Day Care Conundrum

When we moved to this suburb of Pittsburgh, I was a freelancer/work-at-home mom. Monkey was only nine months old.

In order to be able to work at home, I needed to find someplace to store her a couple of days a week. Friends in the area suggested Day Care Lady.

Two years later, and through a lot of different set-ups (part time, full time, one kid, two kids), DCL has been pretty flexible and always good to my kids. She works out of her home; she knows CPR and other life-saving techniques; she has a lot of toys, and also lets the kids play outside when the weather is nice.

DCL is not state-inspected; she gets paid in cash, so she doesn’t bother the IRS with what she is earning. Which, from us, is about $12,000 a year. Yeah, that much. And she’s got a bunch of other kids.

While I have nothing bad to say about DCL as a person or as a care-taker, I have started having some misgivings about having my children at her home. First of all, she has anywhere from six to ten kids on a daily basis (during the summers, a few more). If she were state-sanctioned, she would only be allowed to have six.

Second, the TV is on a lot.

Third, because DCL does it under the table, I cannot claim my daycare expenses as a tax write-off. This will particularly bothersome on this year’s taxes.

There are other lower-level things — gut-level, if you will. Just a feeling I get that my kids would do better in a more structured environment; DCL’s is quite a free-for-all. Some days my kids seems really over stimulated, and dealing with the aftermath of that at home is difficult. DCL says my children are angels at her house, and don’t give her any trouble, although she has mentioned having to yell at them for things (standing in front of the television, for example, or putting everything in her mouth [Bun]).

When DCL goes on vacation, we take the kids down the street to Ms. K. Similar set-up, only fewer kids. During the summer, Ms. K only has a total of six, if that. I noticed the weeks my children were there that they were much calmer when I picked them up. Also when I picked them up, they were usually all engaged in a specific activity (i.e. playing with blocks at the block table). The TV was on only once when I went to get them. On top of everything else, once they were back to DCL, Monkey would ask when they were going back to Ms. K’s. She declared she didn’t like DCL anymore.

Now, we think that some of Monkey’s problem with DCL is a general problem with authority, perfectly appropriate to the age. Even though she complains about going every day (according to DearDR), DCL says she doesn’t give her any trouble about being there, and she certainly doesn’t appear unhappy when I pick her up.

Talking things over with DearDR, we thought we would move Monkey and Bun down the street to Ms. K’s. The environment seemed to be better for them, based on my observations. We didn’t think it would be that big a deal.

Boy, were we wrong. DCL was furious with us. She felt we were being rude by asking Ms. K to watch the kids “behind my back”. She felt Ms. K was betraying their friendship by agreeing to watch our girls. She wanted to know what was wrong with her, and why we were unhappy.

After a very stressful weekend full of anger, regret, apprehension, and talking it over (and over and over), we decided to keep the girls at DCL’s … for now. Ms. K, when she saw the trouble the move was going to cause, utterly collapsed and reneged on her agreement to take the girls after we had talked to DCL. I am not happy, but I also had not intended to cause any hurt feelings (and feelings, believe me, were hurt).

We’ve another month (less!) to go this summer. Monkey is being enrolled in pre-school (two half days a week), and those days she goes to school, she will be ferried over to a closer daycare by people at the school. If I end up liking that daycare, I may move Bun there, too. Knowing that I have all this in my back pocket alleviates my current (albeit not very strong) misgivings about our current daycare arrangement.

What do the rest of you do? What do you think of my plan? Am I wimping out? I would like to emphasize that my children are in no danger, physically or emotionally, and to be honest, DCL loves my children. I think she was crushed to think that kids she loved were going to be leaving her for (in her view) no good reason.