My 19-month-old son started daycare three weeks ago, and he’s having a hard time. I feel terrible, especially because I insisted on enrolling him. I think I’m doing the right thing, but sometimes I have doubts.
There probably isn’t a mother alive who doesn’t worry about whether she is doing the right thing when she enrolls her child in daycare. And there are a lot of child development researchers who wonder the same thing, including yours truly.
Research dealing with this issue began back in the late 1960s, at a time when more women were starting to join the workforce while their children were still young. It is never easy to try to compress 40 years of research into a few sentences, but I’m going to try.
I would say that over these years we have learned at least three things:
1. If the child comes from a home that does not provide adequate stimulation and support for development (good healthcare and nutrition, lots of talking and reading, exposure to varied experiences and plenty of love and emotional support), early quality childcare can provide significant advantages for young children and lead to positive intellectual and social growth. (It doesn’t sound like you need to worry about this. Your concern about whether you’re doing the right thing reveals your love and care for your child.)
2. If the mother has a good relationship with her child and is sensitive to the child’s needs before enrollment in a quality daycare, the child is not likely to develop a poor relationship with his or her mother while in non-maternal care. If you have a close relationship with your son now, and if he is securely attached to you, participation in childcare won’t destroy the relationship.
3. Quality is critical. Childcare varies widely in quality, so make certain you have enrolled your child in a high-quality setting.
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.