In most major cities in Bulgaria, the waiting list for daycare is rather long. I happen to live in one of the smaller cities where open positions in the public daycare centers are not being fought over and there is a possibility for me to enroll Peatuk in daycare. (I am not sure about the exact process or when/how to do this, I just know that there are spaces available.)
The cost of public daycare, if you can enroll, is not bad. It varies from city to city, but generally there is a monthly base fee, between 15-50 bgn, and then a daily fee between 1-2 bgn is added for each day your child actually attends. Some daycare centers have a flat fee, between 45-80 bgn, and other daycares have a higher base fee, such as 80 bgn, but each day your child does not attend an amount is subtracted from the base fee. Compare that with the average of $972/month in the US, and daycare here is absurdly affordable. (Of course, private daycares, such as the Montessori schools available in Varna, are much more expensive, but I have not found a functioning private daycare in Gabrovo yet.)
In Gabrovo, there are 3 public daycare centers. They host 13 groups of children with 19-20 children per group (the largest a group is legally allowed to be is 22 children) and employ around 73 staff. Although these groups are larger than what I would like (ideally, I would like Peatuk in a small group of 7-10 children), it doesn’t seem to be too bad of a ratio.
So, without knowing all of the rules and exact cost, ratio, set up, my first impression is that, at least in my town, daycare seems affordable and flexible.
Originally, Nikola and I ruled out daycare and kindergarten. (Here, there is optional kindergarten from age 3-4, and then a mandatory prep year at age 5 or 6). We wanted Peatuk with us. We wanted him outdoors and exploring on his own. A year and a half later, I am not so sure about that decision, for a few reasons.
- I am not sure if I am cut out to be a “full-time mother.” As much as I love Peatuk, I find it exhausting to be around another human, especially one that requires as much interaction, patience, and energy as a toddler, 24 hours a day.
During the past few months, with my parents here, I have gotten a great break, and I fetched back some of my sanity that had gone out with the first year of childcare. We also hired a babysitter who usually comes for 1-3 hours a week, which is also helpful. But I am not sure if that is enough. 2-3 half days by myself sound luxurious.
Of course, this makes me feel like a ‘bad mother.’ We are trained that mothers should want to be with their young children 24-hours a day. Society doesn’t look down on a father that says he needs a break- needs alone time- spends 10 hours a day at work. But a mother who flat out says that being with her child all the time is too emotionally and mentally draining is seen as a failure. This is a huge struggle for me to come to terms with, one way or the other.
- Peatuk doesn’t get as many creative exercises at home as he would in a daycare center. I imagine daycare filled with coloring, songs, and games. I, sadly, am not the type of person who sings children’s songs all of the time, or creatively builds and plays. I am actually rather boring, by a child’s standards.
In many ways, I think that a daycare worker, trained in child development and experienced with children this age, would be able to give Peatuk many experiences that I wouldn’t think of giving him.
- We only speak English at home. When we lived in Varna, this was not a problem, because Peatuk was around his grandmother enough to be exposed to a similar amount of Bulgarian as English. However, in Gabrovo his exposure to Bulgarian is way too little, and what he is exposed to is mostly secondary.
I would love to speak more Bulgarian in the home, but Nikola and I relate to each other in English. When we speak Bulgarian, it is clearly practice for me, and Nikola is more comfortable speaking to Peatuk in English than Bulgarian.
Spending time in a daycare would expose Peatuk to Bulgarian so he will not struggle to learn the language later in kindergarten or school.
- I have a decent amount of work. For the most part, I work about an hour a day. However, there is more work available, and plenty of work that I could do to help out PD, especially if we get the contract to host a WP training that we are currently bidding on.
Besides commercial work, there is a home that needs to be cleaned (and rarely is), and meals that need to be cooked. There is also the novel that sits, annoyingly, on the back burner and will never be finished.
- I have very few friends with children, and I am already seeing that on the playground Peatuk is far from socialized, compared to other children his age. In a daycare center he would learn how to interact with other children and adults. He seems very curious about other people and I do not want to hold him back because of my own shyness and social anxiety.
With all of these advantages of daycare, I am starting to lean towards giving it a try. However, my heart breaks at the thought of dropping Peatuk off to be cared for by someone else and I have extreme guilt about it. I feel that if I ‘give up’ and send my child to daycare, I no longer deserve to have a second child because I couldn’t care fully for the first. I feel like the hippie in me, that wants my child out of society and building his own thoughts/ideas/experiences is giving up.
In other ways, I feel like I would be a bad mother by denying him the opportunity to go to daycare, be around other people, and learn and grow in ways that I am unable to provide for him.
This question is bringing up a lot of unformed thoughts about what the family unit actually is. The benefits and drawbacks of daycare. Society’s role in raising children and whether I am still a ‘mother’ without being a ‘full-time mom.’
Thoughts from those with children in daycare or those who skipped it?