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Will my son act differently when I return to work?
Q: My son will be turning 1 in three weeks, and I think I’m ready to go back to work. Will he act differently when I’m not with him all day? And, if so, how can his caregiver and I help him?
A: Your question is a good one, and it demonstrates your concern for your son’s welfare along with your own desire to return to work. Fortunately, we have a lot more research to base your answer on than was the case a decade or so ago, when the popular press and many parents assumed that maternal employment must damage children. There is now a great deal of evidence showing that if you have a good relationship with your son, are sensitive and responsive to his emotional needs and provide adequate stimulation to pace his intellectual development, time in childcare will not necessarily damage him emotionally or intellectually—and it may help him considerably in his social development.

An important proviso, however, is that the supplementary care you arrange for him must be of high quality. If you settle for a poor quality arrangement, the assurance offered in the above paragraph does not apply. Good quality can be found in all types of arrangements—someone coming into your home, care in someone else’s home or enrollment in a centre. If you choose either of the last two types, make certain that there are no more than four babies per caregiver; with many infants needing attention and care at the same time, there is simply no way one person can meet their developmental needs. Also, try to arrange it so you can remain with him most of the day for the first week or so. If you see any signs of disturbance in your baby (not sleeping or eating well, crying or fussing), talk to your son’s caregiver and pool your ideas about how to help him adjust to this transition.

Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education