Summer Me-Time: Selfish or Stupendous?

Last Friday was the final day of the school year. This Monday was the first weekday of summer break. I don’t have to step foot on my school’s campus for eight glorious weeks.

And yet, I dropped my daughter off at daycare on Monday and Tuesday and I’ll do so again today. Just like I’ll drop her off tomorrow and Friday and almost every day for the rest of the summer.

You see, I have to pay for my daughter’s spot all summer to secure her admittance for the fall. Our preschool is a working parents’ preschool, open 8am to 6pm, 50 weeks out of the year. It makes perfect sense that you need to keep your child in all year, or else someone else will swoop in and take your spot.

I have to pay for my daughter to be there, and so I plan on taking her. Sure I dropped her down to three days a week (the lowest attendance package they offer) for the month of July, and I would have done that all summer except a month is all they’ll give me. And sure I’ll pull her out a few days here and there, to go to on special outings that will be more fun on a weekday than a crowded weekend. But most days my daughter will be at day care, even though she doesn’t have to be.

And I don’t feel bad about that.

But I do feel kind of bad about not feeling bad. I do wonder if I’m a horrible mother for not just paying for my daughter’s spot but keeping her at home. Isn’t that what someone who really loves this mothering thing would do? Isn’t that what someone who really loves their child would WANT to do?

I honestly don’t know the answer to those questions, but I assume everyone else does. And I assume they’re judging me for the choice I’m making.

The thing is, I’m paying for my daughter to be at day care. The idea of paying for something I’m not even using really bothers me. Especially when that thing is an opportunity for my daughter to improve her ever-growing Spanish language skills. Sure I can speak to her in Spanish, but not like three native speaking teachers can. Plus she gets to be with all her friends, playing and painting and sculpting with playdough and clay. It also provides a regularity I know she craves.

And yet, I wonder if all of those reasons for why she should be there are just excuses that I use to make myself feel better. Because the reality is, if I have to pay for it, I’d rather drop her off every day and have the 5-7 hours to myself. I actually really enjoy having that time. I’m getting good stuff done. And it’s nice to be away from my little girl for a bit, because frankly, she drives me kind of crazy. The thought of being home with her all day, every day for eight weeks is kind of terrifying.

Of course I’m dropping her off WAY later than I normally do and I’m picking her up earlier too. She’s not there for the full-time working parent day like she is when I’m teaching. And twice a week I use that freedom to tutor, making important extra spending money for our family. But the rest of the time? The rest of the time I’m just running errands or doing dishes or finishing laundry or exercising or working in the yard. I’m doing things that I usually don’t have time to do, and I’m reveling in the opportunity to do them without anything else getting in my way.

I’ve never had a summer with my child in daycare before. Her first summer she was a newborn and I was home on maternity leave. Her next two summers I was with her every day. And honestly, if I could have saved the $2000+ I would have pulled her for the summer this year too, but I couldn’t. And since I can’t save the money, it seems foolish to waste it.

So I’m not. And I’m getting some much needed me time. And I’m trying really hard not to feel guilty about it, but it’s hard, because feeling guilty is what mother’s do best.

If you had to pay for your child’s daycare spot while you weren’t working, would you send them to school or would you keep him or her home? Would guilt be involved either way?

20 responses

  1. Most parents I know who have their children in daycare are forced with the same dilemma and most make the same decision you have made. I think me-time is one of those things that allows us to parent better. I mean, would Isa choose to sacrifice 15 hours/week with you in order for you to be refreshed and engaged? Probably. Plus, it’s probably good for her to be able to retain relationships with her daycare providers and peers.

  2. I don’t think that’s bad. (I think it’s remarkable that you have such a thing as a working parent preschool at all, actually.) I think it’s good for HER to have continued regular socialization over the summer … once she’s used to that environment, does she need you every second? No, and she will learn differently there without you, with her peers. It’s good for both of you, IMHO.

  3. I totaly agree with you. both of my kids are in our work daycare (i know pretty amazing to have a daycare at work open from 6 am to 6 pm…). We are allowed to take the kids out a week without paying once a year, but to keep their spot we have to pay for the rest of the year. if we take a day off to do things around the house the kids will stay in daycare for sure! I don’t feel bad…they have a great time and we usually plan something fun in the evening with them….

  4. The questions I am currently grappling with are so far away from this that it’s not even funny. But I am pretty sure that faced with those circumstances I would make the exact same decision. Especially with the new one on the way, I think that some you-time is deserved, and required.

  5. I’m going through this now. I don’t have the summer off, but I have maternity leave coming up and I plan on keeping my 3 year old in daycare/preschool full time. Then I will be returning to work part-time. My 3 year old will stay in daycare full time. The 4 day a week cost is exactly the same as the 5 day a week rate. Sure, he’ll be in there less. I’ll drop him off before the structured day begins and pick him up right after nap time.
    Part of me feels guilty. But most of me feels relief. I will have one on one time with the baby. I won’t be a crazy mess. My son will continue to learn and thrive in daycare. He loves daycare!

    • I will also be doing this when I’m on maternity leave but that doesn’t make me feel as guilty because I’ll be home with the baby. But who knows, maybe when the time comes I will feel bad. 😉

  6. We will have the same situation during my maternity leave this time and Stella will 100% be going to daycare. We are paying for it after all! I don’t think it’s a selfish decision at all! You can be more productive and get cleaning/cooking/errands done during the day to spend more intensive 1-on-1 time with her in the early mornings and evenings. I think it’s a great plan!

  7. I’m between projects and only have a few minutes to reply but REALLY felt the need to assure you that this is totally OK. A happy mom is a good mom. A sane rested accomplished mom is a happy mom. A kid who gets good interaction and creative stimulation with peers and teachers is a happy and balanced kid. I see no reason to take your daughter out for the summer, especially since you would still lose the money! AND I’m really jealous of the day care you have found for her! What I would not give to be able to put my Chicken in something similar in the future. Enjoy your time off and leave the guilt behind 🙂

  8. When I was unemployed I did this exact thing. We’re allowed to pull them out for 2 weeks a year, so I took J out for one. The rest if the time I brought him in an hour later and picked him up an hour earlier, but that’s it. During maternity leave, I think I kept him home 4 days to be together. So we can feel guilty together!

  9. Stupendous! The phrase it takes a village to raise a child is true. The difference is that we don’t all live close to lots of relatives and other sources of villagers are needed. Like daycare.

  10. Having just read Bringing up Bebe what strikes me is the fact that European women would not even ask themsel this question. It is a particular American penchant for feeling like we have to spend every single moment with our children or we are doing wrong. I think it is important to do what feels best to you. There are very real benefits to that socialization that children get away from home. The confidence, the awareness of being in a community, all of that. My brother and the mothers of his children have a nanny, full-time preschool and camps. One of the mothers went to sleep away camp from the time she was very young, like five…Most of the summer. My mother went to camp from the time she was five until she was old enough to be a counselor all summer long.

    Now that Zoe is 3 1/2 I see things very differently then I did in the tunnel vision of her infancy and first couple of years. If we were to have another child which is not in the cards I think I would make similar choices to the Europeans. I understand my mother-in-law so much better now. It truly has been a cultural rift between us as it relates to my daughter.

    Sorry for the novel, I think it’s great to take time for yourself your daughter is safe, engaged, happy and healthy. It shouldn’t be a sin to give yourself some time.


  11. Your daughter needs the HER time with her peers too! She will be happier and can do some other things that you might not be doing at home. I think it is GREAT that she gets this Summer Camp Experience…(changing the name may change your slight guilt edge.) HOWEVER, We, Your Readers, Do Not Need you to take time off from blogging. WE need your posts. Laughing at myself and so appreciating you. AND REMEMBER IT IS SUMMER CAMP YOU ARE LETTING HER ATTEND. Changes the whole image……..

  12. “But I do feel kind of bad about not feeling bad. I do wonder if I’m a horrible mother for not just paying for my daughter’s spot but keeping her at home. Isn’t that what someone who really loves this mothering thing would do? Isn’t that what someone who really loves their child would WANT to do?”


    I don’t know about your kid, but my kid loves daycare and gets a lot out of it. More than that, I appreciate my kid a lot more when we have some time apart. There’s enough guiltmongering as it is. Besides, the one-adult one-kid model is unnatural and relatively modern. Childrearing has been done all sorts of ways throughout time, but generally in groups of adults and kids. (Our Babies, Ourselves is a great book for the anthropology of childrearing.)

  13. I did the exact same thing! I also teach and have to keep paying for daycare in the summer. She went 3 times a week. I secretly loved my me time, but felt bad about it at the same time. I finally came to terms with the fact that 24/7 with her makes me much grumpier and overwhelmed by the smallest things. I’m a better mom because I have breaks. 🙂

    Oh, and when my baby was born in the late winter and I was on maternity leave, it was awesome to have some alone time with the baby. It made the transition to two kids so much easier!

  14. Do not give any guilt about this one ounce of your energy. You’ve paid for Isa to go already, and it will be much less disruptive to her schedule if you keep her there this summer rather than stop then restart once school starts again.

    Also you’re pregnant, and need to have time to rest and take care of yourself. Enjoy this summer and your alone time!

  15. Looks like you get the affirmation that you clearly wanted when you posted this – what kind of answers did you think you’d get?

    I get that Isa can be a handful (my elder was too) but for all your hard struggle to have kids it seems a shame that what could be a really special time with a child at a talking, walking, interesting age before it all changes (and gets a whole lot harder with 2, and things revolve around the little one and are always different) will be spent apart. You might find that having slow time together might be really beneficial when you’re not in a routine of having to be places or do pickups and dropoffs and that giving her concentrated time to just be with you helps both your relationship with her and her adjustment to the baby?

    • Eh. You have two full days a week by yourself with her next month and you can pick her up at any time you choose if you are missing her or feel she needs mommy time. She LOVES her school, too. She really thrives there.

      Sounds like a win-win to me…

    • I’m not sure Esperanza was expecting affirmation, but even if she was, I’m not sure why that is a bad thing? Isn’t that what blogging is all about – putting your thoughts out there and being pleasantly surprised at the chorus of “me too!”s and thinking hard about the comments that (hopefully politely) challenge your perspective?

      Esperanza, I say kudos for admitting that you feel guilty for not feeling guilty… that’s how I feel about daycare overall. I would do what you’re doing too. Maybe plan some special days here and there too, but you get to take some time to do projects you want to do and she gets to continue to thrive in a routine and socialize with other kids. I think it sounds like a smart, reasoned decision.

  16. Late to the party, but I say: stupendous! Good for you! We are doing the same thing, and in a way it’s even “worse” because my husband is also a teacher and we’re both home much of the summer (I work a few days a week, but my schedule is very flexible and I often go to campus for only three or four hours at a time). Yes, we’d love to have the money we’re paying in preschool/daycare back, but we don’t want to risk losing our spot and we’re taking advantage of this time to do household projects, reconnect with each other, and do some important self/family care and planning. I don’t see this as indulgent at all. I see this as necessary to the running of a peaceful happy household, and I think the kids benefit a great deal from the arrangement. I think we’re really going to miss the option of full day preschool/daycare in a few years when the kids head off to kindergarten and we’re scrambling to make things work during the summer months.

    I like Wordgirl’s point that the American obsession with mothers feeling guilty is problematic. Try to let go of the guilt whenever possible. It’s hard because we live in this strange pressure-cooker environment where every other week we see an article or news story about how mothers/women are doing it all wrong (whatever “it” is). I think we all need to shrug off the temptation to listen to those stories too much, or to internalize them into our own lives. Instead, we need to do what feels right for us and our families.

    Oh, and for the record, I never read your posts as asking for simple affirmation. Of course you’re seeking affirmation in the sense of wanting to hear others’ experiences and wanting to know what we think, but c’mon Louise! I think Louise has read too many of those news stories about “right” and “wrong” mothering (or even “right” or “wrong” ways to blog). Ridiculous.

  17. I think it sounds lovely to have some time to yourself (especially as you prepare for kid #2). And given that you’re using some of that time to spend hours pulling up weeds, I’m not sure you need ot feel too guilty… Plus, it sounds like your daughter will be having lots of fun at school.
    My partner is a teacher and our son’s preschool is flexible enough to not require us to pay to hold his spot over the summer. So Roo has stayed home with Tadpole for the last several summers. But last year (when he was 3 1/2) was tough! They had some lovely times, but it was also incredibly exhuasting. He was refusing to nap, so the days were really really long. Our solution this summer has been to sign him up for some half-day camps. So Roo and Tad have some time to hang out, but he also has fun activities with other kids–and she gets some time to catch her breath!
    I can totally see the pressure to feel guilty about keeping her in daycare, but I think it’s great that you’re able to look at the options and figure out what’s best for you and your family.

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