Childcare During the First Year
I listened to this story as I drove to pick up my daughter from an amazing childcare center on her first day in the preschool room. As I sat down to share it on Facebook I realized I had more to say on the topic than a quick link.
Our family has only been at our childcare center for 6 months. I knew when M was born I did not want to return to work full time and we made the decision I would stay home with her for as much as possible until she started Kindergarten. For financial reasons I returned to work per diem, one day a week when she was 4 months old and her daddy stayed with her until we found an amazing nanny who cared for her from 6 months until the summer she turned 1. We were then fortunate to have a friend care for her until she was 2 years old, when I increased my work days to 2 as I was starting my own practice.
I knew when M was born I did not want to return to work full time and we made the decision I would stay home with her for as much as possible until she started Kindergarten.
We felt confident as we approached her first birthday she and we were ready to enter into the childcare scene; to increase her kid exposure and to socialize beyond our smaller play groups. Though to this day I still feel I am in a rat race to drop off and pick up in a small window that fits with my work schedule; and there is a guilt of leaving her for a full day. Even though she is LOVING it!!
As I listened to this story my heart ached for those families who couldn't find childcare for their infants. Or found childcare but in the end workers put her infant's safety at risk.
I think the problem in this country is not that there isn't enough childcare, but our capitalist country expects parents to return to work within the first year of our babies lives when many of us are not ready to give up this precious time of bonding and figuring out how to be parents.
We are expected to all healed by 6 weeks, to have our parenting skilled rock solid and be emotionally stable to hand off our precious new bundles and return to work ready to give 100%.
I can tell you I was a mess the first day I returned to work and my husband was the one home with her. But as a nursing mom, I felt I was abandoning our daughter, especially since she was not keen about a bottle.
So the real issue is not if there is enough, quality child care for infants but that families should not have to rely on outside sources of child care for the first year of our child's life because mothers and fathers should be given a full year of maternity/paternity leave.
This provides the family time to bond, learn how each other works...because let's face it infants change every day...and get into a good rhythm. It also gives moms time to focus on nourishing not only the baby but herself, which we tend to put off. Time away from work outside the home, we can focus on our health, the health of our baby and new family rather than "am I being productive enough," "I'm not producing enough milk," "I can't get the time off to stay home with my sick child," etc.
This provides the family time to bond, learn how each other works...because let's face it infants change every day...and get into a good rhythm.
My family was fortunate that we were able to keep our financial burden low enough that we could live on one income and are still living on a reduced income as I work part time and only get paid when patients come to see me.
This is not the case for so many families across America, who have to return to work to survive. But I believe by switching our focus on not having enough licensed child care centers, which is a short term mindset to companies being mandated to provide 1 year leave, without the risk of losing your position, could reduce so many problems we face as a society.
As mammals, we were born to do one thing, continue our lineage. So lets support our first "job" and demand better maternity & paternity leave!