parents

To daycare or not to daycare

This is not Nicole's child and nor is this a form of child minding that we advocate

Kids in childcare have more temper tantrums and a worse dose of the “terrible twos” than other children, according to an Australian National University study.

News.com.au reports “A study of more than 5000 toddlers has found behavioural problems equivalent to an 11-month developmental delay in children aged two and three who are in childcare for more than 20 hours a week. Behavioural problems include frustration, moodiness, screaming and the inability to play consistently with one toy.

On the flipside, however, daycare children were also found to be more sociable and outgoing with strangers.

Nicole McInnes  is a corporate marketer and mother of two and her son is currently in daycare. She writes:

Many people have told me that sending your child to long day care is good for them. GPs, paediatricians, other mothers and a plethora of forum contributors are quick to rattle off the benefits without a glimmer of doubt in their voice. I mean it’s a popular stance, especially if your mortgage is forcing you quickly back to work or like me, you’ve been a driven career-woman for most of your life.

My two-and-a-half year old has been at kindy, as we call it, for nearly two years and if you ignore the endless viruses that plague him in winter, he has thrived in this, his own little community. He has gorgeous carers that love him and get excited as he hits each milestone. He has new friends that he’s made all on his own without the encouragement of a doting parent. And his understanding of the world is being constantly extended through early learning frameworks, activities he doesn’t really get to do at home, and most importantly, having to navigate fitting in to a group with all its written and unwritten rules. Add this to the growing amounts of research that seems to point towards the neutral to positive effect on children in quality care, and you have a pretty compelling argument for attending.

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Nonetheless every time I watch my son’s little hand wave at me from his car seat as he leaves for morning drop off, I feel this ache in the pit of my stomach. None of this evidence has moved from my brain to my heart it seems and I have to do everything in my power not to chase off after him like some crazed lunatic.

At first I thought it was just the guilt driving me quietly mad; guilt that I was not being a full-time Mum; guilt that he may feel rejected; guilt when he’s gotten sick or hurt. But I realised, as I hid my pain behind another animated farewell, that it wasn’t just guilt, it was my own grief as well.

On Tuesdays I find myself a little more agitated, a little quicker to snap at my husband, and far less patient with my youngest. All because I know the next day my little man is going to day care to fend for himself and I am bracing myself for the inevitable pain I will feel as I let him go. But is keeping him at home, sheltered from the world the answer? I know I would feel a lot less anxious if he were with me 100% of the time. I could stick up for him when a toy was being taken off him or kiss any bumps better as soon as they occurred. “Nothing ‘bad’ would happen if I were around him all the time” I dream idealistically.

Then I remember my own stay-at-home-Mum was often frustrated, stressed out or busy doing mindless chores, and I can’t help but think a happy Mum around less of the time would be more beneficial than an ever-present grumpy one.

So does staying at home and keeping our kids ‘protected’ from the world, ease our own anxieties while our children never properly learn to trust their own judgement? Or are these just selfish justifications so I can get a break and do something for myself while strangers parent my child for nearly half the week?

I honestly don’t know. I oscillate back and forth, confused by my feelings which contradict the sensible arguments before me. One thing’s for sure he’s a happy, confident and social child, and I don’t want to jeopardise that by being a ‘selfless’ yet resentful Mummy. So while he’s exhausted after a day at kindy, on balance the benefits to him and our family far outweigh the illness and brain snaps his tiredness sometimes brings.

Letting him go may be one of the most loving and truly selfless things I could do, but I wish I didn’t have to. I wish I could teach him about the world from within a big cuddle, but I can’t and so I sit here and miss him.

Nicole is an ex-award-winning Advertising Creative turned Corporate Marketer, but since becoming a Mum of two-boys, her love of writing is really the only thing keeping her from regularly stabbing herself in the eye with Cranky the Crane. You can find her blog here and follow her tweets here.

Did you go to daycare? Will you send your kids? How has it benefited or impacted you? Please remember that there are no right or wrong answers here – just opinion.

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