We're a little unique because I talked to other families who chose to have a parent at home, and a lot of them really didn't like the idea of daycare "raising" their kid. This is not an issue I care passionately about, I think daycares probably raise kids just fine. In fact we've left Josie at various church groups since she was 1 or so and now she's in preschool from 9-2 three days a week, because she loves that stuff. I think it's good for kids to be out there and part of the community... one of my favorite books about motherhood by Judith Warner helped me realize that too. Warner says that in America we have a tendency to say "Kids need toys, slides, drawing easels... so I'm going to BUY IT ALL!" Other countries are more likely to say "Kids need toys, slides, drawing easels... so let's set up a shared space for our neighborhood where those things are that way our houses can stay clean and look like they're run by adults." ah ha.
We mostly just thought daycare was expensive. And inconvenient. I didn't want to leave earlier for work to drop off the kids. If it was time for me to go to work and the baby was asleep, I wanted her to stay asleep.
And for the most part, that's all been a good idea. But I'd be lying if I said I never wondered of the grass was greener. We really feel like we're on our own with no daycare. I've left work early before when my husband hurt his back - he couldn't physically pick up babies. I've gone to work slightly less-than-healthy (for non-contagious issues, don't worry) because if I stay home sick, I know there will be a three-year-old jumping on me.
And there are no experts to swoop in to give you professional pointers when your parenting books and instincts aren't working. When we were in potty training hell, I heard from too many friends who were like "My kid just learned it from daycare." then suggested using a sticker chart or M&Ms as if we hadn't tried the obvious... screw M&Ms, I would have bought that kid a car! But only our own sheer persistance and lots of new clothes got us to the end goal.
And since it's February, I'd like to mention that self-employment in general makes our taxes HELL, if you're pulling in random extra money with no withholding you need to be really good at accounting (marc isn't) or else you will owe an assload of money to the IRS at the end of the year. If he had a "normal" job with withholding it'd be easier, but that's kind of a side issue I know. Let's just say that second incomes are always taxed very heavily, that's one reason why parents stay home in the first place, and none of that changes when you do stay home and the income is self-employment.
My point is that we're an example of a family that's impartial to the child-raising controversies surrounding daycare, so I can see both sides and would really have no great recommendation either way for a family debating what to do. A lot of the decision just might have to come down to money - do you make enough to pay for good childcare. If you're borderline, then you have to consider the "extra" expenses that come along with full-time employment, the fact that you're going out to lunch more often, have to maintain a business casual wardrobe, the car needs gas to get you there and back. All of that subtracts from the raw income numbers, but it can be hard to guess how much.
99% of the time though our setup makes life very easy. I get home, Marc has stuff for dinner and starts cooking while I re-connect with the baby. He drives them to appointments. Keeps them reasonably entertained. Their life is relaxing. So all of that is good stuff. If they were in daycare, I'm sure we'd just adjust and go with the flow of it all, it could happen someday. But for now, this works.