The cast of characters charged with guarding the lobby at my job includes a convivial Old Man who sometimes wears very effeminate sunglasses (while working indoors) and speaks with a fairly thick accent of undeterminable origin. No one is quite sure where he is from, though I think the closest we’ve collectively learned is that his mother is from Italy, and he grew up possibly somewhere else like Bosnia. At best, you can understand 40% of what he says. It just so happens that the 40% I’ve been hearing the last few weeks has been unnerving. On my first day back at work a few weeks ago, the Old Man was at his station and asked me about the baby. He asked where the baby was, and I told him he was at daycare.
“Oh, that’s no good. Daycare no good.” He proceeded to elaborate with nonsensical talk about his mother (who, if still alive, is likely 90 years old and not familiar with modern American daycares). She apparently imparted an enormous amount of opinions about child-rearing upon her son, including her views that daycare is not good for babies because, among other things I could not understand, babies at daycare are cold. But maybe they’re only cold for the first three months, then after that – who knows? It’s OK? That was part of the 60% of the conversation I couldn’t comprehend.
First, who says something like this? I mean, I just told him – ON MY FIRST DAY BACK AT WORK – that my baby was at daycare. So, either I’m upset by having him at daycare and/or not being with him, OR I’m perfectly content with my decision. And in either case, what good would emphatically saying he thinks what I have done with my child is bad do?
I could just move on, but the Old Man did not give up. Every day since I returned to work post maternity leave – EVERY SINGLE DAY – he has made some comment to me about my baby. The comments are usually made as I am leaving for the day, and generally center around the idea that I’ve abandoned my baby and end with him insisting that my baby needs me. One day he was on his cell phone and said a quick good bye without further comment and I thought, finally, he had given up. Then he put the phone down to yell, “Hurry! Your baby waiting for you!” (Important side note: a handful of men in my office have recently fathered children, and the Old Man has not insisted that any of them run home to their babies.)
Here’s the thing: of course my baby needs me. My baby also needs his father. And we both think our kids should have the benefit of caring adults with way more experience and education in child development than either of us possess to guide them (and us) through their young days. And yes, bringing our kids to daycare allows each of us to pursue vocations that not only fulfill us but provide the financial resources to support our family.
Sure, there are bad daycares. There are bad everything. But daycares, by and large, are wonderful places filled with loving people taking great care of the children entrusted to them. And although I have a little heart attack when I write out my tuition checks for two now, these people are not getting paid nearly enough for the work they do. Nothing I am writing here will stop old people from harboring antiquated ideas about how the world works and espousing their thoughts on unsuspecting people, but I hope two things: one, if you love your child(ren)’s daycare provider but have been on the receiving end of negativity, you can nod along and feel good that at least one other person (that’s me!) approves of your choice; and two, if you don’t love your daycare provider or are looking for one, you ask me where I send my kids because a daily attack of my parenting choice by a sort of stranger for three straight weeks was not enough to make me think twice about who takes care of my children during the day. (Btw, it’s The Children’s Clubhouse in Simsbury, Connecticut.)
As for the Old Man, well… One day I was passing through the lobby with my boss, and he happened to make a crying sound while miming a baby crying with his hands to his eyes. When we were out of earshot, I told my boss that if she ever found that guy lying in a pool of his own blood – it wasn’t me. She then asked and I told her about everything he had been saying to me. Now, daycares are critical elements for many working families, but another crucial element is a reasonable boss that appreciates you. I am quite certain that if I ever ended up in jail, my boss (an otherwise very wholesome person) would bake me a cake with a shiv in it. So naturally she had words with the Old Man, he apologized to me, and now when I leave for the day we just exchange pleasantries as it should be.
Oh, and if you love your daycare like I do, check out The Honest Company’s child care contest – you can nominate a daycare provider (has to be a person, not the center). The grand prize is an “Honest Makeover” including healthy renovations to the center. Enter by December 12th!