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Our son is 14 months old. Both the mother and I have in the last month entered full time education (I was in full time employment, she was on maternity leave). We are lucky to have my wife's parents living with us until January.

The original plan was that our son would be looked after by my parents-in-law and a child-minder (so to give our parents a break) until January. After that we would rely on the same childminder and a nursery until the age of 2, and then straight nursery after that.

This has not worked out. We have not been able to successfully leave our son with the childminder - he cries and she cannot comfort him. Although the situation with the grandparents is better (they can comfort him when he cries) and he enjoys their company, he has shown signs of 'pining' until his mother or I get home. Up until now I have been attending lectures, but then rushing home to spend time with the child. This is not sustainable, my course requires revision, as well as simply attending lectures.

We realise now that looking to leave him with others from such a young age was a mistake for us, and have decided that we want to reverse this. Maybe we were naive as first time parents - but we didn't realise the effect this would have on him and us. We re-read the (inconclusive) research on early child care and now want to maximise parental time with him before he goes into child-care. NB - That is not a value judgement, I realise everyone's circumstances will be different.

We have two options:

a. I suspend my studies now and start my course again in September 2019. At that point the child would go straight into full time nursery at the age of 25 months.

b. I continue at uni until January 2019; then suspend my studies, and resume in January 2020. My wife breaks-up mid December meaning the grandparents would look after the child for the next two months. I would stay at uni for the majority of the working day so the grand-parents would be the primary carers. The advantage here is that our son would then go to full time nursery at the age of 29 months. Our parents are content to do this.

Some supplementary info: my wife cannot defer, while I can (and my university have already approved both scenarios). I am lucky in that I have a very close relationship with my son, am used to dealing with child-caring tasks (e.g. nappies, feeding, cleaning, etc) and am happy being a stay at home dad. This will stretch our finances more as it will take me longer to finish uni, but we would rather tighten our belts and do this.

Ultimately the question is what is better for the child's development and well-being - (a) father home now at this early stage, but an earlier start to nursery; or (b) rely on grandparents a bit longer at an early stage, but delay entry to nursery?

I appreciate as with most parenting there is no 'right' or 'wrong'; but answers that will help me with making my decision:

  • Other people's reading of the research as to which part of the 'trade off' I have to make is more important in a child's development. My reading so far is inconclusive, but others who have read widely on this may have drawn a conclusion that comes down on one side or the other.

  • Other people's anecdotal experiences of sending their children to nursery at various ages or using grandparents to provide early, under-two, childcare. This is less important than the research angle, but still could be interesting.

Addendum. A number of people have noted that another option is to try other childminders. Thank you for the suggestion, your feedback is appreciated. However the experience with the childminder has made me realise I want to spend a year raising my child, it is not that I feel I am being forced into it. More than a year is not really an option though - due to finances and the academic schedule. The question is therefore about when does this start / end i.e. option a) or b) above, based on research (or anecdotal experience).

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    Hi and welcome! I'm not sure we can help you; all you're likely to get is opinions ("I did this and my kid(s) turned out great...") People will state and support their biases. (You're not likely to get people stating, "My kids are grown now; one is in jail and one is a doctor. I left the first one in nursery at 3 months, but stayed home with the second...") This decision - and the outcome - is multifactorial, and you've started doing your research. How exactly can we help? (Is stating our biases helpful? Do you only want to hear from parents of adolescents and older?)... (1/2) – anongoodnurse Oct 16 '18 at 20:23
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    (2/2) FWIW, I like your question and think it's a very important one. I just don't know what kind of answer you're looking for. From an academic standpoint, there's Academics.SE. If your research into it is inconclusive, how can we help? Do you want more research results? (NB Your article states this field is highly politicized and contentious. Would you trust more results?) Not trying to harass you, just trying to help you focus your question. Flag for reopening after editing, or pop into our chat room to discuss. Thanks! – anongoodnurse Oct 16 '18 at 20:29
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    @anongoodnurse Thank you for your good-natured feedback. I have attempted to redefine what I am looking for in answers. In all honesty the discipline of writing thoughts down and then exposing them to others, is in itself a useful exercise. I am open to all responses, I suspect there will be a lot of opinion and 50/50; but that might be useful to triangulate how I feel. I'm not expecting strong opinions (e.g. you would be mad to do x or y, because...), but if those existed that might expose me to points I hadn't considered. – Concrete_Buddha Oct 17 '18 at 9:10
  • It seems to me that you have a third option: try a different childminder or find a part-time nursery that will take your child at a younger age. Children experience separation anxiety and the supplementary caregiver plays a big part in the transition. – Ian MacDonald Oct 17 '18 at 18:31
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Keeping in mind that every child is different, and that my child might not reflect your child, and you asked for real life examples, here's what we did.

Background

My husband and I both work full-time as software developers. Our daughter was born in March, and I was off on maternity leave for 4 months. We occasionally had relatives over to help, but the majority of child care was performed by myself and my husband. I rarely left our daughter alone with others.

Personality wise, our daughter is very outgoing and happy. She rarely fusses, and if she does it's because there's something legitimately wrong. We didn't pursue attachment parenting directly, but were always available to her for comfort, food, or attention. We sleep trained her at 6 months old using a timed check-in method (aka, cry for 5 minutes, soothe, return after 10, soothe, repeat with increasing intervals). She worked it out after about 3 days and slept happily after that.

This is just to give you an idea of how we raised her to date.

Post-Maternity Leave

We had chosen a day care center before our daughter was born. When we picked it we looked for one that had a good ratio (1-3) of teachers to children, and spoke at length with the director and the caregivers. The week before I returned to work we did an overlap week, where I got some much needed relaxation time, and our daughter went to the daycare full time to adjust in a scenario where I could come get her if needed. She was around 4.5 months at the time.

She did beautifully. At the time she was the youngest and smallest, and I was terrified of her being bowled over by the older infants. None of that happened; within days she was genuinely excited when we walked into the daycare room and seemed to look forward to it each day. Yet at the end of the day she is just as happy to see us and to come home, to the point where she'll sometimes fall asleep in the car seat as we drive home (a 5 minute drive at most) and sleep until the next day. We take this as a sign that she's having so much fun at daycare that the moment she's with us, our soothing presence is all she needs to trigger sleep.

Being at daycare really helped her grow and develop in leaps and bounds; being the youngest she essentially had ten or so older siblings to show her how to do things and motivate her to try crawling, rolling, everything. From day one at daycare she's picked up so many new tricks I know she wouldn't have learned just being at home with me or my husband or family.

I was very hesitant as my mother raised us as a work at home mother, and had no personal experience with daycares. However after seeing how wonderfully our daughter is doing and how advanced she is compared to many kids her age I have no regrets regarding our decision.

She attends M-F 6:30am-5:10pm. We usually get an hour to an hour and a half at home with her each night before we begin her bedtime routine. Despite spending what feels like so little time with her she absolutely knows who her parents are, and prioritizes us over everyone else in her little world.

Summary

I couldn't speak to the study portion of your question, but I hope the preceeding shows that you can work or study full-time, send your child to daycare, and have it turn out positively. There may be an adjustment period, but my experience is that if you find a nurturing daycare or nursery, they will find the best way to help your son with the transition and to make him comfortable and happy. It might be rough at first, but there's a number of benefits to sending him to daycare (including a killer immune system!).

  • Thanks for sharing your experiences, I'm glad that things worked out for you. – Concrete_Buddha Oct 20 '18 at 11:58

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