The Thing About Jardines

Alternative title for this post: How I Gave Into Societal Pressure and Put My 18 Month Old In School

The thing about living in Bogota on an American salary is that we fall into the “upper class” of Bogota. I grew up in the bottom of middle class, and so it feels very strange to me to be living in one of the nicest neighborhoods of Bogota, surrounded by rich Colombians.

We may differ in many ways from the way we dress, the food we eat, the lifestyle we live – but probably the biggest difference between us and our neighbors is that until a month ago, Ingrid was still at home.

Here in Bogota, Colombians all send their children to jardines (daycares with an education component) at very young ages. I’ve been asked by nannies and Colombian mothers many times – “When will Ingrid go to a jardín?” or “What jardín does she go to?”

I try to explain that in the United States, most kids don’t go to school until age 3, 4 – often 5! Of course, if both parents work out of the home, they’ll be in a daycare of sorts – but many, many children are home with a parent or nanny until preschool. It’s unheard of to have a child in daycare at such a young age if a parent is at home. It’s just too expensive.

But here, it’s the norm for most socio-economic levels. By 12-18 months, many kids are in jardines for the mornings. Many of my expat friends here expressed the same sentiment as me – it feels early to put them in “school”, but… it’s not that expensive, and it’s the custom here, so off they go. Often this is prompted by the birth of a younger sibling or a parent going back to work.

Oftentimes families still have empleadas or nannies – or both. A common practice is to have an empleada or nanny that will take the child to the jardín for the morning, spend the morning taking care of the house, and the rest of the day with the child when they come home from school.

When we arrived in Bogota, it made more financial sense for us to hire an empleada/nanny full-time, rather than send Ingrid to daycare part-time. It was around the same cost, and we needed the help while I was in school and then pregnant and miserably sick every day.

Then, in the last few months, for a variety of reasons, we decided to put Ingrid in a jardín a few mornings a week and only pay for a part-time empleada (we could do without, but we didn’t want to leave her without any income). After only one month, I can say it was the right decision. Ingrid loves going to jardín, doing all the activities, playing with other children. She only cried the first few days when I left her, and now she happily and excitedly goes with her teachers to her classroom. She’s already picking up additional Spanish words (she understood Spanish before, but most of her words were English) and her personality has become more independent.
Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash —NOT my child 🙂

The benefits weren’t just for her – having a few hours of total quiet in the house has given me the ability to work more efficiently and just take a break before our next baby joins us in a few short months.

I often feel guilty about this – I’m barely working! None of my friends back home have this luxury – why shouldn’t I be solely responsible for my child? But then when her “teachers” tell me what they did that morning, I remember why I’m paying for this. There’s no freakin’ way  I am going to blow up a baby pool and fill it with oatmeal to create a sensory activity for my toddler.

So instead, I just enjoy the three hours of blissful silence a few days a week and I’m going to finish my cup of tea while it’s still hot.

… At least, I will until baby 2 makes his arrival in October.

2 thoughts on “The Thing About Jardines

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