Kimberly, your situation parallels that of all too many of us. With the high cost of living, it is difficult for many families to get by on only one salary. Yet we don’t want to solve one problem—not having enough money to live on—by creating others—predisposing our children to emotional or social problems.
Even though you have been at home full-time during your children’s early years, spending time in childcare does not have to be a traumatic experience for them. The 4-year-old and the baby can be expected to cry a bit or feel sad about the separation. But you have an ally in your 5-year-old. The younger ones will soon share her enthusiasm for school and will come to feel at home during their time in the new environment.
The most important consideration for you is making certain that the care you arrange is of high quality. With three children to make arrangements for, you might be tempted to cut corners and settle on a place that cannot guarantee a good experience for your children. Be sure to check on the teacher-to-child ratios (especially in the group your baby will be in) as well as the qualifications of the director and the remainder of the staff. And note whether the centre is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. If all systems are go, and if you remain loving, attentive and supportive, childcare should not in any way be harmful to your children.
I think it is good that your job is only part-time. That should make the adjustment easier for your children and not put too much of a burden on you. Three children can use up a lot of maternal energy, and so can a full-time job. So keep it part-time as long as you can.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.