Although i work at home, i essentially have an office job in which i work regular hours, sit at my desk from 9-5 and often spend several hours a day on conference calls. Now i'm not a parent yet, but i already know that this type of job and infant care don't mesh well. Therefore after my 3 month maternity leave, the boy will be in childcare. It does help that my schedule is flexible in case he gets sick, or if the childcare provider is closed, but finding good quality care has been a priority for me.
Many of you won't be surprised to find out that i actually began the researching process back in September when i called a local organization, Action for Children, and asked for referrals for home-based daycare providers and childcare centers within a 5 mile radius of our house. At this point i also read widely about what to look for in childcare and what to stay away from. Somewhere in the fall i drove around and looked at the outside of each location and determined how far each was from our house.
Then, a lot of other baby things took over and i waited until January or so to start calling the providers. My preference was to find a home-based provider that was close by. It's a good thing, because of all the childcare centers in our area, only 1 took private-pay clients. The others were soley for low-income families, and what with the big lawyer in my family, we didn't qualify.
I had a list of probably 5 providers that were my first choices based on location. Three of them either didn't call me back or didn't provide childcare anymore. The other two both sounded promising on the phone and invited me to come visit. I also talked to the one center and set-up an appointment to tour their facility.
The first home-based childcare i visited was encouraging. A woman and her daughters ran the center and they had been born and raised on the same block. They clearly had long ties in the community and had a really fun, vibrant space set up for the kids. There was a nursery, a toddler room and a pre-school-like program downstairs. The kids seemed happy and well cared for and the place was best described as bustling. I was curious to contrast this place with the other provider that had a much calmer demeanor on the phone.
I was really lucky to visit the second one and find another high quality option. The caregiver and her assistant were both fun, upbeat people but they were both very calm and the children seemed to respond to that. The facility was clean and very orderly but with lots of activities and toys. This daycare was a little smaller and only took two infants at a time. They did have an opening for July when i would start to need care. I was feeling really good about this one but wanted to a) check their references and b) visit the center.
By the time i visited the center i wondered if i wasn't being picky enough. You read all about how difficult it is to find good care and i was afraid i was just seeing what i wanted to see. So, in this way, visiting the center and being immediately convinced that this wasn't any place i was going to leave my baby was a good thing. When i asked how i would know bad childcare my friend told me i would just know-- and i did. When i showed up, they had no record of the appt i had madee. The person who gives the tours was out and they were short-handed, the office was a total mess and quite dirty, it smelled, and the caregiver in the toddler room was pretty roughly shushing a little girl crying during nap-time. Bad day-- maybe, but i didn't get anything like a good feeling.
So, after checking out the references of the my second childcare provider Brenda, and visiting again to observe (and participate) during circle-time, we put down a deposit. I feel really great about our decision and am so happy to have this all worked out in advance. I feel like i'll be able to more easily focus on the baby and our new life in the those first 3 months instead of going back to work.