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The Choice Between Daycare and Staying at Home


I guess I had it coming when posting about putting our child in daycare after writing about buying a new TV and new furniture. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Here’s what a reader emailed me.

First off I must say I quite enjoy your pieces. I do however completely disagree with the childcare road your are contemplating. You may say it’s a personal choice issue and it is.

It’s ironic that you would go out and buy a nice big TV and new furniture which does in fact sacrifice the timeline of your “Million Dollar Journey” yet you aren’t thinking of doing it for your kids with one of you staying home and taking a small part of your life (0 – 5 or 6 years, recognizing that it could be 7 – 8 years if you have 2 kids 2 years apart). Yes, you can “care” for your kids but who will care is the best day care in the world? Who will offer them unconditional love, where you will get a ratio of 1:1 or 1:2 attention?

Life is long. Your kids are with you for a relatively short time. I hope sooner rather than later you realize that and make the sacrifice… for them. It seems you are creative and determined enough to make it work if you want it to. You won’t regret that choice. I guarantee that.

To summarize the email, the reader is basically stating that we’re putting making money ahead of getting the best care for our children. I guess since I fully disclose everything about my financial life, it may seem that all of our decisions revolve around money. While this may be true a lot of the time, it’s only partially true in this circumstance.

With two professional careers in the household, it is very difficult to drop it completely for 5 years or so and jump back onboard. In fact, there are some professional careers that require practicing so many hours per year or else the license to practice will be suspended. My wife’s career is just the case, which is the reason why she has chosen to work part time following maternity. While we are grateful that her employer has accepted her as part time, they’ve implied that they will only allow it for a limited time (1-2 years max). During this time, the grandparents will care for the bambino on the days that we are both working.

The next option would be for me to take time off to take care of the little one. Personally, I would probably enjoy being a stay at home Dad. However, being an Engineer, it is very difficult to get back on the career path after an extended leave. I’ve also never seen or heard of part time Engineer positions as most positions are project/goal oriented.

Although daycare may not provide the same love and attention that a parent would, we feel that it does provide a social atmosphere that is not available at home. In addition to that, the childcare programs that we are looking at have educational aspects to them such as getting them a head start on other languages such as French.

In conclusion, there is no cookie cutter answer to the childcare or stay at home question. For us, we could probably make it work financially (with all the child tax credits) if one of us were to stay at home, but we would end up giving up our careers, perhaps for the rest of our lives. Even though we are heavily considering daycare, we haven’t completely made up our minds yet.

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FrugalTrader About the author: FrugalTrader is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.

{ 55 comments… add one }

  • Sabrina January 16, 2009, 2:39 am

    There are so many situations and circumstances that would lead to a decision between a parent staying home and daycare. First of all, I don’t think single parents can enjoy this option. Rather than living off Ontario Works to stay home and parent until the child is of age to go to school some parents provide the necessities of life while utilizing daycare to be able to work.

    I am a 25 year old step-mom and while working as a full time server in a restaurant I have learned to get creative in finding care for my 21-month-old step-son when we have him and I have to work. Since server minimum wage is a measly $7.60/hour and our economy is slowing tips can be here and there sometimes it seems like it would be cheaper to stay home. I have made a deal with another coworker to trade off on child care for free or have a family member watch him.

    My step-son’s mother works full time as a hairdresser and had to resort to putting him in daycare at $25 a day when she had to work and we also had to work. Who is prepared to argue that she should stay at home with him and make no income as opposed to putting him in a place that socializes him, does educational activities and simply gets him out of the house and away from his toys and tv?

    Of course, on days that one of us doesn’t have to work we take advantage of staying at home with our little man but none of us could afford to simply do this full-time. Both myself, my partner, and his mother all work full-time now and have to resort to full-time daycare and we are all confident in this decision.

    Daycare centres and registered home daycares have workers with Early Child Education diplomas and degrees and while they are not intended to replace the love and care that parents provide I think they are quite capable of assisting caring for (not raising) children and it is reasonable for working Canadians.

    Also, I am not opposed to stay-at-home parents. If your lifestyle and career give you this option all the power to you. Playgroups and daily routines and activities are pretty important and so is having a little bit of a life of your own while staying home full-time.

    Thank goodness I am getting tons of practice before I have my own children!

  • Sabrina January 16, 2009, 2:43 am

    There are so many situations and circumstances that would lead to a decision between a parent staying home and daycare. First of all, I don’t think single parents can enjoy this option. Rather than living off Ontario Works to stay home and parent until the child is of age to go to school some parents provide the necessities of life while utilizing daycare to be able to work.

    I am a 25 year old step-mom and while working as a full time server in a restaurant I have learned to get creative in finding care for my 21-month-old step-son when we have him and I have to work. Since server minimum wage is a measly $7.60/hour and our economy is slowing tips can be here and there sometimes it seems like it would be cheaper to stay home. I have made a deal with another coworker to trade off on child care for free or have a family member watch him.

    My step-son’s mother works full time as a hairdresser and had to resort to putting him in daycare at $25 a day when she had to work and we also had to work. Who is prepared to argue that she should stay at home with him and make no income as opposed to putting him in a place that socializes him, does educational activities and simply gets him out of the house and away from his toys and tv?

    Of course, on days that one of us doesn’t have to work we take advantage of staying at home with our little man but none of us could afford to simply do this full-time. Both myself, my partner, and his mother all work full-time now and have to resort to full-time daycare and we are all confident in this decision.

    Daycare centres and registered home daycares have workers with Early Child Education diplomas and degrees and while they are not intended to replace the love and care that parents provide I think they are quite capable of assisting caring for (not raising) children and it is reasonable for working Canadians.

    Also, I am not opposed to stay-at-home parents. If your lifestyle and career give you this option all the power to you. Playgroups and daily routines and activities are pretty important and so is having a little bit of a life of your own while staying home full-time.

    Thank goodness I am getting tons of practice before I have my own children!!

  • lila February 13, 2012, 4:12 pm

    The following, from Carolyn (the Engineer) disgust me. I could weep for her daughter. I may weep for her, actually.

    Carolyn writes about her daughter:

    ” Quite frankly, after 6 weeks at home with her, I was going crazy. I couldn’t wait to get back to work. I love my daughter, but spending all day, every day, with her, was mind-numbing. I am not one of the mothers who could stay at home with my child and be content with that decision.”

    The fact that she put a SIX WEEK OLD CHILD into non-family care disgusts me. You think an infant has the ability to soothe itself faced with a rotating staff of paid caregivers? You should never have had her.

    I am so sad for that baby. I cannot tell you. I am a professional (master’s degree, licensed profession) and while I sometimes struggle with staying at home with my very young children (one is a baby), the thought of placing a SIX WEEK OLD into care sickens me. There are no words for such selfishness.

    Children aren’t consumer items that you get bored of and there are no opportunities to go back and fix what you have so selfishly messed up.

    Good grief. The narcissism.

    No doubt you have decided to have just one child because two children would impinge on your ‘lifestyle’ too much.

  • Catherine February 13, 2012, 10:20 pm

    Lila Got any helpful advice for the working mom’s situation as it is now? The kid exists. The mom works. She has a career that generally pays well. Her kid will be able to go to university and have music lessons and go to camp. This working mom knows what it takes to get a professional education, to get a job and to keep it —- not a bad example for our times.
    I have a suggestion: find a family member who is available at odd times during the week and have that family member just “drop in” on the day care centre to visit with the baby. Have the family member do it at different times and different days each time. Give the day care a form that lets the family member drop in for a visit and also permits that family member to take the child home/drop him/her off. This will keep the day care on their toes.

  • lila February 25, 2012, 10:40 pm

    Yeah, yeah. Money is necessary so your kid can go to camp, have classical piano lessons and go to university. That argument suggests that intellectual and/or professional pursuits are most important. If your child, because they were put into daycare at six weeks of age, is emotionally unstable, then all the money, education and piano lessons in the world won’t help them. Everybody ignores emotional well being. EVERYBODY. It’s all about the job, all about the money. Well, you know what — I’d rather have a child that grows up emotionally secure than one who grows up to become a miserable, well educated neurotic. Childhood is fleeting. Look after your babies. Make sure they are okay. There is more to life than a three-car garage, people.

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