Every mother I know dreads the moment when she is forced to decide if she should put her kid into daycare or not. Sometimes you have no other choice and the decision is taken out of your hands, but sometimes, you have more than one option, and then it becomes a mind game as to what the best choice may be.
I worked in the daycare world in various capacities for many years, so I was able to get a good feel for the pros and cons of the daycare (and yes, there are both). Here are a few of the things I learned that may help with your decision:
PRO – Socialization – There is no denying it, kids in daycare tend to be far above other kids in terms of socialization. Whether if they have siblings or not, they quickly learn the basics of how to get along with others; not being able to have alone time whenever they want it; learning to share; learning how to play, talk, and get along with others. They learn to overcome shyness and quickly develop bonds and a group of friends.
CON – And this is the biggie con: Sick. Often. – Especially if you need to start them in daycare young, their little immune systems just are not completely developed yet. And the fact that they are stuck in 1 room with 10+ other kids all day – regardless of how clean the teachers manage to keep it – they will get sick. And chances are, so will you. “Daycare Diseases” as I call them are not the same as what you experience day-to-day in the adult work world. There will be some things your little one will get that you won’t, but be prepared for the whole family to get sick as well. The other big con aspect for this one is that since your child will often get sick, you’ll often have to take sick days to stay home with him/her unless you can make other arrangements. It’s center policy as well as state requirement that your child can not attend school with anything more than a cold. Watching your child constantly get sick is one of the hardest things a parent can do, but that said, your child will get sick regardless of being in daycare or not. If it doesn’t happen now, it will happen when they go to school unless you are able to expose them slowly to things in controlled situations.
PRO – Projects – If you pick the right center, your child will be exposed to lots of activities and projects. Not only will they help developmentally, but they will also look so cute on the refrigerator!
PRO – Exposure to other adults – This exposure to a variety of adults will help your child open up and learn how to accept and socialize with adults and authority figures too.
CON – Bad habits – Obviously, not everyone is going to raise their kids the way you do, so your child will likely pick up some bad habits to go along with the good things they learn. Be prepared to have to stay on top of your kid to try to nip some of these new habits in the bud!
CON – More laundry – As if that laundry pile wasn’t big enough, be prepared to get more. There’s something about daycare that means extra dirty clothes!
CON – Turnover – While many centers try to keep your child’s environment as stable as possible, be prepared to see lots of change with the teachers. Early childhood teachers are grossly underpaid and work in a fairly stressful environment, so there is often a high turnover rate among daycare teachers. And although there are state regs as to the requirements a teacher needs to work in a daycare, they are likely going to be lower than your requirements. If you want a teacher with credits out the wazoo, you better start looking into private school.
PRO/CON – State Regs – Daycare centers have a list of regulations they need to adhere to (some states more than others). This is a good thing because you can be sure that there are safety precautions in place (as long as the center consistently complies). This can also sometimes be a con if there are certain regulations (or paperwork) that you don’t want to deal with. The center has to follow these regulations or they risk closure, so their hands are tied.
PRO – School Life – Your child will already be used to “school life”, so the transition into kindergarten and elementary school will be much easier.
PRO – “I’m a big kid now!” – Being able to say, “I’m in school” enhances the “big kid” status. Having the confidence of being a “big kid” helps the child have confidence to do other big kid things like potty training, etc.
PRO/CON – Potty training – If your kid starts daycare while still in diapers, potty training at school can be both a good and bad thing. Sometimes the extra help and reinforcement from other adults is nice. But sometimes it can confuse matters if the school is not able to use the same methods you prefer to use, and/or if your child only goes to daycare part-time. Be prepared that in some cases, the potty training process may take a little longer.
CON – Overstimulation – If your child needs to go for a full day, it can sometimes lead to overstimulation. As you can imagine, one room with 10 toddlers can get to be a bit much. Even when everyone is calm and things are good to go, there’s just always something going on. There is always some kind of noise, something to see, do, etc. It can be a long day. Expect your child to sometimes be “buzzing” when they get home. Be prepared to create a calm atmosphere to come home to if possible so they can have a chance to try to unwind a bit before bedtime. And on the days not at daycare, try to provide calmer, quieter things for your child to do so their already-stimulated-just-from-development senses have a chance to take a little break so their brains can focus on different things. It will also give their brains a chance to learn to focus on just one thing at a time instead of always having multiple things going on at once.
PRO – Ability to observe older kids – This is especially great if you only have the one child at home. Younger children often like to watch their older siblings and tend to develop quicker because of it. But if your child is the oldest (or only), they do not get that chance at home. Daycare allows them to see what other kids are doing as an example of what they can strive for.
CON – Rules – The guidance and/or limitations at school may be different from what is expected at home. Be prepared to try to meld the two world together for your child and help them understand the different rules for both at home and at school.
PRO – Learning that Mommy/Daddy always come back – As hard as it is to let go of our kids, going to school offers the very good benefit of teaching your kids that they can always trust you to come back. They learn that it’s ok to be away from Mom/Dad and to explore and have fun because they will always come back. As much as it kills us parents, it’s a good developmental milestone.
CON – The Arts – Depending on your school, your kid might not be exposed to enough of “Arts” activities. If music and dance, etc. are important to you while your child is little, be sure to check into what the various centers in your area offer. If they do not offer enough Arts curriculum, you may need to consider enrolling your kid in a weekend Mommy & Me kind of class to fulfill that requirement.
PRO/CON – Price – Daycare is very expensive. You also need to factor in additional money for extra doctor visits, medications, and time off of work. If price is a concern, and you have the ability to stay home with your child, then daycare may not be the right route for you. However, it also tends to be cheaper than a private nanny, so if you have to leave your child with someone, then daycare will be a cheaper option than private care.
As with anything, there are obviously many pros/cons to consider. When making your decision, you’ll need to weigh out what is more important for your family’s needs. And if you don’t really have options, then don’t despair. There are ways to combat many of these cons on this list. If you’re aware of them ahead of time, then you can be prepared to do what you need to in order to make this a good experience for everyone all around. There are also many pros to daycare, so try to focus on these – that’s what your child will remember in the long run anyway!