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Putting my kids in a daycare

When my twin boys were 12-and-a-half months old, they started going to a daycare center 2 days a week from 8:30 till 2:30. Sounds normal and reasonable, right?

Not quite. That was Germany 2004. This caused a stir among the momfia in our little village outside Frankfurt as well as relatives and friends, for the following reasons:

  • I wasn’t working (yet) so it was not a financially sound move.
  • I didn’t have to work at all because a single income was enough to feed our family.
  • One parent (and almost always the mom) is supposed to stay at home and take care of the kids, at least they are big enough to go to kindergarten at age 3 or school at age 6. At that time, my husband’s job required him to be away 4 nights a week, making it even more important to have a full-time stay-at-home mom.

In other words, without pressing economic reasons, only a selfish, negligent mom would think of doing such a thing.

My husband and I had our own reasons for placing the boys in a daycare – benefits for me and for the kids.

Me: I was suffering from extended postpartum depression and I was not well physically and psychologically. I needed time to recover.

The kids: They needed to socialize with other kids – something very important for twins.

Still, I was reluctant to do so, mainly for the very same reasons in the first list above.

My husband, who is a very pragmatic person, broke down my resistance with the following arguments:

  • Health is more important than money. What would he do with the money? Throw a big party at my funeral?
  • As the business person of the family, he looked at the cost/benefit analysis of the project. It’s not only the monetary returns that counted. The intangible things were also important such as more time for myself and the chance for the boys to socialize with other kids.
  • He didn’t want and never wanted a zombie for a wife. He wanted his woman back.

So the boys went to the daycare despite my guilt feelings. And I started to build a new life – rebuilding the old one was not feasible anymore – where there was room for me, my children, and my husband. I started jogging again and slowly recovered from the chronic cough that has been bugging me for six months. I started going back to (unpaid) university research work a couple of hours week, then did some (paid) teaching during those days when my kids are at the daycare and slowly regained my sanity. By the time my boys were 2-and-a half, I was working 80% and they went to the daycare 5 days a week.

I must say it wasn’t always that easy. There were times when one of the kids or both were ill. Juggling job and kids with the husband almost always away was tough. It helped that my employer was very flexible and considerate when it came to mothers.

Despite the fact that things worked out well, some friends and relatives never understood the logic of what we were doing. They had kids themselves and they managed without daycares, babysitters, or cleaning ladies. We had less and less contact with them. I didn’t care as long as my mother-in-law was supportive of our decision 100% even though she was a full-time housewife and mother all her life. She wasn’t there physically all the time as she lived hundreds of kilometers away but she took time to visit us and help us out regularly. Most importantly, she defended me from all the bad talk. My father-in-law wasn’t completely convinced but he kept his thoughts to himself.

Things have changed since then. My twins are now 5, happy and healthy, fully bilingual and mastering their 3rd language. My husband changed jobs so he need not travel so much but could spend more time with his family. This meant moving to a new country with a culture even less tolerant of working moms than the previous one. I gave up my job and now work from home.

Looking back now, I think we had made the right decision. The boys benefited a lot from the daycare. They didn’t have any major problems in the transition to the new country and preschool. They are close but not fully fixated on each other as some twins are wont to do. I benefited a lot from it as I got my health back, and my zest for life, and my self-worth. My husband benefited from it, too, knowing things at home are being managed smoothly while he manages his business projects.

I know that for some moms, daycare is not an option for many reasons. Financial, cultural and infrastructure constraints are just a few. I am simply grateful that it worked out well for our family and I wish all those in a similar position the best.

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