A few weeks ago a friend asked me for childcare option advice. I stalled, I didn’t email or text a response, I really didn’t think my somewhat retro opinion would go over very well. However before I get to that let’s take a walk down memory lane and see how I arrived at a somewhat less mainstream opinion.
With my two kids we’ve tried out quite a few options when it comes to childcare. I’ve juggled my kids and work myself and questioned my brillance when things went nutty. I relied on a flexible stream of relatives, close friends, and the benevolence of my employer to make things work. I spent far to many hours working meetings and phone calls around nap schedules and quiet(er) times of the day. I loved this scenario in my head, on paper and occasionally in real life. The problem was, as I’m sure anyone who’s been around children know, kids aren’t trains and you can’t make them run on time. I would end up stressed, strategically pushing the mute button and simultaneously working and praying. I took a very long maternity leave with my firstborn and phased back on to work slowly. For the most part this system worked for me until I was back full time. At that point even I, telecommuting extrordinnaire and supermom in training, realized I needed more help.
That’s when Sam entered our lives. She was a nanny who I adored, until she left us to go to law school that is. For a year and a half though she was a huge part of our lives and made the sun shine just a little brighter. I could still work at home and hear my son’s baby laughs and giggles. I could poke my head around the corner and see him decorating the kitchen in purreed sweet potatoes. Most of all I knew he was well cared for because I was there to watch. The biggest struggle for any new parent is trusting those they’ve entrusted with their children. I knew I would have to continue working once I had children and quickly realized this was going to be one of the hardest parts of early mommyhood for me. Having someone in the house who I could trust was a great transition for me. Sam not only helped my son learn and grow in the first years, she also helped me trust caretakers with him later on.
When we hired our nanny we knew she was in college and there was a finite amount of time she would be available to us. Attending her graduation luncheon was bittersweet. By then we had grown to know her, we wanted the best for her and I knew she would make a darn fine lawyer one day. It was also the end of an era for us though since I knew we would have to make other arrangements for my son. I reverted to childcare option 1 for a few weeks. Just long enough to realize there was a darn good reason I had hired Sam in the first place.
Thus started the era of the small neighborhood church preschool, which was great but expensive. That was a bit of an adjustment for us. Arriving and picking up at scheduled times, my son had to adjust to other napping conditions and of course the onset of separation anxiety. We also hit the school during a sudden onset of staff turnover which left me very uncomfortable at the beginning. Once things leveled out I was happy with the location, teachers and my son’s adjustment, but man the beginning was rough. Time went on and he grew and before I knew it he was in preschool. Same school, so no sudden transition there and I absolutely loved his teacher. When she left to start her own in-home childcare and focus on kinder prep we followed her without a thought.
Our in-home experience was fabulous but owe most of that to knowing my provider before hand in a school setting. I was her classroom parent and spent a lot of time with her one-on-one. She also kept her class size small, only 5 kids were in her kinder prep in-home care. They had spanish, music and art teachers and during the day she taught them core cirriculum for kinder that left my son very well set for his first year. My son also had the chance to learn in a way that we don’t teach anymore. My provider’s husband did several projects with the kids during the school year building forts in the play area, birdhouses, demonstrating lifeskill lessons that aren’t always a part of school teaching. We loved it!
But time continued marching on and soon my son was ready for kindergarten and my daughter’s nanny had graduated leaving us in a position of new childcare situations for both kids.
That led us to our first official round with the more mainstream daycare chain solution. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t happy with it. I know a lot of people have great experience with daycare chains, but we did not. Items went missing, staff turnover was high, too many kids in a class and constant sickness plagued our 9 month stint. At that point we withdrew from the daycare and returned to a smaller, church preschool setting that seems to fit our lifestyle better.
My two cents, think long and hard about what you would want in a school setting and backtrack. I wanted a small charter school, smaller class environment and rigorous academics for my school age child. After trying all the daycare options I found that the small church environment for my daughter was very similar rule and structure wise. It seems to be my comfort zone!