On the radio this morning I heard an interview with Dr Aric Sigman, a fellow of the Society of Biology, who has been looking at the cortisol levels (stress hormone) in infants and toddlers in day care as opposed to those cared for at home. He found that the levels are higher in babies and children under five in day care. He was very careful not to draw any conclusions from this – merely to point it out and suggest that it was an area which deserved further study– but inevitably, the headline writers had already got to work.

Common sense would surely suggest that these findings should not be surprising as having to adjust to a different environment must cause some stress to a very young child, even if the long term outcome is not detrimental.

However, the lady from the Day Care Trust who also took part in the interview was very defensive; she feared that this research would just burden working mothers, who had no option but to work, with yet more unnecessary guilt. What appeared odd to me is that she did not suggest that there was another way that allows parents both to work and to care for their children, and that, in these days of cyber-communication, is not that hard to set up: they work flexi-hours from home. This is a particularly attractive option if you have children with serious allergies as the option of leaving them in the care of those who may not understand or be sufficiently vigilant to protect them is a scary one.

The conversation reminded me, if slightly elliptically, of a blog I read recently.  The blogger had two daughters, an eleven year old who had no health issues and an eight-year-old who had multiple life threatening allergies. I will not detail it here as it will only take you five minutes to read at the Egg-Free Epicurean but the thrust of the piece is that, in one’s concern for one’s allergic child, it is very easy either sideline the needs of one’s non-allergic child, or to assume that they understand  and appreciate the risks their sibling runs and the constraints on his or her life, when actually, they really do not.


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