We have to put our kid in childcare to run our farm — how do I cope?

Updated Oct 12 2015
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Chicken chasing
Photo by Stephen Fuljames.
My husband and I have an amazing 14-month-old daughter and run our family farm full-time. Since she was born, I have been with her almost every day, with the exception of the odd day that she spent with a grandparent or babysitter (but even then, it was only for 6-8 hours or so).

This year, due to a lack of help on the farm, I am faced with putting her in full time childcare, probably about 10 hours a day for five days a week. I have to do this for our business to be able to function, and the business supports our family. I have found very affordable childcare less than a mile from our house. Still, I am TERRIFIED about being away from her so much.

How do other mamas in the same situation cope? — Christa

  1. Just a possible thought, if it's so close, could you visit for much or at some certain part of the day?

    • That's a good idea that might help with your anxiety (and hers). I have a friend who uses the daycare at her company (it's a large corporation) and she goes every day at lunch to see her son and nurse her daughter.

    • Just a point here some children find it really hard to reintegrate after their parents have come to visit. I work in childcare and have seen this first hand of spending 20 minutes comforting a screaming child after their parent left again. It is totally dependent on the kid and some may like the routine of having a visit part way through the day.

      • That's what I was going to say. I inquired about doing this with the daycare my kid is at, because it's close to my work. I would have to commit to doing it every single day, because she would grow to expect it. While I could probably do it most days, sometimes I would be too busy or would have meetings over lunch and I just couldn't commit to it for sure.

      • Exactly. I work in childcare also and most of the children can not handle their parents visiting midday and then leaving again. The initial drop off time is already stressful, especially talking about a child who has barely spent any time away from their parents at all. Adding in additional moments of stress to their day wouldn't do either of you favors. Yes, you'd get to see them, but it would leave them distraught from anywhere from a few minutes to literally the rest of the day.

  2. Honestly, it sucks, hard. But unfortunately if it's the only possible option then there's nothing you can do. I'd suggest talking to the childcare provider and see if its possible to visit at a certian time each day

  3. I worked in day care for 4 years and I just want to reassure you that by the time the children are toddlers, day care can be a wonderful experience. Even the children with the worst separation anxiety would perk up within 15 minutes and spend the rest of the day playing with other children, learning and experiencing new things. That's not to say that they don't miss their parents or that being with parents isn't the best, but if it helps, just remind yourself that she's probably having a lot of fun. 🙂

    • I agree with LB. From a developmental standpoint, it's really good for kids to interact with other kids. You're doing a good thing for her by putting her in an environment where she can learn social skills with other kids. She'll also pick up a ton of life-skills and academic readiness skills. And honestly, she'll have a blast doing it! It's always harder on the parents than it is on the kids.

    • I agree with this! She'll meet new friends, learn new things, and have lots of new toys to play and experiment with. Many people say that daycare helps toddlers learn how to deal with separation anxiety too — knowing that mom will come back at the end of the day & this is a safe & fun place for her to be will prepare the both of you for millions of other experiences down the road!

  4. I think it helps to think about what you're terrified of. Are you worry that she's not going to get adequate care? That she'll be taught things that don't align with your values? Fed crappy food? If that's the fear, find a new daycare center, one where you just have a good feeling about the place – even if it's further, even if it's more money.

    If it's more existential – are you worried that she won't love you as much? That she'll be unhappy in your absence? That you're a bad mother? Those are illogical fears (but just because they're illogical doesn't mean they're not real to you). You should remind yourself that absolutely no matter what, you will always be her mom and even if you were to move to Borneo and leave her behind, there is a connection that you two have that is sacred. If you love her, care for her, and parent her it doesn't matter how much time you're apart.

    You also should remember that children are designed to move away from us. It's a two steps forward one step back kind of process, but giving her space to grow (even at this young age) will teach you and her all kinds of things that you didn't know about your daughter. Of course she's still going to need you as a secure home base, but I've found that the tighter I tether my children, the more they resist against me. Slacken the line, as it were, and they don't pull so hard. Sending her to a space where she can grow and thrive and discover isn't abandoning her, it's allowing her to start to become her own person.

    And if you're worried about people judging you for being a bad mother, fuck them. You had a hard choice to make, you thought it out and did what was right for your family. If they think they can do a better job, they're wrong.

    Finally, give yourself the space to grieve parenting the way you envisioned. It's hard to have to make adjustments. But just because it's different than you pictured, doesn't mean it's bad. It's okay to be a little sad about it, but you won't do yourself any favors if you beat yourself up.

    Good luck.

    • Agree wholeheartedly. I have also seen my toddler son (now nearly 3, but he started part-time daycare at 14 months) blossom into a little social being with his "friends" at daycare. Finding a place that aligns with your values (types of food served, or serving food you send, for instance, or using only green cleaning products, and offering 0 screen time, etc.) really helps me and mamas I know to feel better about taking our little ones to daycare.

      I encourage you to focus on how your little one forging relationships and building trust with others outside your home/family is a great learning experience that she will utilize for the rest of her life. She'll do great, and you'll do great, too! And, if you're less stressed about making the family business work, that means more QT and mental space you'll have available for your little one when she *is* around at home with you on off days.

      Good luck!

  5. I had the same fears, I returned to work for 6 months before our next baby is born and I was very conflicted, for my family right now it as the right choice but it was really hard. now 4 months in I feel much better, I know his caregiver (home care) even though he cried when i dropped him off at first (3 weeks?), now he is happy and excited and runs right in to play. it makes me feel better seeing him eager to get inside, squealing and when he comes in and the other kids all shout his name excited to see him. given a choice he'd be with me but for now he is happy.

    also I worried so much time away form me would mean other things, new behaviors that i wouldn't like maybe? but nothing like that has happened but its neat watching his show off new skills that he picked up watching other kids. I also worried about less bonding but we've continued co sleeping and we spend tons of time playing, he is my top priority on the weekends and evenings so we still get good quality time together. He is clearly still very attached to his dad and I so I can look at it as another thing added to his day and less about what is taken away.

  6. I think my daughter had an easier transition into kindergarten because daycare gave her social skills that my younger one did not get at home with me. I don't think its better or worse, its just different. Give yourself a break. You are a great mom because you LOVE your child and you want the best for her. We are not perfect!!

  7. For us, I found hiring someone for an extra pair of hands to be very helpful. I've been able to find (admittedly relatively unskilled) labor for part time work at rates comparable to the costs of childcare. The more skilled labor gets costly, but shoveling compost, hauling feed around, and refilling water are things that, at least here, just have to be done.

    I'm not sure what your operation is like or what kind of housing situation you have, but we've also had people work a few hours a day in exchange for a place to sleep, a meal, and an opportunity to learn a little bit about sustainable food production.

  8. Are you working outside all day? What are you doing and how can you incorporate your child into that? Can you not take breaks for naps and meals? I have a 15 month old, she is very curious, but if she is contained, she can play in dirt while I garden. There is no point worrying, she will be fine either way. It depends on the child, some kids thrive in daycare and some not as well. You will know when you put her in and then can take her out if it doesn't work. Nothing is permanent and it won't damage her, just try something else. Maybe a nanny/or parent helper might be better because she would be home with you, with someone playing with her if she wanted to go inside, and she could still see you when she wanted.

  9. I've had very different experiences with daycares and therefore have mixed feelings about it. I grew up being against the idea because my mom was. She had us in a pretty bad home daycare when we were little because it's what she could afford, and promptly removed us and never went back to work again after the provider beat me for having an accident and left my infant sister in a crib all day with a bottle. I had no choice but to stick my son in daycare part-time when my husband and I split up. It was inexpensive and convenient and they let me send his lunch as long as it was peanut-free, but the facility itself wasn't too impressive and the providers were kind of rude and had dumb rules like they wanted me to send a blanket he could keep there all week instead of bringing and taking home his "blankie" every day. I didn't see what difference it made, it was his lovey and I thought it would help with the separation. After being with me for twenty months, daycare was an incredibly rough transition. He screamed for weeks when I brought him in, and it would even start up a few blocks away when he'd recognize where we were going.

    I also ended up working at a couple of daycares. One employed impatient teenagers who spent most of the day yelling, partly because the toddler classroom was WAY too full. They largely ignored the state health regulations unless they knew a state worker was coming to check things out. It was impossible to keep a lid on things like biting, because there were just too many kids to watch at once. Then I changed to another, smaller center that allowed me to bring my son for a huge discount. I felt better being able to see and hear what went on all day. For the most part it was a huge improvement over the last center, but some of the providers were still a little…inexperienced…and had trouble being impartial and hiding their preferences for certain kids, and some of the kids whose parents never spent any time with them would really act out and say/do shocking things that I didn't want my kid exposed to.

    But my son is now in "real" preschool and extremely social and plays well with kids of both sexes, he listens well and adapts to rules easily. I think the problems I had could be solved with the right facility, which may be hard to come by and more expensive. I'm sure it costs more to employ actual early childhood educators rather than high schoolers. And personally, I had issues with parents dropping in in the middle of the day because I was the one left with their screaming toddler after they left, but as others have said, that totally depends on your child. I feel bad because I know sometimes you don't have a choice, I know I didn't.

  10. For what it's worth, my daughter is the same age, and I often wonder if she wouldn't be better off in a daycare than home alone with mom all day. I struggle to keep her entertained, and it's hard to show and teach her new things every day. She blossoms whenever she spends a few days with her young cousins, rapidly learning everything they know. When she is with me, the growth is much slower. It doesn't make financial sense for me to put her in daycare, but I am certain that at this age, it would do wonderful things for her, not even to mention the socializing aspect. Consider that this might actually be a wonderful experience for your daughter.

  11. I grew up on a farm. My father milked cows on his father's farm and my mother had her own cabinet shop on the farm.

    My first memories were sitting behind my father on the tractor, spending countless hours at Southern States and the hardware store.

    When my parents were baling hay, my sister and I were placed in this giant stretchy fence (since taken off the market because it caused so many injuries). My mother said it was awful because she could see us crying but couldn't stop.

    My mother asked one neighbor how she milked cows with 6 kids. The women's answer? She had to lock them all in one safe bedroom.

    Farming with kids is tough. I wouldn't beat yourself up over having to put her in day-care.

    I have a 13 month old and I couldn't imagine trying to run a farm with her by my side.

    I don't know what kind of operation you have and your responsibilities, but could you put your daughter in daycare for 7 hours? And then after you put her in bed, finish your farm chores? I know my step-father often is in the fields after dark. My mother would put us to bed and then go out in her shop and work a few hours.

    Whatever you decide to do, remember you are giving your daughter a precious gift. Growing up on farm is an amazing experience, something few children get to experience today. Good-luck!

  12. I'm really glad that you're not going to try to look after her while farming. I come from a farming area and a little girl died recently in a farming accident. Sorry don't mean to scaremonger, it just really shook us all up! I think people have an idea that it will be outdoorsy and good for kids but the reality is it's very dangerous.
    I think that you should begin by leaving her in a few hours at a time. It would be a huge adjustment for you to suddenly not see her for ten hours. Make sure you get to see her daily routine there first. You'll feel more comfortable knowing how her day might be going.

    • Didn't think about this at first but, THIS! I can't concentrate on toddler safety and any thing else at the safe time.

  13. I agree with a lot of things that have been said here and wanted to add a few of my own.
    When we were struggling with leaving our infant to return to work a friend reminded us that her caregiver was just one more person in her life to love her. And a good caregiver really will love her, not the same as you of course, but in her own special way. And having more people to love you is always a good thing for a little one.
    A tip for when you start out daycare, try sending her for a couple of hours a day at first to get used it it. Also, when you start in full time, don't start with a Monday. Try to start on like a Thursday so that there are fewer days you have to be separated all day before you get to spend the weekend together. It might help make that transition easier.
    Another thing to think about is how you talk about it with your daughter. Don't tell her that you're sad to leave her or that you wish you didn't have to leave her. Even if she doesn't understand your words, she will understand your emotion and will be upset and cry when you leave her. She will think that she isn't safe there because you don't want to leave her. Instead, despite how you feel, at drop off talk to her about the positive things like the other kids that she gets to play with and the new toys and games. Help to get her excited or engaged in it to make leaving easier.
    Also remember, you very well may bawl in the car the first day but she'll be ok, especially when she learns and adjusts to the new rhythms of her day.

  14. I have a couple of friends who grew up on farms and they had some scary accidents: falling into the cistern, trapped in the paddock with bull, etc. Luckily, all turned out well for them. Remember that your toddler will be safe from farming accidents while she's at daycare and will be building new relationships.

    It's not easy to leave your child with someone for the first time but you and your child will adjust. Try to take a couple of weeks to transition to daycare if you can. Start with leaving her for a couple of hours, then half-days and then she'll be ready to be away from you for the whole day. Good luck!

  15. Comment on "This!" button- nevermind.

    I saw the empire post. SO glad it's not my crappy computer, but a fix that is coming soon! YAYYYY! I miss it!

  16. I just went back to work in March and dealt with the same issue. Honestly, in the end it just isn't that big a deal. My daugther can't spend the rest of her life with me. The earlier she learns to be adaptable and get along OK with other people taking care of her, the better. And she learns different things from her nanny than she does from me. So, like others have said, it is an advantage for her instead of a negative.

  17. So many " this" button misses!

    I work outside for a fancy schmancy hotel in their garden. I grow seasonal produce and year round goodness for the restaurant. When my son was three months I brought him to work with me. But by eleven
    Months it just wasn't working anymore. He needed more supervision than I could give him and wanted to crawl wildly in my tenderly manicured flower beds. He became too large to carry in my baby backpack too! I decided to put him in daycare. The daycare is also affordable and very close to my home. At first it was very hard on me, I missed him so much. It was even hard to stifle my tears when I dropped him off. After ONE WEEK my son started just loving it! He loves the other children and started walking within two weeks. Now he's nineteen months and I can see what the new challenges would be if he were still at work with me. When he was at work it was like doing two jobs simultaneously, now I can focus on each job fully when it's time.

    Is there any way you could do part time care? My son sleeps I the afternoon and in food production morning is your busiest time. Maybe your daughter could be at daycare while you work your tail off and then you pick her up at lunch. Then you could preplan your afternoon activities to be kid friendly if she wakes up early?

  18. I work outside for a fancy schmancy hotel in their garden. I grow seasonal produce and year round goodness for the restaurant. When my son was three months I brought him to work with me. But by eleven
    Months it just wasn't working anymore. He needed more supervision than I could give him and wanted to crawl wildly in my tenderly manicured flower beds. He became too large to carry in my baby backpack too! I decided to put him in daycare. The daycare is also affordable and very close to my home. At first it was very hard on me, I missed him so much. It was even hard to stifle my tears when I dropped him off. After ONE WEEK my son started just loving it! He loves the other children and started walking within two weeks. Now he's nineteen months and I can see what the new challenges would be if he were still at work with me. When he was at work it was like doing two jobs simultaneously, now I can focus on each job fully when it's time.

    Is there any way you could do part time care? My son sleeps I the afternoon and in food production morning is your busiest time. Maybe your daughter could be at daycare while you work your tail off and then you pick her up at lunch. Then you could preplan your afternoon activities to be kid friendly if she wakes up early?

  19. Just wanted to say that studies confirm what you guys are saying – that high-quality day care can have a positive effect on kids' intellectual and social development. (What's Going On In There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life, Lise Eliot). This is the only thing that has comforted me when I think about eventually having to put my son in day care.

  20. Daycare is great!
    I loved daycare an so did everyone I know, and their kids love it too!

    Yes, it can be hard the first few weeks (especially for the parent 😉 ). But the look on your kids face when she runs to you at the end of the day, all the stories about everything that has happened, the social experience and the possibility for the parent/s to focus on their work makes it all worthwhile.

    A few tips:
    *Choose a place where you really like the people who works there. Do you feel comfortable and safe with them? Then your kid will too!
    *Ask friends/family/others who might know if they know a good place.
    *I don't know how you do it, but in Sweden we have "inskolning" meaning that you go to daycare together with your kid a couple of hours a day and then gradually leave them at daycare a couple of hours a day until they get used to it.
    *Bring your daughters favorite toy/stuffed animal!

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