At 8pm on Valentine’s Day, I was sitting at a restaurant, waiting for my husband to arrive. The children were at daycare…
Wait. Didn’t you just say it was 8pm? What were your kids doing at daycare at such an ungodly hour? Shouldn’t they be in bed by 7pm, like all the other normal Dutch kids? What is your excuse, you hopeless loser of a mother?
Yes, they were at daycare. We’re expats. We don’t have family close-by. Doing anything, just the two of us requires the planets to align, the stars to be just in the right zodiac, and the phase of the moon to be in just the perfect phase (not too fat, not too thin). But on Valentine’s Day, our daycare had a special event in which they opened the door for all attending kids and their siblings. Until 10pm. Did I mention it was free of charge? So while my kids were wonderfully fed, entertained and pyjama’ed by the daycare nannies they knew and loved, I was sitting at a restaurant, waiting for my husband to arrive.
I was wearing a dress. This is deserving of a special mention because I am the type of person for whom a dress is something you can think about wearing for a second or two before discarding this ridiculous idea in favor of something more comfortable, like jeans. But it was date night! On Valentine’s Day! So yes, I had a red dress on. With daisies! It looked great. I was at our favorite Indian place, but I just couldn’t relax. I was looking at my phone, fully expecting any of these two things to happen: either my husband would call me to tell me he can’t make it after all. Or the daycare would call me to tell me one or all of my kids is sick/injured/crying and is in desperate need of being picked up ASAP. Truth is, the more kids you have the bigger the probability of something happening to them. It’s very simple math.
But on this particular day, nothing happened. My husband arrived, we ordered food and drinks and it was fabulous. The food was delicious, the atmosphere was quiet, and we could have a whole conversation. All thanks to our daycare.
And to think that when my husband suggested sending our eldest daughter there when she was only 6 months old, I was against it! Wasn’t a good mother supposed to take care of her children by herself? I have no idea where this thinking came from, but there it was. It took some persuading from my husband, but my rather fickle mental state and the fact that I was working on my thesis made me consent. It only took one smile on my daughter’s face to appear and I was sold. Needless to say, my other two kids also started at six months old. But that’s not all. Dutch daycare is expensive, but of good quality and it allowed me to graduate, and later to start my blog, and then my freelance writing, ekhm, career. This is not the case with all daycares, but ours is extremely flexible. I can send my son in the afternoons, rather than in the mornings. And a few days a month, I can get half a day “back” which means that he can go full days once in a while.
When that woman called the police on me, the daycare nannies were like a protective wall all around me, testifying in my favour, calming me down, bringing water for me and my children. They allowed me to get a few hours to myself, while my children were taken care of so wonderfully. They did arts and crafts – something I never do, and also taught my kids Dutch, which is very important for expat kids. And in these few hours a day, I could learn the language, and do something for my own integration as well.
So please forgive me if I can’t agree that sending kids to daycare is horrible or selfish. That daycare is bad for children. I know all depends on daycare quality, and that this can be problematic in some countries. But in the Netherlands, I really feel no guilt bringing my kids there. In fact, this is the only thing I’ll be sad about when my son starts school next month. I’m usually happy when my kids grow up, but I’ll be sad about not having daycare anymore.
For us, sending our kids to daycare has been one of the best decisions we’ve ever made for our kids and ourselves, if not the best. It didn’t take long for me to become a daycare convert. But this Valentine’s Day, our daycare nannies and managers really outdid themselves. I’ll never stop being grateful.