for a small software company. It doesn't pay anywhere near what she'd be making if she'd stayed in engineering, but my sister is very happy. Of course, it helps that her family could afford to live on her husband's income. My sister's paycheck goes exclusively to college and retirement savings.

I have another sister, a SAHM and freelance journalist, who at 47 has virtually nothing saved for college or retirement. She enjoys her work and the flexible schedule, but expects that she will never be able to retire. When I called her to tell her I had quit my job at the law firm, the first words out of her mouth were "Congratulations, you've just screwed yourself for Social Security purposes."

Every situation is different. The key in my mind is careful planning.

Posted by: MP | June 21, 2006 7:17 PM

"NO ONE, I mean NO ONE will provide the amount of love and care to kids other than their parents. So day care or no day care, the kids are way better off being cared for by their parents."

Tell this to my nepwhews and nieces. They are just fine.

Posted by: Scarry | June 21, 2006 10:08 PM

This is a long one!

My daughter has been in day care since she has been three months old. She has been through three providers. The first was a very good child time with a lovely older lady. However, when she moved to the other class, the girls just didn't spend as much time with her as she did, she also had a biting problem (I blame my husband, he was a biter.)

The second day care was also great for a while too, but then I noticed the girl in the other class was lazy, mean, and did all sort of inappropriate things around the children. Okay, I started looking for another day care center, in the meantime this girl started getting mad because I would tell on her and ask the children in her room how they were doing as I walked through to get my daughter. The last straw was when I saw her jerk a little girl around. I told her I saw that and she just stared at me. I told on her, she was wrote up but not fired, I told my daughter's teacher that my kid was never allowed alone with her and that I was looking for another day care. I also said that if she touched my kid I would break her face, no surprise when I got a call from the new director saying that my kid was kicked out of the day care. I said let's just get this straight, she should not be working around children and you are not kicking my kid out, you are kicking me out. I left, called the state and the corporate office, got my money back for the week and had my kid in a better, newer day care in a week. With a director, who like me, doesn't play.

I love my kid's new day care. They pay the worker's a decent wage and they love the kids, no matter what anyone says. I mean, I didn't know love was so restricted until I started reading this blog! Day care is expensive and you really have to look around. You also have to be the parent that everyone knows doesn't put up with any of the crap that I just described above, not only for your kid, but for all the kids in the school.

What I find the saddest about the day care situation is not my own situation, but the situations of mother's who can't afford quality care or can't afford to take the week off work to find a new day care when something goes wrong. And yes, I do think that we have a moral and ethical obligation to help people who are less fortunate than us. Children aren't only for upper middle class people (boy I never thought that would be me) or the rich.

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

Leslie how lucky and I'm jealous of you! I did get accepted to one of the federal daycare centers (finally) but I agree, as soon as you find out you are pregnant, get on those lists -- its a timing thing and really a nailbiter.

And, my personal preference like Leslie is "institutional" daycare because of the oversight. We have had wonderful experiences -- my younger son who was extremely shy and introverted when he entered the 2nd daycare is a very outgoing child now (not sure if it is because of the environment but what a difference in just a month after he went to Kindercare.

Posted by: typical working mother | June 22, 2006 8:45 AM

I think this is one of the most important subjects that Leslie had brought up on this blog so far. Everybody manages to find the right solution for themselves eventually but some people go through so many trials and errors that you wonder what impact it has on the kids. For myself, I spent countless sleepless nights before I had to leave my babies with nannies. It is the most terrifying thing for a parent - to leave your child in the hands of a complete stranger, even after all the background checks are done. But some of us have rewarding and interesting professions/careers and even though family comes first, having a life of one's own is really rewarding. So, I guess what I am trying to say is why don't we, parents, working or not working, try to change the workplace culture and get some laws in place that legally guarantee flexibility in the workplace. How did the FMLA got passed 13 years ago? Probably through grass roots lobbying. Maybe I have been in DC too long but I can't imagine that this is unattainable if there is a large domestic constituency.

Posted by: some common sense | June 22, 2006 9:08 AM

I work at a great daycare, where all of the "teachers" are teachers and most have a graduate degree in education, psychology or literature. IT is a great job and we are well paid. We provide the children with a unparalleled opportunity for learning and socialization. I love my job. However some of the children enrolled are not thriving. This can be due to many serious family issues, none of which are the parents fault, but just happen in life and have to be dealt with. Eventually those children will even out. The ones who will not are the ones who deal with the biggest problem in Daycare.

Parental guilt.

Parents your children know when you are guilty. They can feel it, it hurts them, it makes them think something is wrong with them or the care they receive. Saying "I am soo sorry to leave you here, but Mommy will be back soon, I promise, I love you. It is OK. Don't worry etc" makes your children worry. Why are you sorry? If you are sorry, don't leave them! How is the kid supposed to respond to that, other then thinking that you are leaving them in a terrible place that is bad for them, but you have to, all because you have to go off somewhere where they are not allowed? Is that the message you want to deliver? If your child does not cry when you leave, and does not freak out like it is the second coming when you return then, that, is good! When they do cry inconsolably when you leave, when they do get beyond excited when you return, it means they are not secure. They are afraid that in this crazy mixed up world, they do not understand, that you would actually leave them. NOT GOOD! Do not make them cry so you can feel that they love you. That is mean, mean to them, and mean to the people who take care of your children. And yes, maybe some of you are saying " I don't make my child cry" and that may be true, other things may make them insecure, however LOTS of Moms and Dads do it. I see it all the time. Actually at the place I work we will sometimes ask parents to stop coming if they do not take our suggestions to stop terrorizing their children.

The point is taking your children to daycare does NOT make you a bad parent! You love them, you hug them, you care for them. You take them to a place that has been exhaustively investigated, toured and informed. You are a good parent, you love your children. And unless you show up at daycare with unfed, wet, poopie child and complain that the line was too long at the Starbucks then you are fine. Your kids love you!

Kiss them, ask how their day was, and relax.

Posted by: Day Care Worker | June 22, 2006 9:19 AM

great post day care worker! I am so glad you posted it. People who are against day care need to understand that there are good ones out there with caring, loving people! Thanks for all your hard work wherever you work.

Posted by: Scarry | June 22, 2006 9:31 AM

Leslie tells all about the daycare at Johnson and Johnson but does NOT mention the Washington Post. Granted, her kids dont seem to need it now---but what about other kids of moms and dads at the Post? DOes this mean the Post has no daycare provisions? Why not say so? I 'm curious since it seems very ironic to have a high powered Post exec writing a blog about a balanced life---which includes family issues like daycare!

Posted by: RitaMae | June 22, 2006 9:44 AM

I worked for the first 22months of my older kid's life and am home with my second. I've never been sold on the idea that government should subsidize daycare so that we can all have access to high quality daycare. Such subsidies would come from taxes that we and others pay. So in part we'd be paying taxes to subsidize our own daycare and in part we'd be taking money from those with older kids, from the childless, and from couples where one parent is home. This doesn't seem fair to any of those people, particularly those where a parent is at home. Face it, if moms keep working through their kids' pre-school days, then it's costly at the time, but eventually those moms "win" financially because they keep their credentials up-to-date and they remain on the career ladder. When their kids no longer need daycare, they'll be making more money than moms who stayed home with their kids. So it seems wrong to, basically, punish moms for staying home by making their taxes subsidize daycare for other people.

Given that, the reason I'm home is that my salary didn't cover daycare for two kids, so I certainly have a vested interest in cheaper, high quality care. But I feel the logic of cheap high quality care doesn't work out: better quality daycare means higher-paid workers, which means higher costs for parents...

I think that any government involvement should be limited to requiring basic standards of safety, trainig for daycare workers, and opportunities for parents who step off the career track for a while. I think parents on welfare should not be required to work if it means putting the kid in daycare. That's just inefficient.

Posted by: b | June 22, 2006 3:02 PM

Besides Federal centers or Kindercare, I haven't seen many recommendations for good day care centers. Can anyone comment? Personally, I'm looking in Northern VA (McLean, Falls Church, Arlington) for a 3-year old. Thanks.

Posted by: Mom in NoVa | June 22, 2006 3:46 PM

I am fortunate to have a partner who is 1) Older than I am (more experience in childraising, with our daughter) 2) Works at a job that is both part time and flexible 3) Has a vocation in ministry and would love to quit working a 'regular job' and go back into ministry. So I can stay with my (much higher paying) job, she can quit her job, and she'll be our 'in home care' provider. Also known as Mama.

Now if I could just put her on my insurance so we'd be covered if she DID get hit by a bus...

Posted by: Rebecca | June 22, 2006 5:07 PM

My feeling is that a lot of women who can't deal with working and taking care of home and family use the "finances don't add up" rationale to quit jobs they simply don't like or no longer find fulfilling.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 22, 2006 6:11 PM

"My feeling is that a lot of women who can't deal with working and taking care of home and family use the "finances don't add up" rationale to quit jobs they simply don't like or no longer find fulfilling."

WOW. What a really judgmental way to look at the choice to be a SAHM. Here is my spin on the same decision: The money I would contribute after paying for daycare is not worth the more stressful life we would have. Some people find being at home more stressful than working; I don't.

And for the record, there is a wonderful family-friendly world outside of DC. Once you leave, its hard ever imagine going back. And the traffic's better too.

Posted by: Left NoVa | June 23, 2006 2:27 PM

"You get what you pay for." Over and over I've found that old saying to be so true.

Think!

What do you really expect from care providers who are lucky if they earn more than 20 thousand per year?

http://www.ocouha.com/cur/ooh030503_19.htm

Posted by: Bernice | June 23, 2006 3:28 PM

Someone wrote:

"The point is taking your children to daycare does NOT make you a bad parent! You love them, you hug them, you care for them"

If the kids are in day care, the truth is more like:

You love them, you hug them, you PAY SOMEONE ELSE TO care for them MOST OF THE TIME.

Posted by: Terry | June 23, 2006 3:31 PM

"I am actually amazed at the one income couples in DC area. I don't know how they do it ..."

This comment surprises me a bit. I currently work part-time (20 hrs wk), but did stay home for several years. We did buy our small house *inside the beltway* in VA (not Gainesville!) in 1998, just as housing prices were starting to skyrocket. Our house, which is the smallest in the neighborhood, has more than doubled in value since then. I admit if we had bought much later than that, staying at home might not have been an option. But, on the other hand, we have been vigilant in our efforts to keep car-related expenses low. Currently, our cars are six and 13-years-old. My husband works for the federal government. His salary is good, but not exceptionally high. We fully fund our retirement accounts and our only debts are related to home improvements (no car loans here). We have been able to send our children to a wonderful half-day preschool. We do NOT receive financial assistance from relatives.

I guess my point is that it is possible to have a nice standard of living in the DC area on less than two full-time incomes. My part-time income has allowed us to improve our home a bit. But, we are still able to pay for all the necessities on one income. We DON'T have a huge house, a nice shiny new car, take exotic vacations, pay someone to clean our house or tend to our yard, send our kids to endless classes, eat out constantly. Sometimes I wonder what people consider necessities these days ....

For the record, I went back to work because I wanted a break from staying home and felt it was the right thing to do. Once everyone was in preschool, I didn't feel comfortable not working. Even now, my two "days off" at home can more challenging and exhausting than most days at work. In my experience, parenting a headstrong preschooler requires as much creativity, intellect and patience as my toughest work days (full or part-time). Staying at home is HARD WORK!

I love the balance that part-time work provides. I feel that I spend enough time with my kids, yet I am able to contribute financially to the family and experience the fulfillment of a career. I wish more women had the opportunity to work part-time because I think it would be the most natural situation for *most* women. Sadly, good part-time jobs are hard to find.

Posted by: PT Mom | June 23, 2006 5:04 PM

I'm with Mom in NoVA....any recommendations on quality childcare facilities in the Northern Virginia area? Particularly Fairfax, Arlington or SW DC.....

Posted by: tlawrenceva | June 23, 2006 5:53 PM

After surving the Daycare Wars when my daughter was younger and staying afloat above water now I'm about to have my second child in December and the Daycare quotes are killing me. I was so fortunate to have a lady in the same townhouse development where my daughter and her mother lived who took care of everybody's child and only charged 500 month back then in 1997 for my child until she turned 6 and was going to school fulltime. Mind you, that was 9 years ago. The prices now is scaring the be-jeebers outta me along with seeing the child care abuse that's going on. Me and my wife thought we planned everything beforehand but even still with us both working in the private sectors, the insurance costs to add children is astronomical. Then you take in the Daycare which has to be starting at 800 month someplaces to over 1000 bucks a month.

We are making okay money but after figuring out what is left after daycare, after regular mortgage, household bills, etc., even with our combined salaries, and the cost of living in this area period, the money barely enough to keep both of our heads above water.

Now my daughter (from previous relationship) is about to turn 12 (pre-teen stage, GOD help me) and I've already been saving for her college education and I now have to start all over from scratch and the daycare prices is unforgiving. Then the research into finding a "quality daycare" is even more daunting.

My wife will probably have to go back to work after her six weeks is up, and I'll have to take off for about six weeks after that. But what happens in month four of the baby's life when we both are at work fulltime and have to trust our precious little gift from GOD to someone we don't really know well? What happens if we find out we can't afford the high cost of daycare? Any help on any quality but affordable daycare centers in Prince Georges County?

Posted by: Day Care Reality | June 26, 2006 2:11 PM

I have read alarming comments about how important it is to send introverted children to day care, as if throwing them in with a bunch of kids will turn them into an extrovert. Leaving aside the question of why this would be a good thing, introverts do not become extroverts any more than gay people become straight. I am an extrovert. My husband is an introvert, and my oldest daughter is an introvert also. She was in high quality day care from 6 weeks of age until I left to become a SAHM four years later. Every time she changed rooms it was a major adustment, and it got worse as she entered rooms where kids were expected to play together. I eventually decided she would do better at home, and I believe I made the right decision for her. As the extrovert in the family, I encourage her to go to classes and play with other kids, but my goal is to teach her how to cope in a world ruled by extroverts, not to become one herself. (The funny thing is she has always been extremely popular with her classmates in day care and kindergarten, even when she has been afraid to talk. This has made me wonder at the advantages of being cute and keeping your mouth shut.)

Posted by: Mother of Introvert | June 26, 2006 2:45 PM

how sad to think it is helpful to send introverted children to day care. what a nightmare for those tender souls. look, all nichd research shows that ALL separation from mommy is harmful to infants in the first year and to most children under five. PERIOD. It's harmful to the child's emotional well-being, intellect, social skills, to mom's attachment to the child, to dad's tolerance for the child.

Our infants are primates. Like all primates, they need years of their mother's arms and milk. Anything less is a compromise which hurts the child. Lots of day care moms pretend day care is great for their kids, but ask their kids when mom is not around and they'll tell you.

Posted by: laurie | June 26, 2006 9:40 PM

to day care reality:
how sad to think of putting your little one in the care of strangers, especially when you know it is wrong. all the research shows that it is very harmful to your child, and the quality of care doesn't matter. oh, it may make a difference between life and death, god help your innocent babe, but it will not make a difference in the damage done to attachment, emotional well-being, intellect, and social skills.

i strongly encourage you to not feel so trapped - to be the hero to your child that every parent is supposed to be - find a way to actually not put that poor poor babe in the company of strangers.

do you know that every baby away from its mom is under tremendous stress and its brain is flooded with stress hormones? don't do it to your baby, don't do it!

Posted by: laurie | June 26, 2006 9:44 PM

If you are asking for affordable daycare & "flex-time" (WTH?) for moms, you had better ask for it for dads, too, and for caregivers of elderly, often forgotten. I think that that's the issue: the older I get, the more I realize that one parent should stay home to do the job right. Period. And I should not have to pay for them to do so. Heck, I haven't been blessed with kids (thank God that I do have many other blessings), so why should I pay for their rugrats? I have been caring for an elderly parent since my thirties.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2006 2:04 AM

Just a comment as someone who has actually experienced the system in Montreal that this article discussed... We spent last year living there, and the quality of the day care programs that we visited and that our child attended was mediocre at best. Everyone meant well, but the adult-child ratios were not comparable to the good programs I've been affiliated with in the US. Importantly, there are no undergraduate or graduate programs in early childhood education in Montreal - the first associate degree program just began last year. This means that the teachers and directors likely do not have a strong background in child development or education.

So it is important to keep in mind that the results of this study, while enlightening, likely reflect quality of care rather than day-care per se. This is highly consistent with findings from US researchers showing that it is the quality of care (as measured by education of the caregivers, longevity of the caregivers [how long they have been at the center in question], and child/adult ratios) that are crticial. Canada has good daycare and bad daycare, just like the US.

Posted by: Jenny | June 27, 2006 3:53 PM

I was on an Internet Search when I came across this page. The truth is, daycares are needed because milions of families need the income that two working parents can provide. In addition, many parents are in love with their careers.
I'm a single parent. My career is exactly what I want to do with my life. I abhor daycares. They teach children to be aggressive and often, it's "every man (in this case, children) for themselves." Every day is a struggle for survival and individuality. The simple reality is children do not belong in daycares. They belong at home. My solution: I hired someone to come in my home to care for my daughter. No, she's not a nanny. My daughter is happy at home. She has her things, her friends nearby and her babysitter is there to make sure she's safe. To parents who drop their children off at a building every day, there is a solution if you really want one. You can justify daycares all you want. You can tell us how safe they are and your children receive the social skills they need in life. You can tell us all about the planned activities and the structure they so desperately need. I'm not convinced. A lot of us have to work. Some of us don't have a choice. But, I'd rather find a good solution for my child than take her to an economic warehouse for children.

Posted by: Nan | June 30, 2006 5:30 PM

"I hired someone to come in my home to care for my daughter. No, she's not a nanny."

Umm,what does that mean? What distinction are you trying to make?

"But, I'd rather find a good solution for my child than take her to an economic warehouse for children."

I'm sure most of us aren't trying to take our kids to an "economic warehouse for children." Daycare isn't inherently bad. A lot of times, it comes down to the specifics of the situation.

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