Day-care dilemma

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESurfer attacked by shark near Channel Islands calls rescue a ‘Christmas miracle’She started her daughters, now 8 and 11, in day care a few mornings a week before they were 2 years old. She said there were a few rough spots during the transition, but that overall, her kids are better for the experience. “They are extremely happy with no attachment issues. … I think it’s good for kids to go and be independent.” Schickel represents a category somewhere in the middle of the day-care dilemma. On one side are the vast majority of working parents – both single moms and two-income couples – who use outside child care to be able to hold down jobs. A survey from the Urban Institute found that 73 percent of children under 5 with an employed parent were in an arrangement other than care by a parent. While many working parents who use outside child care may feel ambivalent about it, most don’t feel they have a choice. Estela Nievez, a single mother of three, falls into this camp. Nievez, office manager for an insurance brokerage in Culver City, takes her 2-year-old and 4-year-old to a preschool program at a Girls Club near Inglewood. Her 6-year-old daughter also attends an after-school program there. The government-subsidized program allows her to work full time. “It’s not easy,” said Nieves, who moved from San Luis Obispo and doesn’t have family in the area to help out. “If I didn’t have this service, I wouldn’t be working.” On the other side of the debate are parents – mainly women – who have chosen to stay at home with their kids because the family can live on one income and because they want to do it. This group has been growing in recent years, and it is based on the firm belief that day care should be avoided if possible. Kids or career? Chita Thalheimer, a married chiropractor in Long Beach, said she decided to sell her practice when she got pregnant so that she could raise her child. “Day care was never an option, because I feel a mother should take care of her child during the younger years, if possible,” she said. “Working 60 hours per week would not have given me that option.” She said she misses working but doesn’t have any regrets. Then there’s the somewhere-in- between group. These mothers have enough income from their husbands to be able to stay home, but are opting instead to pursue careers or education and let someone else watch the kids. Some have ambivalent feelings about their arrangements; some don’t. Christine Garcia is a litigation lawyer who lives in Long Beach and commutes to downtown Los Angeles every day. She enrolled her infant daughter in full-time child care at 4 months, and while she had planned to return to work, she has mixed feelings about it now. “I’m here working and my baby is at day care, and I think, `Gosh, I could be playing with her,’ so there’s a lot of internal battles.” However, she said that in the legal profession, stopping to raise a child and then coming back is like starting all over. “I know that not working is not an option,” she said. “I admire stay-at-home moms, but I’m so used to this fast-paced life. But at the same time, it’s punishment. It’s a double-edged sword.” Better than a sitter Some moms of older kids say it’s better for them to spend the day in day care than spending the whole day at home. Jennifer Thayer is a biology graduate student at California State University, Los Angeles. She is also a mother of three who moved with her husband and family from Redding last spring. At that time, she thought about cutting day care back from full-time to part-time, but decided the kids were used to full-time, and that a dynamic social environment was better for them than being at home with a baby sitter. The Thayers pay about $2,300 a month for their kids – all 5 and under – to attend Woodbury Preschool Village in Altadena. Thayer notes the price is almost comparable to hiring a nanny. But she prefers that the kids are in a group setting, and the family can afford the high tuition. The director of another child-care center, Village Infant/Toddler Center & Preschool in Burbank, said that while her business depends on parents using day care, her own choice was to stay at home with her children in the early years. “This is my business and this is what I love to do, but I would love it if parents could stay home with their kids,” said Kathy Ramirez. “But that’s just not the reality we live in.” Commutes add pressure She said many of the parents with kids at the center live in places like Santa Clarita and Palmdale and commute to jobs at the studios. They are full-time workers and do day care because they feel they have to. In some cases, that “need” comes in the form of being able to afford nice vacations and a certain standard of living. Those things have a perceived value that the stay-at-home moms may not agree with. A 10-year study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, part of the National Institutes of Health, found that the more time children spent in child care from birth to age 41/2, the more adults tended to rate them as less likely to get along with others, as more assertive and as disobedient. But child development experts don’t necessarily agree with that. “The statement that day care for young children is dangerous because the (parental) attachment is going to be negative is not true,” said Barbara Polland, a psychotherapist and professor emeritus of Child and Adolescent Development at California State University, Northridge. “I’ve seen many children in day care with magnificent attachment and I’ve seen stay-at-home parents having major problems with attachment.” She said parents need to look for signs of quality day care, such as centers or homes with an open-door policy that allows a parent to visit a child any time of the day. But she also said day care is a financial necessity for many parents and that they should let go of any guilt they might have. Whatever side of the day-care debate parents are on, most can agree to disagree. “I think it’s absolutely outrageous to judge those mothers (who send kids to day care because they have to),” said Schickel, the author who chose day care to focus on her career. “We’re doing the best we can at the most complicated and most exciting job there is and to judge each other is wasted energy. If the children are loved, they’ll pretty much be OK.” Barbara Correa can be reached at barbara .correra@dailynews.com or (818) 713-3662. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Most working parents with preschoolers at home see the morning day-care dropoff as more of a necessity than a choice. In a survey by the California Child Care Resource & Referral Network, more than 80 percent of parents said the primary reason for seeking child care is that they have to work. But plenty of parents who could stay home with the kids are choosing to send them to preschool centers for other reasons. “I had a choice, and I chose to put my kids in day-care lite to get my writing career going,” said Erika Schickel, a mid-city mother of two girls and author of a new book titled “You’re Not the Boss of Me.” last_img

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