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).