It’s time to return to work. You've made the decision: formal child care.
For many parents it can be a tough decision and in making the call, there is often a significant side effect for parents - guilt.
The guilt can occur for a variety of reasons including fear we are damaging our children's attachment and trust, possibly creating abandonment issues, or setting our children up for repeated exposure to stress that could lead to health consequences later in life. Not to mention some parents find themselves dealing with disapproval (real or perceived) from their own parents or parents-in-law.
The flipside is that many families are watching their enthusiastic, curious and independent children happily enter early learning centres every day for hours of messy sensory play, imagination games, story-telling, physical activity, creative arts, design and construction with teams of patient staff.
Susan Edwards, Professor of Education in the Learning Sciences Institute of Australia at Australian Catholic University, says a parent's perspective on child care and early learning is usually ideologically based. That means it's about values and deep-seated beliefs.
"It comes down to personal perspectives," she maintains.
Australian parents agree.
Discussing the topic on social media, parents’ comments ran the full gamut of personal, cultural, generational, spiritual and educational viewpoints.
Parents cite everything from socialisation to health; cost to behaviour:
‘They're only kids for a short time.’
‘I had worked hard to build my career and I didn't want to throw it away.’
‘I'm their mother and I don't want them brought up by someone else.’
‘I need to retain my own identity.’
They have all been said before. They are all valid personal reasons. But in the end, the reasons you choose to use formal childcare – or not – are your own. And the opinions of others don't matter.
And as for that guilt? The best way to handle it is to be informed and be confident you have made the best possible decision for your family.
There are a few key considerations for parents in making that decision.
The first is the value of learning through play.
"The relationships children form day to day are vital," Associate Professor Susan Krieg says.
Krieg, who is Early Childhood Program Coordinator, at Flinders University says one of the core needs of any child is the continuity of relationships with people who can stimulate learning and provide a challenging and supportive environment in which the children can be challenged, learn and grow.
"The environment needs to allow the child to be able to explore, and create and experience."