So, you finally found the perfect daycare center. The teachers are great and your child wakes up every morning happy to go see them! Congratulations, you’ve come a long way!
But there’s one last big question: how much child care is OK? Is full-time daycare a good idea? Should I really be leaving him there all day?
The science is not so helpful when it comes to making a definitive conclusion (see our previous post “Is Daycare Bad for Kids?”.) There are studies saying that full time child care has negative consequences and some studies saying that children make better developmental progress from being around other children in a daycare or preschool environment.
How to make sense of it all, especially if full-time daycare is the only real option (e.g. if both you and your spouse work)? Here are three simple ways to approach the issue:
1. Make sure the care is good.
This one is a no-brainer! All bets are off if the home daycare or child care center is not a good fit for your child. Even part-time care will be too much if she doesn’t like it. Wondering what is a good daycare? Check out our post on how to know what high quality child care looks like.
2. If you don’t work, experiment to find the right schedule.
If you don’t work or work part-time, try introducing daycare gradually, a few hours at a time. Your child will most definitely benefit from interacting with other children. If it’s high-quality care and it works for you and your child, there is no reason with you shouldn’t increase the schedule to full-time.
3. If you work, try to be flexible.
If you work, it may not be possible to take such a flexible approach to find the right amount of child care. You are not alone. In fact, work-life balance might be the socioeconomic “hot button” of this century. White House statistics from 2014 suggest that 60% of all families have both parents employed (one parent in the case of a single-parent family). That’s up a full 20% from 1965.
So what can you do? Try your best. You can try to negotiate a more flexible schedule, for example, while your child is getting used to a new preschool. Hopefully the adjustment phase will only be a week or two. Ultimately, though, this call is a tough one to make.
Can you share your experience with asking your boss for more flexibility? Any other tips for striking a work-life balance?