In some cultures, the government funds high-quality daycare centers and moms are actually encouraged to work. In the U.S., most working moms face judgment from others and feel serious guilt about having to work. Couple that with media reports about the dangers of daycare and you've got a full-on case of mommy stress. The bottom line is that every child care arrangement -- including staying home full-time -- has its pros and cons. The benefits of daycare are mostly dependent on the quality of the relationship your little one has with a caregiver.
Children with early daycare experience may have an advantage later in school, according to a study from the National Institutes of Health. Contrary to what you might think, though, highly academic preschools and daycares aren't the best choice. The best indicators of later school success are nurturing, experienced teachers, a small group size and a playful, developmentally appropriate curriculum.
Young children in daycare learn early on how to navigate social relationships. They learn how to initiate a conversation, ask for what they want and play nicely with friends. They also learn how to follow directions and relate to an adult other than a parent. On the other hand, sooner or later, your precious little one will come home repeating a "potty" word she learned at school, or exhibit other behaviors that make you cringe.
Kids in daycare tend to get more colds and ear infections than those at home, but those same kids tend to get sick less often later because they built an immunity to nasty germs early in life. Many pediatricians recommend using a nanny, family child care or small daycare center for babies and toddlers to reduce early exposure to illness.
Many families rely on a second income to pay the bills. If you need to work for financial reasons, good daycare is a godsend. You can contribute to your family's bottom line, without undue worry about your little one. On the other hand, paying for child care takes a hefty cut from the family budget. Good daycare can cost between $300 and $1,200 per month, depending on where you live and the age of your child. Consider sharing a nanny with another family, which is sometimes cheaper than a daycare center. Daycare centers associated with colleges and universities usually offer high quality care at reasonable rates. These schools may also offer subsidized care or scholarships if you qualify.
Numerous studies have found that working moms are happier than stay-at-home moms, but most moms experience some guilt or angst over working. Daycare allows moms to continue their careers, feel personal fulfillment and contribute to the family's financial well-being, yet working moms may feel pulled in many directions or feel sadness over missing time with their child. Not everyone has a choice, but when possible, a part-time working arrangement can ease some of those anxieties.