“Do you think I should send my toddler to childcare to help socialise him before he starts kindy?” a friend asked me a few years back. Her son was an only child and she was concerned that her child wouldn’t know how to interact well with other kids.
“No, he’ll be fine if you don’t send him to childcare” I told her “he’s not missing out”.
It is so common these days for kids to go to childcare that, as a mum, you feel like your child is missing out if they don’t go. And we all want the best possible start for our kids!
My youngest didn’t go to childcare and her friends at school are amazed that she didn’t go. I think they think that every child goes to childcare.
Childcare did not make my kids want to socialise (or be around other kids more)
I have 3 children.
My oldest child spent 3 days a week at childcare from when she was 1 year old until she started kindy (at 4 years old) because I returned to paid work. My oldest child is now 13 and prefers quiet and time to herself.
My second child spent 1 day a week at childcare from 1 year old to 2 years old. He prefers time to himself too, but also some time with others.
My youngest child didn’t attend childcare at all. She’s now 8. She loves to be around people and is constantly making new friends at the playground and anywhere she goes.
It depends on your child’s personality
In my experience it is the child’s unique coding and personality that determines whether they want to be around other kids or not. And both personalities are good and have their own strengths.
My oldest 2 children had a difficult time parting at kindy and school drop offs, despite them going to childcare when they were younger.
But my youngest child who never went to childcare was happy to say goodbye at kindy and school. This felt very wierd for me, especially after the first drop off!
Kids are all so unique and have different temperaments, as do we all!
In my experience childcare made no difference in how my children socialised with others. What mattered most is how the child is wired internally and what their personality is.
Are there any benefits of childcare?
Childcare has 1 main benefits as I see it:
If you need to return to paid work, childcare allows you to do so distraction free.
Another added bonus at the childcare my kids attended was that the staff wrote about personal experiences the kids were having and included pictures. This meant we have a record of moments in their lives that I probably wouldn’t have thought to do if I was home with them.
Benefits of your kids not going to childcare
If you are able to stay home with your kids then I think this is a huge benefit for your kids. The first 3 years of their life are so critical and you are absolutely the best one to raise them and deepen your bond with them.
Saying goodbye in the morning at childcare was heartbreaking for me. Hearing my child cry because they wanted to stay with me broke my heart.
If I could go back I would do things differently
If I could go back in time, knowing what I know now, I would do all I could to stay home with my kids and not send them to childcare.
At the time I felt my only option was to return to paid work for 3 days a week (as that was the minimum my workplace allowed). We had a huge mortgage that we had to pay and I felt I needed to contribute financially as I had been for the last 10 years.
I felt like being a stay at home mum wasn’t really contributing – which I realise now is so not true. You can read more about my experience here.
Since then, we have sold and downscaled our house so that we didn’t have such a huge mortgage looming over our head.
If you feel like you don’t want to return to work and would rather stay with your kids, then go with your gut. Do everything you can to make it work. Don’t just follow what everyone else is doing and don’t worry about what they think either. I’m so glad we made the decision to sell our house and downgrade so I could spend those precious years with our kids.
Advice for staying at home with your kids
If you are able to stay home with your kids you may want to add some structure to your life like playgroup, scheduled outside time and scheduled tv time so that the days don’t all blur into one.
I also found it helpful to have small projects I was working on like organising the pantry (this is hugely helpful when the kids are older and want to help cook), or decluttering one area of the house at a time.
Another critical discovery I made when my kids were young is that I’m not alone in this. I found a deeply personal relationship with God. This gave me joy in the most mundane days! See here how it started.