One of the most stressful parts of being a working parent is finding good day care. Not decent day care, not suitable day care, but really good day care.
As I am about to begin my fourth (FOURTH!) round of day care interviews and visits, I consider myself a bit of an expert on the subject. While there are definitely questions that need to be asked and preferences that need to be met, I’ve found the most important item necessary when choosing the perfect day care from your long list of the day cares that have passed muster on your checkoff list…and that item is LUCK.
Let me explain.
But my mother was in a situation at the time where she could watch my son 4 days a week for another 6 months, so we were able to avoid putting our first precious tiny baby into the hands of a stranger until he was 10 months old.
When the time was nearing, my husband and I spoke with a great friend of ours who had a son only a couple months older than our own, had been a nanny before she’d had the baby, and was looking to begin making money again. Her parenting style was similar to ours, and she often took her son on trips to the zoo, the park, the botanical gardens, the firehouse museum, and the like. She was a carseat safety technician in her free time, used cloth diapers and made her own baby food. And she was thrilled to add our son (and a paycheck) to her life. We were so excited!
Only a week before she was going to take over…she bailed. She had been offered two different positions working as a carseat safety technician that she just didn’t want to turn down and this was an opportunity that wasn’t likely to present itself again. Luck was on her side…not ours.
Of course, we freaked out and scrambled like crazy to find someone decent, if only for a short time.
We found someone wonderful. She was a home day care with one full-time helper who had been with her for nearly 10 years. She was loving and kind and worked with us on anything and everything we wanted; our son loved her from the very beginning. There were other babies his age that he really grew up with, there were older kids in the day care who doted on our baby, and there were tiny babies that gave our little one a sense of responsibility.
A year later, she announced that she was moving. We would have to find a new day care situation. This time we had plenty of advance notice, and we took our time interviewing and visiting and nitpicking every day care we could.
We chose another home day care since we had had such good luck with the first. The place was immaculately kept, had great backyard playsets, and a regular daily schedule, including crafts and even cooking classes! During our interview, the provider gave a mother who’d had a bad day a comforting hug and reassuring pats before sending her on her way. When I dropped our then 2-year-old off for his first day, I watched another 2-year-old run up to her and give her a hug after the long weekend. All was well.
Only, all was not well at all. The first couple months seemed great. Crafts were hung all over our house, our kiddo could spell his name and knew the first initial of everyone else in the day care. But there was a constant stream of part-time help and we often wouldn’t know who we were dropping our child off with. There were numerous days when she had to close for some reason or another, leaving us stranded at the last minute. The other children began fluctuating, and her communication with us dropped to minimal. Finally we discovered they were watching movies pretty much every day. (One of my first questions to any day care is whether they have screen time. I just don’t want to pay someone to let my kid watch TV.) We quit the next day.
Once again we were rushed to find a good day care with an immediate opening.
Here we are blissfully happy two years later… and the owner is retiring.
We’re back to square one.
Commiserating with anyone and everyone who will commiserate with me, (after all, this will be my four-year-old’s fourth day care, and fifth day care situation …poor kid!) I have compiled far too many complaints:
A mother discovered that their center had been giving their 11-month-old daughter Fruit Loops for breakfast on a daily basis for months.
A family was asked to leave a day care after having been there only a couple months because the day care had accepted too many children.
A single room at a center had eight new teachers in under a year.
A child let himself out of three gates with no one noticing in order to wander the neighborhood.
It truly is all about luck.
And we are hoping for the golden day care at the end of the rainbow.
Please send luck our way!
This post was written by Penney Blakely. Contact Penney at firstname.lastname@example.org
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