Daycare. For so many working parents, this is the best option for our childcare needs.
Personally, I chose daycare because it was convenient, safe, supervised, and fit my schedule. I felt comfortable with the center, the staff, and had heard great things from other parents who were sending their kids there. And yet, there was still that nagging feeling. Is this right for my baby? Am I making a good decision leaving her at all? Is she going to bond with her caregivers more than me? Will she get what she needs developmentally?
Does this sound familiar? I know, without a doubt, that I’m not the only working parent who felt like this!
As it turns out, my kids thrived in daycare and so did I.
They were exposed to activities and learning experiences that I would never have thought of or been daring enough to try. (Pudding painting with your toes? Yes, please - as long as it happens at daycare and not all throughout my house.)
My kids learned social skills and learned how to be good friends. There is nothing cuter than seeing toddlers love on their best friends. I also learned how to make new friends - a skill we don’t use as much as we should as adults - and I’m still friends with many of the moms more than a decade later.
And can I tell you about the teachers? We had some amazing teachers who loved them and guided them as they grew. Those same teachers also helped me navigate those early years as a parent. As a bonus, some of the younger teachers became trusted babysitters. I fully admit that I cried saying goodbye on the last day of daycare probably even more than I did on the first day!
Childhood benefits of daycare
As Katheleen McGinn, Professor at Harvard Business School points out, “There’s a lot of parental guilt about having both parents working outside the home, but what this research says to us is that not only are you helping your family economically—and helping yourself professionally and emotionally if you have a job you love—but you’re also helping your kids.”
Here are some documented benefits of daycare to help allay your concerns:
✦ Communication skills - especially non-verbal communication with people and kids of different ages are stronger in children who are in daycare. They are better at matching the communication style of the person that they are playing with.
✦ A number of studies have shown that kids may get more colds initially but by elementary school, their rates of illness are well below those of their peers who did not attend daycare. Some studies even took this as far as to say that it could lower cancer rates although the data isn’t very strong.
✦ Daycare prepares kids for school. Kids that are familiar with a structured group experience have easier transitions to kindergarten. And the kindergarten transition is easier for you too!
✦ Kids in daycare have stronger math and reading skills by age 5 than kids who were in informal or home-based care.
And the benefits continue into adulthood
It turns out that the benefits don’t stop when your little ones enter elementary school. Their infant childcare sets them up for success as adults. In fact, adults who were enrolled in daycare as infants were 4 times more likely to earn a college degree - and held more consistent jobs after graduating. Additionally, women who grew up with working mothers were more likely to have successful careers.
On the social/emotional side of things, it has been found that sons of working moms spent more time taking care of their families - being involved in parenting, household chores, and generally just being present for their families. Good role modeling pays off!
And lastly, there is evidence that kids who grew up with working parents are just as happy as those that had stay-at-home parents.
At the end of the day, we know that there are many options for childcare available for you and your family. What makes you select one type over another or one provider over another, is a very personal choice. We can’t pretend to know what is best for you. Only you know that. What we do know is that you are striving to make informed decisions and that makes you an amazing parent!