Unexpected Pros and Cons of Daycare


Babies at Daycare

When my husband and I were planning how to juggle working outside the home and our new baby, we considered multiple childcare options. We knew the obvious pros and cons of daycare. We searched for a nanny share locally, but we couldn’t find another family to team up with. Our calls to home-based daycares went unanswered, probably because they didn’t have any room for another tot. We reached out to local family members, but no one was willing to help out for as many hours as we would need to cover.  So we toured several center-based daycares, and picked one.

The big benefit is that daycare allows both of us to continue working outside the home knowing our daughter will be taken care of in a safe, purpose-built environment. The big drawback, of course, is the high cost of daycare.

But while reflecting on our first few years of daycare at 2 center-based facilities, I’ve realized there are some other, unexpected pros and cons of daycare.

The Cons

Fewer, shorter naps

When our daughter started daycare at 3 months old, we quickly learned that babies don’t always sleep well at daycare. Unlike babies who are cared for at home, babies at daycare are often in a shared space with other kids. For safety reasons, the room isn’t very dark. Who would sleep well in that situation? We’ve had countless days of no naps, despite her really needing them at her age. I’m constantly adjusting my expectations and letting go of mom guilt about her occasional lack of daytime sleep.

The smells

After a full day at the office and a long commute, I’d pick my little baby up from daycare and she’d smell like the perfume or laundry detergent of her daycare teacher. This felt awful when I first went back to work after maternity leave and was a hormonal mess. But I have come to realize it’s a sign that someone is snuggling my daughter closely when she needs it.

The Germs

Colds, stomach bugs, you name it, they get passed around daycares, and then around our home. In the long run it may be building our immune systems, but in the short term, it makes balancing it all harder.

Limited Time Outside

If we had our way, our daughter would be outside for most of the day. But most daycares have set schedules that don’t focus on outdoor time. Again, I’m learning to let go of the mom guilt on this one (while also sometimes googling nature-based preschools) and making sure she gets outside before and after daycare as much as possible.

The Pros

Fewer Toys Around the House

I always claimed I’d have a house that wasn’t totally dominated by kid stuff, and daycare lets us do this (for now, at least!). Because our daughter spends her days at a daycare center that is full of engaging toys and activities, we are able to keep fewer toys and activities at home.

Emotion-Free Conflict Resolution

After a few months at daycare, I confronted a teacher with something I felt uncomfortable about. I don’t even remember what it was now, but what I remember vividly is the overwhelming gratitude I felt that I didn’t have to confront a family member, who might feel I was criticizing their abilities or their love for our child. Instead, it felt like a business discussion with a service provider.

Fewer Diaper Changes

I’m not sure why this didn’t occur to me, but if you’re outsourcing some of your childcare to others, you’re also outsourcing some of the many diaper changes. The ultimate win!


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