Childcare or Stay at Home

Childcare or Stay at Home: What is best for your child?

Over the past 30-40 years mothers have increasingly sought employment outside the home.  With this trend, there has been an accompanying rise in popularity of daycare for young children.  For some moms, the use of daycare is a choice, but for others it is a necessity.  If a choice, then parents must weigh the pros and cons for parents, the child and the household.  If a necessity, then parents need to make the best selection of daycare options.

For a child, “there is no place like home.”  Care given by a parent or relative within the home always trumps a commercial alternative.  The advantages of home care include:

  • Greater nurturing from a parent or a related caregiver
  • Greater opportunity for bonding with your child
  • Less exposure to infection
  • Calmer setting
  • Less competition for attention and for play items
  • Better sleep/nap quality
  • If breastfeeding, a mother can save between $1,100 to $1,600 in formula costs for the baby’s first year of life.
  • Better supervision and control of the child’s discipline
  • More opportunity for the parent to teach/train the child, rather than an outsider

 The appeal of daycare ultimately hinges on household income and parental career advancement.  The advantages may include:

  • Greater opportunity for household economic growth
  • Greater career advancement for each parent
  • More and earlier socialization for the child
  • Private education for the child

In deciding whether to work outside the home, be sure to consider all the costs involved.  After factoring in these costs, you may find yourself working for less than a couple dollars an hour.

  • Transportation: extra family car, gas, care maintenance (tires, cleaning, repairs), auto insurance.
  • Clothing/uniform: costs of wardrobe, shoes, professional cleaning
  • Food:
    • Costs of dining out at lunch
    • More dining out for family at supper
  • Childcare
  • Medical: More child (and family) illness, more doctor visits, medicines, use of sick days

If daycare is necessary, consider the following arrangements:

  • In general, care given by a mother, father, relative or trusted friend is superior to that from multiple caregivers in a commercial daycare.
  • A homecare setting is better than a commercial daycare setting.  Few children, in general, means less exposure to infection, better one-on-one care, less frenzied stimulation, better napping, etc.
  • Delay daycare until after 1-2 years.  There is evidence that infants who enter daycare under 12 months have less secure attachment to their mothers than those who enter later.[1]
  • Delay daycare entrance for an infant until after the winter months.  The younger an infant gets infections (RSV, ear infections, etc.), the greater the chance of subsequent health issues, such as wheezing episodes, or the need ear tubes.
  • Limit your child’s weekly exposure to daycare.  Half-day “mothers-day-out” programs are better than full day daycare programs.  Fewer days each week is also better.  Perhaps a relative could keep the baby some days each week.


[1] Caldwell BM. Impact of Daycare of the Child. Pediatrics 1993; 91:1 225-228