Update: It seems that quite a discussion is going on with the rabbi in the comments section on Moreshet, for those who read Hebrew.
A commenter on my previous post drew my attention to a responsum from the Orthodox website Moreshet. Here is my translation:
Love and Warmth for a Child
Shalom to the honorable rabbi. I would like to ask until what age it is worthwhile and desirable for a baby/child to stay at home with his mother.
The answer to your question is so individual, keeping a child at home or sending him to daycare and into society depends on the child’s rate of development. There are children who will feel fine going to daycare at 3 months, and there are some who will need a whole year until it will be possible to send them.
A second issue concerns the quality of the daycare center and the caretakers, do they simply change diapers or engage in activities with the children. If the activities are designed to engage the child and get the most out of him (?????? ?? ????) as much as possible, he will be better able to get along in society. If he is just going for babysitting there is no point.
Most of my children and grandchildren went out at three months, and baruch Hashem, they all developed excellently and are very sociable. They know how to get along very well, and these are things that are not learned at home.
Now I only use Moreshet for questions about things like kashrut, and I wouldn’t dream of asking a rabbi a question about daycare. With all due respect, I don’t understand why the rabbi feels he has anything more to say about this issue than any other experienced father/grandfather. He doesn’t quote sources or relate to halacha at all. However, the mother did ask for his opinion.
To respond to the specific points:
- Just because a child doesn’t cry in daycare, doesn’t mean that he is doing well. Studies have shown that even calm infants in daycare have higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, than babies who stay with their mothers.
- Presumably he believes that three months is the minimum, but that seems arbitrary to me. Would he write the same thing if maternity leave in Israel were longer or shorter?
- It’s interesting that he sees daycare as positive from the point of view of the baby’s social and cognitive development. In this he reflects the view of the prevailing culture, which rationalizes early daycare as an educational necessity instead of a default option for two-income families.
- How sad that the rabbi believes that a Jewish mother has less to give to her own child than a good daycare center.
- As I have posted many times, early socialization is overrated at best and harmful at worst.
- Anecdotes about how great kids turn out because the parents did x, y, and z annoy me. Perhaps his children and grandchildren turned out wonderfully in spite of early daycare and not because of it. Nevertheless, I will share about my 5.5yo son who went to gan for the first time last fall (actually, he was in a cooperative preschool at age two for three hours two or three times a week, with three other children and their mothers). He adjusted to gan easily and everything is fresh for him. And he has many friends, but I would be fine if he were less popular. He is more than prepared enough for first grade, and I assure you that I did not do workbooks with him or follow any curriculum.
The commenter Ora wrote:
It really annoyed me–it’s hard enough raising kids without a rabbi telling you you’re not capable of it and need to send them away. As if I needed less confidence.
Ora, you raise an important point. We mothers, whatever choices we make, have a hard enough job. No matter what we do we feel we need to do more. I hope that you can find other mothers in your community who understand the importance of mothering. I am sure you are doing a great job.