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“I just had a thought…I bet none of today’s world leaders went to day care.”
A friend sent me that text this morning. Both of our kids are now 16-months-old and have never spent a day in child-care. We both feel increasing pressure from a lot of parents, media articles and general opinions that our kids are somehow missing out by not attending child-care.
'You can spot a kid that doesn’t go to child-care, they are so underdeveloped.'
'Kids only really learn social skills when they are around other kids in child-care.'
'Kids build up their immune system in child-care.'
My issue is not with the validity of these facts. On the contrary, I agree with many things I have heard regarding the benefits of child-care. The fact is, I simply can’t afford it. And I shouldn’t be judged for that.
I am fortunate to have a job that allows me to work from home in the evenings when my husband gets back from work. So by day, I look after my little girl.
As a new mum, I was constantly doubting myself. I was always second-guessing every decision I made. Due to my lack of confidence, I was very sensitive to comments made about parenting choices, whether they were directed towards me or not.
In particular, the views on child care. I have always heard about how young children gain so much from day care in developmental skills, immunity, socialising and so on. I felt as though I was doing wrong by my child for not sending her to childcare.
Despite not spending a day in child-care, my daughter is quite happy to interact with other kids. She loves it. As for her development, she is a happy well-rounded kid that knows how to love and be loved.
I’ve heard so many mums talk about the guilt they feel when they drop their kids off at child-care. And so many other parents quickly defend their choice.
'You’re doing the right thing. You’re working to provide for your child’s future and child-care is your only option.'
For a lot of families, it is their only option. So many people live away from their extended families and need to return to work for financial reasons or career development. Whatever their reasons may be, that is their choice.
Yet, no one is quick to defend the choices of people who don’t put their kids in child-care. Instead, we are frowned upon as though we are doing a disservice to our kids.
I can’t tell parents to stop judging the choices of others. It has happened for many years and no doubt will continue to happen forever. People judge, it’s what we do. Be it parents, kids, neighbours, family, people judge. And by god, does everyone have an opinion.
What we can do however is be kinder to ourselves. Have faith in the decisions we make and stand by them. No one knows exactly what your circumstances are. How can anyone know what’s best for your family if they are not part of your family?
Being a working parent with kids in childcare is tough. It’s a huge balancing act and a constant battle of guilt and priorities.
Being a stay-at-home parent is tough. It’s repetitive and exhausting and you don’t get a day off.
Working from home and looking after a kid is tough (see where I am going with this?). Your days are very long and it seems like things don’t ever get done.
Being a parent is hard work. We should praise parents for doing a fabulous job, for loving their children and doing what’s best for their family’s circumstances. We should support one another as parents and make each other feel good on the merit of how much they love their children and giving them the best start in life. No matter what that looks like.
More importantly, we need to be confident in ourselves. No article, outside opinion or other parent will ever know your family as well as you do. Be kind to yourself. You’re fabulous. Even if your kids don’t go to childcare.
It’s like a great friend once told me when I was feeling guilty about my choices, “Your child is being raised by her mother and spending every day with her. How can you possibly feel bad about that?”
Written by Suzi O'Shea