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What is the best daycare for my child?

February 12, 2014

P1040955Michelle at age 2 with her home daycare provider, Linda.

My daughter, now mother of two-month-old James, started a mini-avalanche of emails among our family when she sent the following paragraph from a baby advice website:

“While a home daycare provider is likely to have lots of hands-on “mom” experience, if she isn’t also educated (ideally, with at least two years of college and a background in early childhood development), you might want to think twice. If she isn’t trained in child development, she might not be able to encourage your child appropriately.” (From

Michelle typed in her opinion along with the paragraph: “Say wha? This is the most patently preposterous published thing I’ve read (like that alliteration?) on the subject of babies.”

Daughter Doreen responded: “Tell that to Aunt Barbara. Or Linda.”

Tanya, mother of four-month-old Sam wrote: “This is crazy.”

My husband had a one word response: “Ignoramuses,” referring to the writers, not my daughters.


P1040969Two of our daughters enjoying lazy summer days with friends at the babysitter’s house.

For about fourteen years, Linda, a wonderful neighbor who became a friend, was chief childcare provider for our daughters. I worked 3 days a week before they went to school, then gradually increased to 4 days a week, which I wrote more about earlier here.

The family setting also provided extra siblings, cousins and playmates for the kids. Linda was everything you might want in a loving caregiver for your child, but no, she didn’t have any college or a background in early childhood development, except what she learned from years of practice.

Linda was a laid back kind of mother and caregiver, attentive, a good listener, affectionate, creative, and just sat down and read to or played with the kids which is what I think they liked so much. She had her normal household work to accomplish too, which they helped with—doing laundry, cleaning up, baking, yardwork as they got older. A second mother. What more could you ask?

P1040968A trip to the laundromat when old enough to actually help.

She only asked off for several summers, particularly when, tragically, her only son died in a terrible motorcycle accident (who was indeed like an older brother to the girls). The grief we all felt was cutting; his death incomprehensible but real. We all needed time off.

So there were three periods of time when we needed to find alternate childcare arrangements. We opted each time for home caregivers, all of whom were also just fine, even exemplary women/mothers/sitters, save one. We did not last long with that situation; when word got back to Linda that that particular sitter was not working out, Linda said she was ready to take our daughters again.

I will not pick apart the comment; I do agree that one should always “think twice” about any childcare arrangement. Most of us spend much emotional energy not only thinking twice but endlessly second guessing our decisions on that front. Some of the most stressful times in my years of working and mothering were the times when I needed to find alternate and back up childcare arrangements, (grandmothers from church who filled in, or I just stayed home if I could if our sitter was sick).

But this little exchange with my kids reminded me I am so very grateful for a couple of things about their experiences:

  • That my daughters are able to interpret and parse a website comment on the topic of the necessity of trained educators for child care, in light of their own experiences and memories growing up. Their Aunt Barbara who also took care of children in her home for many many years also influences their opinion.
  • That we were blessed to have a neighbor who not only loved them almost as much as her own children, but who entered into their play and activities almost like a kid herself.
  • That my daughters turned out as beautifully as they have (and I’m not talking looks, but they do ok there too) in spite of being so deprived of trained early childhood specialists.

I will let a small collection of photos from those years, all taken by our able sitter, Linda, speak for themselves. Don’t miss scrolling to the bottom photo.


Lunchtime at the sitter’s house.


As with siblings, older children love helping out with younger charges in home day care.


Remember these? I think we called them chord organs back then. This one still keeps her fingers on the piano.


Coveted bean bag at the sitter’s house.


Potty training sometimes goes better at the sitter’s house.

This post dedicated to Linda and all of the great home childcare providers out there.


I’d love to hear from you on any of these questions:

What do you think about the statement from
How did or do you manage childcare arrangements, and how did or do you feel about it?
Have you been a home childcare provider? Do you have some words of advice for parents?


From → Family Life

  1. Caro-Claire Wiles permalink

    Hi Melodie,
    I was a stay at home mom of 5 kids,
    During several years I was hospitalized several times and our prarents (the grandparents) were able to step in and help out but there was a time when my stay was prolonged and we had to have some outside homemakers who came to the house .That wasn’t necessarily the best but at that time we did not have any alternatives.
    When our daughter’s children came along, I was able to be their daily caregivers when she had to go back to work for over 6 1’2 years.
    It was a special time of bonding with those 3 children and even though we were also in the sandwich generaltion , caring for our parents, I have never regretted the experience.
    I surely did not have any schooling to prepare me for any of ,other than our own expereinces of raising children and I do not think anyone suffered from it.
    In fact this past weekend our married granddughter ,(the oldest of our 13) was here for the weekend with her husband and baby.
    She was reminiscing about her days here with Nana and many of the things we did in those days. Such special memories for both of us.

  2. I know from hearing from others that indeed caring for your grandchildren creates a special bond–how very special. Love it! And how fortunate you were to stay home with your five kids. Thanks for sharing your experiences. Great!

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