When I was pregnant, I downloaded a bunch of apps for new and expecting mothers. One of the most helpful ones was BabyCenter. I typed in my due date, and the app would send me notifications about what I should be expecting at that point of my pregnancy. It continues to update me, now that bB is here with us, informing me of approaching milestones and how to prepare for them.
While I was still pregnant, I got an email saying it’s time to start thinking about daycare options. WHAT?!?! This baby hasn’t even been born yet, and I’m already supposed to start thinking about handing him off to a complete stranger???
Now that bB is six months — well, seven months next week — I am at the halfway mark to the hand-off… That is the most depressing sentence on this whole blog site. I understand that it is important to plan ahead, and I know that daycare waitlists are so long that the sooner you put your name on it, the better. That doesn’t make it any easier.
I guess my worry is being at work, away from my son, while he is learning and growing and most likely crossing each milestone… without me. I worry that I will be waking up early to drop him off before work and coming home late, only to feed him and put him to bed. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll get to spend an hour of mama-and-me time, but you can imagine the huge difference between those future days and what our days look like right now (we are pretty much inseparable). I have to weigh all the factors before I can feel comfortable letting go.
Here are the things I think are important in a prospective daycare:
- trust: I will not be handing my child over to a centre or a person that I do not completely trust. If bB is going to spend his entire day away from us, it better be with someone who will treat him like their own — someone who is loving, responsible, nurturing, and who gives bB the attention he needs. I am leaning more toward a home daycare where the adult-to-child ratio is smaller, so that the caregiver can give bB more attention. He will only be a year old — who knows if he will even be mobile by that time — and will still be very much dependent on someone to take care of him.
- social: this will pretty much be his first step into the outside world, interacting with people who are NOT his family. I would like the environment to be safe and inviting. I want bB to have good peer models (I’m assuming he will be one of the younger ones in the daycare) who can show him how to play with others appropriately and respectfully.
- educational: I would not want bB to spend all of his time (not even half of his time) in front of a TV. Watching a few shows is fine (educational, and some just-for-fun shows once in a while), but I would rather have him engaged and stimulated. In the words of my sister, Mortimer, every opportunity is a learning opportunity, so let’s make the most of it. I would want his surroundings to encourage exploration and challenge him to learn things about the outside world, and also about himself.
- active: right now, bB is a rolling spud — he can’t sit up on his own or crawl or walk YET, but when he can, I would like him to get in some exercise. Even though all he can do now is roll, I let him go at it. Kids are naturally active (you can never get them to sit still), so free active play as well as structured active play are both important for me.
- routine: getting into a routine makes life so much easier. Even now, with bB’s nap routine, he is so predictable that it works out for both of us. I can plan ahead for things I need to get done while he is sleeping, and because he expects to go down at certain times, there is minimal fuss. Happy baby, happy mama. Learning a routine will not only help with home life, but will also benefit bB when *deep breath* he goes to school. A consistent daily schedule will teach bB, even at this age, that first this happens and then it is followed by that.
- discipline: the Instructor Therapist in me does not believe in punishment, but the parent in me thinks that a little bit doesn’t hurt. In a perfect world, my son would be so well-behaved that punishment would be non-applicable. I would want whoever takes care of my son to have similar views on discipline as mine. I believe in setting kids up for success (AKA praising them when they do something right, instead of just scolding them for everything they are doing wrong). I believe in talking to kids once they have had time to cool down. I believe in teaching kids appropriate ways of asking for my attention.
Is there a daycare out there that can check all these boxes? Am I the only mama out there with this much anxiety and reservation about finding the best daycare for my child? Maybe I am asking for too much, but as a parent about to put my son’s life in another person’s care, I need to know that he will be safe, and loved, and treated with respect. This is a big decision that
should not must not be taken lightly.
What are some of your experiences with daycares? Are there any other factors that I am overlooking?