Saturday, May 27, 2006

Day Care Concern: Don't Worry Mom, They Still Prefer You

This research can be taken a lot of ways. That a study was undertaken about whether kids bond more tightly to their Day Care providers than to mom speaks volumes about a mother's insecurity about her choices.

The child really is in a double bind, unless the mom is congruent with her choice to work while the child is in Day Care. If the child really, really loves her Child Care Provider and bonds with her, an insecure mom (and at least 75% of them are) or a mother insecure or incongruent with her decision to leave baby behind, will pass along that vibe to her child. The child is forced to choose allegiances. She often chooses mom even though most of her waking hours and core developmental time is spent with Day Care Debbie. To demonstrate this choice, Baby Girl wails inconsolably when mom drops her off. She'll take a long time to engage with the group. She will avoid the Day Care worker. Mom is delighted by the supremacy she enjoys in her child's heart. The child suffers disconnectedly around anyone but mom.

I know of where I speak. For fifteen years, my mom had a Day Care in our home. Anywhere from two to seven children came to our home daily while their mom and dads worked. The kids enjoyed a playground, homemade food, toys, and even baths and pajamas before mom picked up on hot, stinky days. Some of the kids were so bonded to my mom they called her Mama Marsha. The more secure parents were thrilled to have their children in such a familial, normal child habitat. Other parents went nuts.

The parents offended by the relationship made their kid's lives hell. Lingering good-byes for their own benefit, not the child's. Stopping by during lunch, torturing the kid with another departure. Making weird comments to my mom in front of the child like, "You don't have to eat anything you don't want to, honey." They wanted the kid to give my mom sixth like they got at home.

The reason the incongruent mothers got sxxt at home? The child sensed her unease with her choice, or with her ego needs, and they exploited it. Many kids were perfectly behaved until their mother came to the door. They immediately turned into monkeys. Disobeying where they were obedient all day. Screaming where they had been sweet and happy. The mothers hated the display at the end of a long, tired day, but reveled in it, too. Their child needed them and only them. Their child punished them for enjoying being away from him or her and swimming in guilt, the mother knew she deserved it. The psychological abuse was only fair for having a mom who secretly loathed the needy child.

The child ultimately paid for the parent's narcissism. Divided and distracted. Indulged and appeased. Tired and frustrated--bedtimes were three ring circuses at home. The kids would come to Day Care on Monday exhausted and sleep nearly all day because they hadn't slept all weekend. The confusion sowed seeds of resentment toward the parents and the parents resented the children in return. Yup, that's an ideal homelife.

The other kids, whose parents made peace with their choices, turned out fine. The parents happy with the arrangement felt no guilt and didn't overcompensate and indulge the kid at home. The kid had boundaries everywhere and while he might have preferred mom to Day Care, he didn't know the difference and adapted.

Well, most of them, anyway. Some kids with congruent parents still suffered. A few just had delicate personalities. Maybe shy, maybe immature developmentally, maybe overwhelmed by all the stimuli that a Day Care naturally contains, these children survived, rather than thrived. I felt bad for these kids. I remember a little girl I was particularity close to. She was sweet and quiet. I had a special bond with her and when I came home from school, took care of her. She had huge brown eyes and a delicate spirit. She wanted her mom. I felt bad. She needed her mom.

I think we forget that no one really likes to be left behind. Saying "good bye" to someone we love isn't easy. Now, just imagine not having a concept of time. A child can't really fathom one hour or ten hours. What does that mean? Even seven year olds don't get the concept of an hour--you can equate it to a TV show or Video or the time between Safety Breaks at the pool and only then do they understand. But children under the age of five have a tougher time with the concept of time. The younger, the harder. They eventually learn the rhythm of the day and know that mom will eventually return, but they don't know when. The anxiety increases their stress hormones. They worry. It feels like forever. It might as well be.

This will add more guilt to some. Mothers face challenging choices when it comes to balancing career and child care. There are trade-offs when working full time and putting a child in Day Care. The key is to make decisions that benefit the child.

  • Moms, let your child bond with his or her care provider. They need that relationship so they can relax and develop normally.
  • Moms, discipline your children when you have them at home. It turns them into monsters when you let them run the house. Do you really want to transfer your guilt to your child? Do you want that message sent? The child will grow up believing that what you did was wrong--you will have taught him that belief by your actions and needs.
  • Moms, put your kids to bed. I know you want to spend extra time with him or her, but the child is growing and needs sleep. The hassle you'll endure putting him or her to bed will pay off the a well-rested, happy kid. You'll both benefit.
Give the kid a chance to be happy wherever he may find himself. You can teach him resilience by the way you handle these conflicted situations. If you can't find a way to do this, quit your job already (I know some single moms can't). Live smaller. Pick up your career again when the kids are in school or a little older. I guarantee you, five years feels like a long time now, but it won't when you're 65 and retired.

1 comment:

vj said...

I love this post because I can relate to it so well. As a way for me to have stayed home with my baby but still having to earn money to pay college loans back,I also kept children in my home for about 3 years. I often thought to myself that I wished the parent would leave because my job became so much easier once they were gone. One little girl that I kept full time, struggled very much with her feelings towards me and her mommy. She loved me and I loved her. Her mom appreciated me very much but I could tell she had issues at times when her little girl openly showed that she loved me. I kept this little girl for nearly 3 years and to this day she is our little friend and her mom and I are friends as well. One of my children in Pre-School changed her entire behaviour towards me when her Mom got upset with me because I got paint on her clothes(Ralph Lauen - to Pre-School)despite the fact we used paint shirts. I've always been known as the messiest Pre-School teacher because I love to watch kids paint. Once this little girl felt the tension, she changed her entire behaviour towards me for a few days. I felt so bad for this little girl and I understood fully what was happening. I find that the parents, especially the moms are so appreciative when they realize that their child has bonded with me. I love them and they love me. When the parents are okay with that it is a beautiful relationship all the way around. However, when it is not okay and the parent struggles and feels guilty, the child truly suffers.
Thanks for this post!