I stayed at home with my son for the first year and a half of his life. (Disclaimer: I subscribe to the "a happy parent is a good parent" philosophy of child-rearing, so this choice is by no means a statement on how I think others should parent.) Because we are very, very lucky to have eager grandparents and aunts/uncles nearby, we had never left him in the care of a non-family member until I started working part-time a month ago and sending him to a nanny 15 hours/week.
I have never liked that child-care providers get so little respect and pay in our society, especially because it is so bound up in sexism and racism (at least where I am, most of the nannies are women of color and often immigrants to the U.S.). I find it even more baffling now that I have personal experience with one and can see first-hand what a huge difference she is making in my son's life. He is so happy to see her whenever I bring him over; in fact, twice when I have picked him up he has cried when she passed his stroller to me (this is a child who screams bloody murder if anyone, including his father, takes him away from me, so that is a huge deal). She is teaching him to be gentle with a younger baby who she watches at the same time. She is teaching him Spanish, something I had tried to do and not made any progress on. He now can ask for agua when he is thirsty, which is a huge improvement over screaming until we figure out what he means (because he can't pronounce "water" yet). She is teaching him to count. His behavior when he is with me is improved. She has an incredible knack for getting him to cooperate; I wish I could hang around and watch and learn from her. And the fact that she is so good at what she does and willing to do it for our family means that I get to go out and do something I am good at, make a little money, and then come home and be a better parent to my child because I had a break. In retrospect, I was kind of drowning as a SAHM and she has given me a little bit of my life back.
What is wrong with our society that so many look down on those who can do all of that?