From my years on parenting boards, I know this subject is a touchy one. But hopefully it can be read in the correct tone with a little forewarning.
This is ~not~ a daycare vs stay at home mom debate. And while I am going to mention somethings that are pros/cons to staying at home AND going off to work, nothing is always 100% pigeonholed. A "pro" to one may also be a "pro" to the other and vice versa. By no means am I saying that my opinions hold true for ALL daycare kids ~nor~ ALL stay at home kids. I'm going to speak in generalities. Whenever I have had these discussions before, I have ALWAYS gotten the offended response from a stay at home mom saying "NOT MY KID!". So right now, before I even start, I obviously know there are exceptions to just about everything. So please, this is for the purpose of observations, not to settle on who is right from who is wrong.
Note: Anyone without kids who is reading this ... You may be reading my warning and thinking to yourself "good lord, get on with it woman!" but it's astounding how some women, from both "sides", can get SO defensive when it comes to parenting choices. I have always been one who thinks what can be right for one may be wrong for another, so I have always been happy with my own decisions. I'll explain the ~why~ of my decisions, but I've never ever felt the need to defend them. The extreme defensiveness some mother's display is an unknown phenomenon to me - I honestly don't get it. Hence, the warnings on a "just in case" basis.
I'm a daycare mom. I'm a career woman. And I am OK with my decision 100%. There is no "if the hubby made more money, maybe I'd stay home" thinking. I like to work (although liking the job at times is a bit difficult!) and I have and want children. So for me, daycare is it.
Now, I'm also someone who wouldn't be happy with someone else "raising" my children. So for me, I don't think of daycare as the place that I pay to watch my kids. Choosing my children's daycare was a very tedious task and I am 100% satisfied with them. I also make sure the time my kids spend in daycare is "made up" for with quality time with both my husband and myself. We have worked out daycare hours so I get a few hours with them in the mornings while my husband gets them for a few hours in the afternoon. The time is spent with US, not simply spent in front of a television set. I am quite content with the way things are working.
All that said brings me to some things about daycare I like. I wanted to say those other things first, so it didn't seem as if I was using these things as a "pro daycare" argument. Although I ~am~ pro daycare, I am NOT anti stay at home. But because I never stayed home for more than the 12 weeks with each child, I can not tell you how my children would have turned out had I stayed home. But I can comment on how they have grown in daycare.
I think my daycare has a fabulous curriculum. My children knew all there colors early. They learned signs to ask for things before they could talk. They both knew their ABCs before well before 2. Ella knew all her letters and numbers by 3. She's now spelling and writing. (and this is where I'll get a stay at home mom offended, thinking I'm assuming stay at home kids can't do these things. Totally ~not~ what I'm even suggesting).
Another thing is both my children are also HIGHLY autonomous. They've both never gone through a clingy phase nor has either ever had any social anxiety. They are also polite, they know how to wait for their turn and they know how to speak up. They both listen to instruction in a controlled environment and take direction extremely well. When I took the girls to their gymnastics class this past weekend, Ella was in an independent class, free of mommies. I made sure Tom was with us to be "near" just in case Ella needed some extra support. Not only did she join this brand new class of a dozen children seamlessly, she didn't for a moment, look to either Tom nor I for support.
Of course, there are PLENTY of stay at home children who are like this. You don't need to be away from your child on a daily basis to have this outcome. And there are plenty of daycare kids who still freak out, even after years of daycare, each and every time mommy or daddy has to drop them off and leave them. All I am saying is that daycare may have played a role in the way both my children have become integrated with the world already. May have. Maybe daycare did none of this and my children were just born with the social gene. I can't say for sure.
The reason I brought this up was really from thinking of Canada's 12 month maternity policy. My best friend stayed at home with her daughter in her childhood years. I came out to visit, child free and wanting to go out and have fun in my hometown. I was excited to see my best friend and hang out with everyone I had left when I moved to Colorado. The only problem was her 6 month old. She had never been away from Mom, there had been no reason, and now, when we needed her to be cool with someone else, there was NO having it. She was breastfed and never was even offered a bottle until now, again, there had been no reason. Long story short, we didn't go out. This 6 month old baby has laid down the law and we were forced to follow.
It was her story that had me giving both my breastfed (for a year) babies bottles of breast milk on and off from 3 weeks old. It also was the reason behind me taking trips out of the house, without baby, when there was no reason I shouldn't of taken the baby. I was scared to get either of them so used to mommy that when I did have to be away, they would have to go through undue stress. I did it for them more than for me, although I have to admit some of it was for me.
Back to the Canadian 12 month maternity policy. Stay at home moms who choose to stay at home usually do so for the entire childhood I'd assume. For the sake of argument, let's say there is the same percentage of working mothers in the US as there is in Canada. Due to sucky US maternity leave, the US workers go back before baby knows what's up. But Canadian mothers, most go back after 12 months. Which brings me to my question. I wonder how many 12 month old babies have a hell of a time when mommy (or daddy) goes back to work after an entire year, when they are definitely old enough to think "where the hell did mommy go?".
I wonder if there's been a study of separation anxiety between US and Canada. I would assume there would be a large difference, there being more of it in Canada. Not that it makes Canada "bad" or anything. Separation anxiety isn't a horrible thing. Most children get over it and I'd doubt any child would suffer any psychological damage from it. I would even hazard to guess it would be harder on the parents than it would be the child. Mom not only has to get back into the groove of things after an entire year off, but she's given the extra stress of dealing with a baby who's world has totally been rocked from all its known. It's gotta be tough.
Then again, maybe none of this makes any difference at all and life goes on after a year, just like life goes on after 6-12 weeks here in the US. The Canadians probably just go back to work a little better rested :)