Michelle was happy. She had a beautiful baby girl of six months and was enjoying being a mother. Suddenly her husband, Paul, was retrenched from his job and there was no money coming in. Paul had little prospect of getting another job but Michelle, a school teacher, could easily return to work. So Michelle sadly passed her little girl's care over to her husband and went back to work.
At least Michelle could rely on her husband to give their child constant loving attention. Today the battle to pay off the family home and meet other financial needs is becoming increasingly more difficult. A single wage is often not sufficient. As a result more and more families are relying on two incomes to get them through so both Mum and Dad have to work. The need for out of home child care has therefore risen markedly. Moreover, the large increase in the number of single parents has also meant a greater demand for formal child care.
But what is the effect on the child who is placed in the care of others from an early age? It has been proven that babies need a mother's love and attention, a sense of security and well-being. Indeed, as one expert put it, the attachment relationship that a young child forges with his mother "forms the foundation stone of personality." Experts say that regular detachment from the mother can impair a child's intellectual and emotional development, and affect a child throughout his or her life. Children deprived of parental care in early childhood are likely to be withdrawn, disruptive, insecure, or even intellectually stunted and that children brought up in long hours of day care are more aggressive, bratty and uncooperative
This kind of evidence puts mothers in a real double bind when they have to work to keep the roof over their child's head. And of course there are also mothers who fear that they will lose their career path if they take time off to care for a baby. One Mum put her twins into child care when they were only one month old because she knew her rival at work was breathing down her neck and would take over her job if she stayed away.
So what's a Mum to do? When is the ideal time to return to work? Well considering that child development experts indicate that children do not engage in peer play until they are about two years old, it would seem that mothers who can stay at home should do so until the child is two!
However it is not an ideal world, especially in the current economic climate so all mothers (and fathers) can do, is their best. Research your options for childcare intensely and extensively so you can decide with your head and then use your heart by asking yourself "does this feel right for me and for my child".
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Dr Janet Hall
Dr. Janet Hall is a psychologist, hypnotherapist, sex therapist, author, professional speaker, trainer, and media consultant. Dr Jan has authored eight books on family and relationship issues and recorded 42 CDs/MP3s, many use hypnosis. She founded the Richmond Hill Psychology Clinic - www.drjanethall.com.au
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