"Do Your Kids Get Sick a Lot?" and other questions about daycare


As a mom who works a traditional office job outside of the home where I don't get school breaks like teachers do or other people who work various jobs in the school system, one unexpected trigger point for me the last couple of years has been the start and end of the semester, when moms are posting their kids' first and last day pictures. Whether it's kindergarten, preschool, or parents' day out programs, it's a reminder of the fact that our year is not broken up in such noticeable sections.

I have never taken a "last day" picture, because there has been no last day. 

There is no "first day" picture because nothing is ever starting. 

It's just always the same, every day, all year. And that's our routine, and most days it's fine; but I'm just being honest: I've realized that seeing these pictures is a trigger for me that makes me feel kind of sad. So that's where I've been for the last couple of weeks, as summer starts for everyone else, but our world continues on. (I wrote a 12-minute memoir post about this last year if you're interested.)

So this "summer," our kids will just keep going to daycare every day like they always do. The reason I've written so much the past 4 years about being a working mom and about daycare is because when I was a new mom with a brand-new baby, I knew I was going back to work and putting R in daycare. I wanted to find other moms who were doing the same, and I had the worst time finding anything on the internet that was in any way positive or comforting about daycare. Literally, I just googled "daycare," and I went through the first 6 pages of links without finding a single thing that wasn't either a horror story or a sponsored ad for a local daycare. I did find this gem of a title: "Is daycare bad for your kids versus parenting?" Because I guess if your kids are in daycare you cease to be a parent. There's also this title: "Sorry, working moms, daycare is bad for your kid." I actually tried to read this one but couldn't because it was making me enraged. Google "daycare good or bad" and see how long it takes to find an article saying good. They are ALL bad.

I've written posts about why we chose a traditional daycare setting over something in someone's home and why we like it, so I won't go into that here, but I did want to answer a few general questions about daycare that people seem to have, now that we've been doing this for almost 4 years. Because I'm super extremely VERY MUCH A LOT passionate about spreading the daycare and working mom love on the internet. I want someone in my situation to be searching for comfort and positivity and to find it so they hopefully feel a little bit better and not just like someone is beating them down with the weight of shame and guilt.

I got a few questions when I polled my Instagram followers, and I'm adding a few in of my own that I think people often wonder about daycare and working mom life. Feel free to let me know in the comments (or email me) if you have other questions! I am truly an open book and would love to chat about our experience.

Do your kids get sick a lot?

It's just a fact that children are tiny carriers of germs, and it's a fact that going to daycare means being exposed to all the things. It's hard to say what "a lot" is, because I have nothing else to compare to, but yes, I'd probably say that my kids seem to be sicker more often than kids of my friends who either stay at home or go to an in-home daycare. For example, my friend stays at home, and her son got sick with a cold-type thing for the first time just before he turned one. One! There's no way. My kids get colds all the time, random fevers, R got hand/foot/mouth, and I'm sure it's coming from other kids at daycare. Unfortunately that is a downside, and you can't so much avoid it.

I will say this, though: I do think it depends somewhat on the child, because the first 2 years of R's life, she was definitely sick more often than J was.

Do you do parent/teacher conferences?

Yes! Our daycare has the opportunity to sit down with the teacher one-on-one for a half hour or so and have a parent/teacher conference twice a year. I never did it with R's teachers until she was 3 or so, just because I never felt like there was much to say. I talk to them a lot during dropoff and pickup, so I feel informed overall. But once she started getting a bit older, it was good to talk to her teacher more about how she's doing developmentally compared to other kids her age, how she's playing, and all of that stuff.

How do you make friends with other daycare families?

I think the answer to this is going to be different depending on what your daycare is like. For me, I'm not friends with any other daycare families, and we've been going there 4 years! Our daycare is large, and it's in an area where people can be working or living all over the downtown area, so people really don't linger during dropoff and pickup. I do see the same people in the hallway each day, but everyone is rushing in and rushing out. Our daycare doesn't do any outside activities or events other than a Thanksgiving meal, but I'm sitting with my kids and focused on them and not chatting with anyone else. R also hasn't (until now) really been old enough to have friend birthday parties, so that hasn't been something I've explored.

However, I have two friends with kids in daycare who have an experience that's different from mine. Their daycares are smaller and more intimate. There are a few events at the daycare throughout the year, and my friends are actually friends with some of the other daycare parents as a result. So I think largely this depends on the size of your daycare and also your interest in making friends. I think if I really made an effort to talk to other moms I see in the mornings I might be able to build a relationship over time, but honestly I just haven't done so.

What do your kids learn that surprises you?

I think this has been one of the best things about having my kids in daycare. They have both learned so much from their teachers and friends. They do flashcards in Spanish, and one day R came home counting to 5 in Spanish! A few weeks ago they learned about honey bees, and while we were driving home we passed some flowers, and R started talking to me about how the bees pollinate plants. Like, okay???? They really learn so much, and it's fun to see.

Of course, they also learn things I'm not thrilled about from friends in the class. Nothing major at this point, but I do realize she's more and more aware of things as she gets older, and I unfortunately can't control what another parent says or does with their kids that influences how that child acts or talks around my kids. It does scare me, I won't lie. But I just have to put my trust in Jesus and remind myself that he is in ultimate control, and that all I can control is that I do my best to raise her well. I always talk to R about her day, what she learned, and I ask her if anything made her happy and if anything made her sad. I hope we can build a relationship of trust as she gets older to talk about anything she may have questions about!

Do you feel like your kids are being raised at daycare?

This is a huge one. I feel like most articles I read about the negatives of daycare include the fact that kids are being "raised" at daycare and not by their parents. My honest opinion is that this statement is completely ridiculous. When we first put R in daycare and I was talking to Jordan about this very thing, he said something that's stuck with me ever since. I don't know if he even remembers saying this, but he told me, "When they're at daycare, they're basically in a holding pattern." He's big into airplanes, and what he meant was that sometimes an airplane gets put in a holding pattern when there's a big line of planes waiting to land, and the plane just has to keep circling the destination city until they're given the go-ahead. The dictionary literally calls it "a state of no progress."

Now, of course kids progress at daycare. I just talked in the question above about how much they learn during the day, and sometimes it's not going to be all good. But I've always felt (and still feel) that the idea of a kid being raised at daycare by the teachers is only true in as much as the parent is or isn't connecting with their child during the hours they are at home.

Every weekday I get basically 1 hour with my kids in the morning and up to 3 hours in the evening depending on when they go to bed. So that's 4 hours a day, which is about half or even less than half of the time the daycare teachers spend with them. (Super depressing if I think too much about it, so I won't.) I won't deny that the teachers are with them for a longer period, but that absolutely does not have to mean that they are influencing my kids more than I am or that they are raising them.

At the end of the day (literally at the end of the day when I pick them up), J gets the biggest smile and sprints right for me. R yells "Mama!" and immediately says, "Do you want to come see what I made today?" I'm their mom at the end of it all. I'm the one they want to see, the one they want to show things too, the one they go home with. Yes, the daycare teachers talk to the kids about not interrupting, about playing nice with friends, about standing quietly in line, about not throwing toys, and that's necessary and great. But it's a holding pattern. 

Jordan and I are the ones who discipline. We are the ones saying prayers at night and not letting them be disrespectful to us or to each other. We are the ones setting boundaries on snacks, enforcing that they say please and thank you. And we are the ones talking to them about what goes on during their day at daycare.

I think a child could be considered to be raised at daycare if they weren't having much interaction with their actual parent in those outside hours. But if we are talking about a parent who cares about their kids, loves their kids, and spends some intentional time with the kids in those hours (however little it may be for various reasons), I absolutely disagree with anyone who claims that the child is being raised at daycare.

Do your kids get scratched/bit a lot?

Well, mostly no, because my kids are doing the biting and scratching. I'm not kidding! This has been an ongoing VERY STRESSFUL "phase" ever since R turned 9 months and became a cannibal. I was hoping since my first child was a violent friend, my second wouldn't do this to me, but in fact just yesterday J got moved up to the next class "due to the excessive aggression." I asked his new teacher if compared to other kids his age his aggression seemed normal, and she admitted that he was "above average." Sooooo, that's a no. ANYWAY. To answer the question: yes and no. What do you consider "a lot"?

You see all these news stories about some kid coming home from daycare covered in 50 bite marks and being sent to the ER. It's not that I don't believe this happened, and I don't want to be insensitive, but I'm just trying to picture the scenario that would cause something like this, and I don't understand. This is the extreme, not the norm (and I'm still confused about what type of situation would cause this).

Yes, it's a room full of toddlers, and yes, they get into it with each other. There are scratches. My kids have come home with bite marks, sometimes more than one. Sometimes it wasn't noticed by anyone, and we discover it on their upper back during bath time. Maybe I'm the minority on this, but it honestly doesn't bother me. Let me repeat: they are toddlers.

I love our daycare. I think the teachers do a wonderful job. I think watching 8+ toddlers all day sounds incredibly stressful, and also toddlers are freaking fast. I've watched R bite a friend while she was standing right in front of me (the friend took her blueberries, if you're interested), and it happened so quick I couldn't stop it.

Obviously it's not okay to hurt people. Biting/scratching/hair pulling/pushing are not okay. These are behaviors we need to work on and eliminate. But it's normal for their age (at least for J's age right now), and it happens. I've been on the side of the parent of the kid who is doing the biting and scratching, and it's not fun. I feel horrible that some other parent has a kid with a scratch on their face or a bite mark on their arm from my kid. So when my kid gets bit or scratched, I guess I just have a different perspective. (Happy to chat about this with anyone who is interested! I have read so many things about biting, and we've tried so much also, so I feel like I know way more about it than I ever wanted to.)

Do the kids go outside?

Yes! Each class has 2 blocks of time to either go outside or go in the gym to play. They go outside whenever possible, but depending on weather they go to the gym. They have scooter toys, balls, and I've seen them get that giant parachute thing out that I totally remember loving to play with when I was in elementary school! In the summer, they do water play outside once a week with hoses and water tables.

I'll end with an easy one:

Do you pack food?

All daycares are different. Our daycare provides breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snack, so I don't have to bring anything! When R was little, it was really, really hard for me to not have control over what she was eating, so I brought her a lunch from home. But I didn't do that with J because I didn't have that same problem ;) I'll be honest and say that I don't always love the food options, specifically the snack. It does follow government standards, but it's just not always what I would choose. That's taken me some getting used to giving up control in that area, although if I did need/want to bring my own stuff, of course I could!

Those are all the questions I have for today. I'll do a part 2 post if there are more! Feel free to leave a comment or email me :)

In closing, I'm going to share my favorite article ever on the subject of daycare. I've shared it before on the blog, but I need to highlight it again because it's just that good.
Kaity B. said...

Your example about the "holding pattern" makes SO much sense to me. That's exactly what it's like. My kids respect their daycare provider, but she isn't raising them and my kiddos are well aware of who is.

Also, I feel you on the food thing. I've implemented a "don't ask, don't tell" policy for myself regarding their meals. I know they eat more processed foods than I would prefer, but since I'm not the one that has to feed them (and 3-4 other kids!), I'm not going to say anything!

Katie said...

Our kids have always been in traditional daycare too. My kids have never BEEN the biters but they come home with bites/scratches occasionally and I’ve honestly never been upset about it (toward the daycare or the offending kid/parent). Toddlers are quick and they’re still learning. Some kids bite some (my) kids scream for an hour because something didn’t go their way. They’ll all figure it out eventually!

Sarah said...

my son is in traditional daycare as well, and i so relate to this post! i had such a hard time with letting go of control, particularly of the basics like food and a schedule. i still do! i had a minor meltdown this spring when he started not wanting the afternoon snack i sent him, and instead wanting the school snack that his friends ate. but i do have to admit, even though those snacks are not what i would prefer, it is easier to not have to pack a snack so there's the upside i guess. also, i always tell parents that your child may not always be sick--but you might be! that was a huge surprise. i seem to get every cold/illness worse than my son does, especially the first year. :( but overall, we are very happy with our choice and it works well for our family.

Sarah @ Sweet Miles said...

What's crazy to me is that some of these questions even HAVE to be asked in the first place. Adeline did traditional daycare ever since she was 13 weeks old and now she's in preschool, on the other side of the building. If it weren't for her being in schooling from such a young age, I don't think she'd be where is as far as her language and social skills go. It's really been very positive for us, once we found the right daycare/location of course. Barrett, was sick from the second he started daycare until the day we pulled him out, but if I still worked in an office setting and had no other option, we would have stuck with it and kept him in daycare just like big sis and it would have been just as positive as it was for her. I hate that daycare gets such a bad rap because it is really a blessing for many, many families! We have LOVED Adeline's daycare since we've been in TX and can't imagine her having not gone there! Kudos to you spreading the love, I always love reading your experiences.

AnneMarie said...

I love that you are spreading some positivity about traditional daycare! I have so much respect for you-especially during tornado season. During the tornado watches the other day, even though I knew we probably wouldn't get a tornado in our area, I was glad to have my kids with me-and I thought about all the families whose kids are in daycare, and how hard that must be when the weather is bad. Do the teachers at your daycare keep up pretty good communication and updates with you and your husband when the weather is bad? Also, this may be a really silly question, but does the daycare regularly put the different classes down for naps? If so, how does that work? I know a lot of kids nap at similar times, is it just a thing where they all have to get on the same napping schedule?

Rachel said...

I definitely think Cyrus got more sick during his first year than he otherwise would have because he's been around all of my other kiddos that I teach/take care of since he turned a month old. Just a couple minor coughs and colds, he's still been a really healthy boy, but when he caught the germs from the bigger kids at 2.5 months old that was pretty stressful because he was still so little and had to have some breathing treatments at the hospital.
He's so social that I really appreciate that he has all of his little friends to grow up with (speaking from the other side as a "sort of" daycare provider although it's more like just taking care of and teaching my friends' kids).
If you like the traditional school schedule and the idea of "first" and "last" days--have you ever considered moving into working within the school system? There's definitely writing/English related jobs. I mean, nobody does it for the good pay, but if you think you would prefer that schedule and be happier with it...could be an option! I liked Angel's schedule when he did 12 hour shifts in a hospital (because you only work 3 days a week!!) and I also really like the traditional school schedule, now that he's in the first year of that. His last job...worked weekends and public holidays no PTO whatsoever, and only had one week off (unpaid) during the year, at Christmastime. I'm pretty sure that was our least favorite work schedule ever. :P
So I can see why a lot of moms like nursing and teaching jobs, I think the schedule makes a big impact--even a dad can like the job!

Amie said...

My kiddo goes to daycare and I often think about that fact that he is there more than he is with me during the week BUT when he starts regular school at 5 he will be there all day everyday until he graduates so what's the difference ya know? That helps me not feel so bad. We call it school now with him anyway and that's what he calls it rather than daycare..haha Although Bowen wasn't ever the biter but the one getting bit now he has turned into a scratcher..ugh!! It's usually because someone takes something from him. I feel like being at daycare has helped his immune system tremendously! Once you get beyond that first year or two it seems like the illnesses slack off a bunch. I will say I sometimes get jealous if I hear a daycare story that sounds so much better than the one we use but I also know there is nothing wrong with ours and Bowen likes it there. Thank you for posting this! I guess because everyone around me has kids in daycare it's no big deal.

Rach said...

I'm so glad you are out here sharing some positivity on the subject of daycare for the other working parents of the world who are just beginning the Google search of child care options. What a blessing a post like this would have been to you all those years ago! So I know other people will stumble across this in the future and appreciate you for sharing your heart and experiences. :)

The Lady Okie said...

Great questions! Not silly at all :) Our daycare has a weather app, so I get text updates from the daycare that they are watching the weather, etc. At times when it's supposed to be bad, they will close early and tell parents to come pick kids up so everyone can be at home/with parents. I feel very safe with the kids at daycare, and I know for these last storms, I saw the teacher had an emergency bag packed and ready to go. R was telling me about the flashlights and other things! haha

As for napping, at our daycare all the classes go down for naps after lunch around 12-2:30. The lights are turned out, and they play music. All the kids have cots to sleep on (the babies have cribs of course!), and everyone takes a nap at the same time. So basically yes, they do adjust to a regular napping schedule, and we usually just stick with that on the weekends since it's what they are used to. R is at an age where she doesn't necessarily actually sleep every day, but they do still turn off lights and they sit on their cot. She sometimes talks quietly or plays quietly. It has worked out pretty well, though it was hard with both kids when they transitioned to 1 nap. I felt like they do 1 nap earlier than my kids were ready for, and so they were SO tired in the evenings and really cranky. It was a fairly short phase with both, and with J I knew what to expect, so it wasn't as big of a deal. Obviously the ideal would be me at home with them so they could nap on a schedule that was best for them, but it's been fine at daycare.

The Lady Okie said...

Thank you! I really hope so :)