Since the 1970s, an increasing number of women have been deviating from the role of homemaker and entering the work force, resulting in modern families in which both parents are bringing home the bacon.
These parents look to a third party to care for their children while they are at work. However, some of the conventional day care system’s downsides, such as a lack of personal attention and the inconvenience of transportation, have left them searching for alternatives.
Valorie Santino, a mother of two, has chosen to keep her children out of day care because of the guilt that goes along with leaving her kids in a stranger’s hands. Instead, her son William, 3, and daughter Michaela, 11 months, stay at home with Santino’s parents while she and her husband are at work.
“I don’t have any of that guilt about leaving them because I know without a doubt that they are in a very consistent and healthy environment,” she said. “They take naps in their own beds and play with their own toys.”
However, there are many advantages to day care, said Wendy Anderson, director of the Seven Oaks Academy East School. She said day-care attendees have opportunities for socialization and exposure to many new experiences.
“The children really get the good end of the stick,” she said. “They are being exposed to all kinds of new things. I think it is really exciting for them to be with people their own age.”
Santino admits that her children have not been exposed to other children like they would in a day care setting, but she does not feel this has affected them negatively.
“If they were at day care they would be exposed to every sniff and snuffle,” she said. “Daycare is a petri-dish. Everything grows there.”
The October arrest of a former CSU student, Jan Elijah Rogers, has also raised concerns about children’s safety in the day-care system. Rogers was charged with 12 local counts of unlawful sexual contact and sexual assault on a minor at the University Children’s Center, a CSU-affiliated day-care center.
Gurney Taylor, a former CSU student who has worked in the day care system for the past four years said he does not think the Rogers incident should change parents’ opinions of day care.
“Sometimes there is a hesitancy to accept a male working in day care, and people like (Rogers) don’t help the situation,” he said. “But there are certain things that a guy can offer while still giving the children love and compassion.”
Nonetheless, parents may be wary of putting their children in the hands of people they do not know very well, whether they are male or female.
Having a relative care for children is one of the cheaper alternatives and offers parents the comfort of knowing their caregiver personally, but it may not be a viable option for parents without family nearby.
Babysitting and nannying services, although more expensive, are available in most areas. These services allow parents to have their children raised in the familiarity of their own home with someone they know fairly well.
Kathleen Duff and her husband each work 40 to 45 hours a week. Although their hours do not overlap much they still require a babysitter for about 15 hours each week to look after their three children.
“This way I don’t have to worry about transporting them to daycare and back,” she said. “They can have their own toys and play with other kids in the neighborhood. I think this is much safer.”
More organized alternatives such as baby-sitting cooperatives are also an option to parents in many areas.
A baby-sitting co-op is an organization of parents in a general locale. These parents take turns watching each other’s children on different days during working hours. Parents generally baby-sit about one day a month, leaving the rest of the month free for work, according to Jane Filstrup in her book, “Monday through Friday: Daycare Alternatives.”
Baby-sitting co-ops are a much less expensive alternative for parents because they pay for their children’s baby-sitting by caring for other neighborhood children. This system provides parents ease of mind because the caregivers are neighbors, and it also gives children the opportunity to socially interact, Filstrup said in her book.
Co-ops are not available in all neighborhoods, but can be formed fairly easily.
One option that parents often rule out is having a stay-at-home parent. While spending must certainly be adjusted to fit one income, it is very possible to survive happily on one income, said Christine Davidson in her book, “Staying at Home Instead: Alternatives to the Two-Paycheck Family”
“There are millions of women today who have recognized…that work outside the home away from their children is not necessarily the road to freedom,” she said in her book. “They are seeing that success can be measured in the emotional luxuries a woman has as well as the material ones.”
And this option is not only open to women, Davidson said. More and more men are choosing to stay at home with their children while their wives go off to work.
Davidson said that the key to making it on one income is to make a clear financial assessment and cut corners wherever possible, especially in areas such as energy, clothes and diapers.
Whatever option parents choose, Anderson said quality is the most important aspect of child care.
“Child care is part of reality with two working parents,” she said. “The best they can do is find good quality services for their child.”
Duff agreed and said that she is not a critic of daycare, and feels that most parents do what is best for their particular situation.
“You have to match your child’s needs, not just the needs of your job,” she said. “Some kids do better in different settings, and most parents are definitely doing the best they can.”