Year One – Post 10 | Child Care Controversy
The first moment you lay eyes on your newborn baby, you feel your nails sharpening, your defenses rising and you say to yourself, “No one can take care of my baby like I can. Mine!”
It is a nice thought, but it isn’t realistic to think that only one person can meet their child’s needs for the first two years. What if you get sick, hurt or need to contribute to the financial well being of the family? When mothers work, the guilt buttons are pushed as they drop their screaming bundle of joy at the day care or with a sitter. As soon as she drives away, mommy glances back to that screaming baby with outstretched arms and a pitiful facial expression. Oh, Mother Nature is good. She has made sure you aren’t going to abandon your offspring!
Let me shed some research on this subject for you working moms that I wish I had known when I went through this “tugging on my heart strings experience.” Parents worry that if they leave their baby in childcare the first two years of their life, the baby will be prone to be more aggressive and less obedient as their attachment to mommy and daddy lessens. Some argue that you should have other caregivers because children will have a higher social competence with more cooperative play and better relationships among their peers.
In 1991, the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) did an excellent study to address the emotional impact of daycare or babysitters on children in the first two years of life. It turns out that how a baby or child relates to the family is more important than whether that child is in daycare (I’m talking about quality daycare). The main factor to determine whether a toddler exhibited behavioral problems was family related, particularly the mother’s psychological adjustment and sensitivity toward her child. However, boys seem to be affected more than girls when their mother returns to full time work in those first two years.
The study did reveal that the most important factor was the quality of child care. Unfortunately the majority of young American children are in facilities that have too many children, too few adults, a dismal physical environment, a lack of developmentally appropriate play materials, insufficient language stimulation, inadequate caregiver training and a high rate of caregiver turnover that can be unsettling for infants and young children.
So, parents you need to be choosy about child care. I do need to say, if your child is prone to upper respiratory and ear infections, it may be wise to look into a private sitter for those first two years. More studies need to be done on preschool and middle-childhood years to note the impact of daycare on a child’s emotional health.
– Kathryn Thorson Gruhn, MA CCC-SLP, author of My Baby Compass series