Yes, you can pay your village

You know what I am really over? Daycare guilt.
We are constantly told it takes a village to raise a child. That it’s really important to rely on other people – leave your kids with friends while you go and do something to replenish your own stores, lean on grandparents to give you a night off.
But if you decide that some members of your particular village are going to be paid professionals working at a daycare centre, all hell breaks loose. Won’t your kids develop attachment issues? Haven’t your seen that study that said daycare kids were all aggressive and fat (or something)?
My son has been in a fantastic centre since he was about one. And for almost all of that time, I’ve felt that it’s something that the world thinks I should feel guilty about.
Every conversation I’ve had about daycare has been littered with comments like “I’m sure you’d rather be at home with him full-time” or “we do what we have to”. Like this is somehow meant to make me feel better.
I find myself hedging and justifying: “Oh, he’s only in three part-days a week.” “We spend lots of time together through the rest of the week.”
Why don’t we turn this on its head? Daycare shouldn’t be seen as a necessary evil. It escapes me how leaving my child with trained and skilled teachers he knows and likes in a centre designed to stimulate, educate and entertain him – and keep him safe – is somehow worse parenting than relying on a revolving roster of friends to pick up the slack when I need to work. I know of people who will proudly tell me their kids are never going to daycare – but then are happy to stick them in front of the TV at their aunt’s place for hours on end.
My son has developed a little crew of friends at daycare and is exposed to activities I would not have the stomach for if it were just up to me.  It’s messy, raucous and ridiculous but it works when you’ve got a team of adults overseeing a group of kids.
He goes for a walk to look at fire trucks with his little friends, does gorgeous art works and comes home full of stories about what he’s been doing.
The teachers are gentle and supportive and loving. Every so often I get a reminder of this – the most recent was when I went to pick him up yesterday and saw one rest her head against him in the same way I know I do.
And there’s what it gives me, too. I get to carry on working, which I love and which gives me a sense of self that is independent from my role as a mum. I’m a better mother for it. And to that beauty therapist who Iaughed and asked why I should need childcare when I work from home, I say: “Please refer to the BBC interview clip that recently went viral.”
The teachers have given me confidence by backing me with every parenting concern I’ve taken to them, regularly telling me the things they like about my son and not being afraid to smother him with hugs and distraction when drop-offs have been tricky.
There is ample research that shows, despite the scaremongering, good quality childcare leads to great outcomes. A study found that people who attended good quality daycare in the 1970s now are more likely to be more qualified adults, with better employment outcomes and had had their own kids a bit later in life than those kids who did not go to daycare. Another study showed higher cognitive and academic achievement scores for teenagers who had been through good daycare.
The key seems to be finding a great centre with low child-to-teacher ratios and well-trained staff. So let’s stop making people feel bad for using centres and instead put our time and effort into helping nurture good-quality care.
I’m going to do my best not to allow my daycare guilt to creep in any longer. My son is flourishing and thriving and I know that’s due in part to the wonderful care he gets – even if is only three part-days a week.

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