We’re very fortunate: daycare wait lists are almost non-existent in our city. We didn’t have to pay any registration fees during pregnancy, nor worry about whether any infant spots might open up in time. In fact, when I called around over last few weeks, all four of the centers I contacted had openings for an eight-month-old. Whew!
The original plan had been to keep Little Boy home for a year, trading baby care shifts between parents throughout the day. Both my husband’s job and my grad-school “job” can be accomplished remotely and at odd hours, and nobody bats an eye if I bring a cute little baby to the office with me from time to time.
Like most plans made by new parents, this one didn’t fully mesh with the realities of caring for a tiny human. Hauling Little Boy to campus turned out to be way more work than it was worth and has thus been reserved for only very particular situations. My maternity leave was only half the length of the need-intensive “fourth trimester,” so we struggled to find time to work and sleep and stay sane until our son developed a more consistent sleep schedule. But we managed.
Now, however, we’re ready for daycare. Little Boy is down to two naps a day and my husband’s boss has started dropping passive-aggressive hints about “face time.” What’s more, I think Little Boy has reached a stage of inquisitiveness and interaction where he will benefit from some new people, new toys, and new activities. He loves his Mommy and Daddy for sure, but we sometimes run out of exciting and fun baby games by the end of the day.
As lovely as a one-on-one nanny would be, we can’t afford one. And I’m extremely uncomfortable using an in-home daycare without knowing the caregiver personally. That leaves daycare centers, where at least I know there’s oversight, training and backup plans.
We ended up touring three such centers. The third was struck from the list immediately after the tour: although in a prime location, it had a run-down playground with a swingless swing set and rough AstroTurf. The sole caregiver for five infants spent part of her time washing high chair trays, her back turned away from the small baby sleeping on the floor while others crawled around him. (This makes it sound really terrible – it was OK, but we’d seen better.)
The remaining options both had definite positives. Daycare #1 was a nationwide chain with a sparklingly clean center, close to home, with large playgrounds and attractive wooden toys. But the infant care ratio was still 1:5, and their full-time cost would be a serious strain on our budget. Daycare #2 was a local place, close to work, with an older building and a religious bent. Their classrooms lacked the neat uniformity of the other place, but they put 2 caregivers in a room with 8 children (caregivers working on early childhood degrees, I might add) and you could just feel the increased level of personalization. Moreover, several friends highly recommended Daycare #2, and the center offers a 3-day-a-week plan that we can afford.
So Daycare #2 it is! Tomorrow we take Little Boy for a visit; next Monday, he starts his new adventure. Like every parent before me, I’ll miss him when he’s gone, but for now we’ll still have two whole days a week together by ourselves (plus weekends as a family). Plenty of time for him to practice those hugs he’s recently learned how to give.
Readers with kids – what did you choose to do for childcare? Was it an easy decision or a hard one? If you went with daycare, did you have any trouble finding an open spot?