New Momma Musings

 

 

All of the “preparing for baby” advice tells you to interview daycare providers ahead of time to make sure you are comfortable with your choice. Most of what I had read recommended looking 4-6 months prior to needing care. I knew that Charlotte is a growing city with many young families, but I did not expect our daycare search to be so difficult!

I thought that I wanted an in-home daycare as opposed to a daycare center. I thought the germ exposure would be less, the care would be better, and individual attention for D-man would be greater. I had planned on finding a friend or a friend of a friend whom we were totally comfortable with. Oh, silly me. Choosing a daycare provider is yet another way that I have learned that all of the planning in the world doesn’t quite prepare you for baby.

First of all, I don’t have any friends who watch children (a fact I conveniently ignored while envisioning my ideal situation!) I have plenty of friends with children, but they either stay home themselves or send their kids to daycare centers/schools (most of which are either not in our price range or not in a convenient location).

Once I actually began the search, I  learned a lot about how the process of finding a daycare provider actually works. It is not as simple as I had hoped.

START EARLY. Start much earlier than you think you need to.  About 7 months before we needed care, I began to ask around in hopes of finding an in-home provider that was convenient to my (or my husband’s) work. That was not working out, so I realized it was time to expand the search to schools/daycare centers/churches.

VISIT MANY PLACES. There were a few places I stopped in, knowing I really didn’t plan to send D-man there, but it really helped to give me more knowledge of what I actually was looking for. In the end, we ended up visiting close to 20 daycare providers. While at these locations, do not be bashful! Ask anything that comes to mind (and take a list of pre-written questions). You will be entrusting these people with your most prized possession, so you have every right to politely and professionally ask anything that you need.

TAKE A FRIEND (or mother, husband, etc.). While I do enjoy researching things on my own, I was very overwhelmed with our daycare search, especially when visiting the first couple of locations. It was incredibly helpful to have my mom with me because she was able to ask questions that I didn’t think of, and having a second perspective made me notice things I otherwise may not have. It allowed me more time to internally take note of what I saw and how I felt, while knowing that important questions were being asked/answered. When my mom was no longer able to go with me (she had to return home from her vacation), I took the hubs. Honestly, he is not the researcher that I am and I often think he may not be paying attention to details, but he surprised me and had some really great insight and questions to ask!

BE PREPARED FOR WAITING LISTS, and decide how many/how much you are willing to spend to go on said lists! I had a short list of providers that I wanted to choose from. However, I had no idea how long it might take to actually get a spot at these places.  One of the locations I was very interested in and had friends use had an 18 month wait list for newborns! 18 MONTHS!! That meant you had to get on the list long before you were even pregnant! It was very frustrating once I realized how long many lists were. At that point, we were a mere 3 months from D-man’s due date and 6 months from needing care. I began to get very nervous and began visiting any and all daycare options anywhere near my home, work, or husband’s work. We put our names on a couple of waiting lists and at that point just hoped that something worked out. This was both helpful and frustrating: helpful because I learned a lot about what I wanted in a daycare center, but frustrating because I was afraid we may have to settle for something that wasn’t my number one (or two) choice.

TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. This is much easier said than done. Being a first time parent, I have questioned every decision we have made. However, I do feel like we did a pretty good job with our daycare choice. We had a spot at a daycare center where a friend sent their children. We knew it was a place that D-man would be safe and cared for, but something just wasn’t quite right for me. If we had ended up there, I do think everything would have been fine, but I am incredibly happy with where we are instead. In October, we got a call that a spot had opened up at a church daycare right down the road from my work. That same week, we also got a call that an in-home daycare had a spot for us. We spent the next 5 weeks agonizing over where to send D-man. I took D-man and spent some time at the church and the in-home. I asked our pediatrician and lactation consultant. I talked to my mom, friends with children and friends who had experience with our three options. I could not make up my mind. In the end, I do think I did a pretty good job following my gut instincts, but it sure was hard and took great reflection on my part!

SET A BUDGET. I had a hard time with this one. Before we began, I could not imagine not choosing a center based on price. How can I put a price on my child’s safety and comfort? However, I realized that I also had to fill my gas tank, buy groceries and pay my mortgage. My husband and I sat down and seriously went through our monthly expenses and made decisions on what, if anything would need to be cut out if we got into our first choice center. The church was a 5 star center (with a 5 star price tag), the in-home was in my work neighborhood (with a median price tag), and our back-up where we had a spot was also a good option (with a much more affordable price tag). We went back and forth. We re-analyzed our budget and prioritized. We ultimately found a way to make either of the three work financially (with some sacrifices).

While I absolutely dreaded making the daycare decision (and dropping D-man off), I am very pleased with our choice. I know that D-man is in loving hands and if I cannot be with him, I truly feel that this is the next best option.

Check back tomorrow to see how that first day drop off actually went!