Daycare is Our Village

It takes a village to raise a child, they say. I think they knew what they were talking about.

Sending the kids to daycare was never what I intended to do. No, I planned to keep them at home, like most other kids, while I went back to work. I had Shaba-aunty who I thought would be happy to look after them. She was already in charge of giving them lunch and putting them to bed for their afternoon nap. And if she couldn’t oblige, there was her sister, our cook, NJ. Both were women who’d worked with us a long time. They were trusted, dependable, sensible, honest, and clean. What more could anyone want?

As it turned out, neither of them could oblige – they both had too many other things to look after. So we reluctantly gave up on homecare and looked for a suitable daycare. I’m so glad we did. The truth is, one single, solitary nuclear family is too little for a child, even for two children, even for twins. I’m in no way advocating a joint family as the solution. I’ve seen what happens when our kids get thrown in with a bunch of family members. Discipline goes out the window. They think they can get away with murder and they can. There’s always someone who’ll take their side. And Mom and Dad become the only two who are at all interested in trying to impose some kind of discipline, some kind of schedule. We end up being the ones always trying to get things done. On time. Properly. And we – at least, I – end up screaming and losing my temper (and my mind) over it.

Don’t be under the impression that I often have to deal with this situation. It’s very rare. But it’s enough to give me a glimpse of how it could be.

Homecare that involves paid domestic help is better, because you, the employers, get to call the shots. It doesn’t mean that things will always be done the way you want them to be, but at least you can try. You can unplug the TV. You can ban chocolates and biscuits. Paid domestic help will not, presumably, spend too much of their hard-earned cash buying sweet things for their charges and thereby risk earning their employers’ wrath. The same cannot be said of grandparents. Or even uncles and aunts.

But homecare is essentially boring for kids, especially for kids of this age. Every day, day after day, it’s just the two kids and the one care giver. There’s just a small selection of games and activities that two kids and one adult can enjoy. There’s only a small selection of books and toys. Anyone would be bored after a week or two.

Daycare, on the other hand, is a good combination of the two strategies. We haven’t been able to completely eliminate TV and sweet nothings from the twins’ diet with daycare. But it’s not too much of either. And discipline is not an issue. There are several aunties who give the instructions, and they don’t brook any nonsense. There are more toys and activities than you’d normally have at home, and with so many children and adults around, the possibilities are infinite. Besides, unlike in a house, in daycare, every child is one of many and nobody gets excessive attention. This is good. The kids get to play together a lot with other kids of slightly varying ages. It teaches them to work out a lot of things on their own – taking turns, order, fairness, discipline. But there’s always help at hand should adult intervention or organization be required. Another wonderful thing about daycare is that, you don’t have to depend on just one person. With homecare, if your care giver calls in sick, goes out of town, or has any other reason for being unable to come, you’re stuck. With daycare, there are always helpers around. It doesn’t matter if one or even two of them are absent on any given day. Daycare goes on.

So daycare is sort of the village that raises our kids. And they’re doing a good job of it. When our girls went to Calcutta with Amit and without me for several days last week, by all accounts they were absolutely comfortable, self-assured, confident, and easy-going. It helps that they already know the people there, of course – but just to keep that in perspective, they are only four-and-a-half now and their last visit to Calcutta was more than a year ago, in December 2009. Still, they handled all the ups and downs of travel, the bor jatri (baraat – a five hour bus journey to Durgapur; overnight halt; and five-hour drive back), the festivities, the lots of new faces, new food, changes in meal and nap schedule, and everything else that goes along with such a trip – they handled it all with elan and without the slightest sign of missing mama.

In retrospect, putting the kids in daycare was the best thing to do. The time will come when we will have to take them out of daycare, as school hours get extended and the girls get involved in various classes and activities. But for as long as we have it, it’s a godsend. I wonder why I ever felt reluctant, unsure, or guilty about it?

Advertisements

3 Responses to Daycare is Our Village

  1. Prakash says:

    I agree that day care is a good option. I seriously think that p should also go to some day care, she will be independent. At this moment, she is very clingy and fussy….

  2. Neeti says:

    So reassuring to hear, I’ve either been a SAH mom, or had domestic help to look after the kids, so I have all manner of inhibitions when I think about daycare, not the least of which is that kids don’t get the attention they need – your observations provide a fresh and different perspective. I will definitely now be more reassured and positive if and when I need to consider daycare for the girls!

  3. poupee97 says:

    Prakash: Your better half doesn’t like the concept and I was totally with her on that, but now I’ve totally changed my mind. But I probably wouldn’t want to put very tiny kids into daycare either.

    Neeti: After a certain age, for the kid to be the focus of attention at home, with only one other sibling, is not necessarily a good thing, is what I think now. Balance is important, of course, but for the child to be one of many is also good – but only after they’ve grown up a bit. Below about 2 years of age is a different story (and not one that applies to either of us).
    And it’s crucial to have the right kind of daycare. The place we’d put the kids first, for three days, despite having a lot of branches and good infrastructure (and no shortage of staff), reeked of neglect. This place, you can see that it’s not that the staff is neglecting the kids – they’re just leaving them to do their own thing, like most parents would do, and that’s what is so nice to see. Yesterday when I went to pick up the kids, they were all sitting on the ground playing a game improvised by a slightly older girl. None of the adults knew exactly what they were up to, but the kids were all deeply involved in the game and doing it with full dedication. Given that our girls are the older kids in the batch, it was heartwarming to see such focus and cooperation from such young kids.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: