Reflections on life, marriage, and a young woman who is constantly learning how much there will always be to learn!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

My Daycare Experience

Note: The following is long, but I wanted to give a detailed picture!

I was never enrolled in a daycare facility as a child. However, I have worked in two of them, and so have had the opportunity observe this method of raising children firsthand. For those who have never spent a full day in a center as an adult, I thought this might prove enlightening. With this piece, I am focusing primarily on the preschool ages.

Daycares are highly regulated, so much of the director's and workers' days are spent making sure that the center is in compliance. This website gives the regulations for the state of Texas. Of particular interest are the state minimum requirements for child/worker ratios:

Maximum number of children assigned to one caregiver in each specified age group:
0 - 11 months: 4
12 - 17 months: 5
18 - 23 months: 9
2 years: 11
3 years: 15
4 years: 18
5 years: 22
6-8 years: 26
9 - 12 years: 26

Maximum number of children assigned to two caregivers in each specified age group:
0 - 11 months: 10
12 - 17 months: 13
18 - 23 months: 18
2 years (24 months): 22
3 years: 30
4 years: 35
5 years: 35
6 - 8 years: 35
9 - 12 years: 35

It's worth noting that almost no daycare center is going to reach above these minimum standards. In most daycares, the existing workers are already being paid very low wages, and the owner is not going to add more employees to the payroll than are determined necessary by the state.

The workers must meet the basic care requirements for each child. These include feeding at regular intervals (every 2-3 hours), diapering or toileting as needed (for a room with ten babies, this likely means upwards of 50 diaper changes a day to be handled by two workers), and providing care and supervision during regularly scheduled playtimes and naptimes. Throughout the day, the workers must maintain a sanitary environment. The children and the room(s) must be kept clean. For instance, the diaper-changing table is supposed to be wiped and sanitized after EVERY changing (again, often 50+ times).

In addition to caregiving, the workers are responsible for keeping records for each child detailing (but not limited to) the following information:

(1) Times the child slept;
(2) Times and amount of food consumed;
(3) Times of diaper changes (for babies and toddlers)
(4) Child's general mood for the day; and
(5) A brief summary of the activities in which the child participated.
(6) Minor accident reports (ie, minor scratches or bites from other children)

The Texas regulations require that the caregivers give individual attention (ie, talk with, play with, hold babies and toddlers) to each child to the extent possible. However, in my experience, the above duties often precede and leave very little room for this "less essential" care.

What my mother personally encountered as a daycare observer:

Daycare Center #1: This was probably a low-mid scale chain type center. My sisters' and my ballet teacher rented one of the rooms for a period of time while her studio was being constructed. So my mother had a few hours every week while she waited for us during our lessons to become oriented to the daycare scene. She told me that if the parents could see what she regularly saw, they would be shocked. The children were essentially caged in rooms with screaming and bellowing workers. When the parents arrived, however, the workers become as sweet as honey. My mom could not believe the level of play-acting. These women would have had a career in theatre if they ever decided to leave childcare.

What I personally encountered as a daycare worker:

Daycare Center #2:

My employee status: Summer job as a college student. I worked primarily with toddlers.

This was a mid-scale center. The family demographic was middle to upper-middle class. The worker demographic was mostly low-income, high-school/GED educated, although a few other employees besides me were in the process of attaining their degrees. Thankfully, there was little screaming or bellowing (from the workers. The children screamed and bellowed frequently). Each room had a camera, so that the parent could watch their child on video from his or her desk. However, the camera was often the source of frustration for the worker trying to restrain a child from hitting or biting another child. If we so much as laid a hand on a child, even to protect his classmates, we could be sure that the director would come sailing into the room demanding that we be more careful. "The parent could be watching!"

Also because of the cameras, the director wanted to make sure that the room appeared tidy at all times. Therefore, each room was severely deficient in toys and activities, and we spent an inordinate amount of time scooping up each plaything as soon as a child dropped it. I cannot tell you how incredibly BORED those poor children were. It's no wonder that the more assertive ones in the bunch resorted to territorial aggresion, biting and kicking and pushing the other kids, to keep them away from their favored toys. There just weren't enough interesting things to go around.

The entire focus at this center was how things would appear to the childrens' parents. So we had pointless "craft activities" everyday with our 18 mo. olds, which consisted of them watching me and the other worker cut out shapes and glue them on paper. We simply did not have time to help each child accomplish the project themselves.

This center dealt with the workers' lack-of-time issue with Mr. Roving TV and Barney Video. We got our turn with the TV right before lunch, and this was the workers' chance to frantically try to catch up with diaper changes and the childrens' daily reports.

I won't even get into how disgusting the childrens' food was. But I guess it must have met with the Texas State Nutrition and Food Service Guidelines!

In our room, we had the meanest little 18-mo old boy imaginable mixed with some sweet-tempered, sensitive children. He was always trying to bully them. We did the best we could to keep him away from the other children, but that usually meant sticking him in the corner with most of the toys to himself while we tried to entertain the others with the leftovers. Watching him was nearly a full-time job in itself. I felt really bad the few times that he managed to hurt others before we could intervene. One time he bit a little girl so hard that she started to bleed profusely. To our dismay, a couple of our "sweet boys" began to imitate Mean Boy and push the other children around. So much for positive socialization!

Towards late afternoon, many of our children became grouchy and whiny. They were tired of being bored and they were tired of being "socialized." (How do we adults feel if we NEVER get a moment of downtime to ourselves?) About this time, some of the children would always try to go pull their pillows and blankets out of their cubbies and curl up by themselves in a corner. But we were not allowed to let them do this. We had to try to keep them actively involved with the group. How would it look to the parents if we didn't?

Daycare Center#3:

Employee Status: Substitute preschool teacher. I worked with babies-4 year olds.

This was more of a high-scale center. It cost well over $1,000 /mo. per child, so our parents were generally well-off professionals. The center advertised that it's teachers possessed at least a BA degree, however this was not true of the baby and toddler teachers. The focus of this center, as described on their website, is education:

All children are born geniuses. The challenge is to keep them that way through stimulating and challenging intellectual activities with the main emphasis on fun. The brain grows and develops more in the first six years of life than at any other time, our aim is to capture this motivation and develop it for the future.

In order to accomplish this goal, the center had the children (except for the babies) rotate from classroom to classroom throughout the day, each room having a different educational focus. There was the Physical Education / Active Playroom which doubled as the nap room, the computer room, the "Home Room" (with dolls and toy dishes and other "playing house" type toys), the music room (with toy instruments), the craft room, the eating room, etc. Sounds good in theory. However, we did spend a TON of time transporting groups of children from room to room every 30-45 minutes and there were significant issues with crowd control. At least it helped the boredom problem, although it did not exactly foster long attention spans.

Since this center focused on education, the full-time "teachers" were supposed to prepare lessons and activities for the sessions in each room. The poor women did their best. However, lack of time, the rigors of crowd control, and the necessities of their other duties often interefered.

As in the other center, we had a large "time" problem. As workers, we did not have enough time to give to each child, especially the less demanding ones. Demanding, misbehaving children or children needing attention to their physical needs took the bulk of our time.

To their credit, this facility did not use a TV to babysit the children. They also took pride in the fact that children were being exposed to quality culture, such as classical music during naptimes.

Interestingly, even a nice center such as this one could not afford to pay cushy salaries. The baby workers were paid less than the other teachers. As a result, they were less educated. The workers in the babies' room did not even fully speak English. I often wondered how the babies were expected to learn to understand and speak excellent English when their full-time caregivers did not.

During the days I spent at this center, I never understood how we were expected to effectively discipline misbehaving children. Most of the teachers just bumped the problem child to another room for a few minutes. Sometimes this helped, sometimes it didn't.

Each daycare shared one glaring problem: In spite of our best efforts (or lack thereof in the case of some), we were not mom (or dad, for that matter!). We had records of each child's food allergies and medical conditions, and eventually we learned about their different personalities. But we did not have an intimate knowledge of the child. We cared about them all, but we did not have a burning passion for each one's individual welfare. How could we? We were so busy with regulations and parents and crowd control and the necessities of basic care. We could not say to a child: "You are mine, and I love you!" Because, perhaps the very next week or month, that child would be traded to another teacher who would not know him from the next. And then another. And another (Turnover in daycare centers is very high!).

I remember looking at a baby's smile and thinking, "how could a parent bear missing this?" This, meaning their child's entire life, except for a couple of hours every evening. Hours when both parent and child have already been exausted and spent from the day, and are not quite themselves. I remember a little girl who used to call me "Mommy." Baby, I'm not your mommy. I wish you could know what it's like to have a mommy who has time to bake cookies with you and take you grocery shopping and let you help dust the furniture and who will laugh when you want to put seventeen ribbons in her hair.

Real life. That's another thing these babies miss out on. They live artificial lives, with parental simulations standing in for Mom and Dad, who have real lives and values to consistently model over a period of years; real care to give based on what the child truly needs at the moment rather than state regulations; hugs spilling from true love.

It is not my intention to bash parents who have their children in daycare. But I do want to provide a clear picture of what daycare is. I honestly believe that if you are a half-decent parent, your child will benefit from any measures you can take to limit the time he has to spend in the daycare environment. Even the most well-intentioned institution cannot replace you in your child's life.


Blogger Leigh said...


Thank you for that insightful look into daycare. I have always said and will stick by the fact that I refuse to marry any man that doesn't feel the same way I do about me staying home with our (imaginary, as is the husband at this point) :) children. It is too important to balk on.


6:41 PM, June 27, 2006  
Blogger Kimi Harris said...

Thanks for sharing your daycare experience. It helps justify those of us who "sacrifice" to be stay at home wives and mothers. : )

7:35 PM, June 27, 2006  
Anonymous Canaan said...

Reading this brought back memories of my work in a day care and my stomach literally turned over in knots. Thanks for reminding me why I stay home with my children. I had a rough day today and I needed this!
Canaan from

9:05 PM, June 27, 2006  
Blogger Mrs.B. said...

Hi Erin....I'm so glad you're back to posting.

I don't have time to read this lengthy post right now but I'll DEFINITELY be back tomorrow to read it!

I too was a preschool teacher and also worked in daycares as well as growing up going to daycare and it's not something I'd want for my children (if I had any!)

10:07 PM, June 27, 2006  
Blogger razorbackmama said...

Thanks for posting this!

One thing that stood out to me is this:

Real life. That's another thing these babies miss out on. They live artificial lives

That is so very true! And yet those of us who do NOT do preschool or institutional school with our older children are accused of robbing our children of "real life," since they aren't getting the experience of school. How backward!

2:23 AM, June 28, 2006  
Blogger Erin said...

Leigh, I felt the same way!

Kimi, Canaan and Razorback: I'm glad this post helped validate all the time and sacrifices you have made and will make for your children! It is SO worth it! I can say that, because my mother did it for me and I am so thankful! Working at those daycare centers made me realize how many children don't have what I did growing up. I hope if the Lord gives us children that I will always be able to be home with them!

I totally agree, Razorback... schooling away from home is a very artificial environment. I've heard that they're not even doing many field trips with children anymore because of cost and liability. Those poor kids are cooped up in their building ALL day long. Growing up homeschooled, much of our education was gained through practical daily living: Running errands with mom; watching her conduct her business; helping cook and clean; playing outside for hours on end. We had 2-3 hours of bookwork a day, and never missed that extra 4-5 hrs of busy work the schools dole out to keep the kids occupied until let-out time!

Mrs. B, it's so interesting that those of us who have actually worked at these centers all say that! I think if all parents actually DID spend more than a couple minutes in their child's daycare, those places would be out business fast.

11:49 AM, June 28, 2006  
Blogger Erin said...

Oh...and how many schools spend entire mornings with the kids just reading? Let me tell you...THAT'S how you make a child love reading for life!;o)

11:54 AM, June 28, 2006  
Blogger Amy said...

My mother and sister used to work as "nannys" and cared for children in their own home and the client's home. I know people often prefer this to daycare, and my mother and sister loved the children they cared for, but there are significant problems with this arrangement as well.

First, my mother often told me she loved those children, but it just wasn't the same as the way she loved her own. You just can't replace the love of a mother.

Second, the children would become so attached that they didn't want to go home with their parents. It was very confusing for them to understand who "mom" really was. Then the parents would be obviously upset (though trying to pretend everything was okay) because their child preferred the babysitter.

Third, sometimes the nanny has to quit. This is incredibly hard for the child who has fallen in love with their "substitute mom".

2:55 PM, June 28, 2006  
Blogger Mrs.B. said...

Amy you've touched on two things that I experienced as well when caring for children in my home. I remember one time that a mother's baby didn't want to go with her...he wanted to stay with me.

Another time in a daycare setting the little girl told me that she wished I was her mommy....her mom was just fine but she spent more time with me than with her mom.

Also I, too, feel like it's so hard for these children to have so many people come and go from their lives.

3:39 PM, June 28, 2006  
Blogger Erin said...

Amy and Mrs. B...these are such good points! The bond between a child and their parents (or whoever it is that raises them) is the most significant relationship a child will experience until he or she marries. How does it affect a child when that primary caregiver they bond with keeps leaving them and being replaced? I have to wonder if the "expendable" parent has contributed to the rise of the "expendable" marriage. People just don't expect to have a lasting relationship with someone because they've never really experienced it.

5:30 PM, June 28, 2006  
Blogger zan said...

I got choked up at this post.

I hold my two babies (ages 2 and 15 weeks) and I can't imagine dropping them off.

Babies need to bond with their mom and they can't do it if they are under the care of daycare workers.

The way my infant looks at me when I pick him up after he cries is so heartwarming. He fully trusts that I will take care of him.

I just feel so bad for those babies who don't have that. Not just the ones in daycare, but to all the babies in the world without proper mother/caregivers.

5:41 PM, June 28, 2006  
Blogger Erin said...

I just feel so bad for those babies who don't have that. Not just the ones in daycare, but to all the babies in the world without proper mother/caregivers.

Oh, I do too Zan! It's heartbreaking. Your babies are truly blessed.

3:33 PM, June 29, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your experiences. I worked for one summer during college in a daycare center. I vowed that summer, that with God's help, my children would never be in one. Two incidents led me to know that I had to quit:

1. During "breakfast", when I was asked to feed 2 babies at once with the same spoon.

2. We had a six-week old "join" and I spent a lot of the day cuddling her to reassure her. During her feeding time, I was told that I was needed for other things and to lay her in the crib and "prop the bottle up" so that she could eat by herself. (I disobeyed my boss that day.)

I believe the women I worked with truly cared for the children. There were just too many to properly handle. And, as you indicated, they weren't THEIR children.

My husband and I have not been blessed with children yet, but I pray that we never have to put them in a situation like the one I saw for one short summer.

5:40 AM, June 30, 2006  
Blogger Erin said...

Anon- wow...the things you describe definitely violate the regulations for daycare centers! But those regulations are SO cumbersome and idealistic that it's doubtful any center follows them all. In fact, it's pretty much impossible. You're so right: even the most well-intentioned childcare workers simply cannot adequately provide for every child's needs. There's a reason God doesn't give eleven 2 yr-olds, or fifteen 3 yr-olds to one parent at the same time!

When I worked in childcare, I always felt like I was failing the children. I knew I couldn't give them what they needed (love and constancy and individualized attention), no matter how hard I tried.

10:41 AM, June 30, 2006  
Anonymous Shelby said...

What an interesting post, we SAHM are always encouraged in our choice to follow God's call to full time motherhood by hearing such things. One thing that I learned while my mom and sister worked at a christian day care is that they often aren't much different than a secular one! The children were still sat down to watch "101 Dalmations", few of the teachers even did devotions with the children, and on top of the "normal" day care issues there are the "church politics". There was one little girl there who was beyond naughty; kicking, screaming, biting (the other children and the teachers!). The other children were literally terrified of her (one poor little girl to the point of actually wetting herself) but the teachers were told not to be too tough on her because her grandfather was a "big wig" and major financial contributor to the church.There were also never enough teachers to go around. My sister was often left in a room alone with several four year olds, she couldn't even take the children to the bathroom when they had to go without trouping them all down there, let alone if she needed to go herself! Teachers ate the snacks put aside for the children and stole craft supplies from other rooms rather than try to fight the management for supplies. My mom ended up putting every single penny she made back into the school by thowing away nasty broken toys, supplying her room with craft supplies and buying workbooks, etc. to have actual Bible classes with (she saw working there as a ministry, she didn't need the money). My sister would come home crying many times because, having been homeschooled and homeloved all of her life, she couldn't believe that so many children actually lived that way. We were blessed to have parents who always put us first.

10:58 AM, June 30, 2006  
Blogger JenMom said...

I think your post is very interesting, but I would like for you to clarify if you feel ALL childcare is bad. I have A part-time Nanny in my home 3-4 hours a day 4 days a week. Approximately 50% of this time I am here too or my children are napping...but this is a necessity for me. I have 25 month old triplets, am involved in mentoring/discipling a few girls at a group foster home and have errands to run that would be far too cumbersome with 3 toddlers in tow. Additionally, her presence allows us to go on outings that would be difficult without an extra pair of hands.
She is a Senior in college majoring in early childhood education. My children have learned so much from her and she brings variety into our life & gives the kids something fun to look forward to everyday. By serving along side me part of the time, she is intimately familiar with our house rules & discipline methods.
What is your opinion on this type of care?

7:56 PM, July 02, 2006  
Blogger Amy said...

I am a single parent and have no choice but to work. I try very hard to limit my use of daycare for my children but the bills have to be paid.

True, daycares are not the best option but the workers try to love the children the best they can. Sometimes you have to search out and observe daycares until you find one.

8:09 PM, July 02, 2006  
Blogger Kristen said...

Erin, thank you for this post. Your experiences are similar to mine, though I wasn't in a daycare--I was in an affluent private school as a parapro, and then in a public high school as a teacher.

You wrote, "When I worked in childcare, I always felt like I was failing the children. I knew I couldn't give them what they needed (love and constancy and individualized attention), no matter how hard I tried."

I felt exactly the same way as a teacher. You just can't give them all what they really need, and it's heartbreaking.

7:42 AM, July 03, 2006  
Blogger Lindsey @ Enjoythejourney said...

Found you via Mommy Life. What an excellent post...such truth...I've been a daycare worker as I put myself through college (to be a teacher). I've also been a public school teacher, a private school teacher, and now I am a homeschool mom.

I think I can say with some authority and experience that you are hitting the nail on the head.

Excellent blog, by the way! We have similar "favorite" blogs too!

1:16 PM, July 03, 2006  
Anonymous melissa said...

i am so glad you posted this. i wish more parents knew what they were sending their kids too and i wish more parents cared!
i'm going to link to this post on my blog.

12:30 AM, July 04, 2006  
Blogger Erin said...

Shelby- how sad that even church-affiliated daycares have such problems! But again... even "church" cannot replace the family in a child's life.

Jenmom- WOW! Triplets! I am amazed by you...seriously:o) The arrangement you have sounds more like having a mother's helper to me. I used to help out a family with many children on a multi-weekly basis. They had the "triplets" situation as well, because of having one natural child and twin adopted girls, all of about the same age. Having helped to care for three two-year olds certainly gives me respect for the mom who juggles all of that!

I don't think that having help when needed is a bad thing at all. Sometimes moms DO need extra hands to help out. I don't believe that it's wrong for any non-parent to ever help care for children...just that the children should be under the care of the parents as much as possible and that family should be a higher priority than a career. Your helper sounds like a blessing to your family, not a stand-in for mommy:o)

1:51 AM, July 04, 2006  
Blogger Erin said...

Amy, my heart goes out to the parents, like you, who don't believe you have a choice. When we discuss ideals, it's hard not to inadvertently discourage those who are doing the best they can with a tough situation. I applaud you for giving all you can to be there for your children! I whole-heartedly believe that when we seek God's best in WHATEVER situation we are in, He will not leave us empty!

Kristen, thanks for your thoughts! I think it's interesting how many of us have similiar experiences to share.

Lindsey, welcome! Thanks for reading, and for your encouragement!

Melissa, thanks for the link!:o)

2:04 AM, July 04, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This large website has more unfortunate information about day care...

10:28 AM, July 04, 2006  
Blogger Tammy said...

You forgot children biting each other!!That was big problem in the daycare I worked at in the toddler room.How about when they got sick-I never cleaned up so vomit from others peoples children.What about when the parents couldn't get off work to pick up a sick child.

Tanks for your post-I never did put my children in daycare after 2.5 years in one.

8:29 AM, July 05, 2006  
Blogger Denice said...

I was a nanny for two years, and, although I loved the children in my care, they were never my babies. I didn't give birth to them or know them as well as a parent could.

Now, being a mom, I wouldn't miss all of the daily moments for the world. No amount of money is worth missing out on my babies' lives.

5:43 AM, July 06, 2006  
Anonymous Lori said...

Thank you for reiterating why it is that I didn't put my children into day care. I was in a home day care from the time I was small to about age 9, when I was deemed "old enough" to come home and be on my own. Sheesh.

7:44 AM, August 19, 2006  
Blogger Sherry said...

Dear Erin

In Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada we have very different regulations and ratios.

Our ratios are as follows:

0-23 Months-1:4
2yrs-5yrs 1:8
5-12 yrs 1:12

Of course if they are age segregated the ratios are even lower ie: 2 yrs old only-1:6.

I was very disturbed when I read about the daycares you visited/worked at in your area. I have worked in childcare here for 10 years, and I have not experienced any of the things you have described. Don’t get me wrong our daycares are not perfect and there are some that are better than others. But our daycares are all governed by the same regulations that the government has set out. And we are all expected to follow these regulations. We have coordinators who go around to all the daycares and do spot checks to ensure that the all regulations are being met. As well all daycares have to renew their license ever year. If all the regulations are not being met, they will not be renewed. We have to have 2/3 of our staff as trained staff (meaning they have taken a Early Childhood Education course through a College or University and/or are classified as an Early Childhood educator level II or III) All licensed daycares charge the same fees to the parents. As well if parents qualify there is subsidy available to help with the cost of daycare. We are required to obtain our first aid and CPR and keep them current, participate in a min. of 24 hours of professional development. We also have an annual 4-day conference that we all attend. Over all I am very proud to work in a childcare facility in Winnipeg and love the opportunity to educate anyone on our child care system. I invite you and anyone else if you ever have the opportunity to come and visit my Centre when in the area. I am the Assistant Director of a School Age Centre in the Transcona area. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. Have a great day!!!

9:03 AM, September 14, 2006  
Blogger Melanie said...

I loved this. Have felt so proud of my decision to stay home with my son. Thank you.

9:04 PM, April 24, 2010  
Anonymous Charlotte said...

I was a nanny and a public school teacher before marrying and staying home with my children, and I saw a difference between kids who had been in a daycare center from birth and ones who grew up with a SAHM or even a nanny. The negative impact of institutional group care on infants and young children is so well known that it's hard to imagine how anyone could defend daycare centers as desirable. They should be seen as a last resort to be used only when other care arrangements (such as a grandma, a nanny, or a SAHM friend willing to watch an extra child for pay) can't be made.

5:48 PM, March 13, 2015  

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