Researchers have found that putting an infant in long-hour daycare can have a negative long-term effect upon the child’s behavior and increase their stress level. (See my blog on this topic). Author of Motherhood: How should we care for our children?, Anne Manne says, “No-one would say to an adult, ‘Look, if you’re stressed and miserable for a year or two, don’t worry. Long-term you’ll be fine.’” Yet for many children this is essentially the position that they are being placed in. Dr. Manne asks, “Don’t we have an obligation to consider their happiness and wellbeing in the here and now?” Parents should be allowed a choice to place their child in daycare and return to work or receive job protected leave and a homecare allowance. Either choice should be supported by state policy. “Parents should have the confidence to say, ‘My baby is happy here with me, and this is the way we’re doing it.’”
Yet in the United States and Australia women who choose to leave their careers and stay home with their children are looked down upon. The government does not support their action. They don’t even receive a tax break like mothers who can claim daycare costs on their taxes. Although lawmakers have discussed this topic and changes might be made. What we need is to follow the example of countries like Scandinavia, France, and Great Britain.
In these countries the government is recognizing the benefits of mothers staying home with their children for the first two to three years of the child’s life. As a result women in these countries have a choice to return to the workforce, which is actually preferred, or to stay at home. If the mother does choose to stay at home their job is protected, which means they can return to their job with no penalty, plus in Scandinavia and France mothers receive a monthly homecare allowance.
What these countries have found is that given the choice most mothers choose to stay home. In fact in Scandinavia infant daycare is rarely used. Mothers want to stay home and most do for at least the first 18 months of their child’s life.
Why are so many countries giving parents an option between daycare and staying home? In Scandinavia they found that “it’s cheaper to pay parents because it is so difficult to provide good institutional care. Good institutional care demands a stable caregiver, and that means higher pay to retain staff; better ratios of staff to babies; better working conditions; very good training for caregivers in an effort to improve the sensitivity and responsiveness of those who are doing the care.” So the government decided to offer money to parents who usually do a better job than any daycare could.
When will the U.S. government recognize the value of having a mother in the home and the right that every woman should have to choose who will care for their child?
What would you choose – to stay home on job leave with a homecare allowance or return to work and put your child in daycare?