Why I Put My Daughter in Daycare… Even Though I Work From Home

By Dara Mathis

When I tell people that I work from home, they usually congratulate me on my good fortune. I agree with them; since my employer made me a 100% telecommuter nearly two years ago, I’ve had nothing but positive things to say about the experience.

I fulfill all the stereotypes poking fun at people who work from home: I frequently work in my pajamas, Afro smushed in the back from a rough night’s toddler-interrupted sleep, eat breakfast and drop crumbs around my keyboard, without a single care about being judged for my appearance. Friends laugh when I describe my desk. This, they expect, because it’s what they’d do.
But when they tell me, “It must be nice having the baby home with you!” I have to backtrack. “She’s actually in daycare all day, ” I tell them. They nod and say okay as if they get it, but the puzzlement on their faces indicates otherwise.

In truth, it’s seemingly the perfect setup. Work from your guest room and save money on the commute, wear and tear on your car, save all that travel time (an hour and a half for me), and potentially save money on daycare. All the win in the world!

And yet I pay for a childcare provider to watch my 2 year-old daughter full-time. Why?

The complicated truth about being a work-from-home mother is that I still have to work, which means that, even if my child is physically in the room with me, I am mentally elsewhere. I believe my daughter deserves to have a fully present parent. It would feel selfish for me to keep her penned in the office with me when she wants to run.

I find it difficult to concentrate on spreadsheets and take care of an active 2 year-old. My daughter treats the world as her jungle gym, climbing, exploring, and crashing into her environment when she is not sleeping. If I kept her home with me, she would (rightfully) demand more of my attention than my employer would allow me to give her.

I learned this firsthand during her infancy. When she was five months old, I kept her three days a week because I was still breastfeeding. She was easy to please back then and spent most of her day playing with her toys on the bed next to my desk. But once she started crawling, she rolled dangerously to the edge of the bed. I realized I could not keep her safe as she grew more active.
In this current toddler stage of her life, I would rather my daughter (an only child) be in a social environment with other children. I want her to go outside and practice “playing nice.” At daycare, she is also learning fundamental concepts from her teacher. My job forces me to be stationary at a desktop computer, which means that I could not do much besides push toys and television at her, hoping she could entertain herself.

I love spending time with my daughter and would generally rather be with her than at home by myself. But my last reason for sending my child to daycare is a bit less pretty: I still covet that break from motherhood. Sometimes the silence in my home during the day is nice. Our time away allows me to re-charge and get ready to be fully attentive. When we reunite in the evening, we collide into each other in a blur of hugs and kisses.

I find myself explaining my reasons for daycare because the common perception is that families only send children to a provider because they have to. This is not true for my family: I choose childcare because it fits our situation. Our daycare provider is five minutes from my home and my employer graciously allows me the opportunity to clock out for family emergencies. In the event that the facility is closed unexpectedly, I am also able to keep my daughter without taking a day off work, even if it makes working more difficult.

If I could find a way to be a full-time mother and a full-time worker simultaneously without shortchanging either endeavor, I would shout it from the hills. But this arrangement is my compromise and I have made my peace with it. This is my motherhood.

Dara Mathis is a freelance writer, editor, and poet who lives in Georgia with her husband and daughter.  Her writing interrogates the politics of respectability for women, concepts of femininity, motherhood, and the intersection of race and gender. You can catch her tweeting reckless acts of punctuation on Twitter @dtafakari and at daratmathis.wordpress.com.


About Leila

Leila is the founding editor of Baby and Blog. She splits her time between editing hair and culture site, Black Girl with Long Hair, whipping up butters at BGLH Marketplace, and writing here. She adores her husband and two kids, her parents and her friends. But she hates Chicago weather although she is slowly coming to peace with it...

  • Baby and Blog

    Yes and amen. Girl you are preaching!! I work from home and my son is with a nanny 3 days a week — for the exact reasons you state.

    I tried the ‘work full time/mother full time’ thing from my son’s birth until he was 15 month old. Basically I would mother him during the day, work whenever he napped, then finish up my work when my husband came home. On, average, I got to bed between midnight and 1:30 a.m. Needless to say, I was constantly tired, stressed and on edge.

    Around 15 months I started running into some professional challenges… so I was up *even later* at night trying to deal with them, and I was distracted and even a bit agitated with him during the day. I developed terrible abdominal pains that my doctor told me were a stress reaction to my INSANE schedule. He told me that, if I wanted to feel better, I HAD to change my situation. That is when we hired the nanny.

    Do I like coughing up money for child care? Not exactly. But my quality of life has gone WAAAAAY up! I’m more efficient, I’m happier, I’m healthier. I can get to bed at 10:00 pm (lol!). Best of all I can be present with my son, because I’m not thinking about work all the time.

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    • http://www.trulytafakari.com Truly Tafakari

      “Do I like coughing up money for child care? Not exactly. But my quality of life has gone WAAAAAY up”

      That’s really what it’s all about. We could (and probably did) try to manage both at once, but it’s a huge challenge. I’ve found I’m way less stressed when I allow myself to be helped.

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  • http://www.shalandaleigh.com/ Shalanda O’neal

    I am currently trying to get in a position where I can work from home. I assumed that if a mother worked from home that daycare wouldn’t be needed. Obviously, I don’t have kids yet lol! This article makes so much sense. No matter if you’re in the office or at home, you are still working. I wouldn’t take a baby to my classroom, so of course it makes sense that full-time work/full-time mommy may not be as easy as I’d thought. Thank you for your real-life insight.

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    • http://www.trulytafakari.com Truly Tafakari

      Haha, Shalanda, I thought the same before I tried it. Admittedly it was much easier when all I had to do was breastfeed her on my lap and answer emails. She loved to cuddle and so did I 🙂 Today?! Wiggle city! The bigger they are, the more attention they require.

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  • http://didanashanta.com Didan Ashanta

    I totally get this! Glad you shared this with the world.

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  • Deonne

    My husband and I work full-time from home. I do online commerce and he is a software developer. We made the decision to put our 2 year old in daycare as well. It worked out for all us for the same reasons you mentioned.

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  • Liz

    As someone who has worked in several day-cares and more serious 3-6 programs, I would say you aren’t getting much for your money unless your child is in a Montessori school or something like that. I’d even say most Montessori schools aren’t even Montessori and a waste of time also. Your child is probably ONLY getting social aspects, and that’s about it, which is cool if that’s all you want, but 3-6 are good years to teach a lot of basics–children learn the best then.

    If you have to work, that is understandable, but make sure you are making sure they get what you don’t have time to give. I know from experience of working at a daycare, a husband that works at one too, I know for a FACT my kids are staying home with me, probably until they are good and grown. I am not against socializing, but my school is one of the better ones and I’d STILL consider it a waste of hard-earned money.

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  • http://www.DearDumplin.com Joey

    Thank you so much for this. Your article helped ease my guilt. It’s near impossible to sit at a computer all day with a very active toddler. Your article helped me realize that I am not alone.

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  • http://Babyandblog jtb

    You owe no one explanations about your life. As long as your child is healthy…happy and loved is all that matters. My daughter is a nurse will receive her third degree in July to become health administrator. In September will go on to receive her fourth degree…I think her masters. She works evening shift from 3pm to 11pm. Her 18 month also go to daycare 3 during the week while she is home. Never ceases to amaze us that some people actually get mad saying well aren’t u at home. I personally think It’s jealousy because they want to do it but can’t afford it….lmao. just my personal opinion.

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