Wednesday, August 8, 2018

You Can See it in Their Eyes

We were standing in the church hallway with our squirming and screaming babies when the bishop's wife walked by. This woman, the bishop's wife, is one of those people you can't help loving. She's just so full of light and joy and infectious love. She is one of the kindest people I know.

Which is why I know she wasn't trying to hurt me. She wasn't trying to wound anyone. She was merely trying to be encouraging when she stopped, and in her effusive and loving enthusiasm gave both me and my friend a hug and said, "You young mothers are doing such great work here! You are doing the truly important work! It may feel hard now, but the love you're giving your babies now, the time, the sacrifice, it will stay with them forever! I know! When I go to the high school, and I look at all those grown up kids, you can tell the difference between those kids raised by good mothers, and those raised in daycare. You can see it in their eyes!"

She hurried on to her Sunday school class or wherever she was going, probably never giving a second thought to her comment or that small moment in the hallway.

But I think about that moment often. Her words echo in my mind almost every day. "You can tell the difference between those kids raised by good mothers, and those raised in daycare. You can see it in their eyes."

My kids will be starting daycare next week.

To say I have conflicted feelings about this is a massive understatement. Because, you see, if you had asked me just a few years ago, I would've agreed 100% with my bishop's wife. Not that I ever would've said it out loud like her, but I totally felt that way. I felt that really good mothers stayed home with their kids. Really good mothers did not pass off the responsibility of caring for and raising their children to someone else.

I had a hard enough time coming to terms with the situation when we hired our first nanny. Not only did it feel strangely privileged and extravagant (I did not grow up in a world where anyone had a nanny), I struggled with the idea of giving up my responsibility to raise my children, even if only for a few hours a week. But at least, at the very least, it was still one person in our home, keeping my children in the routines I set, with the toys and activities I provided for them, giving them the individual attention they needed. If I couldn't be there myself, a nanny felt like the next best thing.

But daycare? The image of daycare in my mind was one of flickering fluorescent lights over threadbare dingy carpets illuminating a sad and stringy selection of secondhand toys, with a bunch of kids crying in soiled diapers while frazzled and overworked care providers tried to keep too much snot from spreading around. Daycare, in my mind, was neither happy nor loving, the opposite of the kind of environment I wanted for my children. That person I was long before I married or had kids would never, never in a million years, have imagined daycare as an option for my children, my future precious babies.

Funny how life turns out. Because like I mentioned earlier, my kids are starting daycare next week.

So, how did we get here?

Well, the decision process was long and winding. We had a wonderful nanny this past year that I was so grateful for. Having a nanny in my home solved a lot of headaches (like what to do when my oldest was sick and needed to stay home from school), but created other headaches (what to do when she gets sick and can't work?). Plus, there was the conundrum of what to do with our middle child, who really ought to be attending preschool (alas, the wonderful days of Joy School co-ops are behind me). So we started looking into the daycare option provided on my university campus, and it looked good. Really good actually. After visiting and getting a tour, I was very impressed. They have an incredible staff-to-student ratio, three separate playgrounds, a garden that provides produce for the meals (lunch and snacks) prepared on site for the kids, and a fleet of vans and carseats for quarterly field trips. They had a sparkling accredited curriculum, and a shiny beautiful facility. It was not the dismal daycare center of my imagination. Plus, it was on campus. I could bring my kids to school with me, drop them off, then walk over to my building just a few minutes away. I could come eat lunch with them, or check on them whenever I wanted. It sounded perfect.

So we applied, and got accepted, and put down the deposit, and started making all the other arrangements. I would have a wonderful, reliable daycare option for my younger two children (the oldest one will be in full day school).

But then, the memory of my bishop's wife surfaced, and started haunting me daily. "You can see it in their eyes." You can see it in their eyes.

What can you see in their eyes? Neglect? A lack of love? A lack of connection? Is that what is destined for my children, now that they will be attending daycare? Does it mean I love them less? That I am less devoted, less involved, less of a mother?

I know there are many women out there who are rolling their eyes at my concerns. Of course it doesn't mean I love them less! Of course my kids will be just fine!

But I know some of you will understand why I feel so conflicted about this. These are my children, the single most important responsibility in my life. Nothing is more important, not a job, not a degree, nothing is more important than making sure they are well cared for and all their needs, physical and emotional, are being met. So, when I fully believe that, why am I doing this? Why am I sending my kids to daycare?

Honestly, my only answer is that I sincerely believe God wants me to. I don't think I could do this any other way, and I question Him over and over again, because it feels counter to everything my culture has taught me to believe about what He wants. But this I know: when I pray, I know that I am supposed to be getting this degree. And when I pray about my children, I know that God is taking care of them.

When my baby started nursery at the end of June, and screamed for forty minutes straight before the desperate nursery leaders finally found my husband, I came home from church, knelt, and prayed, "If she can't handle two hours of nursery, how is she going to handle a full day of daycare? Are you sure this is right?" And the answer I got was, "She'll be fine. I'll look after her, for remember, she's my child too."

When I found out about the daycare's policy that absolutely zero super hero paraphernalia is allowed, and my sweet boy who has worn his Catboy cape and mask day and night since March would not be allowed to wear it at school, I came home and prayed again, "But he loves that outfit! And if I were a stay-at-home mom, he could wear it as much as he wants! It's his security blanket against all his anxieties! Are yous sure this is right?" And the answer I got was, "He'll be fine. I'll look after him, for remember, he's my child too."

They'll be fine. They'll be fine.

They will know that I love them. They will know I am not abandoning them. They will not lose the light in their eyes.

And so, I write this, partly to justify my decisions to those of my culture who I know will question me, and partly to say that I now believe differently. I believe I can love and care for my children just as much as ever, and also let someone else watch them for a good chunk of their waking hours. I believe I am still a good mother. I believe my children will still know they are loved and cared for even if they will grow up in daycare. I believe it is all about perception, and my perception has changed.

My children will be raised by a good mother, a mother who has made many sacrifices. And you will be able to see it in their eyes.


  1. Mom guilt is a real and heavy thing, but I think a lot of it (for me, anyway) is caused by my worries about how I'm not stacking up to what the culture/society tells me I should be doing as a mother. As a missionary, I frequently relied on the counsel in Preach My Gospel that says that you'll know you're an effective missionary that the Lord is pleased with when you can feel the Spirit working through you regularly. I try to remind myself that the same thing is true for me as a mother--if I'm trying regularly to be guided by the Spirit, I can let that be an indicator that the Lord is pleased with me and my decisions. And that is exactly what you're doing! You're being a great model for your children of following the Spirit, and this is a great opportunity for you to share with them how Heavenly Father has revealed to you that this is your path right now, and that you all will grow as a family as a result of it.

    A talk I read a few weeks ago that I wish I'd heard sooner (when I was also a working mom) was the talk by Elder Holland called "Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence." A quote I really love from it is this:

    "[O]nce there has been genuine illumination, beware the temptation to retreat from a good thing. If it was right when you prayed about it and trusted it and lived for it, it is right now. Don’t give up when the pressure mounts!"

    It sounds like you're doing exactly what you need to be doing right now. I have no doubt that you are the best mother for your children and that you're doing wonderful things--don't doubt yourself for a second! <3

    1. Thanks for this! Yes, Mom guilt is so much about how I feel others are perceiving me and the choices I'm making. But I just need to not worry about that too much, because I know that what I'm doing is right for our family. I really appreciate the Elder Holland quote, it's a good one for me right now!

  2. It sounds like you’ve found an amazing solution. And honestly, there’s no comparison to receiving an answer from the Spirit. Hold tight to that. (One of my favorite blogs, besides yours of course ��, is tooursurvival.com. She talks a lot about trusting that God not only knows what’s best for you but what’s best for your kids, too. I think you’d love her writing—plus she’s a college professor in English, I believe, so there you go!)

    1. Well, I don't know if it's an "amazing" solution, as I'll still have all sorts of headaches if anyone gets sick (just praying we can all stay healthy forever and ever, please!). Also, I already know I'm going to have to deal with the torture of separation crying, and it's going to tear me to pieces!!! But, in other ways it will be really wonderful, and I'm hoping those win out in the end. Thanks for the blog rec, I checked her out and she sounds amazing! Excited to keep following her!

  3. I love this post! I can relate so much to it. I used to judge and criticize mothers who worked full time when it wasn't a necessity. I never thought that would be me. Now I've done many of the things I used to judge people for. I didn't think this is how my life would look, but I know that God directs us and we just have to trust the next step. I don't know what my life will look like it five years, but I know this is right for now.

    Hang in there! There are many ways to be a good mom. You can still have a great relationship with your kids even if you are not with them every waking moment. Your kids have such a great role model to look up to.

    1. Oh Adrienne, thanks for being one of my few friends who totally gets this situation! I need more moms like you in my life!