When you return to work after maternity leave, should you put your infant in a crèche, or get a nanny to look after her at home? We ask 2 moms.
NICOLE MASON, mom of two daughters, Elizabeth and Alexandra
It was always part of the plan to return to work. Nedbank, where my husband worked, has a fabulous cre`che. A good cre`che is a gold mine but a bad one is a coal mine. The Nedbank cre`che had the right staff ratios, qualified staff, was spotlessly clean, spacious and had proper equipment. The cre`che understood hygiene, child development, age-appropriate behaviour and had a modern, up-to-date attitude to bad behaviour.
A good cre`che makes you a better mother, but childcare issues can derail a career. It is the most stressful issue in a working women’s life and the thing that will drive you from the workplace faster than anything else. Companies must realise that in order to retain their top female staff they have an obligation to provide cre`ches, before they spend money on canteens and golf days.
Of course I worried that my child would be miserable at cre`che and miss me and be damaged for life by the trauma of separation. I was scared that all the propaganda about being the best and only appropriate person to look after your own child was true. In retrospect, all unfounded guilt.
The interaction with a variety of adults and children is the best stimulation a child can get. Being alone with an antisocial mommy (me) would have developed shy and socially underdeveloped children. I would never have made the effort to do playdates. In a cre`che the children learn that they are part of something bigger than themselves and not the centre of the universe.
My children seldom get sick now, but they got sick quite a lot when they were at cre`che. All children get sick, some fight it off and some succumb. It is not the cre`che, it is the kid.
With a nanny, you have no idea what is happening at home. At a cre`che there is some supervision, regulation and observation. There is no guarantee that a single person alone at home with your child is going to do any of these things. If a nanny is sick it is mom who has to miss work, at the cre`che if a caregiver is sick there are people to cover for her.
So a good cre`che is part of your support system when you are working, it is part of the network that holds up every working woman.
CANDICE DOYLE, mom of Eryn and Keira
I felt that sending the children to cre`che before the age of 2 was just far too young. During this time they still need a lot of attention and generally sleep twice a day. At cre`che they would be one of many children and wouldn’t get much individual attention, and also would only get to sleep once a day.
I was worried that before this age they would struggle to let teachers know if something was wrong. They were also ready for potty training by 2 so in all it was a great age for starting cre`che, I felt.
The only concern I had was that I was worried about the children choking or something happening where the nanny wouldn’t know what to do. This was resolved very quickly when I sent her on a first-aid course and a child-stimulating course. We did this within the first month of my maternity leave, and we found that she was very capable of looking after them.
We also had an advantage that there were other children in our complex who had nannies looking after them, so the nannies would gather twice a day and formed their own “playgroups”, so there really was no disadvantage.
You need to find the right person, obviously. The right person is very nurturing, good with children and patient. The child must come first always and cleaning the house second.
Proponents of cre`ches mention socialising skills as an advantage, as well as a strong immune system due to having been exposed to other childhood illnesses from an early age. But I completely disagree. Our nanny made friends with other nannies and the children socialised every day.
By staying at home they didn’t get overstimulated as they would have had they been at cre`che, where you end up after a really long day with an extremely grumpy child because they are tired and strung out from the day’s activities.
Cre`ches are also to blame with all the childhood illnesses as they allow parents to bring sick children to school who just infect everyone else. When you walk into the toddler section all you see is a whole lot of children with snot running down their faces, in my experience. All those sick children in one class with two helpers! How much attention is your child really receiving? No, thanks, nanny it is for me!