Can we talk about something controversial for a second?
No, not politics. I’m talking about an issue that for sure crosses any and all party lines: childcare.
The fact that this is even considered a controversial topic in the first place is disappointing.
I mean, come on. Will there ever come a day where we aren’t wholly consumed with the way other people live their lives? Will we reach a point when society isn’t fazed by the choices a woman — more specifically, a mother — makes for herself?
I’m hopeful, but in the way you hope to run a marathon kind-of-hopeful. The “man, that would be the day” kind-of-hopeful.
In our society, it truly feels like women can’t win for losing.
If you’re thin, you’re skinny-shamed (yes, this is a real thing that maybe one day, when I don’t fear the pitchforks and torches that would surely come for me, I’ll write about). I mean, you clearly starved yourself to lose that weight.
But if you have a couple extra pounds you can’t (or maybe just don’t feel compelled to) lose, well… I guess you just let yourself go.
If you love Jesus, you’re judgmental and holier than thou. You’re obviously a right-wing nut who can’t take her nose out of the Bible long enough to see the world around her.
But if you choose not to believe, you have no morals, no values, and really, no business in this playdate group.
And then there’s the biggie. The divide of all divides: work.
If you stay home, you have no ambition; no goals. You must only enjoy the mindless conversations of a toddler. You’re wasting your potential and your degree. Or worse, you’re not contributing enough to your family.
The very words make my skin crawl.
On the flip side, if you choose to work outside the home, you’re heartless. You’re more concerned with climbing ladders than you are with raising children. Why did you even have them if you were going to leave them with other people all the time? There will always be time to achieve things for yourself, but your kids will only be little for so long. Why would you ever want your kids in daycare — don’t you know that all the workers are abusive? And the germs. Do you want your baby to get hand, foot, and mouth?
If you work out of necessity, there seems to be a little more grace. A general understanding that sometimes it does take two incomes to make the frayed ends meet these days.
But if you choose to work, especially full-time, you might as well have said that you don’t like puppies. Or queso (which is probably a bad example, because everyone knows that’s impossible).
Well, here goes, folks. You may want to sit down for this one.
I choose to work full-time and we choose to put our kids in daycare. There, I said it.
I work because I want to. We put our kids in daycare because we think it’s good for them.
Our family could make it on my husband’s salary alone, and I don’t take for granted what a blessing that cushion truly is.
And yes, my salary affords us extras — queso, namely — but the moderate income I make at my day job is not the primary reason I went back to work after kids.
It felt right. It felt like my fit. It’s where I felt lead to invest and dig in, for this season at least.
And I won’t paint it all as roses.
I’ve had so many doubts. Tons of days where I wanted to run away and never come back. Mornings where I would give anything to stay snuggled up with my babies and not have to rush them out the door at 7 a.m.
I’ve missed firsts and lasts. I’ve had other people tell me about a new skill or a new word. And I can’t articulate the punch to the gut that happens when someone else knows anything more about your own child than you do.
I’ve cried at drop-off and fought every urge in my body to run back in and snatch them up in my arms.
I’ve had daycare teachers give me (well-meaning) tips about my own child as if I don’t know their preferences for nap time or their total aversion to green beans.
I get it, lady, you spend more time with them than I do.
We’ve had just about every childhood virus you can imagine. Not to mention, a set of tubes when cold after cold turned into half a dozen ear infections.
And because of that, I’ve missed work. I’ve missed a lot of work.
Many times, I’ve wondered what on earth I was thinking when I added so much to my plate. And I’ve worried that my choices are completely screwing up my kids.
I can’t help but think that must be a universal mom-thing, though.
But I’ve also found myself.
I’ve gained a sense of accomplishment and pride that I know I’d personally miss otherwise.
I’ve plugged in. Working has kept me connected to other adults, which has been critical for me to feel sane.
Though I grapple with guilt for the time I miss, my kids have gained so much through their experiences in daycare and preschool.
They’re part of a group, which provides regular interaction with kids their own age. They complete curriculum that I know is helping prepare them for school and the real world. They’ve grown socially, emotionally, and cognitively.
We’ve met some of the most kindhearted people on the planet — their teachers. Those women have poured into our children, shaping and loving them, and as a result, they’ve become part of our extended family.
So, no, it’s not always perfect. And, yes, sometimes the grass looks way greener in other people’s pastures. But, right now, in this season, it works for our family.
Whatever works for your family? Do that.
Chase a career or chase babies. Or heck, chase both.
But, can we just stop judging each other because our lives don’t look exactly the same?
Can we stop making assumptions about things we know nothing about?
Can we stop taking it personally when someone else doesn’t choose to raise their family the way we think is best? (Read: Other people’s choices have nothing to do with you.)
Can we keep our eyes on our own dang papers?
We’re all out here just doing the very best we can. Trying to juggle it all without dropping a single, solitary ball.
So, can we take other people’s opinions off our thought list?
Can we just do what works for us without worrying what people are going to say about our choices?
Because I’ll tell you one thing about other people’s opinions: they only matter if you let them.
And if we spend our lives trying to please, we’re in for a lifetime of disappointment. No matter what choices we make, there’s going to be someone out there who thinks we’ve made the wrong one.
So, in that case, shouldn’t we just do whatever we want?
I don’t know about you, but it sounds like a pretty freeing way to live to me.
This story originally appeared on Daylight to Dark