Mom Guilt: The Saga of Opposing Child Care Approaches


mom guilt

The mom guilt is real. For all of us. Right now, though, I’m feeling particularly guilty as I compare and contrast the early learning experiences that are so drastically different for my two children. My kids are almost four years apart, which I’m sure has something to do with the different approaches we’ve taken in their childcare. The global pandemic surely has a big influence as well. But, I can’t help but ignore all logical reasoning in my brain and feel nothing but guilt and insecurity.

My son started daycare when he was four months old. The daycare had a curriculum, even for babies! He went to daycare for three full days and spent time with both sides of his grandparents the other two days per week. We had a great routine and I was so confident that we were doing what was best for him, there was limited mom guilt about his care.

When my son was 3.5, and I was on the brink of having our second child, we switched him to a Montessori preschool close to our home. It was less expensive, still an amazing learning experience for him, and close to home. While I was still working before his little sister was born, he also went to aftercare. He made new friends, learned how to play with the “big kids,” and was having a great time. After the baby was born, he still went to school full time, but we stopped the aftercare.

Now, enter the second child, and along comes the second-guessing. My husband and I decided that we would keep our baby girl home and out of daycare until she was one year old. Between my extended maternity leave (5.5 months), my husband’s flexible work schedule, and grandparents close by, it would be easy. I could logically justify this decision, though guilt was starting to lurk. Was I prioritizing finances over my baby’s learning? Would she be behind when she finally did go to school?

Flash forward to the end of my maternity leave… We knew she was staying home and I was returning to work. All felt good. It would only be a few months and she’d be going to daycare that Fall after she turned one. I went back to work in March 2020 – the same time that the US started quarantine efforts. We had already made arrangements for her to be home until the Fall, so nothing changed immediately. But, as things got more serious, we knew we had to have a backup plan. There was no way I’d be sending my baby to daycare during a global pandemic! Our backup plan became a reality, and she’s now been home with my husband (who stepped away from working to care for her and my son while I’m working during the day) for a full year now.

My son is still going to preschool in-person, but he’s really the only one that ever leaves the house. He wishes he could go to aftercare, but the risk isn’t worth it and there’s no real reason he would need to go with my husband home. I can justify that. What I feel guilty for, though,  is that he can’t hang out with friends outside of school. He can’t go to his ninja class every Saturday. He can’t start organized sports.

Meanwhile, I’m also questioning postponing my daughter’s entrance into child care. When she finally goes, is she going to have an awful transition? Is she going to be behind everyone else? Even worse: is she going to be behind where her brother was at that age? When I talk myself into not feeling guilty about her situation, I start an internal debate with myself on the opposing view – should I have not sent my son to school so young? Did we waste all that money?

Even between two siblings with opposing upbringings into early learning, I have conflicting views and am not confident with either choice we’ve made. I don’t have an answer to the mom guilt. I struggle daily as I make the best-informed decisions that I can, and I learn to live with them. What I do hope, though, is that other mamas out there realize that they aren’t alone. We all question everything that we do for our kids because we always want the best for them. Let’s give ourselves some grace, especially during these unprecedented times, and try to let go of some of the mom guilt.


  1. I feel this deeply. We were sending both of our children full time to an early learning academy before the pandemic. We were planning to move our oldest to a Montessori school in the area for the summer, but when the pandemic hit, we pulled both girls from the early learning academy. The Montessori school did not open to new children during the summer, so for six months both girls were home with us. Our oldest was two (almost three) and the youngest at ten months in March 2020. In August, we began sending the oldest to the Montessori school because we could tell she really needed to be around other kids her age. She missed the routine of her early learning academy and we could not provide her the experience that the early learning academy provided (especially while trying to juggle working from home). Since my husband and I are still working from home, our youngest has not returned to the early learning academy. We do have plans to send her back this summer, but I worry about the same things as you stated. Will she transition okay? Will she be behind her sister at that age? Will she be behind the other kids that returned as soon as they could? I hope the transition goes okay and she does learn quickly, but it doesn’t stop the worry that maybe we should’ve sent her back sooner

    It was really comforting to know I’m not alone. Thank you for sharing your story, Marianne!

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