Our plan, even way back before the baby was born, was for me to return to work, part-time, a few months after the baby arrived. It wasn’t something I was delighted to do, but I only just finished my grad school education (I graduated the very day Eli was born) and the only way we could pay our bills was for me to work. And obviously, that meant we needed childcare.
Not wanting to face the music, I took the easy way out and just went with a friend’s recommendation for an in-home daycare. We called and reserved a spot for Eli without ever meeting the babysitter and only visited once before his first day and at a time when there weren’t any kids present. Basically we did the opposite of what we should’ve done and unsurprisingly, we weren’t pleased with the attention Eli was getting. So, this is where I suggest you learn from my initial mistakes and try some other methods to find a good daycare provider.
First, establish a cost limit. You need to determine how much you can reasonably pay to make it worth it to work (unless you’re doing it for fun, instead of for financial need). By which I mean this- if you make 20 bucks an hour and your childcare is 12 bucks an hour, you’re going to make a net 65 bucks a day at work, probably a little less if you have to commute to pick your child up. You need to figure out how much money you need to make and then figure out the hours/cost that works for you.
Next, consider the type of daycare you’re looking for. I am personally not interested in a nanny because I’m uncomfortable with someone else being in my house and with them taking my child out of the home, either by car or for walks. That’s probably silly, but it’s just me. I’m also, in light of our in-home daycare, only looking for places that are licensed this time around. Also consider your provider-to-kid ratio and know what you’re comfortable with. If you are picky like me, this may narrow your choices and impact your prices, so just keep that in mind.
Even though it didn’t pan out for us, I still highly recommend asking friends with kids the same age for recommendations. If you don’t have friends with kids, ask your pediatrician, ours had a great recommendation that we’re going with.
Use the internet to help. There are multiple online databases of daycares (but beware as some allow daycares to pay to promote themselves, thereby negating any objective ratings you might get), in addition to the other option of just Googling either provider names or daycare facilities to see if anyone has been discussing them.
Go visit during the hours your child will be there. We didn’t even really think twice about going after hours, as it was the only time my husband was free and we wanted to go together. I could not believe the difference in the chaos level between our visit and the first time I picked Eli up. It was quiet and relaxed when we were there and chaotic, crazy, and loud when we picked him up that first day.
Do a few trial runs, dropping off/picking up at a few different times. I found that our first babysitter’s house was a completely different place at different times a day and I got a better feel for what was really going on after I saw a few different times. For example, things were quiet and controlled during naptime, but around 4-5 when parents started picking up kids, there was utter chaos and kids crying everywhere.
In the end, trust your gut. I felt wrong about our initial childcare situation from the start, but I kept quiet because I assumed I was just being overly cautious. I know now that that was not the case, and I wish I had listened to my gut all along. It would’ve saved all of us a lot of grief.
What tips do you have for finding a daycare provider?