We’ve had our kids in daycare since they were each about four months old. Our health insurance is provided through my job, and so we can’t really afford for me to stay home. Plus, I like working, and especially teaching. Overall, I really like that our kids are in daycare. I like that their days are active and full of interactions with people and experiences that they wouldn’t get if I were just home with them or if we had them home with a nanny. I like daycare especially for Bean’s age because they have an actual curriculum they teach and he is always coming home with new things he has learned and new stories to tell us.
Gracie is a little different. With toddlers and older kids, I can see a benefit in daycare, but in infants and babies I have a hard time justifying daycare. I love Gracie’s teachers and she does, too, and I know that they love her right back. But I still cringe just a little bit when they say things like, “We got her to drink out of her sippy cup today!” I smile and squeal right along with them, but inside, for just a split second, I think, “Damn. I wish that had been me.” So, the first year or so of daycare is harder for me. But if I had to say I am either for or against daycare, I’d still say that I’m for daycare.
The part of daycare that will never, ever be justifiable to me, though, is the sickness.
(I’d just like to pause and tell anyone who is pregnant and going to have to put their baby in daycare to turn away for a minute here because I’m about to have a bit of a cyber meltdown and I don’t want to scare anyone.)
I try not to blog often about Bean and Gracie’s health. For one thing, it’s one of those privacy lines Chris and I set for our family on the blog and I try to respect that. But for another, health issues for some reason bring out all kinds of meanness in people on blogs, and since I already have a healthy dose of guilt for having my kids in daycare, I’d just prefer not to hear someone else make me feel worse. So, specifics aside, can I just say how awful it is when your kids are sick all the time from daycare?!?!?
We’ve been to three different daycares and they’ve all been the same, so I know it isn’t one facility issue. Gracie has a much stronger immune system than Bean does, so she isn’t so bad. But Bean Man seems to catch whatever goes through his classroom. He has a weak little respiratory system and so when things settle into his chest, it becomes a real problem. He was very sick over the past three weeks, almost to the point of hospitalization, because we couldn’t get his little chest to clear out. He was on breathing treatments through his nebulizer (which we call his “nebby”) every four hours for the past week and that, along with some really strong antibiotics, seems to have kicked it finally. But it has been exhausting for his little body.
Sick kids are never good. When one of my kids are sick, my whole world slows down to a snails pace. Everything else I do is through the fog of knowing “my baby is sick.” It’s exhausting and mentally taxing and I pretty much walk around feeling like I’m doing everything wrong. But when your kids are sick because of daycare, there’s another level of emotion that goes along with sick babies for me. There’s the guilt because I’m the one who put them in daycare. It’s my fault they are sick. And so when they are crying with a fever or coughing in the middle of the night, I not only worry about them being sick or uncomfortable or tired or upset, but in the back of my mind (and usually not so far in the back) there’s also the guilt that I carry that gets heavier and heavier.
On top of the guilt and the sickness itself, there are the logistics that go along with a sick baby when you’re a working parent. Chris and I have both used up all of our time off for the year taking care of sick wee ones. For me, every day I take now is an unpaid day, which we can’t afford. For Chris, his job is a little more flexible, but as a manager in two different positions, he really can’t miss all that often either. So, when someone gets sick, Chris and I get stressed out about having to miss work and we take it out on each other. Because who else are we going to take it out on? The kids? It’s not their fault. It’s not mine or Chris’s fault either, but the frustration has to go somewhere and so we get frustrated with each other. We’re lucky to have family close by now (I really don’t know what we’d do if we were still in Connecticut), but we try not to unload on them too often because it’s over an hour drive to our house one-way from theirs and we feel like we can only ask so much.
The hardest part for me is deciding when to send the kids back to school after they’ve been sick. We need them to go back ASAP so that we can go back to work, but we don’t want to push them back too soon before they are healthy enough. There’s no worse feeling in the world than on your child’s first day back to daycare after an illness and having the daycare call and say they are running a fever again. It literally brings me to tears as I drive to pick them up. How could I have sent them back? What kind of mother am I? I am tearing up just thinking about it, so let’s move on…
Last week at the height of Bean’s illness and at the end of my rope, I stopped by the front desk of my daycare and pulled the sweet manager aside for a minute. “Please tell me,” I pleaded. “Are my kids sick more often than other kids here? I can’t tell if this is just the price of being in daycare or if I’m doing something wrong. Because I feel like I’m doing something wrong.” She gave me a hug and told me gently that unfortunately this was just part of daycare. My kids were no sicker than any others, no sicker than her own son even. It was encouraging to hear, but that afternoon when I took Bean back to the doctor for his last breathing check, I asked every nurse who came in and our pediatrician the same question. Was this just my kids? Was I doing something wrong? My pediatrician explained it the best. She said that not only are my kids in daycare, but they are both under three years old, which makes them more susceptible to illness. Add to that how close they are in age and the fact that they play so closely together, which means they are always passing things back and forth, and it’s just a breeding ground for a hot mess.
“But no,” she said. “Your kids are just going through the regular cycles of being in daycare.”
On one hand that relieved me, but on the other hand I felt even worse because the next day I was going to be sending my kids back into the jungle (cue the guilt). But that night around 2am, Bean spiked another fever (cue the guilt) and we had to figure out who was going to stay home with him again (cue the frustration and argument).
See how that works? It’s awful!
I realize that reading this, many of you are probably thinking that if I’m this upset about it, then I should figure out how to keep my kids out of daycare already! But as bad as this sounds, it really isn’t like this all the time. We’re just coming out of a couple months here of sickness and my frustrations are at a peak at the moment. It’s times like these low points when I pacify myself by praying prayers of gratitude that the Good Lord saw what I couldn’t when he left me unemployed two years ago so that I had to switch careers and become a teacher, and now I have summers off with my kids. Summer is just around the corner and I can’t wait to keep my kids home and healthy for a few months, and I know that when it’s time for me to go back to school, we’ll all be glad that the kids are going back to school as well. They’ll miss their friends and their teachers, and I’ll miss my students and my paychecks!
But for now, I’m just in that place of parenthood where I feel like I’m doing it all wrong.
So. That’s that.
And now, I’m going to sneak into my kids’ rooms, make sure their feet are all under the covers, and give them little butterfly kisses without waking them up. And then I’m going to go downstairs and pack my lunch, Gracie’s diaper bag, and Bean’s backpack for tomorrow. Because it’s Monday morning for a working parent family.