I had NO idea what I wanted to do for child care. I knew I would most likely return to work after having William but I didn’t know which route I wanted to take when deciding who would take care of him during the day. Alex and I both have consistent, full-time, 8-5 jobs so we don’t have a lot of flexibility when it comes to needing full time care. When I was working in Chicago, I felt like EVERYONE had nannies. A few of my close friends did the daycare route and loved it but it seemed like most had nannies and often shared them among their friends – i.e. when one had kids who were old enough to do without full time care, they passed their nanny onto the next person who was in need. When I moved to STL, I felt like everyone sent their kids to an in home daycare – and there are THOUSANDS. I felt like everyone knew someone who had an in home daycare. This all sent my head spinning on how to decide what to do when William arrived.
Alex and I talked about priorities and I essentially made a mental list of what was important to me with a caregiver:
- We didn’t want a family member. It was most likely not even an option for us but we knew that we wanted grandparents and aunts and uncles to be just that and not a full time caregiver. Our family has been so, so helpful when we get into a bind, or are looking for a date night, but we are not reliant on them.
- We wanted consistency and dependency. I didn’t want to worry about our caregiver calling me at 6 AM saying they couldn’t make it because they were sick…or hungover. I didn’t want random vacation weeks to cause us to need to take vacation at that time too. I wanted William to have a place to go every morning regardless of extenuating circumstances.
- I didn’t want someone to replace “mom”. This is really the only time where I felt the crazy come out in me. I hated the idea of one human fulfilling my role day in and day out even though I knew I would be better going back to work. I had visions of William asking for his nanny or caregiver and it hurt me to think of that happening.
- I wanted William to learn and be surrounded by other kids that were different than him. One thing Alex and I have always talked about is the diversity we get living in the city, something neither of us had much of growing up. We wanted William to associate with different kids and have to learn to deal with sharing the attention.
- Most importantly, we wanted him safe and loved. I didn’t want to worry about him screaming his head off for hours without anyone giving him attention. I wanted him comforted and I wanted him to know that we care about his happiness even though we aren’t with him at all times.
We then thought of the pros and cons (these are completely our opinions – we went one route and I don’t have experience with the others so we totally understand that what we didn’t think would work for us can work out great for your family and our thoughts may be unwarranted).
- Pros: convenient to have someone come to your house and be there in your child’s environment day in and day out. Relief knowing they are maintaining consistency with their environment and have the comfort of your home that they know so well. I felt like this completely covered off on the feeling safe and loved – he would have one person giving him their undivided attention and care.
- Cons: potentially inconsistent with schedules and needing to cancel last minute. I felt like the nanny route was the one that would be most likely to replace me as William’s mom. William also wouldn’t be socialized at a young age until we got him into a pre-school type setting a few days a week.
- Pros: typically smaller groups of kids. More intimate with more attention given to each individual child. Able to socialize with the same kids each day. Consistent outside of the potential closure for spring break or summer instances.
- Cons: I got the feeling that the kids are sometimes put in front of a TV and although I don’t care about screen time, I wanted to save that for William at our home. It didn’t feel like it was as structured and enough emphasis was put on “learning” (as much as a 3-12 month old can)
- Pros: always open outside of inclement weather and consistent vacation schedule. Surrounded by diversity. Lesson plans in classrooms. Day to day consistency.
- Cons: teachers can be inconsistent if there is a lot of turnover (we haven’t run into that at our daycare), dependent on how “they do things” vs. how you may want your child cared for, shared attention with other children (both a pro and con in my mind)
How we Found our Daycare – we ultimately went with this option
- I put an ask out on social media platforms
- Nextdoor.com (if you don’t have an account, you should see if you can sign up for your neighborhood because this has been the BEST source of information for us in our area): by far where I got the most legit feedback from other moms who were passionate about me finding the right place for William
- Facebook – other moms are so willing to give advice and feedback as to what has worked for them (which was great), but I didn’t feel like I had a lot of options from the feedback I received via daycare specific groups and threads.
- We did our own research through the power of Google
- Although I’m not a fan of the yelp and google reviews, it helped solidify locations we had in mind and the look and feel of facilities
- We made a short list and set up appointments with each daycare to get a tour and ask questions about how they care for children
Best Advice I can Offer:
- Know what is important to you. When I looked at daycares, I had no idea what questions to ask or needs I was going to have. Thank God for Pinterest so I didn’t look completely incompetent. Doing a quick search on Pinterest brought up a number of questions to ask when visiting daycares – some good ones and some not so good ones. I would recommend reading through some and identifying some top ones to ask the teachers and facilitators. Some things that I realized I wanted after William started:
- An “ease into it” timeframe. Time to take your baby in a couple of days for just a couple of hours before you go back full time. With our first daycare, we dropped William off and left to go to work and that was that. It was tough and I wish we would have more of an orientation.
- Do I need to provide all of the food/bottles for my child? The daycare we are at now provides Dr. Brown’s bottles and the formula that William was on which was honestly life changing. We saved quite a bit of money on formula and to not have to come home and wash bottles every night was amazing. (Both things we had to do at our previous daycare).
- Transition timing and approach. Babies don’t stay babies forever and typically at a year they will move up from the room they are in. I was very unprepared for the sensitive child William is and he requires a lot more care and attention with changes. I can’t help feeling a little guilty that I passed on some of my anxiety to him but I know it’s also stages of life for a baby. Our daycare was wonderful getting him acclimated to his new room and allowed him to spend some extra time transitioning.
- Be prepared for cost. There is a good chance that we will spend more on daycare for our children then we will for their college education. Period.
- Start looking immediately. This may seem odd because you probably just found our you are pregnant, but as soon as you know you will need care, start looking. I waited until 20 weeks and I felt very unprepared and many of the daycares we looked at wouldn’t have an opening until a month or 2 after William’s due date.
- Even if there is a wait list that seems too long, put your name on it if it’s free. Our current daycare had a wait list of 2 years. Our first one closed (long story) and Alex and I were so panicked about what we were going to do. At the time it closed, we happened to be next on the wait list and got in and it has honestly been life changing for us.
All in all, I was very nervous about the idea of having to leave my child at such a young age. That was actually the easy part. Now he can scream and claw at me and tell me not leave which can be heartbreaking…but so much easier knowing he is in a good place that cares for him and loves him. I am still first in William’s mind and that hasn’t changed even though he receives amazing care where he is at. Good luck to anyone looking for childcare – it can be a daunting process, but also so rewarding to see everything he has learned from such an early age.