Emily Writes on the early childcare study

Here, in the Herald.

I’ve been trying to find a post I wrote a long while ago to explain how I feel about the way the study has been reported.

It’s here: Running on empty. The post I wrote when the little dude was eight months old and I started to feel like my return to paid work was a light at the end of a tunnel.

Everything I wrote in that post about looking forward to going back to work came to pass. I felt myself regain a more balanced identity, and I felt myself becoming a better parent. Finances permitting, we plan to keep the little dude in creche two or three days a week while I’m on leave again this year. I think he gets a lot out of it; I also think I get a lot out of having a break from him. At the same time, I am very glad that I was able to stay home with him until he was big enough to eat solids and drink from cups, so I never had to worry about expressing milk at the office.

It’s worth mentioning the enormous financial impact of returning to two incomes. It meant we could buy this house. That’s pretty significant.

But… in an ideal world, it’d be nice to have the best of both options. Say if my husband and I both worked four days a week and the little dude was only in creche for three days. That’d have been pretty great. In this ideal world, there would also be paid parental leave for longer, so that no-one is forced by financial circumstances to send their baby to creche before they feel ready. Caring for a baby would be less socially isolated, which might make people want to continue it for longer. Also, childcare would be of a very high quality. I have no real concerns about the effects of childcare on the little dude’s development, because his creche is great. He really likes one of the teachers in particular, and gives her a big hug in the morning. When we were looking though, the first few places I saw weren’t very nice, either they seemed too chaotic and haphazard, or too cramped and dingy, or too brisk and uncaring and businesslike. When I walked into the creche we ended up choosing, I felt a weight lift off my shoulder and thought “Yes. This place. He will be happy here.” There hasn’t been enough research to fully differentiate good from bad when considering the effects of centre-based early childcare, but it’s not fair to lump it all together. When we talk about older kids going to school, we take it as a given that a good school is a completely different thing to a bad school. We should assume the same for early childcare too, and focus on improving quality.