If you ever want to see me turn into Mama Hulk and go all SMASH on you, say something along the lines of “I don’t need daycare to raise my children”. That little sentence, uttered so thoughtlessly, is the most insensitive remark any working mother has to endure. The inference in it is that moms who put kids in daycare have ceded primary responsibility for their children to others and basically don’t love their kids enough. Every time I hear some variant on it, I want to shake the speaker until they understand the deep love a working parent feels and the conflict of the heart that happens when the responsibilities of job and family diverge. My son was in daycare for three and a half years and it was a wonderful situation for everyone. While my husband and I missed him during working hours, he was thriving in a good center with caring, dedicated teachers and fun activities.(The center he was in paid teachers above-average wages and provided excellent benefits, which is why the quality of the program was so good. But that’s another story altogether). He made friends there that he still plays with and the community of families there was an intrinsic part of our social fabric. It was ideal in nearly every way.
Recent studies have been showing that quality daycare certainly doesn’t harm children and may do them a lot of good. In particular, a new study out of canada shows that the children of depressed mothers reap benefits from daycare that can make up for difficulties at home. According to WebMD:
In the new study, the Canadian researchers followed 1,759 children between the ages of 5 months and 5 years. The investigators tracked the children’s emotional problems (such as separation anxiety and inability to socialize with others) after the age of 17 months.
The researchers also followed their mothers, looking for signs of depression. And they monitored whether the kids were regularly cared for by relatives, outside babysitters or in day-care centers.
After adjusting statistics so they wouldn’t be thrown off by various factors, the investigators found that about 12 percent of kids of non-depressed mothers showed signs of emotional problems, said study author Catherine Herba, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Quebec at Montreal. But that number jumped to 32 percent among children of mothers who were depressed and didn’t receive regular child care from anyone other than their mothers.
However, that number fell to 7 percent among kids whose mothers were depressed and were in day care; it fell to between 15 percent and 18 percent for those whose mothers were depressed and were cared for by a relative or babysitter, Herba said.
As anyone who has struggled with depression knows, being able to give your full best effort to anything is difficult if not impossible. For a mother of young children, depression can limit their availability to their children. Feeling like a bad mother can exacerbate the depression, perpetuating a cycle. So it makes perfect sense that to give kids some time with an adult who’s not struggling with depression, in an environment with other kids and constructive activities, would be beneficial to a child. And giving a mom space to care for herself is beneficial to her.
This study should help alleviate any guilt a depressed parent feels for putting children in a daycare or with another caregiver. They say it takes a village to raise a child and a good daycare or nanny or grandparent can be a vital part of that village. Asking for help is the first step for addressing depression. Help means counseling, medications, and support with daily activities including child care. If you are depressed and need help with your children, feel secure that there is nothing wrong with letting a trusted babysitter or daycare teacher watch them.
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