Remember that old adage that raising a child "takes a village," famously used by Hillary Clinton in the title to her 1996 book? Well, it's true. Although we all know the bulk of child-raising responsibility falls on mom's and dad's shoulders, as it should, no couple, and certainly no mother, can do it alone. And moreover, no one should have to. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, and neighbors are all great backup, but finding a good childcare program — even if you're a stay-at-home mom — is important, too.
Whether it's daycare, a parent's day out program through a church or park district, or even a gym childcare program, finding a safe, happy place where you can leave your child for a few hours a day (or even a week) benefits both you and your kid. Here are eight reasons why.
- Socialization. Children need socialization in order to learn how to share, problem solve, and work in a team with others, and finding a well-supervised, loving group childcare situation is the best way to make that happen. As an added benefit, socializing with peers also means your child can learn the skills those peers have acquired (potty-training, advanced speech) that they are still working on.
- Friendships. Socialization is learning to play well with others. Friendship is finding that one person that you really love playing with, and as every adult knows, it's an essential part of the human experience. By placing your kids into a program where they will consistently see the same children, you're also allowing them to form bonds.
- Structure and routine. Little kids (and probably their parents, too) thrive on structure, and a childcare program is likely to provide them with just that. In addition, having a schedule that requires you and your child to be someplace at a certain time each day or week offers some structure to a stay-at-home mom's life, which can often feel like it's full of empty hours.
- Easier transition to school. I have zero fears about dropping my youngest off at his first day or preschool this Fall, mostly because he's already had years of experience and success at the childcare program at our gym and at the parent's day out program he attends two mornings a week. By getting your child used to the drop-off, fun with teachers and friends, pick-up schedule of childcare programs, you're less likely to have a kid who doesn't have any separation anxiety when it's time for preschool or kindergarten.
- Early immune system building. Yes, kids who attend daycare or other childcare programs are more likely to be sick as toddlers, but they'll have better developed immune systems when they hit elementary school, which means fewer sick days and sniffles.
- Fun you don't have to plan! Crafts you don't have to plan or clean up, games you don't have to organize or participate in, physical activity that doesn't require you to pay for entry to a gymnastics space, trampoline park, or pool? Childcare programs will do the work for you, while you can rest assured your kid had a superfun, enriching experience.
- Less isolation for moms. Before my daughter entered preschool, it was an effort to meet mom friends. But dropping her off just two mornings a week allowed me to build relationships with women that have since become close friends. Any program that attracts children of a similar age is a great, easy place to meet moms who can potentially be a support system for advice and last-minute childcare needs or even to join you for a glass of wine.
- Every mom needs a break. The number of moms I've met who claim they absolutely never want a break from their children? Zero. Even if you spend the time away from your child cleaning and running errands, you'll probably feel recharged by pick-up time, making you a better mom to a subsequently happier kid.