Guilt-free daycare

Your Mom Goes To College


As I kissed my son goodbye, a flier hanging on the door of his daycare caught my eye. “Music time at noon on Wednesdays! Parent participation is welcome.”

I spent the remainder of my day at work thinking about how I had never been and wondering if my son felt at all sad watching other parents walk through the doors during music time as his mom remained at work.

I began contemplating about how my family could get by on one income, and how surely I could drop-out of college now and return once my son was in kindergarten.

My email dings. It’s an email from his teacher reminding parents that the Christmas party is today at 5 p.m.

“I can make that!” I rejoiced to myself. I left work 15 minutes early and turned on talk radio during my drive to the party. A woman was recalling how her son’s behavioral problems began when he started daycare at the tender age of two and how they were still working to correct them now at the age of 12.

Alas, I arrived at my son’s school. I walked into his Christmas party with half a mind to speak to his teachers and unenroll him from the program altogether when I was met by my son’s smiling face at the door. He escorted me to a table covered with holiday-themed crafts that he and his classmates had been working on, his face gleaming with pride. I spent the duration of the party watching him interact with his peers and his teachers. He was happy, proving my worrying was done, once again, in vain.

The truth about childcare is that the kids will be alright.

In 2006, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development concluded a 15-year study on childcare with 1,364 kids as the primary subjects of research. The results revealed that kids with 100 percent maternal care fared no better than kids who spent time in childcare. In short, there is no reason for mothers to feel like they are harming their children if they decide to work. In fact, the study also showed that children who were enrolled in high-quality childcare went on to score better on school readiness based on standardized tests of literacy and numbers skills.

A separate study conducted by the the Families and Work Institute surveyed children of both employed and nonemployed moms and found responses remarkably similar. Whether mothers worked or not, children were equally likely to say they got enough time with mom.

The bottom line is that daycare needs to stop being the main source of guilt for mothers in work or school. According to Aletha Huston, a University of Texas at Austin psychology professor and past president of the Society for Research in Child Development, “The amount of time that mothers spend with their children does not seem to be that important; it is the quality of the interaction.”

In other words, rather than spending time counting the minutes of the day our children are in daycare while we are at work or school, mothers should focus on the time we do have at home with our kids.

When my son and I arrived home from his Christmas party, I sat with him on his bedroom floor and asked him what he did at school. He sat on my lap and told me about how Santa visited their classroom, then followed with an impromptu performance of his version of “Jingle Bells.” Though I wasn’t there to watch all of his day unfold, I made a conscious effort to enjoy this part that we had together.

Daycare is a small portion of our children’s lives, but their time with us as their parents is forever. Do not spend it getting caught up in the dogma of parenting nor listening to the self-righteous comments of bystanders who insist that your career or your education can wait till your child is older. They can hold their tongue, and you can enroll your kid in daycare.

Mia Villanueva writes the Thursday column on her experience as a student-parent at UC Berkeley. Contact her at [email protected].

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  • BlackConservative

    You really should read Untethered Soul by Michael Singer. I honestly think its a good read for everyone, but when reading your articles, I think of that book and how it will up your go on a journey beyond yourself. Maybe worth a shot, I have two copies and would even send it to you for free. Anyways, good luck and God bless with everything in life as I cannot imagine how busy you are.

  • lspanker

    Daycare is a small portion of our children’s lives, but their time with us as their parents is forever. Do not spend it getting caught up in the dogma of parenting nor listening to the self-righteous comments of bystanders who insist that your career or your education can wait till your child is older.

    The mission of the University of California per the Constitution of the State of California is education and research, not state-supported day care for those who make poor family planning choices. If you can’t go to college and ensure that your pre K-12 child has competent and caring day care available without imposing on the California taxpayers, then it’s perfectly reasonable to make your child the priority at this point in your life and hold off on becoming a full-time student to such time as your child is in grade school. Your attitude of entitlement is quite annoying to many of us who had to delay our own college educations to accommodate our own life situations.

    • BlackConservative

      The irony I find: She has enough time to write this column.

  • Nathan Kayhan

    Mothers should be fully devoted to raising their children. If a woman wants to focus on other things in life, that’s great, but then she shouldn’t have children. Children need every ounce of love and attention they can get from their mothers if they are to grow into fully actualized human beings. This simply doesn’t happen in daycare. Therefore it’s unethical to choose to be a working mother.

    • BlackConservative

      Yea yea…Bc my dad (died) was around to work so my mom didn’t have to. To say such a blanket statement is so silly. My mom had to work as a teacher and I went to daycare and she loves me more than anything in the world, and I believe raised a great child. So your theory is that, just a young naive theory. I do agree that Mothers should devote their time and love to raising their children, but to say daycare is unethical is insanely ignorant, and you should maybe travel too.

      • lspanker

        I did not upvote Nathan’s comment due to his last comment, as I am well aware that in many cases being a working mother is a necessary choice. At the same time, I do agree that if you’re not serious about making your children your #1 priority as a mother and do not have the resources to take care of them and engage in other activities (college, supporting one’s self), then maybe it’s best to hold off on one or another until such times as you can do it successfully.

        • BlackConservative

          I agree with you, but to say its unethical to be a working mother is silly and that if you are, you should pay for your child’s daycare with your own money until they are old enough to go to school.

      • Nathan Kayhan

        I hope that at least during your early years you got to spend a lot of time with her.

      • Nathan Kayhan

        Obviously many mothers are forced by economic realities into working to care for themselves and their children. These women did not choose this. I empathize with these mothers and their children, but it does seem to me that these far less than ideal situations could be avoided all together if these women were to choose not to have children in the first place.

        • lspanker

          On that point I am in agreement.

          • BlackConservative

            Me too!