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Dude to Dad Episode Eight: “The Daycare Episode”

Daycare is fine for my son. It’s much tougher for us.

This week, my wife and I started paying a stranger to take care of our baby. A very nice stranger, but a stranger nonetheless. My wife has returned to work (That sounds reductive. Maternity leave is anything but a vacation.) so Dude to Dad had his first Dude to Daycare. Daycare allows us both to work so that we can make money to send our son to daycare, which we need because we’re both working … to make money to send our son to daycare … Is that right? It feels wrong.

Childcare in America is a mess. Maternity and paternity leave varies from job to job. When my wife and I went back to work, the questions began: What makes more financial sense? Pay what’s essentially a second rent for daycare? Hire a nanny? Quit our jobs? Live in the woods using only our wits and a hatchet? Find a magical British woman who will teach our son elaborate dance numbers and how to use an umbrella as a means of transportation?

For now, the answer is daycare. We need to work, to save, to continue living where we’re living. And daycare is working for our son. He loves it. We get pictures from our provider of him in music class, smiling with his new friends, sitting in his jumper laughing. He’s been great. Us? Not so much.

Daycare has been hard on my wife and I. The guilt we feel each time we have to say goodbye. Not being fully present at work. Resenting past choices and asking ourselves tough questions. Why didn’t I save for this? Why aren’t I rich? Am I failing as a parent because someone else is raising my child?

Raising a child presents parents with tough choices. We want to divide these choices into simple good and bad columns. The truth is a bit murkier. We don’t have to like daycare, but we have to learn to accept it. Just like our son has. To him, his daycare provider is not a stranger. She’s a new guardian, a person who feeds him, changes him, and puts him down for naps. He’s okay with it. And soon, we will be too.

Enjoy this latest episode of Dude to Dad and good luck letting your little one leave the nest. Remember that you have to leave it sometimes too.