The guilt of having our kids in day care 5 days a week

“That’s a long day for such little kids isn’t it?” she said condescendingly, giving me a look as if I’d literally just killed someone.

dads, fathering, parenthood, parenting, motherhood, kids, family

We recently moved from Sydney to Melbourne.

We don’t have any family down here and don’t really have anyone who can look after the kids on a consistent basis, so both of our kids are in day care 5 days a week from 8:30am-5.30pm.

Ok, I tell a lie. It’s actually closer to 8-6pm….But you see, the previous sounds a little more socially acceptable.

I told that to someone the other day, and the reaction and facial expression I got as a response was literally as if I’d just killed someone.

“That’s a long day for such little kids isn’t it” they said condescendingly.

Yes Janice, it is a bloody long day for all of us by the time I get them home, feed them and do some stuff around the house.

Well, that what I said in my head at least. And her name wasn’t Janice, it just sounds better.

Seriously though, what else do they expect we do?


The day care guilt trip

We both have full time jobs, and my partner isn’t going to give into societal pressures or an outdated tradition that says she should automatically give up work and raise the kids.

But I often see her looking around and feeling guilty that we both work and don’t spend as much time with our kids as other non-working parents.

Where does that guilt come from?

Well, the fact is that if you have your kids in day care 5 days a week, many people will still look at you as if you’re a bad parent.

We like to think that society has let go our outdated traditions, but the reality is that some of them still linger and cause a lot of damage to parents.

A few of the lines we hear from others include “But it’s not good for them to be away from you for that long is it?” or “They’ll develop bad behaviours if they’re not with you.”

For any parent with kids in day care, this stuff is hard to hear.

It’s also easy to get frustrated about. For this reason, there are some very strong opinions on both sides of the issue.

But the important question is really: what impact does day care really have on kids?


The impacts of day care

Guess what Janice? Your opinions are not facts.

There’s been some recent research published in Norway that sheds light on how day care impacts kids.

In short, the research examined whether the amount of time kids spend in day care has an impact on their learning and development.

The study investigated 75,000 kids with a mix of ages who attended regular day care.

Cutting to the juicy stuff, the results highlighted that there was very little evidence that regularly spending time in day care caused learning and development issues in the children studied.

But whilst it feels great telling Janice to stuff it. I’d be lying if I said the guilt wasn’t still there.


The guilt isn’t going anywhere, so here’s how to deal with it

No matter what the facts may be, the sad reality is that day care guilt isn’t going away – at least for us.

If you’re dealing with guilt, here’s a couple of tips I can recommend;

  • Dedicate the weekend to your kids. If you can’t do the full weekend then at least aim for a full day – ignore the housework and just have fun with them.
  • Talk to your work about flexibility. Maybe try picking them up an hour early on a friday afternoon, it might not seem like a lot but it’ll have a great affect on you knowing that you’re leaving specifically for them.
  • Make sure the kids are in a good quality day care. It can make the world of difference knowing that your kids are in a nice, clean, stimulating, friendly environment each day.
  • Make the trip to and from day care something fun. Eg. A mission to the moon to find space animals, a trip to the farm to collect magical eggs…you get the picture.


The underlying theme in all of this is not to overthink or complicate it.

Yes, we can feel guilty that we don’t spend as much time with our kids as we’d like if they’re going to day care.

But the best thing you can possibly do is to ignore Janice’s opinions, and just enjoy the time you have with your kids.