It can be a real wrench for new parents – enrolling your baby in a nursery and going back to work.
But for the mothers and fathers of Muswell Hill, there is now an additional challenge to deal with.
They are under attack from a neighbour in the affluent north London suburb who is trying to shame them with a letter scolding parents for using a nursery.
Signing her name ‘Sheila’, the mystery woman wrote: ‘Dear parents, I live near you and I see you taking your baby to the nursery… I notice your baby is very distressed and disturbed coming/going to the nursery.
Sheila went on to say she was a mother herself and that ‘for the first four years a baby only wants its mother.’
Mothers and fathers of Muswell Hill, there is now an additional challenge to deal with in the form of a judgmental neighbour
The note added that the parents were not thinking about their daughter by taking her to nursery.
The A4 letter was posted through the door of mother Joanne Flynn, 38, who took a photo of it and shared it on a Facebook group for 5,000 Muswell Hill parents.
Mrs Flynn, who has a two-year-old daughter, said the letter arrived anonymously through the post.
She added: ‘If “Sheila” is in this group, my husband and I would like to have a conversation with you face-to-face to discuss this.’
Sheila, who said her own children were now 14, wrote to the parents, saying: ‘The hours you have your baby in are just far too long and this is so disturbing for a baby as they only want their mum. You have missed so much… you can never get those years back, and someone else has had those years.
‘There is no point in having kids for someone else to bring him or her up.’
Outraged parents condemned the ‘bizarre rantings’ of Sheila.
One mother, named Olivia, wrote: ‘I’m really shocked and saddened that someone felt the need to encroach on your family life in this way. I’m sure you are doing what’s best for you and your children.’
Another said: ‘What a nasty piece of work. How can someone be so judgemental and smug?’
A third mum called Lauren said: ‘I’m lost for words reading this. You can see by everyone’s joint outrage that Sheila is a single minority person in a large community of mums and dads. Throw the letter in the fire and don’t give her a second thought.’
The note from Sheila added that the parents were not thinking about their daughter by taking her to nursery.
Muswell Hill is a popular area for young families and a high proportion have both parents going out to work. The manager of one local nursery said: ‘There must be about a dozen nurseries in the area because the demand for them is so high.
‘This letter is preposterous. Is it up to every individual parent to decide if their child should go into nursery or not.
‘The young children who come in here are very happy and receive a lot of attention during the day. By interacting with other children during the day, they develop social skills which makes it easier when they start school.’
The debate about stay-at-home versus back-to-work parenting has raged for generations.
But in recent times, couples have increasingly found it difficult to pay mortgages and bills without dual incomes.
The charity What About The Children has said babies and young infants can experience separation anxiety and fear of strangers if they spend too long away from their mothers too quickly. It advocates: ‘If your baby doesn’t settle then it may be best to postpone the return to work, if at all.’
But a recent study suggested children of working mothers developed faster than those of women who stay at home. Those with mothers who stayed at home were less advanced, said scientists at Oxford University and the London School of Economics.