The Benefits of Daycare May Surprise You

It is natural for people to make judgments about other people's decisions. As a working mom with a toddler in daycare, I sense criticisms from those surrounding me in various aspects of my life and often find myself dodging misguided comments during encounters with new acquaintances.

Recently, I was the recipient of some harsh remarks about my decision to leave my daughter in the hands of a daycare center. I try not to judge others, especially when I first meet them since I don't know the details of their situations. Surprisingly, one of the two people who made these comments to me was a working mom herself. Both people implied that they thought my toddler is too young for a daycare setting and that I should stay at home with her or leave her in the care of a nanny in my home. I have learned not to take such criticizing words to heart because, more often than not, they're unintentional and come from a place of misunderstanding.

But these remarks left me pondering the many misconceptions about daycare. People seem to have similar thoughts about me and other mothers who choose to leave their children in the care of such providers. On the flip side, there are many benefits of leaving your young child in the care of an established and well-regarded center that meets state standards.

Here are five benefits to children who go to daycare:

They become naturals at socializing.

My daughter is friendly toward other children and adults, too, because she spends a significant amount of time with children in her class, older and younger children in her school's other classes, and with caregivers. We had friends and their baby over recently, who she had never met before. She took a few of her books out of a bin and brought a few over to the baby, sharing with him. She even walked over to my friend's lap and sat down. We got such a kick out of how friendly and warm she was toward them. A child not accustomed to various social situations may not have warmed up so quickly.

They separate more easily from their parents.

My daughter's daycare center is a second home to her and her caregivers and classmates are a second family to her. She usually waves goodbye to me in the morning, but sometimes she is so busy watching the other children and caregivers that she doesn't even look at me when I leave. I feel content knowing that she is happy there and is growing into an independent person as a result of this separation.

They are flexible.

Children in daycare are used to caregivers dividing their attention between them and other children. Since she is one of several being cared for at any given time, she has learned how to keep herself busy by playing with her classmates or independently. While I'm making dinner, she "makes dinner" in her play kitchen.

They have easy access to education and play.

My daughter's caregiver at her daycare center brings the children on walks in the school's outdoor play area and fills their time with activities like story and music time. She is interacting with other children and learning while her needs are met. If I had a nanny take care of her while I was at work, I would have to plan activities to keep her busy and socialized and spend extra money on these activities.

They build up their immune systems.

I'm not going to downplay it — last winter was rough! The flu and RSV, a respiratory virus, along with countless other colds, hit our household after my daughter picked them up at daycare. Looking on the bright side, her immune system is now in training, getting her ready for the many viral and bacterial conditions she may encounter over the next few years.

The truth is, I would have stayed home with my daughter for a year or two if I could have — at least part time. It is often difficult for me when I am away from her, knowing I am missing seeing her learn and grow. I have learned to value every minute I spend with her and try to enjoy our time together. I attempt to look on the bright side of our separation — me advancing my career and her enjoying the benefits of her daycare center. But most of all, I'm freeing myself of the judgements that come my way, because I know I'm doing what's best for our family.