To Daycare or Not to Daycare?


If you had to be either aggravated and overwhelmed, or useless and redundant, which would you choose?

I love my son. But I don’t like him at all. Timmy is too much for me. Too much noise. Too much mess. Too much noise. Too much demanding. Too much noise. I’m told these challenges he presents — the frequent screaming, kicking, rolling on the floor — are just a stage, that he’ll grow out of them. Presumably he will indeed outgrow toddler behaviours, but those behaviours are fuelled by his very passionate and spirited personality, and that’s something one doesn’t outgrow. And it’s the personality I’m finding so difficult to live with.

I’d like to blame my inability to cope with Timmy, on Daniel. It seems the easy thing to do. ‘I can’t cope with my demanding tantruming toddler, because I have a baby to deal with, too.’ Having a baby dividing my time and attention doubtlessly does make it harder, but can I attribute all blame to that? Daniel is, after all, a rather easy baby. As far as babies go.

I enjoyed January. Timmy went to daycare fulltime, thanks to the philanthropy of the centre owners who offered free care for part-time children in January, when many of the centre’s usual kids were away on family holidays.

Now it’s February, and Timmy’s attendance has gone to a single day a week. This upsets both of us, I’m sure. Timmy loves it there. I love it when he’s not here. But one day is all we can afford. The centre charges by the day, not the hour, so I can’t stagger Timmy’s time there over the week at the same cost.

The centre manager told me I can get extra funding for additional days if my doctor certifies I ‘need them’ [for my mental health]. Just until I feel better, more able to handle Timmy. A diagnosis of ‘depression’ may or may not be involved in the process. But I don’t feel depressed. I just don’t want to be Timmy’s slave and screaming target every moment of every day. It tires me to think about it. And how is my ‘readiness to handle Timmy’ measured? What constitutes ‘feeling better’? I already feel better as soon as he’s dropped off to daycare. Then I feel worse again after I pick him up.

So I find myself in a moral quandary. If I put Timmy in daycare for more days, the priority being my own convenience and comfort, am I shirking my responsibility as a parent? And worse, only postponing inevitability? They can’t take care of him until he’s old enough to leave home, obviously.

This can go only one of two ways: Timmy’s daily care is up to me, or it’s up to them. In the former option, life will feel miserable every day as I pull patience and energy reserves from thin air, just to keep us all fed and alive. In the latter option, somebody else is raising my child, and I’m redundant. A mother only in biology, not in practice.

Do I really need help? Funding for extra days? Or am I just being lazy? And selfish? (I’d really rather learn new Adobe design programs than wipe snot off a grumpy face, but is that surprising?) Should Timmy go to daycare at all? Would our continued separation only worsen our relationship? How many days should he go? For how long? What are my objectives? What do I want? What is best? What is reasonable? Can I think objectively about this at all?

I’m really good at asking questions. Less good at answering them.

I realise it’s traditionally unsavoury to air one’s faults and dirty laundry publicly, such as in a blog post. It would be preferable for you to keep believing that I’m a competent mother, a selfless woman, and really quite a noble and respectable human being. (I’m sure you all thought that.)


But I waive that, exposing my faults and my shame, because I need to hear whatever you have to say or suggest about what I should do. Please. From whatever perspective you have. You don’t have to have children to have an opinion on this. I’m just feeling incapable of objective reasoning regarding this issue. (Husband tells me that’s probably because we had an especially difficult morning with Timmy today, and we’re in no shape to be making decisions about anything just now — but in the name of research, I want to hear your inputs anyway.)

Please do leave a comment to this post! (If you’d rather not respond publicly, you can send  your comment via the ‘Contact Eve’ page.) I eagerly await your words of wisdom to fall from the virtual clouds and solve all my problems!


(6) Comments

  • Mrs. W
    03 Feb 2014

    Evelyn –
    Putting a child in daycare does not make one “useless and redundant” – especially not a mother with a toddler and an infant.

    I’ll confess we went the daycare route and kept my daughter in daycare when my son was born. She was 2 and a bit when he arrived. It was the best thing for us. That being said – I understand daycare can be costly – perhaps there’s a shade of gray that gives you the breather you need and helps you to balance the demands of your life. Maybe hiring a mothers helper might be an option? Perhaps there are drop-in playgroups where Timmy might be more manageable? Perhaps outsourcing other work (like some of the housekeeping) might make it more manageable?

    It is a quandary though – and I wish you the best of luck with it.

    • Eve
      04 Feb 2014

      Thanks, Mrs W. After making this post I wondered if I’d inadvertently been disparaging when I seemed to equate daycare with redundant parenting. That of course would have been a completely inappropriate (and wrong) blanket statement to make! Daycare makes logical sense to me when a mum has other things requiring substantial amounts of time, like another job. But as a stay-at-home-mum with no other obligations, Timmy is my job. Or rather, is meant to be. So my feelings of inadequacy come from a This-therefore-That thought process. I don’t think I have many other demands on my time outside of Timmy. It’s just that Timmy’s enough to be getting on with all by himself. And if I have to be declared mentally inadequate in order to get extra daycare help, that doesn’t nurture feelings of confidence and competence!

  • Jody
    04 Feb 2014

    I completely relate to feeling like a slave to my toddler’s constant and passionate demands. I get up every morning knowing that I am going to be abused for not doing anything right according to someone whose desires change by the second. I totally support you using the extra daycare hours through your doctor. I have learnt that the happier the mother is the more resources and patience she has to spend quality time bonding with her child in the time they do have together. Otherwise we become resentful towards them which worsens the situation. They are unhappy as well as us. I am looking at putting Vicky in daycare partime as I think that will give me enough of a break but if I were feeling like you I would take more hours. I also find keeping Vicky busy and out of the house can sometimes result in a little peace between us.

  • Tani Newton
    04 Feb 2014

    Hello Eve, I was forwarded this by a friend with a suggestion to comment. I hugely admire you for being so honest and actually asking for people’s advice!! Very few of us really want to know what other people think. OK, here are my thoughts: Firstly, you obviously have a very active and energetic little person there and I don’t think anyone finds it easy at that stage. Secondly, I think you are right and more honest than most in suggesting that putting him in daycare is shirking your responsibility and making yourself redundant. I don’t know what your beliefs are, but I believe that (a) God intended us to have large, healthy families, (b) God intended parents to be the educators of their children and (c) God did not intend for us to drive each other up the wall. Therefore, if I am climbing out the window with green froth coming out of my mouth, something needs to change and it’s not having children or having them at home! What needs to change is what I’m doing with them, which may involve understanding their need for interest and stimulation, or their need for consistent discipline. A child who criticizes his mother needs a good sound spanking. My suggestion is, get some sensible books like James Dobson’s books on child discipline and tackle the problem head-on. You might even end up with a delightful child you never knew you had! It still isn’t easy, but you are quite right when you say that shirking the problem isn’t going to make it go away. Well, that’s my two cents’ worth and I do wish you all the very best.

    • Eve
      07 Feb 2014

      Thank you, Tani, for your response – very gently and graciously delivered. Husband and I haven’t made a conclusive decision either way yet, but meanwhile I’ve borrowed a book a couple of ladies from church recommended (Toddler Taming by Dr Christopher Green), and although I haven’t made it past the introduction yet, I hope it’ll help me as much as it helped them. I’ve had Timmy at home for three days since his daycare time was reduced, and although it’s had its challenges, it hasn’t been as catastrophic as it started out, so my nose has been above water so far!

  • Mrs. W
    06 Feb 2014

    I take a different view on this. Yes being a mom is your primary responsibility. However, just because you do not currently have “outside work” does not mean that you do not or could not benefit from some respite or that by using daycare you are shirking your responsibility as a wife/mother. When it was just Timmy, did you feel as though you were shirking because you did not take on additional outside work? Of course not. So now your workload has increased substantially – and I do not think you should be blamed for wanting some relief from that. If you were in the paid labour force you’d earn overtime or a raise for a substantial increase in hours of work and responsibility. I think what your seeking is a better balance – and to retain some sense of who you are as a person apart from being a mother. If it is any solace – things will get easier. Also – maybe consider taking on some contract work/other work if you need justification to do something other than childcare. Funny, we don’t give men the gears for wanting to be daddies AND whatever else…

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