How to Make the Best Child Care Choice: 6 Tips for Parents
It's been only 3 days since my daughter has been back in daycare and I'm missing her immensely. It may also have to do with the fact that I have not yet started my student teaching and have only been attending college at night during the evenings. I'm pretty sure that when I start teaching again during the day, my mind is going to be so distracted I will feel a lot better than how I do now. Having the day to myself these past few days has facilitated the ability for me to get things done like going back to the gym which I'm loving. Yet, I kind of miss hearing her and checking up on what terrible two's activity she's getting herself into next. I guess it's even harder for me because we spent the entire month of August together. Not to mention, an entire week away visiting my mom in Florida just the two of us. Obviously, because of school being out for Summer vacation, I was not working and home all day. Hence, my husband and I decided to take our daughter out of the daycare facility she had been attending. My daughter had been going to this daycare since she was 11 months old. It was the first place we had ever taken her to since I started working full time again. I know what you are thinking...why would we want to move her from a place she was already familiar with and that we had grown to trust (which is something that is not easy to get AT ALL especially when you're a first time parent) only to have to find a completely new facility come September.
Well, the facility she was attending decided to make some changes to the contract. One of the biggest changes was the hours/schedule my daughter would be allowed to be under their care on a daily basis. Unfortunately, that was just not going to work with our hectic schedules. I am currently taking 4 college courses 3 evenings out of the week on top of 18 hours of student teaching every single week. (Lord, help me!) My husband's work schedule, forget it! His schedule is allover the place. To put it simply, neither of us ever really know his schedule until a few hours before he has to be at work. Which, makes keeping a routine schedule in our lives just that much more difficult. Hence, why we felt we were left with no other choice but to find another location that would fit our needs at the moment. However, I must stress how difficult as a parent this decision to switch our daughter to a new facility was. (I literally am still stressed about it now!) To begin with, it is never easy to leave your child under the care of people whom you barely know and to trust that they will do the best they can to protect, nourish, care for, and educate your child. Especially if you are a first time parent. It's literally a nightmare to even accept the idea of having to be away from your child for 8, 10, sometimes even 12 hours a day. Thus, having already built a relationship and a trust for the people who were caring for our daughter, it became an even more difficult task to accept that we had to move on and find new caregivers.
On the bright side, as I have mentioned many times, I am a firm believer in that God has a specific path already laid out for us and that everything happens for a bigger purpose. Thankfully, my husband and I always have a way of seeing the best and most positive outcomes of everything that happens in our lives. After we were passed dwelling on the fact that it was going to be impossible to keep our daughter at her then daycare, we realized that this change was actually going to be the best thing we could do for her. We realized that the facility where she had been was exactly what we needed at the moment when we needed it. When we first placed our daughter in daycare, we needed a place that was family run, small, private, very close-knit, and an at home child care provider. It was perfect for her at the delicate age and stage that she was in (still breastfeeding). Now however, she is almost 2 years old and her brain is like a sponge! We knew we wanted to give her more. We wanted a place that was educationally enriching and focused more on preparing her for when she would be starting school.
With a clear idea in our minds of what we wanted for our daughter, what seemed like a never-ending search, began. This is where things felt even worse for us as parents. As the Summer days quickly passed and the numerous unsatisfying daycare tours occurred, we were overcome with feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, fear, and concern for the future. (To be brutally honest, there were places that were so horrifying, I couldn't get them out of my head for days.) We thought we would never find the perfect place for her. A place where we knew she would be happy, well taken care of, safe, well educated, and loved. Most importantly, a place where we would feel comfortable leaving her while we were away at work. Eventually, we made the best decision based on what our options were and what we were looking for. However, I would be lying if I said that we are 100 percent happy and comfortable with where she is now. The reason why, is because it's only been 3 days and unfortunately, child care is a trial and error process. It really sounds horrible to put it in those terms because I am practically saying the selection of a care provider of a child is a hit or miss situation. In reality, there's really just no way to tell if the decision you made was the right one unless you give it a try first. You can read numerous reviews, get the best recommendations from others, but, you are never going to have complete trust. This is one of the many risks as parents that we have to take, sadly. We put the care of our beloved child(ren) in the hands of others and pray every second of the day that they are being treated with the utmost love and care. I think this is one of the many reasons why moms choose to keep their babies at home with them and become stay-at-home-moms. I don't blame them at all. Unfortunately, we don't all have the same circumstances. Some of us parents, no matter how much it hurts, have no way of avoiding going through this process. Which leads me to my list of tips for you parents who have yet to undergo this process but, will soon be having to.
1. Make a list of you and your child's needs:
-How many hours do you need care for and from what time to what time?
(What drop off and pick up times do you need?)
-Do you prefer a small at home provider or a larger school type of facility?
-Is your child potty trained at this age or do you need a provider that is willing to help with potty training?
-Will you be breastfeeding your child and if so will the facility be okay with you coming in for nursing at certain times of the day?
-What is your budget?
-Do you need a facility close to home/work or both? Location is an important thing to think about when it comes to emergencies.
-Does the facility accept government childcare programs (if that's an option for you)?
2. Allow at minimum 2-3 months to research and tour different facilities? It's never too early to start looking at options and the worst you can do is have to rush into such a critical decision.
3. I can't stress this enough, be sure to do your research on any particular facility before making a final decision. This includes asking others who have used or are currently using their services, read online reviews, check if they have a website to see how well established they are and if they are good with giving parents updates.
4. Whatever you do, DO NOT make a decision entirely because someone you know works at the facility, runs it, or owns it. This does not guarantee that it will be the best choice for you and your child.
5. You can never ask too many questions, ASK, ASK, ASK, ASK, ASK. The place my daughter is at now, I actually drove there 2 times just to ask questions I felt I had forgotten to ask. I suggest making a list of questions that you bring with you on tours to ask every time. Some questions I always asked were:
-How does your facility discipline any bad behavior or misconduct by the child?
-Does your facility have a curriculum? What are some of the activities my child will be doing during the day?
-What kinds of meals do you provide and how many per day? Where are they prepared and by who?
-What are the items I need to provide? What items does the facility provide? (diapers, food, eating utensils, blankets, etc.)
-What are your closed vacation/holidays?
-What are your sick/absent policies?
-What is drop/off pick up time?
-What are your fees for late pick up, late payments, etc.?
-Will my child be around children that are her age or older?
-What kinds of certifications do your employees need to have to work here?
-How will I be informed of any developments or daily updates on my child? The facility where my daughter is now, actually has an app for parents which provides on the hour updates of your child. Through this app you are informed of nap times, meal times, activities that are being done during the day, diaper/potty information, and reminders for the following day. The app even allows the facility to share photos and videos of my daughter during the day. I can also easily message her teacher directly as well as they can contact me directly via the app. This is something that has truly helped me during this hard transition to get a slight peace of mind. If your a crazy first-time mom like me who likes to know and see what your child is doing every hour, this is something to ask about during your childcare provider interview/tour. (I am literally on this app every minute of the day, refreshing for new updates.)
6. The final and most important tip I can give as a parent is to just go with your gut feeling. As the saying goes, if something doesn't feel right then it probably isn't.
Remember that parenting as we all know, is all about trial and error and this is most definitely one of those parenting trial and error situations that we have to undergo...
...Sew This is Life!