Working moms are faced with a really difficult choice when it’s time to head back to work after having a baby: Hire a nanny? Place their child in a daycare facility? Here’s some good news as you weigh your decision especially if the daycare vs. nanny debate is leaning toward daycare: An abundance of evidence to suggest that the benefits of daycare are many and last through to adulthood.
So the next time that mom guilt about leaving your child with what may seem like strangers kicks in, take heart and know that you’re making a really smart choice in choosing daycare both for you and for your child.
I am also writing from a deep well of experience as the proud working mom of two boys who began their time in daycare when they were infants. Finding a daycare provider that is right for you, and for your baby is essential to giving you peace of mind as you get ready to go back to work after baby.
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Not All Daycare Providers Are Created Equally
If you allow yourself to Google “daycare,” you may be met with some weirdly horrific stories that paint a picture of children being left alone in closets, neglectful and abusive teachers, and worse. I’d love to say that we live in a world where leaving your child with anyone means that they will always be safe. (But we all know that just ain’t true).
This is why it’s essential that you do your research about the local daycare providers near you and learn both from parents who have children currently enrolled, as well as searching public records to assess the safety and quality of care that a potential daycare may provide.
The Difference Between a Home Daycare Facility and a Preschool Daycare
A home daycare facility or family daycare is exactly what it sounds like: Often owner operated out of someone’s personal home, the numbers of students tend to be small which is appealing to some parents who like that focused one on one attention.
There can also be a wide range of ages within one group (one facility we toured had everything from an 18 month old to an 8 year old).
There is anecdotal evidence that suggests that a mixed variety of ages in a learning environment is good for both older and younger children.
The older children can learn patience, compassion, and often become “helpers” for the younger children, while the younger ones tend to learn language and are challenged by activities and engagement that is geared for a much older student.
The downside to this mixed age learning environment is that there tends to be more behavioral, educational, and emotional challenges both for your child and for the daycare provider.
Structure such as a guaranteed nap for your baby may not be as easily achieved especially if they’re the only one and the provider has a full day of activities planned.
A pre-school daycare has more of a traditional school setting which tends to categorize children by ages into separate rooms with designated teachers.
Depending on your state laws (and most states have the same laws) the ratio of teachers to student are strictly enforced (or at least they should be).
The challenge can come from being sure your child is not just one of the crowd, but it does provide ample opportunities for socialization with children their own age, as well as age appropriate learning materials and attention.
Personally, I prefer a school type daycare setting as they often have multiple checks and balances both for staff and children in their care. All daycare facilities do require background checks performed (which you can look up here).
For us, knowing that there were multiple adults who were interacting with our child, and with each other provided a sense of comfort.
At a school based or preschool daycare there is also, typically, a system in place to detail any unfortunate incidents such as biting or hitting (which is totally age appropriate).
I’m sure there are some really great family daycares out there, but my impression after touring several, was that there was more of a chance for things to go wrong and for me to never know about it.
Your Daycare Children Will Have a Lower Chance of Depression
This was surprising to learn.
This article in the Huffington Post sites a study that examined the children of 1500 mothers with a diagnosed depression.
Children born to mothers with a history of depression are at risk to inherit some of these qualities, but this risk declined somewhat dramatically (by about 79%) for children who attended at least one year of daycare.
“The results showed that children of depressed mothers were at an increased risk of emotional problems compared with other children, but this risk fell if they received child-care services.”
Another study conducted by Journal of Epedimiology and Community Health took a close look at the social skills of children who attended daycare for more than one year up until they were 8 years old.
These children time and again exhibited strong socialization skills and had less peer-related difficulties than the students who did not attend daycare.
“Access to high-quality childcare in the first years of life may improve children’s emotional and cognitive development, prevent later emotional difficulties and promote prosocial behaviours,” Dr. Maria Melchior, co-author of the report said.
Daycare is a Giant Petri Dish Of Germs! This is a a Good Thing!
Your daycare child is going to get sick. A lot. And it is just as bad as it sounds I can guarantee (especially after surviving two children who were sick for months on end).
But more and more, evidence suggests that this early and often exposure to a variety of immune building germs is kind of a good thing.
Please don’t mistake going to daycare as an alternative for vaccinations. Vaccinations save lives. And besides most daycares require that your child is fully immunized.
I’m talking about the average run of the mill childhood cold.
Studies show that delaying children to begin school until kindergarten or even pre-school, can increase the odds that the same “sickness curve” will occur, just later in your child’s early life.
And depending on the sickness, it may even be a bit more intense than if they were to have it when they were babies.
Personally, I’d rather my boys miss all their schooling when they don’t need to learn anything worth really needing to remember. But these important immunities aren’t just limited to the common cold.
This study conducted by Australian researchers and utilizing a pool of about 10,000 students, found that those who attend daycare are at risk of developing more ear infections then their home based buddies.
But that’s mostly where it ends. Their risk of having recurring or ongoing ear infections into elementary school were limited. They’re getting the crap out of their system momma!
Sending your child to daycare may also prevent them from getting childhood cancer.
I’m still kind of wrapping my head around this one but the studies are FASCINATING.
Researchers from the Institut National de la Sante et de la Rechereche Medicale in France took a closer look at 280 cases of childhood cancer (leukemia) and found a direct correlation between children who had been in a daycare facility and those who had not. In fact, for the daycare group they were less likely to develop leukemia.
What the fuck? Right?
The theory is that because children who were home weren’t as exposed to a variety of infections, they end up having an overactive reaction to germs later on, leading to a compromised immune system such as in the case of leukemia.
This additional study reported in the Journal, Science Daily reports that children who attend daycare or regularly scheduled playgroups have about a 30% chance lower risk of developing a common form of leukemia.
The Routine of Daycare Helps Children Learn and Regulate Emotions
It’s no secret that toddlers and babies crave routine.
I didn’t fully appreciate the awesomeness of a routine until Sam was born.
Being able to keep Jack in the routine he had become accustomed, I believe, helped him adjust to a new baby.
Additionally, having a routine each day helps to soothe children in a way that opens them up to be able to learn and absorb more information.
And being able to have my child experience the learning curve of learning to regulate their emotions with and without me is invaluable. In fact, learning how to regulate emotions at a young age has been proved to be beneficial to children in a number of ways.
Here’s a bit more about what emotional regulation is and why it’s important.
Daycare Kids are Better Prepared for Academics In Elementary School
While this certainly depends on the quality of care your child is receiving, this study published by the University of Virginia found that children who attended a formal childcare program had significantly better reading and math skills as compared to children who went to a home-based childcare or who did not attend any daycare facility at all.
It’s also worth noting that the researchers found a vast disparity between the quality of educational resources in the daycares they studied.
So much so that it opens up a lot of questions about the regulation of this education.
And ultimately becomes a rabbit hole of more funding to private childcare facilities, and resources to train childcare teachers, and on and on and on.
As the mom of two childcare babies, I can 100% agree. We would do anything to get into the “good” teacher at the boy’s school verses the one who was “fine” but not nearly as good.
Toddler Socialization and Problem Solving is Learned Early
To become a functioning adult with the ability to work with others is a learned behavior and it comes with a lot of practice of being involved in different social situations and ultimately, conflicts.
The little filter-less world of day care offers an opportunity for your child to practice this a lot.
Of course there’s more than just what your child says. Their non-verbal communication is just as important and even more so, picking up on other’s non verbal communication is something that children in daycare get to learn and practice as well.
In 2013 Dutch researchers studied 5-year-olds who were playing a two-person game. They found that the more days children spent in daycare, the more likely they were able to adapt and adjust their communication style to the other player.
This suggests that the more children are exposed to a variety of different styles of communication, and ultimately different personalities, the more easily they are able to recognize and adapt to this.
And honestly this is a skill that will help them be prepared for LIFE. How often have you met a new co-worker who is kind of a dick but you have to work with him anyway? Or deal with someone with bad customer service.
My boys have learned exponentially about dealing with the “bully,” the “biter,” the “best friend,” the loud one,” the “one who doesn’t listen,” the “pusher,” the “scratcher,” and so on. They’ve also, at times, been some version of all of these. (Except the biter. We got lucky there.)
Since my boys have been in daycare they are learning how to deal with uncomfortable situations and yes, even uncomfortable people, which is a life lesson I wouldn’t be able to teach them any other way.
Now, they know how to claim their space.
And when they head to kindergarten they will be so much better prepared for larger classes and smaller teacher ratios.
Daycare Makes You a More Involved Parent
The stereotype of the daycare mom who doesn’t give a shit is…well wrong.
It may sound counter intuitive but when you begin your time as a new working parent continuously juggling work schedules to attend a school show or a parent teacher conference, you get practiced at figuring out how to do exactly that.
A study conducted by the University of Texas at Austin looked at 1300 children to study if daycare involvement early impacted a mother’s involvement in their school later on.
The study found that for the moms whose children attended daycare (and it didn’t really matter where – in home or at a school facility) they were more likely to be involved in their children’s school from the jump.
They were even more involved than mothers who cared for their kids themselves up until kindergarten.
The participation in their child’s schooling included regular communication with teachers, attending open house meetings, and establishing friendships with other parents.
I’ve got some really great mom friends I’ve met from the events at our boys school and I look forward to meeting more when they start kindergarten.
Also I’m kind of a pro now at meeting these moms because of all this fucking practice.
Daycare Children Continue to Benefit Well Into Adulthood
This article in Time Magazine sites a study published in the journal Developmental Psychology. In this study, researchers determined that children who attended a high-quality child care in the 1970’s are still reaping the benefits decades later.
The children “were four times more likely to have earned college degrees than members of a control group — 23% compared to 6%.”
My Kids Learn Things I Don’t Know How to Teach
I am the proud working mom of two boys who began their time in daycare when they were infants.
Sure I could belly up to Pinterest and try to schedule out a day of activities and make crafts. But I’ve never been that crafty.
I can sew, barely.
I can glue shit together, kind of.
I personally don’t have the personality or disposition to learn how to teach young children how to recognize letters and colors, do basic math, write their name, and a myriad of a million other things (yes, even my children).
I’m grateful for the teachers and educators my kids have had that are not only interested in doing this kind of thing, but love it and also do it so well.
My four year old can recognize and write nearly every letter in the alphabet, not because he’s some super genius, but because he was in a loving environment where he was encouraged to learn this on his own time and with his own applications.
When it’s time for you to look for a place for your child to be loved and cared for while you return to work, please consider putting them in a licensed daycare facility.
Personally, I love the Montessori model of schools and would recommend that above most others.
But, you have to tour many to get a sense of precisely what kind of school best suits your child and your family (and your budget!).
If you found this post helpful, I’d love it if you could share it with other mommas debating on sending their kids to daycare. Feel free to pin it on Pinterest (you can use the pin below!) or copy paste to your favorite social media outlet.