Don’t worry working parents, childcare is good for your child’s development!

‘Children develop faster when their mothers go out to work’ was the front-page headline of The Times  on Wednesday.  Perfectly timed for the lunchtime talk I was on my way to giving: ‘Managing Career and Parenthood’.  Hooray, I thought, some decent ammunition to help alleviate some of the guilt that we working parents feel when leaving our babies and toddlers in childcare.

Childcare is good for your child’s development!

LSE and Oxford University reported the findings of their research with 11,000 families and looked at child development in 4 areas:

  • Social skills
  • Talking
  • Everyday tasks
  • Movement

They found that those children whose mothers (note that this doesn’t mention the role of fathers, which is disappointing) worked and who spent time in childcare (any childcare it seems – whether that be at a nursery or with grandparents); performed better in all of these 4 areas.

It’s great that we now have some findings which replace older research that suggested working parents ‘actively damaged’ their children by sending them to childcare.  However, I believe it is still the quality of childcare and the quality of parental time that is the most important factor.  Libby Purves of The Times says ‘full-time parents can be stimulating as well as loving, while bad nurseries can be formulaic, tedious and lonely for a home-loving child.’

It’s also about knowing what is right for your family and your child as everyone’s needs and circumstances are so different.  Whilst these findings may help alleviate our worry, it shouldn’t inform your return to work decision because your child is completely unique.

Amanda Gummer, psychologist, says in Huffington Post: ‘what children need more than anything is happy, confident, fulfilled, relaxed, stable, emotionally available parents.’  Clearly it would be impossible to achieve this all of the time as a parent, but it’s worth bearing in mind how you as a person gets to be the ‘best you’ – is it by being at home, at work or a mixture of both?  Gummer points out: ‘a frazzled, guilt-ridden mum is not desirable but neither is a bored, unfulfilled stay-at-home mum.

My only worry reading all of this yesterday is what about the dads’ role?!!  When will we stop referring to mums and begin to refer to
‘parents’ ….?

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