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.

8 thoughts on “Day Care Conundrum

  1. My thoughts:
    a) If the kids liked it a DCL’s they wouldnt complain.
    b) You have a gut feeling about DCL. Go with your gut feeling.
    c) The kids loved Ms. K. The kids are what are important, not an adult who has many more kids parents to pay her under the table.
    d) If DCL adored your children, great! But if it were about the kids, and not money, then DCL would want them where they are happy.

    Dont be a wimp. (I am a wimp, too) You put those kids where YOU feel they should go, where the kids are happy, and where you feel there is structure that they need. You will kick yourself is something was to happen, and you didnt change the sitter because she made you feel bad. Wah, get over it DCL.

  2. You have to trust your instincts. Does she have a helper? What would happen if (God Forbid) something happened to one of the 10-12 kids who were there and they required immediate medical attention? What happens to the other children while she goes to the hospital?

    This woman is obviously making ALOT of money. If she has a business, she needs to start acting like she has one. She needs to take the personal feelings out of the equation. Her behavior was petty and rude. Did you tell her aobut your concerns with the television, etc? Did she agree to make concessions?

    Does your employer have dependent daycare expense reimbursement? That would be great it you did–we have gotten back $5K a year (stretched out over monthly payments).

    While I have certainly had issues with the various daycares our girls have been to, none of them have ever had a tv, they all had very structured schedules for every single day.

  3. Froggy: I know, I know. I’m just so… overwhelmed I guess. And now that we’ve decided to keep the kids there, I feel even more unable to make a change.

    MH: During the summers, she has her daughter working with her. She doesn’t treat it like a business (except when it’s time to get paid on Fridays); she really treats the kids very like her own in many ways — which has its pros and cons. Yes, I felt that same way about her reaction to the news that we wanted to move our kids — not professional. And, no, I totally wimped out on the “my other concerns include” clause. My biggest thing is the structure. I just think as kids reach a certain point, they need a little more structure — not work, just… structure.

    And yes, my employer offers daycare reimbursement through an FSA. Is that the same thing you are talking about?

    Sigh. I have a feeling I will be thinking about this a lot for a while yet. And that I will make the changes I feel are for the best. which does not include, at this point, Ms. K. 😦


  4. To put it bluntly: you’re being a wimp. Daycare providers are the single most important people we can choose to have in our kids’ lives. We can’t pick family, they’re stuck with us as parents, and we can’t really control who their friends are. Go with your gut, chica. I know you saw PittGirl’s post about the ugly daycare situation here locally, and I can’t help but think that 10 kids is too many for one person. Something is bound to happen in that situation. If she’s taking money under the table and isn’t licensed, you have no recourse if something were to happen.

    Figuring out childcare/daycare SUCKS. Ugh.

  5. Wow, what a tough situation.

    First off, have you ever asked DCL why she doesn’t claim the income?

    If you’re paying her 12,000 a year and she has that many kids in her care, she’d be making A LOT of money. It’s hardly fair that you should miss out on a tax rebate or refund just because she doesn’t want to pay her own taxes. That, for me, would be a red flag.

    Sounds like you’re confident that DCL cares about and for your kids, that’s a definite plus but the lack of structured activities also concerns you. Another red flag.

    The bottom line is that these are your kids and it’s your money, you should hire a caregiver that suits your family’s needs, not one that just happens to be available.

    I wish you the best of luck with this.

  6. Always, always, always go with your gut when it comes to your kids. It won’t steer you wrong.

    Money spent on high quality daycare is money well spent. I wish I had a specific recommendation for you but I only have experience with the east end.

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