Dr. Sarah (00:02):

Ever wonder what psychologists moms talk about when we get together, whether we’re consulting one another about a challenging case or one of our own kids, or just leaning on each other when parenting feels hard, because trust me, even when we do this for a living, it’s still hard. Joining me each week in these special Thursday shows are two of my closest friends, both moms, both psychologists, they’re the people I call when I need a sounding board. These are our unfiltered answers to your parenting questions. We’re letting you in on the conversations the three of us usually have behind closed doors. This is Securely Attached: Beyond the Sessions.


Hello. So happy to have Dr. Rebecca Hershberg and Dr. Emily Upshur back for some Q&A. How are you?

Dr. Rebecca (00:50):

Hi. Well thanks. How are you doing?

Dr. Sarah (00:52):


Dr. Emily (00:52):

Hey guys.

Dr. Sarah (00:54):

Hey. Okay, so I have a question. This mom emailed me. She says, my son is almost three and he has always been pretty confident. And we also have a 16 month old daughter. I work two to three days a week, and lately he does not want me to go. I’m not sure if it’s the in-home daycare environment just missing me or something else. He is more of an introvert. I do have the flexibility to step away from work, and we plan to start trying to add a third child to our crew later this year. How do you decide if it’s better for a child to have a stay-at-home mom? Or if we’re helping him to be flexible and adaptable by being in childcare, or should we consider a nanny in our home instead?


Thanks. Okay, so in reading this, I hear multiple different layers to this question, and I feel like we could talk a little bit about all of them, but the first thing I’m hearing is really more of a bigger and perhaps even societal question of the challenge that a parent faces, often moms, but frankly lots of dads too. But the question of do I stay at home with my kid or do I go back to work? And that’s a big question. So that’s one thing I’m hearing. The other thing I’m hearing in this question is really about childcare choices. Is it better to keep my child at home with a nanny, or is it better for them to be in a group childcare setting? Pros and cons to that, right? I don’t think there’s right or wrongs to actually any of these questions or explicit advice that one can necessarily dole out, but it’s worth having a conversation about these dilemmas that parents often face. But then there’s this other piece that’s sort of embedded deeper in this question that I’m hearing, which is, my child doesn’t want me to leave and I have a hard time knowing how to respond to that, right?


Do I not leave or do I leave? And if I leave, how do I handle his distress? Which I think that might be happening in the context of you going to work and having to separate from your kid. But my guess is that conundrum, which is a super universal issue that all parents who have a child with a will and a set of preferences as they often do, will face, right, my child wants something and I can’t give it to them in this moment, and they’re distressed and I’m feeling torn. I could try to make myself able to give it to them, but maybe I can’t. So that’s I think, which is a much different issue of childcare versus staying at home, working versus not working. But what are you guys thinking? Do you agree with the sort of breakdown of those three major questions inside of this question?

Dr. Emily (03:55):

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think it’s a lot of layers here, and I definitely want to address not having a right or wrong answer to these. I think I can tell you from my personal experience, even with my first child, I also tried something and switched. I tried having a nanny, and then I felt like having a daycare environment was a better environment for my child. I think it’s also about this person is asking, how do I know how to make a choice? How do I know what the change is? And I think we have to take a step back and say, just because your child has a strong reaction doesn’t mean it’s the wrong choice. And trying to figure out, of course we wish we had her here, but we can’t do that. As we always say, this is a very individualized thing, but I think of pulling back and trying to figure out, and whose benefit are these choices for are as the parent, are we saying, I don’t like this feeling, so I want to make a shift, or I don’t think this is a good match for my child, so I’d like to make a shift.


I think really looking inside and trying to figure out what’s the question you’re trying to answer inside of yourself first before you make a pivot.

Dr. Sarah (05:22):

Yeah, yeah, no, that’s a really good point. And I think it kind of comes back to this other piece, which is there isn’t a right and wrong here. I really feel strongly that childcare, for example, there’s a ton of research, a ton of research that says that separating from your child so that you can go to work and they can experience some level of safe and caring and attuned childcare from another person is not only not a bad thing, but can be a good thing. I think how we do something is so much more important than the question, do we or don’t we do something? I think that for, and it’s not always the only question to ask is what’s best for my child? An important question to be asking for. Sure. But another important question is, what is best for me? And I think that question gets dropped so much for parents.


If you don’t want to give up your job, and again, we’re talking about you don’t have to, this is a choice, but if you don’t want to, I want to work. I find joy in my job, I find purpose in my work, I love my children. I wish I could be with them more than I am. And also I don’t want to stop working. It would be a loss for me to stop working. And how would that loss impact my ability to show up for my children in a way that I want to, right? That’s another piece to this, and I really appreciate this mom’s interest in thinking about what is best for my kid, but I also want her to ask, what’s best for me? What do you want? Do you want, even if you have the flexibility to step away from work, do you want to, if you do, then explore that. But if you don’t or if you feel like you might come to resent that choice or feel regret about giving up something that you didn’t want to give up, that’s worth asking and thinking about as well.

Dr. Rebecca (07:51):

And the idea that if you have that level of flexibility, like Emily said about a child decision, you can change your mind. And there are parents that kind of stop working and then go back to work when their kids, let’s say, reach a developmental stage. And then there are sacrifices that come from that, depending on your career trajectory. There’s all kinds of things to consider. We meet parents all the time who say, I thought I was a super power career person and then I have my kids, and I couldn’t imagine not being with them. Other parents who said, I went out on maternity leave expecting that it would be all end all of my life, and I was counting on the minutes till I could get back to work. Both of them are really good moms. It’s just people are different. I also just want to highlight, I dunno if you guys were, I was struck by the fact that she noted potentially as if it were relevant that her child is an introvert. And I would kind of caution away from, of course, you have to think about your individual child and what’s best for that child’s personality, and yet I’m having a hard time putting this to words. There’s also something about making so much of your child’s temperament or these choices can work for all different types of kids and families. I guess, I don’t know if either of you can say that in a slightly better way, but it felt to me like a little bit of a misplaced focus.

Dr. Emily (09:27):

I think what you’re touching upon, I think it’s important, which is even if we have an inkling of our child’s personality or behavior or temperament, and we want to be sensitive and attuned to that, I think that doesn’t mean it has to be just kind of, to Sarah’s point, the only thing that dictates a choice. And you’re right, there’s lots of different children. Listen, there’s the whole range of children in both situations with moms at home and in daycare and childcare provided locations, and the research really shows they’re all okay. Right. Okay. So I think what you’re trying to say is don’t pigeonhole necessarily. We want you to be attuned, but we don’t need you to be hypervigilant in a way that might make a choice that might limit your child when we don’t know if that’s the full spectrum of importance.

Dr. Rebecca (10:17):

Right. My sense was it was sort of like, well, my child’s an introvert, so would probably not do as well as daycare. At daycare. If they were an extrovert, they would do better. And that’s not, that’s a vast oversimplification of the fact that all different kinds of kids do well in all different kinds of environments. And of course you have to make sure the fit, as you said Sarah, very well, the quality and the attunement, and you have to make sure that that’s correct. But there’s no research showing that depending on your child’s personality type one care setting is preferred.

Dr. Emily (10:52):

Yeah, definitely. And I think it’s funny when you guys were talking about that, I was thinking with Covid, I’ve worked from home more, and I like that. I think my kids find that really difficult, frankly, that I’m there but not accessible to them. It’s very withholding. It feels very icky to them, more than it does if I’m out of my home in a different location for my job. In some ways there’s a push and a pull, but that’s a tough choice. Like, Hey, I like to be able to have lunch in my kitchen. But I’m also aware that sometimes that’s more difficult for them. And so having to make these choices to Sarah, to your point earlier when there’s taking my needs and my children’s needs and my whole family, the gestalt of that into consideration is really important. So I think this mom sounds like is toying with the idea of being home.


And I think, and maybe I don’t want to be creating a whole narrative for this person, but maybe wondering if that’s the right choice for her, if that’s the right choice for her children. And I think thinking through that really clearly is, and talking about it and talking to other people, and I think that’s a really important part of being a parent in your choices you make or troubleshooting out what that might look like and what that might feel like and trying that on for size, even if it’s just intellectually before you make a shift.

Dr. Sarah (12:28):

And I do think that makes me think of this other piece of what’s better. I am using air quotes, but you can’t see what’s better, like nanny versus daycare versus staying with your parents. And I think we’re going to be that annoying podcast host again where we’re like, there is no right answer. I’m so sorry. But the reality is there isn’t a right. There is no one way to do this. Children thrive with nannies, children thrive at group care, children thrive with stay at home parents. Children can struggle in all of those transitions to those settings because it’s a transition and it’s an adaptation to a new environment that’s not familiar and comfortable yet. And when they do adapt, as long as it’s the right environment, they usually do eventually adapt. Some kids take longer than others, and sometimes it’s not the right environment and you have to pivot.


But it might be that particular, I know a lot of families that have started at a daycare and it wasn’t quite the right fit for their kid, but then they went to a different daycare and it was phenomenal for them. So it wasn’t the daycare as an idea, it was the specific place that they went to that wasn’t the right match. And so it’s a little bit about being willing to trust your children’s ability to adapt to something. And I mean, I’m a little biased. I obviously did my own. I mean, I put my kids in daycare as a choice from the very beginning versus a nanny. I knew I was going back to work, but that wasn’t a choice for me. But the daycare or nanny, who was going to be the person watching my kid, I really wanted to do group care. That was what I thought would be best in my own opinion for me and the separation that my child had to experience, and this is true for nannies or daycare, frankly, it’s really about separating from the parent.


It was really hard for them. Also, super hard for me as a new parent to do that. But the reuniting really I think strengthens the attachment to the parent. And so I would not be afraid to have, I would not be afraid to separate, to introduce a scenario where you have to separate from your child because it might cause distress. It does. Distress comes with separation that’s normal and healthy and appropriate, and reuniting strengthens that attachment bond. And also feeling safe with other adults and trusting that they’re going to care for you. And developing a close relationship with caregivers outside of your immediate attachment figures builds more secure attachment relationships. And the more secure attachment relationships we have, the stronger that sort of sense of security is in our blueprint. And I think there’s a lot of value in that.

Dr. Rebecca (15:57):

Absolutely. I too sent my kids to daycare. And for me it was again, sort of luck and benefit of in both places that I lived, finding a specific place that felt good to me. And also for me, it ended up being less about my kid and more about, I just felt more comfortable, frankly, in a very gut check way, like just checking in with my body, thinking about having one person taking care of my kid and then kids versus a place, and a place just felt better for me. Somebody else could potentially have the exact opposite experience, and then that’s not the right choice for her, and that’s important.

Dr. Sarah (16:51):

Yeah. So in not answering any of your questions, I hope we answered your question.

Dr. Rebecca (16:57):

What else is new?

Dr. Sarah (16:59):

We’re seriously, people are going to stop writing us questions. Please keep writing us questions. I love your questions. I’ll continue to not answer your questions for 20 minutes at a time every Thursday with the help of Rebecca and Emily. No, I joke. I hope we answered it. I hope we answered it in the best way we can, which is to say, you have to really listen to yourself, listen to your kid, listen to your circumstances, trust. Trust in the process, and know that you can change your mind. You can keep iterating. You didn’t sign a blood contract for any of these things, hopefully.

Dr. Rebecca (17:38):


Dr. Sarah (17:39):

All right. Thank you guys so much for being here. This was wonderful as always.

Dr. Rebecca (17:44):

Thank you. Bye bye.

Dr. Sarah (17:49):Thank you so much for listening. As you can hear, parenting is not one size fits all. It’s nuanced and it’s complicated. So I really hope that this series where we’re answering your questions really helps you to cut through some of the noise and find out what works best for you and your unique child. If you have a burning parenting question, something you’re struggling to navigate or a topic you really want us to shed light on or share research about, we want to know, go to drsarahbren.com/question to send in anything that you want, Rebecca, Emily, and me to answer in this new series Securely Attached: Beyond the Sessions. That’s drsarahbren.com/question. And check back for a brand new securely attached next Tuesday. And until then, don’t be a stranger.

✨We want to hear from you! Go to https://drsarahbren.com/question to send us a question or a topic you want to hear us answer on Securely Attached – Beyond the Sessions! ✨

201. BTS: Is it better for my kids if I send them to daycare, have a nanny, or become a stay-at-home mom?