Many parents struggle with the question of whether to stay at home with their children or place them in daycare while they work. There are many on both sides of the fence when it comes to judging which situation is in the best interest of the children. Families may believe their children develop better socially and mature well in a daycare environment, while other families believe a stay-at-home parent is necessary for proper nurturing of the children.
Finances are often a major consideration of deciding whether to have a parent stay at home or to send a child to daycare. Sometimes, parents cannot afford for one of them to stay at home with a child, while other families find quality daycare to expensive to afford even with both parents working. The United States Census Bureau reports that as of 2013, the cost of daycare has nearly doubled in the last 25 years. Around 7 percent of family income is spend for child care. Another concern may be the distance to a good daycare. If it is too far away from home or work, parents may be reluctant to send their child to the center. There are emotional considerations to be taken into account as well, such as the disposition of the child. Some children adjust more readily to daycare situations than others.
The benefits of daycare are numerous as are the benefits of stay-at-home parenting. Daycare can often provide a wonderful environment for valuable enrichment activities in art, nature and games, which can increase social skills, intellect and cognitive skills, according to Dr. Phil. Children who attend high quality daycare tend to score higher on measures of cognitive and academic achievement, states Psych Central. Daycare attendance also fosters independence in children, who learn to do many things for themselves early. Stay-at-home parenting allows for great parent-child bonding, making the child secure, happy and confident in his environment. The one on one (or slightly increased ratio if there is more than one child) attention can be important for making the child feel special and well loved.
Even though there are many benefits of both child-care situations, there are drawbacks as well. Children who attend daycare often catch many colds and other illness due to being exposed to more germs than stay-at-home children. Daycare children may also have to spend many hours away from home, which can be tiring and frustrating. A study of early child care by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development showed that the more time children spend in daycare, the less positive interaction there is between mother and child. There are disadvantages to stay-at-home parenting as well. Children may not learn the social skills their daycare peers achieve at an early age. These children may not mature as fast either and may suffer from separation anxiety later when they have to start school, according to Kids Health. Parents who stay at home all the time can also find it difficult at times. Parents who spend 24 hours a day caring for children often become fatigued and feel socially isolated from other adults.
Society takes sides on the working versus staying at home issue. There are those traditionalists who believe a parent, usually a mother, should always stay at home to "raise" her children rather than letting them spend many hours a day in a daycare. Other segments of society believe parents should work and that a stay-at-home parent is being lazy or not ambitious. Many people think children need early socialization and education rather than simply staying at home. Families often feel societal pressure in both directions when making the decision of working outside the home or staying at home to parent. Judith Warner wrote "Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety," which talks about how torn many moms are about working. While a large number of moms wish they could have the best of both worlds and just work part time, most simply cannot afford to.
For those who weigh the pros and cons of working versus staying at home, there may be a compromise that works for them. Many parents choose to work part time and place their children in daycare on a limited basis. Many child-care programs offer part-time spots and "mother's morning out" programs to suit the needs of these families.
- The Baby Name Index: Daycare vs. Stay-at-Home Parents
- eNotAlone: Working Moms vs. Stay-at-Home Mom-
- United States Census Bureau: Child Care Costs on the Upswing, Census Bureau Reports
- Dr. Phil: Stay-at-Home Moms vs. Working Moms
- Psych Central: Benefits of High Quality Child Care
- CNN: Study: Day Care Slightly Weakens Child-Mother Bond
- Kids Health: Separation Anxiety
- The New York Times: The Full-Time Blues
- University of Wisconsin Oshkosh: The Mommy Wars