Last June, an article appeared on the National Catholic Register that denigrated daycare. Although it was titled “The Truth About Daycare,” it contained anything but truth. In fact, it was a poorly written article containing several blanket assumptions supported by misleading evidence (many of which were pointed out on the article’s post at NCR’s Facebook page).
What annoyed me the most about the article was the insistence that kids in daycare are being “raised by strangers.” I see this argument often, especially in Catholic Facebook groups. Each time I do my eyes roll so far back in my own head that I can see my brain, because that stance is both ludicrous and illogical. For example:
Unless you take your kid to a new daycare every day, or you take your child to a center where turnover is unusually high (as in new employees are hired and fired on a daily or weekly basis), strangers aren’t raising your child. Instead, your child is forming close bonds with an adult who cares about him or her. Furthermore, even a stay-at-home parent isn’t engaging their child 100% of the time. A SAHP does housework, reads, visits with friends, grocery shops, brings their kids to playdates where they play with other kids, perhaps does volunteer work, blogs, gets into pointless arguments on Facebook about why they are superior to parents who work outside the home, etc. What’s the metric for gauging how much one-on-one time constitutes raising versus not raising? Is there a mathematical formula?
It’s Not Pro-Life
We want to foster a culture of life in this country, right? If so, we — as a Church — must stop denigrating daycare. As I said above, most single moms need to work to support their kids, and a lot of mothers who choose life, and choose to keep their children instead of placing them for adoption, must by necessity place their child in daycare so that they can support him/her. Yet so often Catholics say things like, “Mothers who put their kids in daycare are ruining them. Parents shouldn’t have kids if they’re just going to let them get raised by strangers.”
You know what a mother in a crisis pregnancy might think when she hears something like that? “Hmmm, maybe they’re right. Maybe my child would be better off dead than raised by strangers.”
Is Being “Raised by Strangers” Always a Bad Thing?
Are Catholics who talk snidely about people who let their kids be “raised by strangers” aware that their words could also refer to adoption? That’s basically the definition — handing your child off to a couple you don’t know, or don’t know well (strangers), to be raised. Yet adoption is an option championed in Catholic and pro-life circles. Isn’t this a conflicting message? Letting your child be “raised by strangers” is a wonderful, life-affirming option… unless you work full-time, in which case you’re destroying your children by placing them in daycare to be (allegedly) raised by strangers. What?
Do Catholic Schools Raise Children?
You’ll often hear Catholics singing the praises of giving your child a Catholic education by sending him/her to Catholic school. But wait a minute: if I send my child to Catholic school once s/he is five years old, isn’t that letting Catholic school teachers — i.e., strangers — raise my children? That’s the logical extension of the “daycare is raising your child” argument. (To be sure, there is a faction out there with the firm believe that all parents should homeschool.) But by and large I’ve found that the same Catholics who would criticize mothers for working full-time and sending kids to daycare have no problem with mothers sending kids to Catholic school full-time. Why the disconnect? Do children not need to be raised after the age of five? Last time I checked, my kids still had a lot of growing and learning to do after age five.
Do Only Mothers Raise Children?
I also wonder if people who make this statement have ever taken it to its logical conclusion. If it is the quantity of time that a parent spends with a child that equates to “raising” them, then logically only mothers raise their children. Fathers do not, since (presumably) the father is working 40+ hours per week and only sees his children evenings, weekends, and holidays. Yet Catholics speak about both parents raising their children, as does the Church. How can this be, if the mother is the only one doing the raising?
The Real Truth About Daycare
What this article, and those who share the author’s mindset do not realize is that a good daycare complements our parenting; it does not replace it.The article’s author seems to be under the impression that all daycares are government-run centers hellbent on indoctrinating young children with the vices of modernism and hedonism.
While a centers like the ones she envision may exist, they certainly aren’t like any of the ones I’ve had experience with, or have sent my children to in the past. She’s obviously never seen my kids’ current daycare, which is a home daycare run by a Mormon husband-and-wife team with four kids of their own. I know from experience that they share many of the same moral values that I do as a Catholic, and they’ve also been very respectful of our Catholic faith (just as I am respectful of their Mormon faith).
Their house is clean and neat (much cleaner than my house, for sure!). They have a huge playroom with lots of toys, and a big backyard with artificial turf and play equipment, plus a misting system for hot months. They take field trips, play games, and read stories with the kids. They provide two nutritious meals a day plus a snack in the afternoon. We’ve been with them since 2011, and they’ve cared for all six of my children, three of them since they were eight weeks old, and one since she was a year old. They’ve become good friends, and I feel blessed and reassured that my children are in excellent hands while I work to help support our family.
While discussing this article in the Catholic Working Mothers Facebook group, I asked for and received many testimonials from Catholic working mothers who had glowing reviews for their children’s daycares:
I’d love to introduce them to my center, Handicare, Inc. – founded by a woman who needed to work to afford medical care for her special needs child and couldn’t afford private care or find a center who had people skilled to manage her child’s disability. Sometimes life is complicated and you make the village you need; for every bad daycare story out there there are more that show it’s (properly used, funded and staffed) benefits particularly for children with needs outside the “norm.”
My 3 year old daughter literally RUNS down the hallway every morning to see her friends, and tells me all about centers and dressing up and playing outside and gymnastics when I get home. She LOVES the other kids in her class, is being socialized, is learning all about sharing and conflict resolution, and gets to do far more in a group setting than she would get to do if she was gone with me all day!
We love our daycare provider! She’s become like family. Whenever [my child] or I get sick she sends us home with home remedies. She also frequently sends me to work with pastries to eat with my coffee. [My child] loves his friends at daycare, he’s so good with other kids now, even though he’s still an only child. She also sends me photos all day long, which is the best.
My kids are in daycare, and you know what? It’s great! They are learning so much that I wouldn’t have thought to teach them yet. They are loved by the teachers and they love the teachers and the other kids. They are learning manners. They get nutritious meals and snacks. If I were to stay home at this time, we’d be scraping to make ends meet. We’d be eating beans and rice, rice and beans. There would be no trips to the zoo (like they do at daycare), they wouldn’t have the available educational toys because we wouldn’t be able to afford them. You know what else, without our daycare center, five women, none of whom have young children, would be out of work. Not to mention the other families in our center with single moms who are able to provide for their kids only because they can put their kids in daycare and go to work.
Our provider is Montessori and has helped us (first time parents – we know nothing!) instill respect, boundaries, and a loving attitude in our daughter. She absolutely LOVES her little “school” and happily kisses me goodbye each day and runs into her class with a smile on her face. They have a beautiful curriculum where our kiddo is able to grow and learn among her peers and understand how to interact with others. It’s been a true blessing in our lives and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Frankly, her daycare is doing a lot of things better than we would even know to do!
My son’s day care teacher loves him so much she offered to be our babysitter at home! She sends me photos of him throughout the week. I know he is being lovingly cared for. Also, because of day care, my son is a social butterfly at 15 months. He playswith other kids and shares. He is not shy or anxious around new people and is able to light up a room. He’s confident and funny, always trying to make people laugh even as a toddler.
My daycare provider is one of the kindest people I know. She considers herself an adopted grandmother to my son and loves him dearly. She has been a huge blessing to my family and my son lovingly asks her to come play with him even when he’s at home. She has attended his birthday parties and baptism (even though she is not Catholic). He is an only child but is learning how to be a big brother by being around a baby in her care. He is happy, well cared for, and loved. She will be coming over to help me while I am on maternity leave with my next baby. Though returning to work was hard, knowing that my son was going to her house to be cared for made it much easier.
Daycare early educator for 14 years. Exclusively infants and toddlers. I love my job, every single day. I love the kids, every single one, and I’m a huge advocate for doing what works for the family. (Nanny, family home, staying home, I’ve suggested all those things throughout the years) and I see it as my job to be a support for the family. My own kids started there and are now too old and they all have fond memories and lifelong friends because of it.
Sometimes daycare is a rocky road for us, but the lead teacher in my daughter’s room is amazing. She is so fun, she cares about every kid in there and teaches the curriculum our daycare provides well. Something I love most about daycare is my daughter is cared for by and is among other children in her class who are multi-racial. I love that she will grow with a positive view of cultures and skin colors that are different from ours. She would not have that from home!
I have two children who attend daycare. I am constantly amazed at the love and support the lovely ladies at my daycare provide my children. When I ask my two-year-old who his best friend is, he often tells me his teacher. In a world where so many children, teens and young adults are left without positive role models, I am grateful for this “village” to help provide my children with additional love and support in addition to their family. I know they are being emotionally cared for and I am grateful that my daycare provides an excellent learning environment to challenge them mentally as well as provide meals and a safe environment to care for them physically.
I met one of my adulthood best friends in daycare when we were two. She was present at my fifth child’s birth when my husband was too sick and taking care of our four sick children. We both have a set of twins. She is converting to Catholicism. We are linked forever and never would have known each other without daycare.
I don’t even know where to start. I found my daycare provider when my oldest daughter was two. She is now 8. She excels at school always gets the good Citizenship Award and has been asked to join the gifted talented program. She reads several grade levels above her grade and she has a vocabulary that beat even some adults I know.her 3 year old sister was also attends the same daycare, also has above-average verbal skills and at three and a half is able to write her own name. The daycare lady runs the daycare out of her own home; she is young and has never had her own kids. She is excellent with all the kids in her care and knows exactly how to meet the needs of each individual child. She also has a small farm and garden so the kids in her care are able to learn a little bit about those things. not sure if this is something I should really tell people haha, but my husband was nearly deported from this country and she willingly stepped up and wrote a letter to include in an immigration packet. I was also unreasonably investigated by CPS and she said that if the kids were taken away she would step up to be the foster parent. Thank goodness that was unnecessary. Even though I did not know her before she became my daycare lady and we do not socialize outside of our work relationship, I am very much considering asking her if she would be the guardian of my kids if anything happened to my husband and me. Her parents and in-laws also visit the daycare and treat all the kids like they were their own grandchildren.
We LOVE our daycare. We use Bright Horizons but I knew them prior to BH buying them because my nephew went there and I picked him up twice a week. When we had our daughter, it was a no brainer of where she would go. I have never felt bad about taking her there. I truly have felt like the staff loves my daughter and cares for her wellbeing. She is smart and learns so much there! More than I could ever do for her if I was home full time. I have received calls from them when she bumps her head or runs into another kiddo. I am never left in the dark about anything. I recommend it to all my friends who are looking because I truly feel it’s a safe and nurturing place that cares for all of us as a family. We just had a son and he will be going there. They made sure he will get the same lovely caregiver my daughter had. I don’t know what I would do without them in my corner.
I was just writing a letter to our daycare because at the end of the summer my younger son will start preschool. I’ve had kids in daycare for over four years and my experience has been so amazing. They both love going to “school” where they have music, outdoor play time, art, Spanish, and field trips. The teachers adore them and greet my boys with huge hugs every morning. My son told me the other day that his teacher is his “best friend.” When my older son started preschool he was way ahead of his classmates thanks to amazing teaching from our daycare — he already knew his letters and numbers and could write his name. Of course it is hard for a parent to leave a child, but I have nothing but positive things to say about the outcome!
My previous daycare provider was incredible. She made healthy organic food for all meals and played games outside all morning long and made crafts with the kids. She encouraged the kids to play together and to be kind. I felt that she and her assistant were particularly excellent in many of the areas where I was weakest, it was as though she filled in the gaps. My son adored her and the other children there. He was always so excited to go. I felt comfortable taking him and I still think that I was at my very best during that time. I was accomplishing so many good things for myself and others but most importantly for and with my son. He was so healthy and happy and I received daily reports on what he ate and did. I cried so much when we had to move and she and my son did too. My son was like another child to her. I was nervous about childcare but my experience with her was beyond my best expectations. We have a new place here that I think will be great as well. There are certainly some terrible places and situations out there but there are many incredible daycares as well, run by people who care deeply for our children. One reason my head daycare provider was so great was that she took her children to daycare so she did everything the way she wished it was when she took her kids. The other point worth making is how people with this anti-daycare view have such a limited understanding of the diversity of people. Women have talents and vocations outside the home just like men. It’s not just about needing to work but for some about wanting to fulfill a God-given desire. And their children are given to them by God, specifically for them. And children are all different. Some love daycare and some don’t but it can be beneficial. I once her another working mom, a professor with six children say the best way to describe it was to quote Eric Liddell from Chariots of Fire, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” And that can be in combination with motherhood.
My kids go part time to the parish preschool, which also provides summer care for my school aged child. It has our adoration chapel connected to it so we say “hi” to Jesus coming and going. they get access to the lovely Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Montessori based religious education. The teachers are sisters of mine through the Christ Renews His Parish retreat that we see at mass on Sunday. My children have access to outdoors, messy art, field trips, visit the school library, and have all sorts of fun while learning. They have a prayer table in their classroom. We are so blessed.
My oldest son went to an in home daycare until kindergarten. She and her day watched 5 other kids (including my daughter when she was born ). She was great! My parents and in-laws both moved to FL when my son was born. She was so sweet and gave great advice when I had panicky mommy moments. When my son started kindergarten we had to switch to a “regular” daycare for my then 3 y.o. daughter. It was great too! My kids are super social. They excel in school. I loved both of their daycare sand they did too!
I work at a community college. There is an childcare center on-campus and my children have attended the last four years. While breastfeeding my daughters, I was able to nursing my daughters during the day for their first year. It was awesome to visit her during the day and not have to pump the entire time I worked.
I found an at home daycare near my work that is owned by a devout Catholic grandma from Argentina. My kids learned quite a few words in Spanish. They are well cared for with good Latin food, naps and 5 playmates of various ages. They love her. Most of the other kids are her grandchildren, and my babies are treated as part of the family. We are even included in some family gatherings.
Our home sitter is absolutely wonderful!! We gave her permission to drive our little guy around so he can have the same type of experiences he’d have if he was home with me (changing the oil, going to the store, going to the park, etc). She loves him so much, as do her daughters, who even wake up early to play with him before school on days I’m picking him up early. She sends us pictures and videos throughout the day, too, so we can see what he’s doing. We couldn’t have a better experience!
Our daycare center does more than I would ever think to with our 11 month old son! He’s been there 5 months and loves it. I can come & visit him as I please. I nurse him on my lunch break, on one of my days off I actually got to do a “craft” with them (painting with food-dyed ice cubes). He is held, rocked, kissed, & loved on 9 hours a day two days a week. He gets to play outside, interact with other babies, and is exploring the world around him. I have to work for my family and it makes it so much easier knowing he is loved on as if he was with family at the center. When my son got a fever & they called me to pick him up, they emailed me to check up on him later that day! It’s more than I could ever ask for. Also, that article talks about “non-maternal” care. I’d like them to say the interaction my son has with his two daycare teachers not maternal, because they might as well be his aunts!
I know our kids learn so much more at daycare than they would if they were home with me. I am totally confident that my kids will be academically prepared for school when the time comes. Also, I am so thankful that they allow us to pull our kids out for the summer since my husband will be home with them (teacher).
I love our daycare. The staff and teachers are happy to be there and the students feed off of that. I know they love my boys as much as I do. My 4 year old has has stitches twice while there because he is crazy and reckless. Both times I have have come to get him after getting “the call” his teacher was sitting on the floor holding him in her arms. She left her class to be with him until I got there and held him as if it were her own son.
Our daycare is an in-home daycare that is run by a young “Grandma” that has a daycare just because she enjoys having children around. There are two other children (besides our two) that are there full time, and there are a couple of part-timers that are there at various times. My daughter has blossomed since having a consistent daily routine (rather than babysitters with odd hours). Both my son and daughter love her, as well as all the family that comes around–they are a traditional Mexican family with lots of extended family that visits frequently. They look forward to seeing her and the other children, freely give her hugs and kisses every day. It is obvious that she doesn’t need the money, and is doing it exclusively for the love of the children she cares for–we are very blessed!
My children went to a great daycare! My son was speech delayed barely spoke 5 words by age 2. Worked with the teachers at daycare that I still talk to and we came up with a plan to work with a log to write down new words so we could all repeat them. He was still delayed in reading til 5th grade but made honor role in his middle school years! Without the help of these daycare teachers who knows where my son would be academically?
My children have a sitter who treats them like they are her own. Every day she tells me and them how much she loves them. She take them to programs and play dates I never could and has the patience of a saint. Her own children are role models to my own. I wish I could be as good a mom as my baby sitter is! Also, my kids’ vocabulary is through the roof which I totally attribute to being around her children when they are not in school.
I love, love, love dropping my kid(s) off at the play area at the YMCA. They play, have fun, meet other kids, and I get to workout for 1-2 hours. It’s great for everyone! As far as daycares go, we used a friend for one, and I occasionally use our parish daycare. It seems to be okay, but I have to admit that I haven’t done much research. In all, I have probably used it 3 full days and 8 hours or so other than that. Since I work for our parish, I can get free daycare when working, so when I have to go to the diocese–2 hours away–and my friend cannot watch our youngest, I take her there. It’s only once or twice a month. Sometimes when I have tons to do, I’ll drop her in for a few hours. I would not ever be able to complete these two parts of my job without it! Plus, having it be free is the only thing that makes it possible to use it because, well, parish ministry isn’t a super-high paying field.
My DH is a sahd to care of my son. The article states non-maternial childcare. I take offense to that because it makes it seem like even a dad isn’t as good of a caregiver as a mom. I am a paramedic and had to go back to work at 6 weeks. I work 24 hour shifts so dad had to do all the feedings, diaper changes, bedtime routine every 3rd day. He is an amazing dad and I don’t think I could have done all that.
My son’s daycare discovered a developmental delay in our son. He had early intervention services and lots of help along the way and is now thriving in high school!
In closing, I can only echo the comments offered by Molly Walter on NCR’s Facebook page:
“The author could have used this as a platform to discuss how we as Catholics can strive to do better in the care of our children – perhaps better salaries for fathers so two incomes becomes less necessary in high cost of living areas, more Catholic based care centers, more work at home and flexible hour options or job sharing, etc., but instead she hit “publish” on this which offers little emphasis on support and understanding and leaves a lot of room to assume judgement underneath some very broad blanket statements. We can do better. Instead of announcing something like this is “always bad” and cast stones at thousands of families of various needs, abilities and backgrounds let’s take the time and the space to build constructive avenues of discussion to find ways to better support our wonderful Catholic families, to do as the Pope suggests and meet them where they’re at and offer true pastoral support and care.”