You know this debate.
Around the time that my eldest daughter was born, it took the form of Dr. Laura comparing daycares to kennels.
It's still going around, taking lovely and sensitive approaches like this:
Now, I'm not going to go through every single argument about daycare. I am, however, going to add some perspective and a few questions.
1. Are we looking only at what a mother is doing Monday-Friday, 9-5, or are we looking at what both parents are doing, 24/7?
Does having one parent stay at home mean that the other parent is virtually absentee?
Do we care about what is happening during all the time that the parents ARE with the child? For example, my eldest started daycare at 8 mos., for 9 hours/day. The rest of the time, she was with me. Constantly. She was still nursing, she co-slept, and we almost never went out without her. Looking back, I actually remember far more about her babyhood than I do about that of her younger brother. I stayed home with him until he was 14 months, but he - bless his heart - spent most of it sleeping.
2. If spending the first year with a baby is that important, shouldn't government and workplace policies reflect that? Why attack the moms?
I'm Canadian, so it's pretty clear to me that if you guarantee someone's job while they are off and ensure that they will continue to have medical coverage and give some benefits so they can pay some bills - they will often choose to stay home with a baby. Funny how that works.
3. Shouldn't we be asking "what is in the best interests of the child and family in this particular situation, given all the factors?" and not "isn't there any possible thing that you could do in order to stay at home?"
Yes, there are choices in life. Let's take a look at whether choosing to live in a safer area, or pay for a child's schooling, or have the means to afford proper food and health care, or working to build up a career that will allow longer term flexibility, etc. can be worthy goals for some families - and maybe benefit the children just as much as having a parent physically present.
4. Why would we assume that family members are always better care providers than trained professionals?
Yes, sometimes grandma is the perfect childcare solution. Sometimes, though, she may be abusive or alcoholic or just clueless. Why is there an automatic assumption that family is better? Shouldn't we take a level-headed look at EVERYONE who cares for our children?
By the way, those Dr. Laura comments did bother me...until I learned to turn off the radio, and focus on my daughter instead. I saw her laughing and having a good time, I saw that my husband and I had far less stress since my new job allowed us to pay our bills, and I realized that no one else's opinion really mattered.