Is this daycare or Animal House?
September 1, 2014 6:58 AM   Subscribe

My child just had her first day of daycare (6 months old). I'm a bit freaked out by how crazy it seemed. Is this normal?

We just moved to a new city, and basically had to organize daycare without visiting a lot of places. The city we now live in is HIGHLY competitive for the really well-known daycares (we're talking wait lists over a year long, some into 2016, however that is possible!) -- we got on those lists and took a temporary spot at the daycare near my husband's job. We didn't see it initially because we couldn't travel there, but talked to some people who had kids there who said it was a good place, it has a decent government rating, and we decided to sign up at least for the first few months that we arrived and were settling in, hoping a place in another school would open up (where we could tour, etc.)

Today we went for our first day (a short day to get her settled in.) Boy, am I kind of freaked out. It is LOUD. There aren't even that many kids in the class (within the state guidelines teacher/child ratio, and she has one person assigned to her primarily) but it is SO LOUD. Babies/kids were just screaming endlessly -- not as I could see it because they were being abused or anything, they were just -- loud. My daughter is not used to that and seemed a bit dazed by it all. Also, they have the kids sleep in these pack n plays in the open, with these really bright lights on. No way that's going to happen sleep wise. (Or does she just get used to it?) And geez, the colors in there -- all fluorescent pink and blue and red, and a zillion toys and things to do, it just seemed crazy overstimulating. Not an inch of wall space left uncovered.

On the plus side, the people there seemed nice (and laid back); they seem willing to follow any instructions we give them (feed on demand, etc.). It's close to my husband's work so he could stop in on her frequently. It's within our budget. The other parents seemed very friendly and warm.

I haven't really visited any other daycares yet (am scheduled to) so I'm not sure if this is all just how daycare is or if it's just this one. And if all daycares are like this, if it's a bad idea to send her there.

So TLDR: is it normal and okay for a six month old to spend all day in a place that is LOUD (I really cannot emphasize how loud and crazy it seemed), with REALLY BRIGHT fluorescent lights that are only dimmed for a prescheduled naptime after lunch (she usually takes more naps than this -- not a scheduled baby yet at least) and with an extremely stimulating environment? She's scheduled to be there three days a week.

Or am I just being a nervous mother? Are all daycares like this -- even the really good ones? I'm not into hiring a nanny because we can't really afford it, I don't like the lack of oversight, and I really don't want to be someone's employer. My situation is such that I COULD stay home with her, but I'm really for lots of reasons trying to find a good job and advance a burgeoning career; I'm at the point where it's kind of do or die for me workwise. I'm not suited in general, I think, to be a full time parent. But obviously she comes first!!

Help, working parents!
posted by caoimhe to Human Relations (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A year wait list isn't bad. Here in Seattle my neighbor just got a call that she made the top of the wait list and her son is about to turn 5. She put herself on it while pregnant.

Anyway, my kid's infant daycare was not loud or bright at all. It sounds unappealing.

Have you look into in home options? Those are hard to find via Google but by asking neighbors you might find something. We moved to DC with a two year old and couldn't find good childcare either and ended up doing a nannyshare. It wasn't that much more expensive and given that nanny still came when kid was sick and I didn't have to get kid ready to go and transport in the cold, it was a major win. If I had an infant I would do it again in a second.
posted by k8t at 7:04 AM on September 1, 2014

My personal take on this, based on the experience with my three kids; the plusses you list are very important, and would overrule the misgivings re: the noise and brightness.

Buy daycares are loud; ours had a traffic light mounted on the wall that lit up first amber, then red, when the noise levels went too high. The kids loved it, and it served its purpose well - when the light went red, the kids went quiet (and giggling...)
posted by Harald74 at 7:08 AM on September 1, 2014 [11 favorites]

Sounds like EVERY day care I was in as a kid. You DO get used to it. Give it a shot, a good ratio, happy kids, happy parents and loving staff are MUCH more important than volume.

Life in a large family is loud and stimulating too! Your daughter may love all the activity and being around the older kids will help her cognitively too.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:09 AM on September 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

You should give it some time. My little one is at a very highly rated and loved day care/preschool/private elementary school (all rolled into one) and some days are just chaotic and some days are peaceful and you never know which will be which. As your baby gets a bit older, they will love the novelty of the bright colors and highly decorated room. Toddlers thrive on looking and doing, so the more to look at and do and explore the happier they'll be, at least in my experience.

She'll learn to sleep in the pack and plays. I thought for certain mine would NEVER nap on a mat in a room full of other kids, but the teachers are magic and I've often gone in to pick her up on the tail end of nap time and she is sound asleep. (18 months old here)

Don't freak out, give it a while and see how she adjusts. Kids are loud and kids are bright.
posted by danielle the bee at 7:09 AM on September 1, 2014 [7 favorites]

re: sleeping: if it helps at all a lot of kids do get used to it, and it can be a benefit in that the kid learns to sleep anywhere, rather than needing it to be quiet, dark, specific routine, etc. Babies can sleep just about anywhere. It's us as parents who latch on to the magic of routines (like magic spells for sleep) and then the babies get used to them.
posted by anastasiav at 7:11 AM on September 1, 2014 [6 favorites]

Also note that it will be not be loud at nap time. Your daughter is a growing being and she will learn new skills there like napping in a new way. (The stimulating environment may actually help with that.) I would genuinely give it a month or two; I promise you that even if this is a fun, active daycare that is ultimately not a good fit for your daughter, you will not break your baby leaving her in the care of good and caring daycare workers.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:23 AM on September 1, 2014 [9 favorites]

The loud part is not a part of every daycare, no. Also, the craziness. You'll find different levels of activity/noise at different daycares and if this one just doesn't seem to fit you or your daughter, it's perfectly fine to find another one. It sounds like she'll be safe, at least, so you maybe can take your time to find a better (for you) place.
posted by cooker girl at 7:34 AM on September 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

First days are hard and it's easy to second-guess everything. Be kind to yourself today.

Be patient. With our first, I panicked every time she moved up to a different room at day care - "I just don't know about Miss XXXX," that kind of thing - but we ended up staying there for a total of 11 years. YMMV

It's ok to decide that this isn't the right place for you, but give it time and base it on empirical evidence, not your initial reaction. There's a lot going on in your head right now.

Also, you know she's going to get sick pretty soon, right? That seems to be another big jettison point for new moms. It's not necessarily the day care's fault; just a fact of life with that many little people in one place.

Good luck! It will be ok.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 7:37 AM on September 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

My son's daycare was insanely loud when I dropped him off on the first day, unlike how peaceful it was when I visited. I think mornings are like that; everyone is still getting settled in for the day. I definitely nth giving it time- babies are quite resilient!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:42 AM on September 1, 2014 [7 favorites]

Are you able to spend some more time there observing, not the place itself but your daughter's reactions to it? You list a bunch of important concerns, but I can't tell if they're just bothering you or if they're upsetting your child too. I spent most of the time watching from the corner during my (3-month-old) daughter's transition week to a daycare center, and a fair bit in the next week as well. Over the whole time, she never went more than a few minutes without crying, which fueled my decision that it wasn't a good place for her at the time.

Some other things I took into account in that decision: age distribution in the room -- she was the youngest infant by several months, and the oldest kids were over a year and walking; I saw several instances of the older mobile kids either deliberately hitting the non-mobile ones or just crawling over them on the way somewhere.

Supervision: unlike at your place, they didn't have enough staff to have someone primarily assigned to her (just the state ratio of three infants to one caregiver), so she got plopped down on a mat or a boppy pillow or in a crib while they chased the others.

Noise and light level: it was constantly loud -- kids napped on their individual schedules, so at all times someone was playing and banging things and screaming, going down for a nap and screaming, or waking up and screaming. It was also in a basement with no natural light, just bright fluorescents in the play space and a slightly dimmer indirect light in the crib area.

General upset: after two weeks, she was still refusing to eat more than two ounces at a time there or sleep for more than 20 min at a time after being rocked for hours, and she was still crying most of the time (the first week she cried literally nonstop for six hours there); this was also bleeding into non-daycare time so she was fussier about eating and sleeping at home too.

Commute: I had to drive her half an hour each way through heavy city traffic, and she wailed the whole way back and forth and developed a hatred of the car seat.

This is is Boston, where daycare is extremely hard to get into and expensive (this was the only place we'd gotten into after signing up for waitlists during my first trimester); rearranging my work hours and getting a nanny three days a week ended up being cheaper and more pleasant all around.

Good luck, and my best wishes to you -- it's an awful feeling to have an upset child, and it's a mommy-wars situation where no matter what you do, you or someone else is going to try to make you feel guilty about it.
posted by nonane at 8:31 AM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Go with your gut. You aren't comfortable. You have instincts for a reason. And what you describe doesn't sound like my kid's daycare. Can you nanny share instead? Kids under about 2.5 don't need massive amounts of socialization and you already noted your baby was dazed. Or can you and your partner do something at work, possibly with a part-time nanny, until you can get into another daycare?
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 8:31 AM on September 1, 2014

I agree that you should go with your gut, but I think you need to give it some time to separate "gut feelings about this daycare" from "gut feelings about a major transition that would be occurring no matter which daycare."

As others have said, it sounds safe and loving; the chaos this morning may have been anomaly, or it may start to seem like the loving chaos of a large close-knit family. I think it would be worthwhile to check out other daycares in the meantime, in case you do find one that clicks better for you, but I'm not sure you need to rush to pull her out of this one immediately.
posted by jaguar at 8:42 AM on September 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

Your 6 month old won't notice the zillion toys and colors, but your 12-18 month old will love it!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:15 AM on September 1, 2014 [5 favorites]

My house is very quiet. We are generally quiet people. When I visited my daughter's daycare for the first time (with her), I was overwhelmed by the whole scene. I sent my husband to tour it on his own and he thought it was all very chill. We gave it a go, knowing that if it didn't work, we'd figure something else out. It turned out really well. The carers there handle the "chaos" quite adeptly. They get to know each child really well. They do have to triage sometimes but I think that actually can be good for a child. I like that my kid learned to interact with other children and other caring adults. She really enjoyed it there. And when she gets home from her current daycare, she has a nice, quiet place to decompress. Also, feel free to ask them, is this the norm? I feel concerned about the noise and chaos. The director should have a good answer here. Daycare often has a proscribed routine for each age group, ask what it is. It's usually some cycle of high and low activities with breaks for rest and nap. Knowing what that routine is may help you.
posted by amanda at 1:35 PM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sounds like normal daycare to me. It is fabulous!! My campus has an award winning daycare center. When the kids have free time it is a circus: loud and boisterous. As for napping, if the child is tired and everyone else is resting and quiet, the child will rest (maybe not nap).
posted by buzzieandzaza at 2:17 PM on September 1, 2014

Former childcare worker here, what you describe is pretty standard in centers, at least here in Australia. I would give it a go before decided it's not for you.
posted by smoke at 3:09 PM on September 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

I kept my son in a nanny share until 2 because I wanted him in a more peaceful, home environment. It is a real concern. I have seen many daycares, and some are definitely calmer than others. At the very least I would want dimmed lights for the infant nap times!
posted by yarly at 5:52 PM on September 1, 2014

I worked in the baby room of a daycare center. Even with the babies in their own room, yes, things get loud and crazy. We tried to have a coordinated nap time in the afternoon but kids went down and ate and played pretty much on their own schedule. You are pretty lucky to have a high staffing level. We were ahigh quality daycare and it was about three babies per adult. In the 2yr old room, it went up to six kids per adult and was total daily chaos! We had two baby rooms and tried to group them according to activity level. I worked what we called the baby bruiser room... the kids who were more active, more likely to run their baby walker over another kid, and were older.

Some babies struggled with the transition between being the only baby to this stimulating environment but I don't think I ever had a baby that continually struggled to nap in the well-lit and active room. Most kids will adapt well. I'd try it out for a while. You will know if something is amiss. You should get daily notes on your child by the room's adults about eating, pooping, napping, etc.
posted by Foam Pants at 6:41 PM on September 1, 2014

My daughter was in a home-based daycare with a maximum of five kids at a time, so it never reached the levels of brightness, noise and chaos that you are describing. It was as loud and chaotic at times as you would expect a living room full of kids under age 4 to be. However, we did spend some time at a neighbourhood family drop-in centre--basically like a child care centre except you had to stay and take care of your own kid--and it could get epically loud and chaotic during free play. But then during snack time or story time, it would mellow right out.

I agree with the suggestions above to spend some time there watching your child. The plusses sound pretty good to me, and it's hard to tell whether the noise and chaos you are describing is a sign of something terrible or the culture shock of going from you and your baby at home alone together, quiet and happy, to a big, bustling--normal--child care environment. This is one of those situations where you might have to educate your gut a little before you can trust it. Because, even if this is just a perfect, happy, rambunctious place, it doesn't mean it is perfect for your little one, only a little time and observation are going to be able to show you that.
posted by looli at 8:01 PM on September 1, 2014

I live in an area where the big daycare center in town has wait lists of a year or more, but there are lots of little home daycares hiding in the shadows, though they aren't necessarily easy to find. I have love love loved our home daycare (at various times 4-8 kids, aged 10 weeks-4 yrs). The mixed age group is great. It doesn't eliminate chaos, but there are fewer small babies, which means the provider can snuggle the baby while she directs toddlers. The older kids have generally been really sweet to the babies, and the older babies LOVE trying to keep up with the toddlers.

IMO, the most important thing is for your baby to be somewhere she'll be loved.
Do give her a few weeks to see if she (and you) settle in. Mine had a tough few days when she started and is now happy as a clam. And like others have said, ask what the schedule is, and drop by at different times. Maybe they really are all napping at naptime! It never fails to amaze me how my provider gets that to happen.
posted by telepanda at 7:56 AM on September 2, 2014

I agree with the advice to go with your gut. If it feels chaotic to you, it will likely feel chaotic to your LO too.

You might think about getting a nanny for a little while until you have a chance to find a daycare that you love. I know, the prospect of finding a good nanny seems like a whole 'nother can of worms, but if nothing else your LO will be getting one-on-one care, and probably a calmer environment.
posted by vignettist at 8:51 AM on September 2, 2014

Also, they have the kids sleep in these pack n plays in the open, with these really bright lights on.

I'm sorry, the babies who are trying to sleep are in the same room as the awake babies? That's very strange to me. In Ontario you would have a sleep room with cribs for the babies to sleep in, because at that age they may all be on different schedules and won't be sleeping as a group like in the toddler or preschool rooms. A staff member would also be in the sleep room if there were 3 or more babies in it (infant ratio is 1 teacher to 3 infants). The babies that are awake are in the connecting room, usually with windows etc, sleeping infants still supervised if there are only 2 asleep.

To me there is a difference between laid back and just plain lazy. And yes, babies can be quite loud, depends on their personality but I've never been in an infant room that is that loud and chaotic. My first thought is that the babies are loud because they are hungry/uncomfortable/tired/need comfort. Unfortunately at your child's age it's not like they can tell you what is happening when you are not there.

You don't sound comfortable with this place. I say go with your gut and look for another day care, or try a home day care, or maybe a nanny share with a family that has a child of similar age.
posted by Lay Off The Books at 5:34 PM on September 2, 2014

Thanks everyone for all the responses (if anyone is still checking this thread!) I've decided to keep her in for a few weeks at least until I figure something else out (or get more comfortable). Thanks especially for the tips about home daycare and nanny share -- I had kind of discarded those earlier, and I realize that was rash! The cons are still the cons, but after three days I realize I do really like the staff a lot, esp. the key worker for my daughter who clearly adores her. So I'll see how it goes for a little while longer. We'll see -- thanks everyone, this was really helpful!

And if anyone is out there pregnant, get on a wait list RIGHT NOW!!!
posted by caoimhe at 3:19 AM on September 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Just another update if anyone is reading this later -- we actually ended up moving our daughter to a small (3-4 children) home daycare that an older woman runs in her house with her daughter and really love it. It's not something we ever thought of doing but it's really homey and lovely -- and quiet! So if anyone is in the same situation, I'd recommend thinking outside the nursery box.
posted by caoimhe at 9:00 AM on February 1, 2015

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