I definitely see it as a personal choice. In America, standard maternity leave that’s provided is usually measured in weeks, as opposed to other countries that may measure in years as a standard. I know plenty of people who had a parent stay at home with them for the first couple years of their lives, and some who remained a stay at home parent even after the kids were school aged. I also know plenty of people who were raised by a single working parent or two working parents, where they chose to or didn’t have a choice but to return to work in a matter of weeks.
In terms of latch key children, or kids being raised to be independent or respectful or with whatever other values are important to a parent, looking back, I don’t see that these characteristics were always more prevalent in those raised by their parents full time, possibly more to do with the parenting style and how well that meshed with the individual child - for example, my parents both worked, and I spent the majority of my days with an amazing babysitter before I was old enough for school, and then once I was school aged, I’d go to a daycare before and after school, so that my parents could work. I was able to be home alone after school by the time I was in middle school. However, I knew my parents had high expectations, and I was raised to respect them and their expectations, and I wanted to please them and do the right thing (usually ;)). Every situation is different, because every child is different and every parent is different, and I don’t see a universal right or wrong.
As to whether or not women should work or are qualified to work, or deserve the right to work and support themselves/those they care for, I don’t see how gender should matter. If a person can perform a job and an employer is happy with their performance, I see no reason why that person shouldn’t have the chance to work - male or female. There’s many ways to contribute to society, and everyone should be able to give in the way they think best. If a person and a family decide that working is best for a woman, then that’s their right, and I don’t see that it’s anyone else’s concern. And on the flip side, exactly the same applies if they decide to stay home with a child/children, for any amount of time.