29 August 2007


This morning, I dropped Miss M. off at daycare and found her teacher in the kitchen removing all of the Mr. Potato Head pieces from the commercial dishwasher. It was a beautiful moment.

I don't know, maybe it's the lefty-commie-pinko in me, but I think daycare is a great thing. When Miss M. was first born, we were still living in Manhattan. I looked for a daycare in Manhattan, only to find that 1) there weren't any and 2) they had interminable waiting lists. I called an agency who sent me a list of all the daycare centers in Manhattan - it was one page long. One. I toured a really nice center near my office, great vibe, good recommendations. They had an 18 month long waiting list. And they started at 3 months. Let's see, that means you need to get on the list six months BEFORE conception.

There's an article about this NYC daycare problem in the September issue of Time Out New York Kids. In part, there are so few daycare centers because of the space issue - space is limited and real estate is expensive. Still, it's shocking to realize that in a city with more than 200,000 preschool-aged children, there are center based daycare slots for only 56% of the kids. And keep in mind that these are citywide numbers - I'm sure that if it were broken down by borough, there would be slots for way fewer than 56% of the kids in Manhattan.

So, because daycare was impossible back then, we ended up with a wonderful babysitter. Oh, okay, nanny - though I rather dislike that word. And then we moved out of the city and got another babysitter, until Miss M. was old enough for daycare. And it's a wonderful place.

I've written about her daycare center before, but I've been thinking about it again - partly because of Julie's Hump Day Hmm, and partly because it's transition time. Just like in big school, the kids move from one room to another in September. So Miss M. is about to move up to the oldest group - the group of kids who'll go to kindergarten in September of 2008. And, just like last year, she's nervous. "I don't want to be a C. I want to stay a B and teach the rules to all the new Bs." And she's having some transitional stress - more tantrums, more sleeping problems, more coming home and saying "S. isn't my friend anymore" (baloney) and "all the kids always blame me" (nonsense). But she's going to be fine. The new classroom is across the hall from the old one; and both of those groups share a bathroom and a playground. And the other day, the new teacher whispered to me "I've got her - look at the dress". And there she was, twirling around in all her glory, wearing a ratty, flouncy black nylon full slip from about 1965 - in pig heaven in her little black dress.

From now on, all I have to do to get her out of the house in the morning is remind her about the black dress.

I know that we've been incredibly lucky. It's a free-standing (i.e. not chain) non-profit daycare, Montessori-based, with smart and caring staff members, and (mostly) enlightened parents. They have a full time cook - which is, to me, a two-pronged benefit: I don't have to pack lunch and snack every day, and the teachers don't have to figure out which lunch belongs to whom. And the food is good - grilled steak in the summer, homemade chicken soup in the winter, baked ziti, roast pork - in other words, real food.

I only wish that all kids in the United States with working parents had such a great option for early childhood care. It's a crying shame.


Suz said...

We have a nanny and I don't like the word any more than you did. I never know what to call her, though. "Childcare provider" sounds too formal and "babysitter" sounds too informal as she does watch the boys most of the day, every day. At some point, we'll transition to daycare and I'm oddly looking a little forward to it.

S said...

I feel the same way about Jack's kindergarten, which is also a preschool/daycare. I think it's the best thing since the ballpoint pen.

But I'm well aware that situations like yours and mine are mighty unusual.

Snoskred said...

My nephews both loved daycare. So many other mothers looked down on my sister for sending them there - but the kids thought it was the best thing since sliced bread and it allowed my sister to work.

I'm over the snobbery between mothers who don't use daycare and mothers who do. And I'm also over the snobbery re breastfeeding. Thankfully I'm not having any kids of my own because if I were, I'd be punching people who looked down on me for my parenting decisions. :(


S. said...

Ziv has been in daycare since she was six months old and adores it--first day disruptions notwithstanding. I think that for her, for our kid, being in a social space is right.

I am also intensely grateful to the teachers in the infant-toddler room where she spent the last two years, because they love her. It is kind of amazing, really, that they did that for our family--loved our child, knowing she would move on from them.

Anonymous said...

Amen. I feel SO lucky that we have a center that we love.

Anonymous said...

Miss M's daycare sounds wonderful -- much like the one we left behind when we moved. I wish I could find one as good in the new town.

I had no idea there was such a daycare crisis in Manhattan. That is just crazy. With such high demand one would think that more centers would open there. I guess it's just so hard to get the space.

niobe said...

I don't know, maybe it's the lefty-commie-pinko in me, but I think daycare is a great thing.

I completely agree with you. But I usually don't say it very loudly.

MadMad said...

Did you ever read that book by the Newsweek writer who was in France for the birth of her first kid, thinking "these American women are all whiners..." and then she moved here, and the lack of our lefty-commie-pinko ways to help her raise her children left her in the dust... I wish I could think of the name - it's fascinating reading. (Though ultimately, perhaps, depressing.) If I come up with it, I'll email you. (Cuz I guess we all need to be depressed?)

Julie Pippert said...

Oh wow...that is surprising, but makes sense after you explain it, about Manhattan. Wow. I feel like I live in the land of plenty now.

But sounds like your daycare ROCKS!

And yes, it can be that unusual.

More and more I believe that socialization is so important. And at some point, preschool is, I believe, essential.

Anonymous said...

Dude. We flunked out of daycare, but I bet we'd have done pretty well in yours.

painted maypole said...

wow, you have hit the day care jackpot!

Mad said...

In pig heaven? Maybe Nureyev would dance with her.

This was a delightful post to read given that my own little Miss M starts day care for the first time next week.

Anonymous said...

I have used two daycares for all my kids' needs. Both were private, small centers. I paid a premium for them, and in fact put off owning a home so that my kids were in the best possible setting. I loved the daycares for the way they CARED about my kids, they LOVED my kids. Both of my children were potty trained and learned to read at daycare, as well as being very comfortable in a "school" setting (ie, taking turns, sharing, sitting still in a circle.) I never could have given my children as much as the daycare center did. Frankly, at times I think it was a relief for them to go there and have some structure.

It still angers me how judgmental people are about daycare centers. And you are right, it is terribly sad that we don't have more high quality, affordable places for childcare. I don't trust my kids in a home daycare situation (who is monitoring the care provider if she is the only adult there?) and staying at home myself was not an option. However, even when I was home for 12 weeks after my daughter's birth, I continued to take my 5 year old to daycare. He got much more out of that then he would have staying home with me.