The Momentous Task of Finding Childcare

Childcare. The bane of the working mother. I wish I didn’t have to be a working mother, I miss my girl so much when I’m at work. But it’s simply not an option to stay at home – and if I’m being 100% honest, I like and need the adult interaction and stimulation that work provides. I like my job and I love my kiddo. It’s a hard balance and I’m not entirely sure that I’ve gotten it right.

However, because I have chosen to go back to work, I also had to chose who would take care of Kerrigan while I’m there. And it was a really hard choice. Ultimately we decided that three months was too young to put her into daycare, so my in-laws are helping us out until the end of the year so she can stay at home until she’s a little older. But that didn’t mean we didn’t have to start thinking about it. Because the reality is that there are wait lists. Wait lists that people get on as soon as they find out they are pregnant, before they’ve even announced it to their families. It’s pretty insane!

Since we knew that we had a little extra time, we didn’t make a selection until late November 2014 – and even at that time, the wait lists were full through August 2015! It was not an easy decision and we had to weigh out a lot of factors, including: cost, location, pick up and drop off, center or at home care.

If we start with the first factor, cost, we had a few big decisions to make. There was recently this article about the high cost of childcare in the US, and Washington is one of the most expensive states. The article is really interesting and talks about how that cost is forcing a lot of women out of the work force, and I’d like to explore that more, but not today.

When it came to cost, we were fairly liberal in what our ceiling was for the expense. But we also had to be realistic. For us, we wanted a quality program but also didn’t want to feel so stretched financially that we were miserable and having to pinch every penny to squeeze by. That ruled out a few of the highest end infant rooms. And that was okay. We knew we were going to use somewhere we didn’t trust just because it was less expensive. We just also weren’t going to pay the highest price under the assumption that it was the best. Our goal was to find a program we were comfortable with at a cost that we were also comfortable with. It was a long search, but we did succeed.

Next we really had to decide if we wanted to utilize a day care or a nanny. This wasn’t a very long discussion for us, partly because we had some friends who had a really bad experience with a nanny which resulted in an injured baby. But mostly because with the high liklihood that Kerrigan would be an only child, we felt that socialization was important for her and she wasn’t going to get that with a nanny. As such, very early on in our discussions we’d decided that we wanted to send her to day care/pre-school.

Once that decision was made, we had to choose if we want to use a center or in home daycare. I wasn’t opposed to in home daycare IF we would find the right person. And that’s hard without any references. And as new parents without a lot of baby friends, we didn’t have references. There was one that I was seriously considering that I found online, but ultimately we opted to go with a center. We liked the accountability of having multiple people responsible for the well being of our child.

Being in a large metropolitan area we had a lot to choose from, in varying locations. And we had to select what we thought would work best for us. Part of this discussion included deciding who would handle drop off and pick up. We looked at centers that were close to where Robert works, meaning he would handle both. Centers close to where I work, where I would handle both. And centers that were somewhere in between us so we could split drop off and pick up.

Ultimately we decided to go with the later option. Simply because it would shorten the amount of time Kerrigan would be in daycare. Robert can drop her off later and I can pick her up earlier. We picked a smaller center that is slightly out of the way for both of us, but not so much so that it will be cumbersome. We also liked that it was not in the city and out by the mountains, where her outdoor play would not be in a concrete jungle, but in a play yard with grass and trees and nature. We are undecided if we will opt to move her to a more comprehensive preschool program when she’s a little older – but this school also offers a very good program.

So how did we find the daycare we chose? Through lots of research, reading lots of reviews and taking tours of all of the facilities that we were considering. Ultimately what sold me on the center we chose is that there were reviews from parents who attended the school themselves as children who loved it there and sent their kids. The other huge factor for me was the tenure of the staff. While there were a few newer staff members, the majority of the staff had been teaching there over 7 years. With some having been there for 16 and 20 years. That’s a long time. It also speaks to how they treat their employees, and in my opinion a happy employee is much more likely to be better for my kid than one who is disgruntled. I also think that level of consistency is important as well.

As such, after our tours and interviews we went ahead and paid our (hefty) deposit to hold our spot and got Kerrigan registered to start in January. I feel fortunate that we are financially able to send her to a good facility, but bittersweet about what I’ll miss while I’m at work. I know that this is the best decision for us as a family, as well as me as an individual, but it’s still difficult. I can only hope that we made the best decision for Kerrigan’s care and that she will thrive as a result of our efforts.

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