I do believe that staying at home with your children is the best thing for them. And although the research points to the most benefit of stay-at-home parenting to children for the first two years of their life, it is my opinion that if you choose not to homeschool your children, they should be with you until they are at least four years old – perhaps older, depending on your child’s individual temperament and needs.
However, I do know that there are a great number of households where both parents must work, where there is not an option to have a non-working parent. But this doesn’t mean that they necessarily need to put their children in full-time daycare. There are creative options to allow working mothers to keep attachment in mind, and I have experience with most of them:
Work from home without hiring in-home help
This is my preference. I want as much time with my children as possible, and if I can save the money it would cost to hire in-home help, that’s even better. Sometimes, I do need a little help with big projects, and I am fortunate that my husband usually helps out by keeping an eye on the kids. If not, I sometimes turn to the next option.
Work from home and hire an in-home mother’s helper
This is the next best case for me as a work-from-home parent when I need more long-term attention on a work project but my husband is unavailable.
A mother’s helper comes into the home with me and helps with household chores such as preparing meals and laundry, as well as keeping an eye on the kids, allowing me to get in some extra time with a project but able to interact with the kids whenever they need me or I want to take a break.
Work opposite shifts of your spouse or partner
For about a year, before my husband found his current job, this work arrangement worked well for us. I had a job that required daily visits to various clients, which I did during the morning hours while my husband was home. Then, I wasn’t working when my husband was on his work shift during the afternoons and evenings.
Take your child with you to work
I have not had previous experience with this, but a local organization is trying out the arrangement with me for a few hours a week. I’ve heard that it can work well for some parents.
I have taken all my children with me to on-site, one- or two-hour client meetings numerous times, so I am confident that we can work this out, since I won’t be in the office any more than four hours at a time.
Put your child in daycare, but only part-time
According to Attachment Parenting International, attachment research demonstrates that working more than 20 hours per week is extremely stressful to infants and young children, can be harmful to long-term child development, and is detrimental to the parent-child relationship. Also, it’s best to have an in-home childcare provider rather than use a childcare center, so that your child has a consistent caregiver.
The childcare provider should be in line with Attachment Parenting and be eager to work with you to find ways to maintain your strong attachment bond, such as breastfeeding on breaks.
There was a six-month period a couple years ago, when my husband was on part-time hours, that I needed to get an additional part-time job and it was one that I couldn’t bring my kids with me. I selected shifts when my husband was home as much as possible, but when he wasn’t, I did need to hire a childcare provider in my absence.
The number of hours away from you is what needs to be kept at a minimum. But if you need to work more than half-time away from your baby, it’s important to allow your baby to form a primary attachment bond with the childcare provider, which makes it even more critical that this caregiver be attachment-minded. But the best scenario is for you to stay at home with your children, so working outside the home without your children should only be a last resort.
If you’re looking for a more AP childcare situation, consider a different work arrangement. Ask your employer about working from home full time or part-time in and out of the office. More and more companies are allowing this option, and you might be surprised at what an employer who values your talent and work ethic might be willing to try.