As women, I believe it is in our DNA to live a “well balanced” life. Whatever that “well balanced” may mean to you, there is just something in our blood that tells us to eat healthy, get some exercise, keep your house tidy, plan a party, call your parents, pay your bills, nurture your friendships…a little of everything to remain “well balanced.”
When you throw a baby or toddler in the mix of your usually calm and stable life, it’s easy to understand why many women start to loose it ☺ Your previously well-balanced life is all of a sudden hard to manage and things start to become “good enough”. Chaos and disorder can no doubt take a toll on an otherwise structured mama!
After labeling myself as a “SAHM” and working from home mom for 15 months, I decided it was time for some extra help. And so began my search for some part time daycare! During my search, I learned a few things along the way:
#1. Infant availability vs. toddler availability. If your child is under the age of two, there are very few openings…anywhere. If you have any specific stipulations (you want part time or certain days/hours), this becomes even more limited. Most in-home daycares, and centers, have a long waiting list with limited to no availability for several months. Things seem to get a little “looser” after 18 months, when the state’s adult-to-child ratio is bigger. So, if all of a sudden you get hired somewhere and need help starting next week, you may need to settle for something slightly less than ideal until another spot opens up at your preferred location. If you know you’re going to be heading back to work soon, I advise starting your search today!
#2. It’s pricey. After speaking with over a dozen daycares, I concluded that average prices ran about $40-$50 for half days and $50+ for full days. Many of them are MUCH more than that too.
#3. They are all very different, and you will be picky. If you are considering daycare, I’d recommend touring at least 3, and spending about an hour at each one. You will quickly learn how the day is structured (if at all!), the teaching/parenting style of the caregiver, and the behavior of the other children. You will also find yourself dissecting every word and action that takes place during your visit because, let’s get real, this person is going to be the replacement you for part of your child’s life!
#4. Some provide everything; others, nothing. Diapers, wipes, rash cream, sunscreen, milk, snacks, meals. Make sure you know what’s included and what you’re paying for. Are you particular about what brand of sunscreen you put on your baby, or making sure he/she eats all organic? Talk about this with the childcare provider and make sure they know what is important to your family and what other costs you will incur.
#5. Expect the transition to be HARD, on everyone. The biggest mistake I made was thinking the first day would be the worst day. After deciding on the right place for my toddler, I was uncertain and anxious about his first day. To my surprise, he gladly left my arms to play with the other children, and didn’t blink an eye when I said my goodbye. His teacher sent me photos of him smiling and playing throughout the morning, and when I picked him up around lunch, he was happy as a clam. I thought to myself “well, that was easy!”
Then came day 2, and…he remembered! He remembered I was going to leave him there and go away. He clenched onto me so tightly and tried to escape my arms as we walked towards the front door. Unsure of what to do, I turned to his teacher for advice, who suggested I say goodbye with confidence and leave swiftly, which I did. It broke my heart to hear him scream as I walked to my car, and brought tears to my eyes as I drove to work without him. Unfortunately, the following days proved to have turned my social butterfly into a true mama’s boy. He didn’t even want me to leave him with daddy. Which brings me to my next tip.
#6. Be prepared for a period of adjustment or even a change of plan if needed. I was nearly devastated when I thought all the time, effort and money I had put into my research and preparation would go to waste if we decided to cancel our “tuition”. I had heard of it not being the right time or the right place for some, and knew after a few days that there was a good possibility this was our case too. Before giving up, I thought I’d try for a more gentle approach. Over the next 2-3 days, I went to daycare with him. I sat on the floor, played with the toys, participated in the activities, ate lunch with the children…On the third day, I went, but made a conscious effort to be less present. I could tell he was starting to feel more comfortable leaving my side and playing with his new friends. On the fourth day, I stayed for 45 minutes and then said goodbye. Voila! Again, his teacher sent me photos of him smiling and playing. It has been pretty smooth sailing ever since!
#7. They will eventually adjust. As with all transitions, when you’re in the thick of it, it feels like a long nightmare. Your world gets turned upside down and you question whether or not you’ve made the right decision for your family. But, things do get better. It took us about 2 weeks to adjust, but now my LO gets a great report card every day. He still cries most of the time when I leave, but I’ve learned that most kids do for a minute, and then they run off and play.
Now this mama is starting to feel a little more sane and stable! I’ve actually found that it has improved my appreciation for my time with him since I am not dividing it amongst parenting, working, and wife-ing all at once.
During my search, I came up with a list of questions to ask providers that helped me decide whether their center was the right choice for us. Here are some you may want to consider during your own search:
Are all workers CPR/ First Aid Certified?
Are all kids on the same nap schedule? How do you put them down? What if mine requires more attention, or we use “crutches” at home? How long does it usually take them to adjust?
What is the staff/student ratio? Are you licensed with the state?
What is your approach to discipline? Sharing? Hitting? Biting?
Do you have a guiding philosophy for early childhood development?
Are there any lessons/schooling involved, or is it all learn by play?
Are meals provided? If so, how many? What kind? What time?
Do they wear shoes all day?
Do you allow screen time? How much?
Who else lives in the home? Will they ever be there during childcare hours?
Do you have AC? Shaded outdoor areas? Will they apply sunscreen or use hats when playing outside?
Are all children vaccinated?
Anything I can do at home to prepare my child for daycare?
How often are sheets/toys cleaned & washed?
Do you have an evacuation plan in case of an emergency? Do you practice a drill?
What is your vacation schedule? When will I need to find back up care? What if you’re sick?
Do I still have to pay if my family takes a vacation?
Do you supply diapers? Wipes? Sunscreen?
Good luck out there mamas! Let us know what your biggest hesitations or fears are when it comes to searching for daycare for YOUR child!