A blogger friend of mine asked me if I'd do a post on the benefits of a structured day away from mommy. So here goes, but feel free to offer your own thoughts in the comments section if you like.
Leaving your kiddo with anyone other than family (and for some people, even with family) can be a stressful thing. When we found out we were pregnant with Cate, we knew that I'd be going back to work after my maternity leave. And I was okay with that (for the most part). We managed to save a little money so that I could take two additional weeks of leave, unpaid. Spring break also hit during that unpaid time, so it didn't count against me. The way everything worked out, I returned to work the day after Cate turned 10 weeks old. For the last 6 weeks of school that year, my grandmother (Cate's great-granny, and my mom's mom) took care of Cate-- which pretty much meant she held her, fed her, and watched her sleep all day. :-)
That summer we began the process of looking for another person to watch Cate while we worked. I won't go into the whole long story other than that we were looking for a clean home, not too many other kids, and someone who would love Cate like we did. And we lucked out and found someone rather quickly to watch a sweet, six-month old Cate. We could recognize the benefit of her spending time away from us within just a few weeks. And they are things we continue to recognize even today. Because Cate isn't with us 100% of the time, she doesn't have stranger anxiety. This is great when we go to church as different people work Kids' Club (childcare while parents go to the service) on Sundays and during the week if we're at church for a weeknight activity. She isn't afraid of the nurse at the pediatrician, or the pediatrician. And she gets a chance to be social with other kids-- which right now is teaching her how to share and be nice (we're struggling, but this too shall pass).
The bottom line: she's learning that mommy and daddy will always come back to get her. And in the meantime she can be social, have fun, and learn new things.
Honestly though, I think that even if I stayed home, I'd still need some time away from my kiddo(s). I think it's healthy for everyone involved. In the summers, when I play stay-at-home-momma, I look forward to evening walks by myself to decompress and just be me. I even took her to the sitter's once a week this past summer so that I could have some time to myself (and to keep Cate used to being away from me every once in a while). And my stay-at-home-momma friends are great examples of this. Their children all have times when they're away from mommy and they're all pretty social kiddos.
Everyone's parenting philosophy is different, but this is what works for us. We both work so that we do have the extra money to pay off our mortgage early, save for Cate's college, take vacations, etc. Our time away from Cate helps us to recharge and we try really hard to not bring work home with us so that we can focus on Cate and our family when we do get home (and if we do have to bring work home, we do it after she goes to bed). Cate's time away from us helps her to learn social skills, manners, and that mommy and daddy will always come back. Nobody can replace mommy and daddy, but it's nice to get to know other people and learn to love them too.
And in the end-- we're all thriving!