When I first went back to work full-time after having my eldest son, I was a wreck. It was absolutely the right choice for me, hands down. I love my kids, so very much. But I also love my job and I was really not enjoying trying to do it part-time with cobbled-together daycare. (The nadir was doing a last-minute interview on my cell phone, from a Sears changeroom because I could lock my toddler in with me and he could look in the mirror. And we could both learn there were some pins in the carpet.) But I'd also bought into the idea that leaving my son with a stranger was basically going to almost-ruin his life -- at best, a not-soul-destroying evil necessity. And if you've read the New Republic article on "The Hell of American Daycare" (caution: don't) you'll know that there is substandard care and it can be really scary. So there certainly were horror stories out there. However, graced by the ability to fund higher-quality care, the time to do a search, and a friend who referred me to my final choice, I found a really great group care situation, which also happens to be a Montessori environment. This is not for everyone and I am not trying to talk anyone into anything! But I did want to share that it hasn't been just a compromise for us -- it's been a bonus. Here are 5 things I am so, so happy about with my decision, 5 and a half years later. 1. My son got more people to care about him Yes, the teachers at my son's daycare are paid and it is true that unlike his relatives, they would not want to look after him for free. However, they are a warm and caring bunch who really do care about, and even -- in the most professional sense of the word -- love him. The language around "leaving your child to be cared for by strangers" only rang true for me for about a month. After that, they weren't strangers. I realize nanny-cam stories abound but...it's just not our experience. What my son seemed to learn from the experience is that the world has more people to make sure he's not hungry or unhappy than just our immediate family. His sense of security, over time, increased rather than decreased. 2. Daycare staff -- all different kinds -- have really great ideas for my child One thing our particular daycare is great at is food. They serve a healthy international menu. But the way the catering company does it is interesting - they do a ton of assemble-your-own meals so that the kids have control, putting together tacos and choosing toppings for rice. I was able to take that idea back to our house for some really nice dinners. Not a must-have but really nice to have. 3. My son was ready to learn things I didn't think of When my son was three, his daycare did a unit on the human body that included making a huge paper tracing of his body and then sticking construction paper organs on it - stomach, intestines and so forth. I admit that I rolled my eyes a little bit. I thought it was a fun art activity but the idea that my child was learning all the inner workings of the human body seemed just a little overblown to me. When he came down with appendicitis over a year later, he discussed with the nurses how food is digested and was able to understand why he had to pass gas and so on. I was kind of stunned that he had remembered. At home, I freely admit, I would never, ever have introduced this information into his life at that time. 4. I got a team of consultants about childhood development I'm an information junkie and I love kids, and had worked with them at camps and even in the public school board, so I really thought that I had a handle on childhood development. But I learned pretty quickly that when it's your own kid developing, suddenly a lot of experience and information can seem overwhelming if not downright useless. So when my son hit a roadblock with learning to write, I was so glad to be able to ask his teachers what a normal learning path was, what they'd observed with other kids -- and more to the point, what was up with my particular child, whom they had seen learn for the past 2 years. And then I could take their advice and breathe. (At 7, writing is still not his favourite thing, but he is doing just fine in second grade.) 5. Yes, daycare really can be a community Okay we've all heard that daycare helps kids socialize. In our case I'd done a pretty good job at playgroups, but it was different having my child in contact with the same kids every day for weeks. He did learn to do things like take turns a little bit better than he had been at home. What's more though -- our whole family got a group of families at similar stages to get to know through playdates and birthday parties and all the rest. We have been really happy to have that in our lives. What choices have you made for your kids that have delighted you beyond what you originally expected?