Why We Chose (and Like!) Traditional Daycare

5.10.2017

^^^ A class project they did one day at daycare. All the blue footprints are R's!

Just say the word daycare and people are going to have opinions about it. When I was pregnant with R and we were considering childcare options, it was incredibly discouraging how easy it was to find articles where the author’s sole purpose was to go on and on about how terrible daycare is and how you are basically sending your child to Satan’s playground for eight hours a day to ruin them for the end of time. 

I honestly have to wonder if these people have ever actually sent their child to daycare at all or if they just want to find things to be negative about to make themselves feel better about their own situation.

And for sure, not all daycares are created equal. Some are not all that great, and as a parent you need to trust your instincts and find a place where you feel comfortable leaving your child during the work day. Thankfully, there are so many options for childcare these days! In-home nannies, home daycares, relatives, and of course a traditional daycare setting. 

Most of my working mom friends have their babies in a home daycare, and they are fantastic! I am not against home daycare, but for us, traditional daycare is what we felt would best work for our family. This post is not about stay-at-home moms, and it's not about making anyone feel bad for their choices concerning childcare. This post shares my personal experience with traditional daycare in an effort to encourage other working moms who are considering their childcare options to know that a daycare center doesn't have to be terrible and can actually be really great!

I am so thankful to say that we have had a positive experience in a traditional daycare setting so far. I do not want to make anyone feel bad about having their child in a home daycare. Again, home daycares can be wonderful! I just wanted to share some of the reasons we felt led toward a daycare center instead of care inside someone's home and our experience so far. I will include some of the negatives of traditional daycare to try and paint a complete picture.

The most obvious pro to a traditional daycare is that they are always open. If the teacher gets sick, they have replacement teachers and subs to call, but the daycare doesn’t just close down for the day because of the flu. The point of having your kid at daycare in the first place is because you need someone to watch them while you’re at work, and I never wonder whether R’s daycare will be open Monday-Friday. Multiple friends of mine have had their home daycare provider call to say that they came down with strep/the flu/stomach bug, etc. and they can’t watch their child that day, and my friends have had to scramble to figure out childcare or just take a day off work. Right now I don't need that kind of extra stress in my life.

I like that R has a weekly schedule of daily age-appropriate activities. She routinely brings home art projects involving her footprint or handprint and paint and probably some glitter or scraps of paper. I know they work on signing and saying different words because I’ve seen them do it in the classroom when I’ve been in there, and R has come home doing signs that we didn’t teach her like “please” and “read.” I am sure that many home daycares also do activities, but I would guess that the schedules of a traditional daycare setting are more consistent, and I like seeing the weekly schedule for math (counting blocks, for example), reading, motor skills, and other activities that are helping her learn!

She never watches TV because they don’t have any. I am not at all saying that in a home daycare setting, your kid will be plopped down facing the TV for 8 hours straight, and I’m not a TV hater or anything like that. But I do love that R doesn’t even have the option to watch TV during the day because there aren’t any TVs at all. They have designated outside and gym time twice each day for 30-60 minutes, and they have other activities like story time and play time so I know she's doing a lot of fun things, none of which involve screen time.

R gets used to different people watching her. Some might not agree with me here, but I actually like it that R is learning to not be attached to just mom and dad and is experiencing someone else taking care of her. 

Obviously it’s an issue if daycare teachers are rotating in and out faster than you can learn their names, but in general I like that R is being exposed to multiple different caretakers. When I pick R up to go home at the end of the day, she always blows kisses and waves "bye-bye" to her teachers, and I love it!

I think she clearly has a good attachment to Jordan and I, and I honestly think a lot of the so-called "attachment and developmental issues" that research claims happens when a child is in daycare can be greatly impacted (for better or worse) by how the parents interact and support and love on the child when they are at home and on the weekends.

She is around a lot of other kids of her own age. As children get older and transition to a new room, new children are brought in, and she has to learn to play well with different types of personalities. This is probably one of my favorite things about having her in daycare. I personally like that she is with kids of her own age so that they can do the age-appropriate activities and so they are all generally on the same developmental curve as far as walking, talking, etc. 

Something that has been really stressful for us over the past year is biting. I'll be honest: R is a biter, and she's the most consistent biter in her class. She will go a month without biting at all and then go weeks where I'm signing an incident report every day. If your toddler has ever been bitten, I'm sorry about that, but I can assure you the parent of the child who bit feels worse than you do. You better believe we are working on this behavior! 

But as stressful as it is, I do think that being around other kids and learning social awareness that she can’t just attack people when they steal her toy or get in her way is a good thing, and in a traditional setting they have protocol to follow when that happens (like giving me and the other parent an incident report) and being consistent about how they address biting with the child (mostly that involves moving R away from the other child and telling her that biting hurts and we don't bite). I am glad she is getting a chance to practice sharing, patience, and how to handle frustration even at such a young age, and I am thankful for our daycare teachers who are helping us help her!

There are, of course, some things where I think a home daycare offers positives you can’t always get in a traditional setting. Obviously in a home daycare setting you are more than likely receiving more personalized care because it’s a smaller group and it’s only one or two caretakers (usually) who are there all the time. You get to know that person almost like a member of your family, and they get to know you! 

While I definitely know who R’s teachers are and they know me, I don’t feel as close to them as I might if we were in a home daycare. It is terrifying leaving your child with someone else no matter who it is, and having the security of a home daycare where you know the person watching your child is probably very nice. That said, I make it a point to not just rush in and out during drop-off/pickup. I stay for a few minutes talking to the teachers, asking them questions about how R plays during the day and just general things about their weekend, etc. I get to know them more this way and feel comfortable leaving R with them. We have been very blessed with some wonderful teachers for R so far!

My friends who have their children in a home daycare are sick way less often than R has been in a traditional setting. Hello, germs freaking everywhere in that place. It's a petri dish of flu and RSV and who knows what else, I won't lie. Just yesterday there was a sign on her classroom door saying that room had been exposed to pink eye, so yay for that. But supposedly she's building up her immune system so when she goes to public school those germs won't stand a chance.

In a home daycare, you can get text updates of photos and videos throughout the day. I know traditional daycares that do this too, although R’s doesn’t (sadness!), but I still think you’d probably get more updates from a home daycare provider, especially if you had their number and could text them directly if you needed or wanted something or if they had a question for you.

Home daycares are also usually less expensive, which is a huge positive when you're already paying out the wazoo for childcare. But not all home daycares always do dependent daycare tax credits or have strict federal laws that are as regulated as those you might get in a traditional daycare, so you will want to check all of that out when considering your options. And definitely ask your employer about getting pre-tax dollars taken out of your paycheck for dependent care, because that is saving us a few thousand dollars a year! You can take out up to $5,000 a year.

This is getting long, so I’ll stop there. If you have experience either with a traditional daycare or a home daycare, I would love to hear from you! Feel free to comment on anything I’ve written here if you have additional thought or maybe didn’t have quite the same experience.

Please remember that the comments section of this post is a positive place where we are sharing so we can learn from and encourage each other. Anyone leaving a rude comment is going to get deleted because there is almost nothing that enrages me more than people commenting negative things about childcare and making working moms feel more guilt than we (probably) already do.

*If you found this post helpful, you might also enjoy Heather's post "Why I Think Daycare is Great" and Sarah's post "Confessions of a Daycare Mom."

38 comments:

  1. We have a good system of grandparents for three days and daycare for two days. We love our "regular" daycare and I'm happy we chose it. It's actually affiliated with my company, so it's nice that a lot of coworkers have their kids there too. It's almost like they are having meetings together while we are. I love the structure of daycare, that they teach different subjects and update me constantly. We're lucky we have an app! I could go on and on, but I think that doing what works best for your family is the best and that's that!

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    1. Yes! Everyone just needs to do what they feel is best, which will look different for everyone. That's so nice your daycare has an app! I do wish R's had something like that, but there are going to be pros and cons to each place, I guess :)

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  2. I never even thought about the screen time thing. That's awesome. With me working from home, Charlie watches much more TV than I'm comfortable with, but I keep telling myself that I was raised in Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street and I turned out okay lol

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    1. Very true :) Nothing wrong with Sesame Street or Mr Rogers! I'm definitely not against TV, but I realized last week when I was writing this post that honestly, the majority of the time she never watches any TV ever, because it's not on at daycare and we don't have it on in the evening and we spend all Saturday playing together, and I was like, hey that's pretty cool! Of course, I don't want her growing up feeling deprived and like a social outcast bc her mom is crazy so everything in moderation, right? We tried to watch Saturday morning cartoons a few weeks ago but everything is on cable! Rude.

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  3. My kid is in a centre too and I agree with many of your points. Another big one for me is that there are many eyes watching for schnanegans. Each room has multiple teachers, there's a director, parents are in and out all the time. I feel that if something inappropriate were to happen, I'd be more likely to find out about it than if my kid were with one adult in an at-home daycare. Now, granted, I think most of them are great, but you hear stories and it puts my mind at ease.

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    1. That is a great point! I agree. R's daycare has always made it clear that parents are welcome any time, so I know there are a lot of people in and out, and whenever I have come at random times of the day, I've never seen anything that has concerned me!

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  4. I'm so glad you found a place for R that you love and feel completely great about leaving her! You know my thoughts on daycare. Larger daycares are more common around here than in home, but any in home there is, it's always with multiple employees. I guess that would help with closing for sickness?! I'm not sure. But it's so important that you do love where you chose!

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    1. Most of the in-home daycares I know are just one person, so having multiple employees probably would help. Although depending on the number of kids, they still would need to keep their kid-to-teacher ratio the same, so I don't know. But it is so important to feel comfortable wherever you choose to put your child!

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  5. A million times yes to this post. Our daycare doesn't have TV's either, and that is definitely my most favorite thing. I love that they come home having learned new words, and the being able to leave them with someone new is another giant plus for us. Great post, girl!

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  6. I really enjoyed this post. Like you said what works for one won't work for another but I love the points you brought up. I'm all about a traditional daycare setting, there are so many amazing benefits to it. It gets a child out of the house and they are interacting with not only many different kids but also a variety of adults. I think your reasons are valid and it works for you guys which is all that matters. :)

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    1. There are so many benefits and I get tired of people only talking about the negative. For some parents it IS the only option and it doesn't have to be this awful thing.

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  7. I do feel like many parents struggle with the daycare decision so I think it's great that you have brought attention to the many perks of traditional daycare. We have a good balance of three days with grandparents and two days at daycare. I do really like the different activities and learning opportunities at daycare and that the kids can interact with other kids and adults, but holy moly, the GERMS! That is probably the worst thing in my opinion!

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    1. haha. I know I swear, R was sick more in her first 12 months than most of my friends' kids AND Jordan and I were sick a lot too because she brought it home! I think it's helped me freak out less about stuff, though!

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  8. this post really gives me a lot to think about. i recently decided that i didn't feel comfortable with the plan we made with a friend to watch the baby while jared + i are at work, so we've been trying to think of an alternative. i know at least one day a week, a family member will watch him, but the other four - not a clue. i have been against traditional daycare, but that's because i've only heard horror stories. i never really thought about the other side of the spectrum! thanks for opening my eyes a little bit. :)

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    1. The internet people only like to talk about the bad things! There are so many benefits and there ARE good daycares out there that you can feel comfortable with :)

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  9. Choosing childcare for your children has to be one of the most stressful and personal decisions that parents face. I know, because I'm in the thick of it right now and it makes choosing a stroller feel like a walk in the park (no pun intended).

    I've been gathering opinions from various mom friends and colleagues and I'm surprised by the overwhelming amount of people who try to persuade us NOT to choose a traditional daycare (and instead, a nanny - which doesn't work for us for various reasons). Despite that, we plan to tour a daycare next week and I was feeling a bit scared and weepy about it. This post helps calm me down so much. These are all of the reasons why traditional daycare feels like a good option for us and while I knew this deep down, it's nice to read about it from someone else too. The daycares we are considering have music lessons, organic snacks for the kids, photo updates during the day, sitters for parent date nights, a set curriculum, various events throughout the year, etc. All of the teachers have to have a certain number of Early Childhood Education Credits. It's really quite the opposite of any of what my friends have told me about daycare.

    My mother in law has been the director of her church's daycare for over 25 years and I don't think you could find a more trustworthy, caring, and sweeter person to care for your children. We only hear the horror stories in the news, not the stories of people devoting their lives to educating and caring for children.

    To be completely honest, we are also considering that I stay home, but that opens up another can of worms and I have concerns about that too. BUT I know am incredibly blessed and fortunate to have these options. I cannot say that enough.

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    1. Those daycares sound amazing! I'm sorry you are feeling a little sad about it. It is a very personal and stressful decision and very scary and overwhelming. I'm glad this post was helpful in some way to make you feel a little better about the option of traditional daycare. But, girl, you know I'd be all over the staying-at-home option if I could ;) ha!

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  10. i am obviously not a parent - i don't know why i feel the need to preface every comment with this, i know you know this lol - but if i were to go with my gut right now it would absolutely be traditional daycare. i'm sure in home day cares are great and some people love them, that's not something i would personally feel comfortable with. one of the girls i work with is always having to go pick up her kid or is late because the daycare person flakes on her (obviously the problem is with the person, not the home daycare in general, but you're right, it wouldn't happen in a traditional one). does your daycare close for some holidays that your job does not?
    i think it's great you try and get to know the teachers. and i think that R being around other kids is also great. for learning how to socialise and all that, and also because of her immune system.

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    1. Our daycare is closed on the same major holidays as my work, so I don't experience this as an issue. I do have a friend whose daycare closes for a week for Christmas and she and her husband rotate taking off work for that, so I think it just depends. But ours is basically always open (except on the weekends, of course).

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  11. My next-door neighbor has run an in-home daycare for 30 years, and when it's nice outside, Amelia likes to run over there and watch the kids playing through the fence. Sometimes I wish I could drop her off for a couple of hours during the week, because I think she'd love playing with the the other kids -- they're all so close since all age groups spend the whole day together, it's cute to watch.

    I worked in a daycare in college and didn't love my experience, but I don't think that all daycares are created equal. Because I've worked in one (where I would not feel comfortable sending my kids), I would encourage all parents to do their research and drop in during the day so you really know what's going on! I think a lot of them are great, and it's unfortunate when some have to ruin the reputation of daycare for others!

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    1. Yes! I agree you should definitely feel comfortable with where you are sending your child. Our daycare is great about welcoming parents any time, and I have never seen anything that concerned me dropping by different times of day. There are some daycares that aren't great, but they are ALL like that and it's just important to do your research and feel comfortable. Such a good point!

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  12. Thank you for this post! I love this. I don't have a kid in daycare, but people still randomly talk with me about daycare, and ALWAYS make sure to tell me some horror story associated with traditional daycare and give their conclusion that "Therefore, all traditional daycare is horrible and will harm your child." Drives me bonkers, because there are good traditional daycares out there, as you illustrate so nicely!

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    1. I just don't understand why people have to be so hateful toward daycare. I wonder if these people have even sent their kids to one or are just repeating someone else's story they heard. For sure not all daycares are awesome, but EVERY situation has good and bad things about it. You just need to do what is best for you and your child and make sure that wherever you have them you feel comfortable!

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  13. I think R is definitely building up her immune system! Some of our best friends have their kiddos in a preschool program and their kids are ALWAYS sick which is so hard on them right now. But! Their mom is a nurse practitioner (she's actually Christopher's primary care physician) and she's always trying to reassure herself that her kids are being exposed to the worst of everything now so hopefully by the time they get to school age, they will hardly be sick at all. I think it's a strong theory!

    Also, the little kids that I nannied have been in parents' day out program since they were 1. So yes, their parents paid for an in-home nanny as well as preschool. There are lots of benefits to having a nanny who can give your kids such personalized care when both parents are gone for such long hours, but there's also a lot that the kids learned at preschool that they wouldn't have learned just at home with me. One of the biggest things is social skills! Plus, it's good for them to have other care givers. Though I'll be honest, Mal screamed every time I left her there for nearly the first year which was SO hard. But she eventually got used to it and now she loves "school"! Anyway, all that to say that I'm a big supporter of daycare/preschool/PDO programs! :)

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    1. It's really frustrating to me that people are so negative about daycare. There are obviously bad daycares, but there are a lot of good ones too and there just doesn't need to be such a stereotype. Obviously I would love to stay home if I could, and of course a mother can give more care and love than a daycare teacher, but I can tell that R's teachers really do love the kids and it warms my heart. I like that she gets to socialize with other kids because she loves being active and being busy, and she even has a "best friend" at daycare that they tell me she plays with the most. So sweet :)

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  14. My parents were supposed to keep Bowen after he was born but then my dad got very sick the week I was due back at work. I scrambled and found a daycare and it has been the best thing in the world!! The owner and all of the girls there are wonderful and have treated him like their own since day one. I do the same as you and visit with them in the mornings and afternoons about how his day was and how they are doing. I like that he gets to be around other kids as well. On the flip side he has been bitten like 3 times and although of course I am mad that my baby got hurt I also know he is a pusher/hitter so I have to remember he does his part too. He has gotten better about it and they work with them on that. I get photos sent to me often of him while he is there playing so that definitely makes me feel better and I know he is having a good time.

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    1. I love that you have photos sent to you! That is one thing I would like to have at R's daycare because it would be fun to get updates during the day. I'm glad it's going well for you guys!

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  15. Thank you for this post! We're starting daycare in July when my son is one and I start a new job, and I'm excited about the opportunities he'll have there, though I am a little scared, just because it's new. It helps to hear about your positive experience!

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    1. It definitely took some adjustments, but overall we have had a really great experience. I hope you find that you do as well with your son! Although if it isn't quite what you're wanting, you can always find something else. The important thing is that you feel comfortable, and as cliche as it sounds, you WILL know whether you feel comfortable or not :) It is a very scary thing to leave your child with someone else, and that feeling is totally normal!

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  16. I tip my hat to you for writing this, because even as a non-parent who doesn't read much that is geared to parents online I still detect real distaste for daycare across the internet. I hope you don't experience too much of that negative feedback!

    I also think that where you live generally makes a big difference here: traditional daycares are much more popular where I live than they seem online, and anecdotally we don't have any SAHMs in our circle of friends and coworkers (one SAHD though), and most of our friends who grew up in this area had two working parents and were in daycare themselves.

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  17. I had a good friend watch P when I went back to work and it felt like a no-brainer. This time around, she's not sure about watching my two kids (which is totally legit) so I've been trying to make a plan (I have a good long while, though). I worry about strangers watching my kids, but I totally get why a centre would be a good fit. I love the idea of that kind of structure for them and how it's more transparent (being a bigger entity than a home-based operation). Is it easy to get into a centre there? I'm pretty sure if my kids had any chance of getting into one here I would have needed to sign them up as soon as I found out I was pregnant. Unfortunately.

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  18. First: I should say that I gobble your posts up when they show up in my reader, but I seldom find myself on a computer to comment. [When will Feedly add a comment feature???]

    Anyway, I've read/watched the evolution of your relationship with childcare, work, and being a working Mom. While there are some differences in our situations (we could probably make it work for me to stay home, but that's not the right choice for me), I'm going to echo your sentiments here.

    Our daughter is in a childcare centre. We appreciate that there is strict regulation of such facilities, especially in Singapore, where we live. She is exposed to activities we'd never do at home (seriously, I'd never pull out paint for a one year old if left to my own devices). She socializes with other kids (which she LOVES, even when we are out as a family she's always trying to join other families with kids), and honestly, she learns that she isn't the center of everything. Yes, maybe it's a little young for that lesson, but at home she's the only kid, and it's only the adult's other obligations that interfere with our caring for her immediately. At childcare, she might have to wait a few minutes because another child needs care more (the teacher:student ratio is good, but let's be honest - sometimes many babies cry at once!). Personally I think this is a really important lesson for her to learn, and one we can't give her at home right now. She learns that there are schedules and patterns, but there may be slightly different ways of doing things (feeding, giving bottle, changing diaper, whatever) - who knows how much this affects her disposition, but I like to think it's helping her understand that life has a basic framework, but there are individual variations within that structure. Finally (and this is specific to our situation), she gets Chinese language exposure that I can't give her (Dad can, but at home we mostly speak English). She already responds to directions in Mandarin, a language she'll be required to learn as she goes through school. That's something I, personally, could NEVER give her.

    Yes, the illnesses are a bummer. But we just suck it up for now - and I totally agree, her getting sick a lot early on has made me MUCH more comfortable about caring for a sick kid. I think it sped up my learning curve considerably, when it comes to how to handle fevers, especially. Now, but for finding coverage for work, I hardly even worry at a regular old fever. I, too, tell myself that the immunity will be worth it!

    Also, it's really important to say, and we don't tell each other enough: You are doing a great job. R is lucky to have you. We (the internet?) are fortunate to have your voice. Thanks for being willing to take on topics that scare off many. The more voices we have talking about ALL parts of mothering, from ALL perspectives, the more well-rounded a picture we can see.

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    1. Your last paragraph made me cry. Thank you so much for saying that. And thanks for reading :)

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  19. LOVE this post. As the Director of a childcare centre I get super frustrated when I see all the posts floating around the internet about why daycare is so terrible for your kids. I could go on and on and on about how beneficial daycare is to children's development - but I won't because this comment would end up a blog post all in its own haha

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  20. This is a really interesting post and I am so glad that you wrote it. I have told you this so many times but I love that you have become an encouraging voice for working moms on your blog. You are doing a great job!

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  21. When the time comes for me to be in the office full time again, I will be using a traditional daycare for all the reasons you stated above. The daycare places here follow school schedules, so they are usually closed if the schools in the city/county they are in are closed during the school year. Obviously, they are opened all summer. I think being around other kids and learning from people other than just the parents are all good things!

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  22. I'm glad that you write these kinds of posts, even though I'm not a mom yet. I appreciate your perspective and experience. My niece and nephew are both in traditional daycares, and they have been so wonderful for them, their development, socialization, etc. My SILs wish they could stay home with them but since that's not an option now, daycare has been a wonderful solution. My niece's daycare has an app called Precious Status, and the parent gets an alert every time she'd fed, diaper changed, when she goes down and wakes up from nap, and a few pictures throughout the day. They love that!

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  23. My mother-in-law watched my nephew for the first few months after my sister-in-law went back to work. Once he was about 8 months, I think, he transitioned to daycare part-time. Plus on the weeks when my in-laws travel (like they're staying with us next week), my nephew can be at the daycare the whole week.

    My husband and I don't have kids yet. I'll be a SAHM/part-time WAHM for the first year or two. Then I hope we can have a nanny or live-in au pair. (I was a live-in au pair twice).

    As long as I have a compromised immune system, daycare is not an option. I already get sick ALL the time without being exposed to children's germs.

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