By Sarah Lindstrom, Contributor
In today’s volatile economy, I count myself extremely fortunate to have a job that I enjoy. When my son was born, I knew that I would have to keep working and we would probably need to think about day care. It worked out, that when he was born, I was able to stay home with him for almost four months and then my husband was able to take 7 weeks of Paternity Leave. Even after we both were back at work, my Mom was more than generous with her time and started watching him four days a week. This set up was obviously perfect. My son, now 15 months old, was either with his parents or Grandma every day.
A short while ago, however, we started to talk about putting him in day care for two days a week in order to give my Mom some of her time back and prevent Grandma Burn-out. So, my husband and I began the daunting task of looking into day care.
1. First think about what will work for you. My husband and I had very specific needs when it came to day care. We wanted two days a week, but we wanted the option to be flexible on those two days and potentially add a third day if there was scheduling conflicts. It soon became clear that a structured company day care would probably not work. We would have had to commit to a set two days and that was it.
2. Do not settle. This may seem like an obvious point, but I’m going to make it anyway. This is the care of your child and there can be no compromising. We found a place that seemed like it would work. They were willing to be flexible and the person I spoke with on the phone seemed very friendly, but when I went to visit, something just felt off. Nothing specific jumped out as being wrong (i.e. it wasn’t dirty, there were no pots of boiling water in the middle of the room…), but I just didn’t walk away with a good feeling. It was great that they were willing to be flexible, but that doesn’t provide peace of mind.
3. Visit each location and ask questions. This was my first experience researching day care facilities. I didn’t know what I was looking for! As I found out from my experience above, it is important to visit each place you’re considering. Set up a time to talk to someone, preferably during non-day care hours so they aren’t distracted and can focus on your questions. Ask everything you can possibly think of no matter how silly it sounds in your head. They should be more than happy to tell you anything.
4. You’ll know when you have found the right place. As with your husband and your wedding dress, you’ll just know. I walked away from the meeting with the woman we ended up going with, feeling like I had just made a friend. She gave me a tour, answered my questions, explained all of her policies and played with my son. I felt so comfortable. And she continues to impress me. She always says the right thing. I called twice to check in the first day I left him and she never made me feel silly. She gave me a rundown of activities, how he napped, what he ate – I felt included. The other day I called to let her know that I was going to pick him up early and that I just wanted to give her a heads up. Her response? “I have your son here; you don’t need to give me a heads up.” I could hear the angels singing in the background…
5. Don’t listen to the naysayers. When I first mentioned we were putting my son in day care, people looked at me with pity and asked how I was holding up. This is not a tragedy! I didn’t love it at first, but he is happy there and I am comfortable with the set up. This is playgroup for him! I quietly leave without a big drawn out good-bye and all day long I look forward to the time when I walk back in that door and his face lights up like he has missed me all day long. The feeling is definitely mutual.