Guilt about Child Being in Daycare

Archived Responses: 
Questions Related Pages


Worried about negative results from daycare

May 2008


I would love to hear from parents who have older children (Age 5 and up through young adult) who put their children in full time daycare when their children were infants and/or toddlers. I have been on medical leave from work for the better part of a year and am going back full-time in August. I will be putting my one-year old and two-year old in full-time (7 1/2 hours a day) home based daycare. They have both gone on and off part- time for the past 4 months and the older one went full-time from age 4 months through 1 year. The home daycare I have is very warm and nurturing and came highly recommended. I'm just curious if any parents who've had babies in full-time daycare noticed anything about their children's development, personalities, relationship with parents that may have been a negative result of daycare. I realize that young children (age 0-2) are better off with mom or dad at home for bonding purposes. Of course that makes sense, but how bad is it when you put them in daycare full-time? I can't afford a nanny and am not sure I'd prefer that option anyway. I've considered the pros and cons of working versus not working and staying home with my babies. But I can't account for how damaging the missing bonding time might be for them and me. I realize every child is different and every family has different circumstances that weigh in. I'm just looking for some insight. Thanks for any help, advice! concerned and guilty feeling mom

Perhaps it is your opinion that children from birth to two should stay home with a parent, but for many families that is not an option. Besides, I would lose it if I stayed home full time with my two young children. They are well adjusted and I am completely happy with their home daycare situation. I am so tired of the polarizing debate over staying home with your kids versus working outside the home. Do what works for your family (or in many cases do what is economically necessary) and respect the choices of others who may choose differently. A Huge Fan of Quality Daycare

My just turned 5 year old son has been in daycare full time since he was 4.5 months old. To be honest with you, I don't have any negatives to report. My son is bright, well-adjusted, and was highly socialized from an early age. He doesn't have any siblings, and he has always loved spending his days playing with other children. In fact, the only possible downside is that he finds being home alone hopelessly boring and always wants to be with others. This is sometimes mildly annoying, but he'll learn to read soon enough and that problem will take care of itself ;-)

I remember those feelings of guilt, but daycare has been a wonderful experience for us. We have moved *twice* since he was a baby, so he has been in a total of 3 different places and he has always made new friends easily. Yes, it is hard to leave them at first, but soon enough they can't wait to get there and they don't want to leave when you pick them up. He is perfectly well attached to me and my husband. He is comfortable expressing himself and asking for what he needs.

In other words, your guilt will go away very quickly when you see how happy they are. I love my job and I don't worry about my son at all during the day. He is happy and so are we. Choosing work doesn't make you a bad parent.

I'm sure you'll get lots of first hand accounts, but I wanted to share with you an abstract from a reputable peer-reviewed journal to add to the mix. If you want the full study, go to a Univ's library and find this citation: Bornstein & Chun-Shin. Infant childcare settings and the development of gender-specific adaptive behaviors. Early Child Development and Care. Vol 177(1), Jan 2007, pp. 15-41.

In this study, we defined three distinct groups based on the infant's principal childcare experience: infants reared exclusively at home by their mothers, infants reared in their own homes but by a non-familial childcare provider, and infants reared in non-familial homes in group care. At 4.5 years of age, we compared mothers' and teachers' independent views of the communication, daily living, socialization and motor adaptive behaviors of girls and boys with these different infant childcare histories, after taking multiple family selection factors into consideration. Boys who had other-home-group-care in infancy expressed lower levels of overall adaptive functioning, as well as communication, daily living and socialization skills, than girls [note that the finding is lower than GIRLS, not lower than boys at home with mom]. Girls with other-home-group-care in infancy had better adaptive daily living and socialization skills than girls who had maternal care. Different infant childcare experiences appear to predict different adaptive behaviors in boys and girls.

So, according to this study anyway, there's reason to think the commonly held idea that ''at-home-with-mom is always best'' may not necessarily be true. -Appreciator of scientific studies

I have a 7-year-old who was in home-based daycare 9:00 - 4:00, 4 days a week from 15 months to 3, and in full time preschool from ages 3 - 5. Both daycare and preschool were highly recommended, and really wonderful places. And frankly, I can't really see anything negative that might have come from daycare -- but I do see a lot of positive things. Some examples: He plays extremely well with other kids, he loves to be around kids of a wide age range (he's played successfully with kids from 3 to 12). He will walk up to a kid in a park that he does not know, and ask politely: ''Is it OK if I play with you?'' If the kid says no, he'll just shrug and go on to something else. He's got lots of friends at school. And he seems to be really empathetic, thinks a lot about other kids' feelings. He's really attached to both his parents. But he is also very calm with other adults. Babysitters, after-school enrichment providers, and teachers all think he's great. When a babysitter comes, he happily hugs and says goodbye to his parents and runs off to play with the sitter. Some of this is just his laid-back nature. But some of it is that he had such good experiences playing with other kids, and other adults, in daycare and preschool. He himself remembers both with extreme fondness. He still tells me ''I love Laura'' (his daycare provider), and talks about how much he loved preschool. Karen

I've had both of my kids in full-time daycare since they were 4 months and 6 months of age. They are both entirely socialized, happy people, who have very outgoing and strong personalities. If you find the right caregiver and home/center/school, group day care can be a rich and amazing situation for your children: they learn to develop trust in another adult aside from you; they learn to sleep through crying and fall asleep on their own; they make friends and look forward to seeing them; they learn from the older kids, model for the younger; potty train earlier (monkey see-monkey do); and the list goes on. The only negative I have to say, is they do get sick more often, so be prepared for more doctor visits and spending sick days with them at home (which, if you are a full-time working mom, can be a nice break, but also a hassle.) Good luck with your decision, Positive Day Care Mama

I don't actually believe that children are necessarily ''better off'' with a stay-at-home parent for the first two years, so you can take my opinion for whatever it's worth to you. But babies and toddlers are NEVER harmed by having MORE people who love and care for them.

In our modern culture, where we are often so isolated from extended family and community networks, daycare providers are part of the ''village'' that it proverbially takes to raise a child. Babies do need to form a secure attachment to a loving parent -- but they can only benefit from also having contact with other consistent, loving caregivers.

I'm pretty sure my own son's experience with a shared nanny bears this out...but of course, there's no way to compare directly what his personality or our relationship would be like if his daycare situation had been different than what it was. You won't find anyone who can directly compare the development of a child at home vs. a child in daycare, because all parents must choose one or the other for each child, and the effects on any given child will differ depending on that child's temperament as well as the type and quality of the daycare. Social scientists have demonstrated that there's a tendency for ''daycare kids'' to be a little more social, a little more verbal, and a little more aggressive by their early school years -- all of which basically makes sense -- and have some medical risks that at-home kids don't (e.g., they're less likely to be breastfed), and these effects are more noticeable for kids who are in full time daycare starting very early in life than for kids in part time daycare starting later on. But daycare does NOT, in and of itself, affect how well the children are bonded with their parents. Working Mom

I think you should make a decision based on what works for you and your family rather than based on ''outside'' information that might in the end not work for you. My son is 2.5 and I was a stay at home mom for 2 years. I now work a few hours (12) a week and he goes to daycare. I can't say that i think kids do better in one setting or another. Some of my friends work full-time, some part time, some not and i think how well the kids are doing is more based on how their parents feel than anything else. I think stability is the key. Changing daycare should be, in my opinion, avoided as much as possible. If you love working and you quit because you think it's better for your child, you will be miserable and your kid will suffer. An unhappy mom is not a good mom. anon