Day care: Transitioning from home to day care

My husband's work keeps him away for home seven days at a time and then at home for seven days. Now, he will be away 14 days at a time. My mother has watched our one-year-old daughter since she was a newborn. Now my mom is acting like it will be bother for her and says it will interfere with her and her husband's relationship. Our daughter has never been left with anyone else. How traumatic will it be for her to go to a sitter or day care at her age? Please help.

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Gayle Peterson

Gayle Peterson, PhD, is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She is a clinical member of the Association... Read more

Your daughter has been fortunate to have loving care from her grandmother consistently in her first year of life while her parents worked.

No doubt, your mother's loving care also gave you tremendous confidence in leaving your newborn. Your mother is irreplaceable in her unique role to your daughter, and to you and your husband!

It is understandable that your mother must set limits around her needs and relationship. She has a life of her own. The good news is that your daughter is one year instead of six weeks old. And, it is possible for her to adjust to a new day-care situation.

Before arranging for alternate care, talk with your husband about any possibility of delaying his new schedule. Do not automatically presume that decisions about work must take precedence over caretaking your daughter. Consider the possibility of rearranging your own priorities. Your mother has stretched herself to meet your needs as a family. Perhaps you could consider stretching your own parameters to maintain your current arrangement with your mother. In fact, Grandma may be suffering from the devaluation present in our society around caretaking children. She may even feel that she is taken for granted.

If change in your husband's work schedule is tied to a promotion, can he forego the advancement for six months or one year, when your daughter will be old enough to benefit from peer play in a small, quality day care? Is it possible for you to adjust your work schedule in the upcoming year to maintain the care schedule your mother can currently provide for your daughter?

Your arrangements for the care of your daughter have been exceptional this year. Put priorities of care above others. Refer to my article "Parenthood: The Challenge" on the Making Healthy Families series and "The Working Parent's Handbook" by June Sale and Kit Kollenberg for further discussion and helpful ideas.

If maintaining the current, one week on and one week off, schedule with your mom is not possible, rest assured that your daughter has had a very good first year. She has no doubt established a sense of trust in the world, which will help her to adjust to changes if they are needed.

Perhaps your mother could be available to help with the transition if an additional caretaker becomes necessary. Ask her for help in the transition. Her supervision and/or feedback about the new caretaker could help your daughter adjust, and give you a pair of extra eyes to calm your fears. In fact, she could be invaluable in helping you to secure a quality person to care for your daughter while you and your husband are working.

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