If you don’t follow me over on IG (@thisaveragemom –come hang out!), then you don’t know that our child care situation drastically changed as of last week. For the past FOUR years, my in-laws watched our kids (well, 4 years ago Mav didn’t exist yet, but you know what I mean). And as of last week, they moved back to Michigan.
For the last few months, we have researched and looked into different care options. Then maybe about a month and a half ago, we finalized our plans for child care. While we’re only one week in, so far, things feel right.
It should also be said that this is not our first round of child care searching. Harlyn went to a home daycare from the time she was a baby, and even once my in-laws moved here, she went one day a week until she started preschool at 3 years old.
Anyway. Picking the right child care can be super stressful…at least, it was for us. So hopefully you will find this post helpful and insightful so your own search won’t be quite as overwhelming.
1.Decide on the type of care you want
First things first. When Harlyn was a baby, we researched a few daycare center facilities. Ultimately, they were too much money for what we could do at the time, we ended up with a great home daycare recommendation from someone whose kids actually had gone there, and our jobs offered enough flexibility to make the home daycare’s hours work. These are all considerations when you look at what type of care you want.
a. Cost–obviously, a nanny or other one-on-one care may be way more than other options. What can you actually afford?
b. Education–do you want a center with a formal educational program, or is a home daycare or babysitter good with you?
c. Hours–what days/hours do you need care, and how does each option fit that?
d. Location/availability–what places around you are convenient for you, and do they have openings when you need them?
e. Needs of your kids–most kids are resilient and will get used to wherever you put them, but if your kids do have special considerations, where can they best be met?
2. Do some research
This time around, we knew we needed longer hours, an educational focus, and something that would work long-term. We knew, based on this, that we wanted a facility for Maverick, and something fun for Harlyn during the summer months. So one day, I did some Googling and started calling up some area daycares. I sent some emails. Emails and phone calls can even help weed out some of the places you don’t want to be.
a. Were they polite, quick to answer your questions, and in no rush to be done with you? Do they respond quickly to emails? I don’t want to call up a place and feel like the very people I’d be leaving my kids with are incompetent. I don’t want it to take 2 weeks to get an inquiry about availability back. I need to feel confident in the place, and that starts with the very first call or email.
b. Ask the cost. DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME ON PLACES THAT WILL ONLY GIVE YOU COST INFO AFTER A TOUR. There’s just no need. Why tour a place only to find out you will never afford it? Every single place I called that had openings told me the cost right away when I asked. I have, in the past, had places be very weird about giving that information…but like I said, who wants to go fall in love with a child care place and then be unable to afford it?
c. Do you agree with their mission statement, disciplinary measures, and the way they run things?
3. Tour more than one place.
When we started out searching for Harlyn’s preschool a couple years ago, we first went to a preschool that was good. We could have enrolled her there, and she would have had a great experience, I’m sure. But then we toured another preschool, and we fell in love. It was like, we both felt “home” and just immediately knew that Harlyn would flourish there. Fast forward to 2 months ago when we were finding a daycare for Mav. We toured a place that was close to our house and would have been soooo convenient. It was very close to Harlyn’s elementary school she’ll be starting too. But it didn’t feel right. I mean, Mav would have survived there. I don’t think that parents who send their kids there are bad or doing their kids a disservice. But it wasn’t for us. When we toured where he is going now, it felt like so much more than a containment area for children. It is a SCHOOL. Even at Mav’s age (2), the kids are learning. And if that hadn’t been right, we would have kept on touring until it was a place we felt comfortable.
SIDE NOTE ON THIS ONE: Be careful of your emotions on this one, mama. If NO daycare/school/camp is feeling “right” you may need to ask yourself a question. Is it because you actually haven’t found something suitable, or are you having trouble letting go of your kids? I wasn’t like, “WOW! I can’t wait to send Mav to daycare! It’ll be so fun!” But I did think to myself “If Mav goes here, I won’t worry about his well-being. I feel comfortable with this choice.” See the difference? I wasn’t chomping at the bit for him to go, but I didn’t feel uneasy about where he’d be going.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
This applies while your deciding, and also once they’ve started going. If something needs to be asked…ASK. You are the parent and have every right to ask questions about the place your kids will be!
We’re so thankful that even through this rough transition, we have found a daycare for Maverick and a summer camp for Harlyn that we can confidently send our kids to.
How did you find the right child care option for your family? What were the biggest deciding factors for you?