Date of Conferral
In the United States, over 10 million children under the age of 5, including half the infants and toddlers, spend time in the care of someone other than their parents. Changes in family roles and the need for dual-earner households make childcare decisions important for middle class millennial mothers. Research addressing middle class millennial mothers' experiences in choosing childcare for their infants and toddlers and their adjustment to family changes is limited. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to discover the lived experiences and decision-making processes of these mothers concerning childcare. The conceptual framework was informed by the theories of Bowlby, Bronfenbrenner, and Bandura. Interviews were conducted with 15 middle class mothers, who were 19 to 36 years old, who had a child between the ages of 6-18 months, and who had children in nonfamily care for at least 5 months. Participants from the northeastern states were recruited through social media. A combination of a priori and open coding was used to reveal emergent themes. Findings showed that the mothers balanced societal expectations and meeting their children's needs with self-gratification; also, additional financial resources were important to the participants. Emotional connections with caregivers and comfort level with the setting were the most influential elements in placement decisions. Each participant was content with her choice of childcare arrangement and confident that their children would benefit, both educationally and socioemotionally. These findings can inform early childhood practitioners of factors that contribute to mothers' decisions related to nonfamily childcare and can help educators provide millennial mothers with effective support and information systems.