Monday, January 30, 2006

Daycare merry-go-round

As I started back part-time last Fall in the work world as a parent of 2 small children, I'm back into the daycare dilemna. I found a home-based daycare near our home that is affordable, clean and safe that the kids started at in September... and I'm still not totally comfortable with it. The other kids are all really sweet, but there's a little bit too much TV use, and the food is not what I'd serve at home. I wish there was a little bit more space for them to play & get their ya-yas out. I'm betting that we are one of this provider's last families - she seems ready to retire when her teenage kids leave home in a few years.

I can't put my finger on why I can't settle into this situation, or if not, then change it to something I like better. I'm not sure there is a situation I'll like better. Last year when we shared a nanny with another family, I wasn't totally comfortable with that either. The nanny was great, but my friends' kids were too rough, and I didn't like their family rules about some things. At the daycare this year, there's no territoriality, the rules are consistently enforced, but the provider doesn't love my kids or relish in what new or amazing thing they have done that day.

My kids go to day care 3 days a week while I work from home. I thought about hiring a nanny just for our family, but I worried that there would be too many distractions for both the kids and me with us being in the same space. Being around other kids in the daycare has been great for my 2 1/2 year old son, but I worry that he's not getting enough cool or fun or challenging experiences there... but maybe I can just save those up to do ourselves.

This month I've been stressed out because I think the 2 1/2 old would really get a lot from a quality preschool experience next year - but I've either got to put him in an industrial preschool/daycare combo, or commit to paying for and shuttling him back & forth between preschool & daycare 2-3 days a week, which will hose my working hours. And the "quality" preschools are already filling up for September - in January!

I know that I'm a better parent when I'm working some but I still feel terribly guilty to not love raising my children all the time. While I support others who want & can stay home with their kids full-time, it drove me crazy. I felt like a huge loser, even though I don't think that of my friends and acquaintances who stay at home with kids.

I want high-quality caring daycare for my kids that doesn't kill us financially. I want daycare providers to be able to eat and have insurance. I want to be able to maintain some toe in my work life while I have small kids so that I can have a career to go back to when they are older. Why doesn't this have to seem so hard?

Everyone tells me that things don't get easier as children age; the challenges just get different. This one is really gnawing at me right now.