This question will continue to be answered in 50 different ways; it all comes down to the parent working situation and the child’s readiness; in some cases the parent’s readiness. Not having the luxury to extend your home stay with your child and going back to work is the only option; this can make the decision slightly easier. Assuming you don’t have help or family and friends who can care take day care is really the only option you would have if you want to continue to be employed and have an income to survive.
If you do have the option to stay home longer and be with your child you might want to consider the following when deciding whether you should sign them up for day cares or not:
- In most cases daycares are always super full, and to get anywhere worth putting them in you will need to be on a waiting list and plan well ahead. So if you want them to go to a specific daycare or if you are limited by location, you need to plan ahead otherwise you’ll be caught for dragging it out. You might need to put some sort of deposit, and if you decided to change your mind so goes your deposit. But it’s a small price to pay to secure a place for the likely chance you will put them in eventually. Especially if you feel very strongly about a particular facility or set of daycare teachers.
- Is your kid ready? If you find it hard to stimulate or keep your child busy at home, and if you see them longing for other children, these are tell-tale signs that your kid needs to go to daycare. They are mentally and emotionally ready and need that additional stimulation to help them grow and develop, some need this earlier than others so suss out your child by taking them to play areas and see how they react. The usual problem is whether parents are ready to let go and get back to the “normal” life they had. Being emotionally tethered to your child after months of being together 24 hours is hard to just move on from, so it might be you who has the issue of moving on (be honest with yourself and see what’s best for your child).
- Inversely you might be itching to go back to work but your child is still emotionally sensitive about letting go. It really depends on each child and their personality. If that is the case plan ahead and ease them into it by volunteering in the daycare or having the option to being with your kid there, at least for a month or so until they get used to it. Might be a bit of an effort early on, but the emotional safety and confidence this gives your child is priceless. It is also whether your child is physically ready as they will surely be sick for many of the days in their first year of daycare – this is until their immunity bulks up as they get exposed to other kids. So make sure that your child can physically handle this by talking to your doctor.
- Putting them in daycare may not be a full time thing, especially if you don’t have a job to go to, you might want to consider putting them a couple or few days a week. This is mainly to expose your kid to other experiences without potentially overwhelming them. Check day cares and their availability schedules and see a program that suites your lifestyle, it’s not an all or nothing (unless you really have to go back to work and work schedules are inflexible).
In the end it’s a case by case type of decision, and what worked for your first child may not be the best options for your second. Be honest with yourself, see how you child is in places outside their comfort zones (home) and how they react. That’s the best way to decide whether it is too early or not to take them to daycare.