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Home Court Advantage

I don't think I've met a parent who hasn't agonized over decisions regarding their child's growth and development. We love our children. We want the best for them. Sometimes we freak out and make ourselves crazy questioning and second-guessing, "Am I doing what's best for my baby?"

Choosing a childcare provider has got to be one of the most difficult decisions we make. Even dealing with the realities of the childcare at my local gym left me reeling, irrationally afraid of teenage boys and vowing to take up at-home yoga so I didn't have to leave my children with anyone but my mother. She lives 14 hours away, so in that scenario I'd only get to work out twice a year.

A recent U.S. government-funded study published in the March/April issue of the journal Child Development presented some pretty firm data suggesting that children placed in daycare are at a higher risk for behavioral problems than other children. These problems — specifically aggression and disobedience — continued through 6th grade, and the longitudinal study will continue to follow the children's progress.

The 15 experts who conducted the study did not single out stay-at-home-moms as the One True Source of quality child care, and thank heavens, considering many parents don't have the financial luxury to stay home with their kids, and others simply don't have the ability or desire to be full-time caregivers.

The study noted that children who were placed with nannies, or sitters, or in family childcare homes like the one my mother ran for many years, did not exhibit the same problems found in the daycare kids.

So everyone should pull their children from daycares and place them at my house, right? I'm not so sure. First, I'm not sure I have enough sippy cups for all of them, and second, I don't think they have enough resilience to deal with all of me. I am certainly a parental work in progress.

I initially made the decision to stay home as a noble martyrdom, sacrificing my personal and career goals to devote myself to my children's growth and well-being. It took me approximately three months to realize I absolutely loved this new career path. I do. I really love it. I have way more good days now than at any other job I've held. I have a vested interest in the success of my co-workers, and they let me squidge them all day long.

I found that the study did not make me want to beat the decaying pony carcass that is the debate over staying home or going out to work. What it really made me question was, what quality of childhood am I personally giving Laylee and Magoo. Am I one of the high-quality, engaged, nurturing, responsive adults they talk about in the study?

We can use statistics all day long to justify our own position or to tear down someone else's. But in the end, the study's results are only numbers, and what they really show is that we have a major influence over our children's futures every day of their lives. We choose their environment, and we decide whether we listen to them with love and respect, or brush them aside because we're too busy — reading parenting books, analyzing statistics, or baking bread from scratch — to really nurture.

I truly believe that my decision to stay home with my kids doesn't mean squat unless I'm willing to stay home WITH them.

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