The church that our family attends has a wonderful children's program.
There are classes for kids (nursery through high school). In the summer and during school breaks, there are camps and outings and service projects. The whole thing is organized quite efficiently. The classes are clean and bright. The people are nice. In fact, Susan (the woman who is in the 2-year-old classroom almost every week) is fantastic with kids and is super conscientious about their health & well-being.
That said, I still don't leave my almost-3-year-old in the class (and I never have). Nor do I leave her 5-month-old sister in the nursery.
It's obviously a very personal decision and I certainly respect that many parents feel differently than I do for a variety of reasons...and that is perfectly okay. Every child and every family is different. But I thought I'd share my "reasons" in case you're curious why we do the things we do:
1. I don't want my baby to cry. If I leave my baby in a stranger's arms, she cries...which I think is perfectly healthy and good. Quite frankly, "Separation Anxiety" gets a bad rap in our culture. It's actually a very positive thing, in my opinion. It seems to me that a baby should cry if they are left in the care of someone unfamiliar. It's actually a bit disconcerting to me that our culture will look at a baby who can be dropped off anywhere with anyone without crying and say, "What a well-adjusted baby!" And then, when a baby cries when dropped off in an unfamiliar setting, people shake their heads and say, "tsk. tsk." It baffles me, really. I actually tend to think the opposite. If a baby cries when given to a stranger, I tend to think "What a smart and astute baby. She really knows her parents."
So my 5-month-old stays right where she should be - close to me, close to my heart. And we accompany her big sister to the 2-year-old class. My 2-year-old and I have had many conversations about the kids' class and she likes it, but always politely asks me to stay with her. She assures me that she will go to the class by herself "when I get bigger." And I am 100% okay with that. Pretty soon, she'll be scampering off and waving "good-bye" - just like that. For now, we'll stay together.
2. I don't want someone else to change my child's diaper/take my child to the potty. Again, this is totally a personal preference thing, but I just like to do "personal hygiene" tasks myself. My husband and I try to instill a sense of "privacy" and modesty in our girls - and I'd rather them not think it's okay for others to see their sweet bottoms.
3. I don't want my kids to get sick. Babies slobber on everything. Toddlers don't know to cover their mouths when they sneeze. So they gladly "share" their sicknesses (snotty noses, coughs, sore throats, etc.). I'm always surprised when I talk to a parent on Saturday and hear that their child is throwing up...and then they come waltzing up to the kids' area on Sunday to drop off their child. It happens surprisingly often.
4. The ratio of kids to adults is too high. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the focus, energy, and physicality that is required to care for my two girls - and I just have two. Then, I go to the "kids' class" at church and there are over ten 1 and 2 year olds...and two adults. They do a phenomenal job, but they only have four hands between them.
5. MOST OF ALL, I want to be with my kids. I like being with my kids. Sometimes people ask me if I want to leave my baby in the nursery and "get a break" - and I'm sure I get a rather quizzical expression on my face. Because that wouldn't be a break for me.
A break would be hanging out in my 2-year-old's room in our pajamas, watching her jump "high in the sky" on her bed and then reading story after story under the covers, stopping to make her baby sister smile and laugh. Yes, I fully acknowledge that "playing the day away" (as my 2-year-old calls it) is exhausting too - but it's also oddly comforting.
A break would be going for a run or out to coffee with my 5-month-old and a friend for an hour, while my husband has some daddy-daughter time with my older one.
A break would be an evening walk with my family.
But leaving my baby in a nursery? A break, that is not.
When I first had my older daughter, I felt a bit self-conscious about our decision. I felt questioning eyes on me when I brought my baby into the church service week-after-week. I felt timid, unsure.
But now I don't. Now, I realize what works for our family and do it - gently, peacefully, with a smile on my face.