Daycare - when to go back?
April 24, 2020 4:00 PM   Subscribe

Daycare isn't currently an option for us, but help us weigh when to send Little Synesthesia back once it reopens.

Inspired by the most recent newsletter from Emily Oster, I'm hoping to hear from other MeFites about what we should be considering regarding when Little Synesthesia should return to daycare.

LS is almost 11 months old and had been in full-time care since early January. We are really happy with LS's caregivers and the center itself, so would definitely want LS to return eventually. While the center isn't currently totally closed (we are in Northern California and our county's shelter-in-place order allows daycares to serve the children of essential workers, which we are not), we haven't been able to take LS in since mid-March, and we're guessing that'll be the case until at least June, if not longer.

So once the center (hopefully! someday!) reopens to all families...when do we actually take LS back? My initial inclination is that if they reopen in, say, June, we should get LS back into care right away. We both work full-time, and while we're making it work with supportive managers, it has just been really, really hard to take good care of our incredible and rambunctious kiddo while producing anything resembling the quality of work we were able to do before. We are lucky to be currently healthy (mid-30s and early-40s) and financially secure (and so could hopefully weather catching COVID, which we don't believe we've been exposed to - though we are very aware that our age/current health is not a guarantee that we'd be fine). It hopefully goes without saying that we absolutely don't want LS to get sick, but have been relatively reassured by the generally positive outcomes in kids who do catch COVID. And LS had been thriving in daycare, where he was getting a lot of stimulation and time with friends.

Some other potentially relevant info:

- We both can work from home indefinitely. I was already remote; my spouse has set up a makeshift office in the kitchen, and spouse's employer has been very supportive of employees working remotely during the pandemic.
- We only have one child. (We were starting to think about #2 but that's a question for another day...)
- Due to our location and LS's age, daycare is reallllly expensive.
- It is also, like in so many places, very hard to get a spot; it took us months to get our current place.
- I don't know exactly how many kids were in the center before it (largely) closed, but at least several dozen (from infants through preschoolers).
- Both of us really enjoy our jobs and have no desire to be full-time stay-at-home parents, as amazing as LS is. (We also would be in a significantly tougher financial spot with the loss of my income, and very much so with the loss of my spouse's.)
- The vast majority of our family lives halfway across the United States and we haven't seen any of them since the pandemic began. My parents are in their 60s and my spouse's are in their 80s. They range from somewhat unhealthy to very healthy for their ages. We are close to all of them and would very much love to see them within the next year (i.e., before a vaccine) but this feels ethically fraught if we decide to send LS back to daycare.

Thanks for any food for thought - the well-being of LS is our top priority, but it doesn't feel sustainable to keep LS home (while keeping both of our jobs) until there's a vaccine available. I'm sure there are things we haven't considered - what would you do?
posted by Synesthesia to Human Relations (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I get the sense that you feel that you are low risk and are anxious to get back to a somewhat normal life. It's probably nice to fantasize about how much easier it will be for all of three of you when day care becomes an option. But my advice is to hold on to that lightly and leave yourself open to doing a thoughtful evaluation at the time that you actually have to make the decision - you will have so much more information then.

- Mid-June is two months away. By then we will have a lot more information about the virus (I hope!!) include a better understanding of how it impacts young children.
- Secondly, you would want to really evaluate what the risks of community transmission look like in your county. Is there good testing and tracking in place or the government opening things up based on a wish and a prayer?
- Third would to be consider the specific plans at your daycare - how many other children and adult staff (and by extension their families) are being added to your daily circle of exposure? You won't know until the center is ready to reopen.
posted by metahawk at 4:27 PM on April 24, 2020 [5 favorites]

Daycare is a bigger disease vector for your household than either of your grownup jobs, when you’re all going in to work and living normally.

If either or both of you plan on minimizing contacts or WFH at that point, daycare becomes your primary, huge, exposure point for the family.

It’s up to you if you see that as an argument for or against.
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:58 PM on April 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

One consideration for us will be the possibility of making daycare/camp our only point of family exposure. Yes, it's a huge one, but we could chose to be a dead-end for any hypothetical infection, and to me that makes the ethics of it much clearer. Our jobs have already committed to WFH through the summer semester, so it really would just be a matter of doubling down on stockpiled food (I am very aware that this isn't the case for many). I'd be concerned about the possibility that, of all the other children present, ours might somehow be the only link in a chain, but presumably if the school is operational then someones who know better than I how likely that sort of thing is have already made a judgement call. I do agree that waiting and seeing is the only real answer, but if I felt I could do so safely for others, I'd trade "being able to go anywhere else" for those six hours of daily childcare.
posted by teremala at 5:24 PM on April 24, 2020 [5 favorites]

The wedged piano family has been through a similar process And journey. Our daycare is keeping class sizes small (priority given to dependents of essential workers), daily temperature checks, and not allowing parents / family inside the daycare center. Maybe investigating how your daycare has been working with public health officials will help in your decision. Feel free to me mail me if you want more of my snowflakey opinions.
posted by WedgedPiano at 11:17 PM on April 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

BabySky is in care. My risks are very high through my employment, and it's basically a center set up for essential workers which is a category I definately fall into. Class sizes are very small with daily temperature checks.

Ultimately anybody with kids in care right now are from high risk families, that is why they need the care! So I haven't felt to bad about it. I'm obviously following precautions and wearing appropriate PPE and doing what I can.

It's gone really really well. It feels normal. In fact I think they are doing so much more cleaning and precautions my toddler has not been running around with the historical toddler runny nose that doesn't go away.

If you need the care and need to send them back it's okay to do. It isn't risk free, but neither is re-entering the workforce and alot of other things we do . One of the biggest factors in our decision was staffing and classroom sizes. Our center is very small (even under regular operations) and that was the biggest consideration in terms of the center she attends. I was very happy with how staff changed policies and is attending to the current situation.
posted by AlexiaSky at 12:39 AM on April 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

Since you are keen to get our kid back into daycare, this is really about whether (when it happens) you can trust the people that have decided it's safe to reopen daycare for everyone or not. Presumably that's public/government officials given that you say that only essential workers can access daycare currently.

I would look at the basis on which they've been making their decisions throughout this crisis and the reasons they give for deciding that it's safe to reopen when they do so. If you've felt throughout that they've had the level of caution you would prefer them to have, and their reasons at the time of reopening seem sound then I think it's fine to just trust them. If you think they've been taking on more risk than you would like (eg in your opinion calling the shelter-in-place order late), or the reasons they give at the time don't stack up or aren't based on factors you think are relevant, then wait.

There's also whether the daycare itself is following best practice. They aren't going to be experts in this stuff anymore than you. So again, it's just are they following the advice given by public officials (or going further), and beyond that, do you trust your public officials.

If you don't trust your public officials, then think about which public officials or experts you do trust, and look at what their advice (or what criteria they are recommending) is at the time of reopening.
posted by plonkee at 2:40 AM on April 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I thought of another thing. Your employer. My place is incredibly supportive at the moment of parents coping with the challenges of working from home and providing childcare at the same time, essentially reducing expectations without penalty and just asking that people 'contribute what they can' to the organisation. If daycare and schools are reopened, I expect that may change for us pretty quickly, and if someone chose not to send their child back then (barring any additional mitigating circumstances) there may not be any real accommodation given.
posted by plonkee at 4:48 AM on April 25, 2020 [5 favorites]

We're in a similar boat. Our daycare sent us an email survey asking when we think we'd come back- May (assuming the stay at home order is lifted and they can reopen for non-essential workers), June, or July. We opted for June- our state isn't a hot spot, but the response has been such that things really aren't under control, and we're also kind of dependent on how the state to our south is doing. We also don't entirely trust our governor to put people's health first when reopening.

That gives us six weeks or so to see how things are going if things are opened up and we can tough it out through the ridiculous schedule we've hashed out until then. And in any case, this might be a moot point depending on if the current stay at home order gets extended.
posted by damayanti at 5:42 AM on April 25, 2020

Best answer: My wife is a daycare director and has worked in daycare for 20+ years. She was just telling me this morning about the new guidelines for daycare, and although I understand them, I don't think they are good for kids. Teachers in masks can't smile at babies. What are the developmental consequences of an infant not seeing a human face all day? (Maybe we need clear masks?) No hugging, touching, kids have to be kept away from each other, no shared toys, etc. In short - it sounds like a completely miserable experience for both the kids and the teachers, and she believes it will have negative consequences on the kids' development if it becomes the new norm. Not to mention the new regulations if they become regulations will dramatically reduce the number of kids that can be in one daycare center, which is going to dramatically increase costs for parents. These guidelines are suggestions coming from the national associations, so they may or may not ever get implemented, but daycare may be a very different experience than it was in the before times, and that may influence decisions about if you really want your child back in daycare.
posted by COD at 6:15 AM on April 25, 2020 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, all - clearly this is a waiting game and we'll need to see how things are looking in a few weeks/months.
posted by Synesthesia at 2:58 PM on April 26, 2020

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