The Childcare Decision: Why I Said Yes to Daycare


Infants at a daycare center with a teacher.With a new year upon us, it’s time to move forward with the decisions we’ve put off until “after the holidays.”

One of those decisions might be finalizing a childcare decision. Nanny? A childcare center? Relative? A combo of all of the above? 

New parents have so much floating around in their minds that I thought I could explain why I’m a full-on proponent of daycare (aka childcare center or school). As my children are 13 and 10, it’s been some time since I needed to make this decision, but many years ago, I was in your shoes at the same time of the year.

While pregnant with my son, I figured I would hire a nanny. Most of my friends did that, so I assumed I would do the same. I would return to work in NYC after three months of maternity leave, and a nanny would be my answer for a childcare solution. Easy enough, right?

I didn’t take much action on my plan until after my son was born. The end of the year was approaching quickly, as was that return to work date. We placed an ad on Craigslist, and the search was on.

Ultimately, we interviewed two candidates. One was lovely, with wonderful recommendations from the references I had spoken with. We did offer her the position, but she never responded. Back to square one – yet it was a blessing in disguise.

But something didn’t sit well with me during the nanny search process. It wasn’t so much about the nanny candidates, but I questioned if hiring a nanny was the right decision for my family. 

At the time, we lived in an apartment in Hartsdale. Unless we hired a nanny that drove, which is typically more money, the thought terrified me (as I was a non-driver at the time); what exactly would they be doing all day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.? As much as I loved East Hartsdale Avenue, there’s only so many times you could walk up and down the block!

We didn’t have relatives in the area who wanted to babysit, and my husband and I had to work. So, I started thinking about daycare. I knew little about it, but those stereotypes were eating at me. The germs with kids putting all the same toys in their mouths. Dirty and crying kids with runny noses. Babies just sitting in bouncy chairs. I asked my best friend if she would still see us if we enrolled in daycare.

On the search, we went! We visited a local center, met with the director, and toured twice. The director was as warm as possible, and her interactions with the children at the center were amazing. We spent some time in the infant classroom the second time we visited. There were three babies in the room with one teacher.

One little girl caught my attention – a smiley cutie who was around eight months old. She was working hard to pull herself up to a standing position while holding onto a chair. The teacher gave her such encouragement and support and cheered her on. The teacher’s interactions with this little girl sold me.

I learned on the visit and subsequent enrollment that those stereotypes are just that – stereotypes. 

Daycare centers have stringent health policies and safety processes to follow. Many don’t even allow bouncy seats and swings. And, of course, the teachers wipe the runny noses – and even teach the kids how to do it themselves!

When my son came home with his first piece of “art,” his footprints in red paint on a piece of paper, I knew I made the right decision and never looked back.

Full disclosure: I became such a proponent of childcare centers that I decided to work in the field. I’ve been employed by a childcare company, the same one that my children attended. The benefits are aplenty, and here are the reasons why I am, hands down, a huge proponent of a childcare center.

1. Being the Nanny’s Manager

I worked long days in NYC, and part of my role was to manage a team of HR professionals. The last thing I wanted to consider was being a manager at home, too. Training and performance management of an employee whose main “client” was my son? Nope. Not for me. In addition, we never had to concern ourselves with a nanny calling in sick or resigning and needing to scrounge for child care last minute.

2. Learning from Other Children

Children love observing each other. Children love it when others observe them. Win-win! Younger children learn from older children in a center setting simply by watching and imitating. The older children can teach the younger kids all of the cool things they know how to do. Children learn from each other just as much as they do from adults. Sometimes, even more so. (In a childcare setting, this is A-OK. Less so when they get to elementary school and beyond, but that’s another story!).

3. Licensing and Regulations

This was a major factor in my decision. A higher power is in charge of regulating health and safety, such as infant sleep practices, feeding policies, hand-washing, diaper changes, and overall cleaning systems. There are guidelines for emergency preparedness plans, background checks, CPR and first aid certifications, and ongoing training. Even the ratios, which could be concerning to a new parent, really worked out fine. There’s always an extra hand or two to help out.

4. Partnering on Developmental Milestones

I often joke that my kids wouldn’t be potty trained if it weren’t for their teachers. Childcare centers can be your partner regarding child development. Teachers nurture children but are adept at the age-appropriate developmental milestones and ways to encourage achieving them, and will share any concerns they may have.

5. Socialization

You can’t beat the socialization that a child receives in a childcare setting. As a working parent with a long day and a long commute, I wound up having very little time to arrange and have play dates. It was a relief to know that my son would be around children. A childcare setting can offer camaraderie for children and parents, even if it’s just at drop-off and pick-up time. Parenting can be a lonely sport, and often, you’ll find commonalities between yourself and the other parents in the center. Your daycare center could be your connection to the community, including formal parent partnership groups.

6. Curriculum

I admit I had no interest in this when my son was a baby. Curricu-what? He’s an infant! Please, just feed him, change his diapers, and put him down for naps. Make sure he is safe, and love him a little too. But a childcare center is much more than a place for your child to spend time while you are at work. From infants through pre-K, these programs can offer exposure to all subjects to set an educational foundation to prepare the kids for school. And the best? The mess, for any art projects and science exploration, stays at the center!

7. The Teachers

On top of everything, the teachers make the experience. If you’re lucky, the teachers will truly become your second family. When my daughter was in Pre-K, her teacher noticed that one of her eyes turned inward while trying to focus. After observing this a few times, she was concerned enough to bring it to our attention. As a result, we brought her to a pediatric ophthalmologist who diagnosed my daughter with esotropia (a form of strabismus that can cause complications if not treated). The current treatment is lifelong glasses. If it were not for her teacher, we may not have realized this until much later on. Even more awesome was when my daughter came in with her glasses for the first time; the teacher was prepared with books with kids with glasses and even ten pairs of fake glasses for all the kids in the class.

8. Family First

What works for my family might not work for yours. It’s always important to look at both sides of the equation to determine the best choice for your family. If opting for a childcare center, there are additional aspects to consider. You have to drop them off and pick them up at the center. What happens when your child is sick? A nanny often assists with cooking, cleaning, and laundry.

These days, very few children start kindergarten without group care experience, whether it be a childcare program, preschool, or even local gym and art programs. Did my kids have a leg up on children who haven’t? The stats say yes, but I think that’s also an individual assessment. One thing to keep in mind is that not all childcare organizations are created equal. This is why you have to do your due diligence – the same you would do for a nanny search.

Keep an open mind as you are assessing your options. Breathe easy, mamas. It all works out.

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Melissa is a Bronx native who moved to Westchester County after she and her high school sweetheart got hitched in 1997. She and her husband live in Mount Kisco with their son Corey (2004) and daughter Mia (2007). Melissa spent many years working in Human Resources and currently works in enrollment and marketing for a child care organization. Melissa is a two-time survivor of Postpartum OCD. She initially became interested in writing to raise awareness for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders but has discovered that writing is a newfound aspect of her life that she thoroughly enjoys. Melissa is excited to write with the Westchester County Mom team and hopes you’ll enjoy her stories of the trials and tribulations of a born-n-raised city girl raising teenagers growing up here in Westchester.