Monday, February 6, 2012

Why I Want to Stay at Home with My Child

I posted a little while ago on daycare. Rereading these posts (which are largely pro-daycare), it might seem strange that I myself do not send little R to daycare, nor does she have a in-home caregiver (something that would be very easy and affordable here). Instead, I do virtually all of her care myself. Why?

There are a number of advantages to my decision, some of which have nothing to do with parenting (for example, I am able to be a more helpful wife because I am not working). But from a parenting perspective:

1. Little R can set her own schedule. If she attended a daycare, she would have to comply with their schedule (napping at the specified times, for instance). At home, the rhythm of the day can largely revolve around her. Even the best daycare cannot provide this, as there are more people to consider. While children are adaptable, this flexibility means on the whole little R is more comfortable and her physical needs are more fully met.

2. Sickness is more easily accommodated. For a working mother, a child's sickness is at best a serious annoyance, and at worst a crisis. This adds stress to an already-stressful situation; it also means that borderline-sick children are often going to be forced out of their preferred situation (resting at home with Mom or Dad). In other words, children's feelings must be ignored, even when they are vulnerable (relating to point #1). A little ignoring can be beneficial; however, this could easily tip over into undesirable territory.

3. I have complete control over what child-raising practices and emotional climate little R experiences. How people treat children varies wildly, and yet these differences are hard to quantify, even though they are so important. (Even scientists are stuck with descriptions like "detached" or "responsive".)

Little R, like all babies, is exquisitely sensitive to my moods and attitude towards her; yet what they are is something very very difficult to identify or even explain (especially because so much of my reaction to her is colored by subconscious motives). A seemingly friendly and competent childcare worker might actually be mean and abusive (not even in a physical way, but more subtly).

Even more insidiously, while they might be kind, their values might be very different from my own; and because children learn through example and experience, little R would absorb these values. This is a bigger problem in Singapore (where for example obedience is the highest virtue in children, something I strongly disagree with), as it's a different culture; but I imagine it might be a problem anywhere (especially as most childcare workers are significantly poorer and less educated than the parents they work for).

4. It is less stressful for little R. Being separated from one's parent as a small child causes a huge amount of stress (and this does not seem to change even if the child is used to separations, like with daycare). Some stress is inevitable, but too much means a child may be psychologically and physically harmed (probably why sensitive children (=those who deal less well with stress) tend to do badly in daycare). Most children find ways to cope successfully; but the fact remains that they are having to cope.

By being with me, little R is spared stress, and I think is a happier baby as a result. When we were in California for a month, after the first week (=time for adjustment) I frequently left her alone with my parents. They adore her, and she loves them (even crying sometimes when they left), and seemed to enjoy herself greatly; but it was also stressful for her, and she would wake up frequently at night calling for me (I think to assure herself that I was still there), something she rarely does under normal circumstances. Even though she was happy and social, I could tell that she was coping (well) with increased strain. The amount of strain did not change, even as she got increasingly used to my parents; this is because the strain was in the separation.

So for these reasons, I feel that it's important for me to be at home with little R (at least in her infancy; older children have completely different needs). Does this mean that I think everyone should make the same decision? No. But for me, and I believe for little R, right now this is what's best.


  1. Everyone has such different values, situations (financial etc) and just personalities that I think no choice is the RIGHT choice for anyone in this situation. I'll share mine, if you care to listen (I bet they're the same as everyone else's though) - Peanut goes to daycare and for us, although not an easy choice, it was the only option that suit our family. Financially, it's the only one we can afford (I bring home half of the bacon); Jon and I also both LOVE working so being at home probably would not satisfy us, not because we don't love our little Peanut but because we're both very much career driven people. Sometimes I wonder how much easier things would be if I had Peanut at home with me - the schedule, the time together, the no-need to separate every morning, the whole thing where someone else is "raising my child". But then i remember how I breath out when I walk into the office, how I scroll through my emails while drinking a cup of HOT coffee, and how I long to see her in the afternoons and make plans to spend time with her on weekends and I feel complete.

  2. This post says exactly why finding the right caregiver was so difficult, gut wrenching, and stressful for our family. We don't REALLY have the option not to work (though daycare does take 1/4 of our take home pay) if we want to live where we live (which is an important part of our family values). We did find a home based daycare that would fullfill 99% of what you listed here, but when the moved, we decided to find a nanny so we could pick one individual to take care of our boy solely. We'll make sure she goes to social events so T has friends around, but I want someone who can love on T, cuddle him to sleep, and make sure he eats organic.

  3. Kat, sometimes I really miss working and long for the days when I used to scroll through emails and wear dress-up clothes (and going to the bathroom wasn't a communal activity). I think for parents all the choices are hard, and agree with you that there's no "right" choice for everyone.

    Gigi, your nanny sounds so great. I kind of want one of those for me!