By: Revanche

Our childcare situation: Winter update

February 24, 2016

I know you were all dying to know what we do with LB all day.

once mobility was achieved, productivity took a nosedive.

Over several months, we’ve tried nannies, sitters, and daycare. Some were ok, some were most decidedly not.

We haven’t tried in-home daycare yet, we’re considering a few, but I’ve gotta tell ya, none of them have felt quite right. The smaller size overall seems like a good thing, especially during this period when every possible disease is being shared across several different age groups.  Truly, I didn’t expect this ambivalence to apply to everyone, our hope was we’d find the right place and it’d feel right. But the closest we’ve gotten is the brand-name daycare.

What we like about it

LB loves it. I’m not talking about any low level of interest or joy, here, it’s an intense level of happiness. Ze was all about this place: new toys? YES. new infant sized furniture? YES. new people? YES! The first day was the total opposite of what we braced for: instead of a scared, nervous or even indifferent child, LB went all in. Pulled up a seat at the table, sat down and helped hirself to some food, grinning at a brand new carer like they were best friends. (IN YOUR FACE, well meaning but totally annoying father who lectured me about separation anxiety.)

Subsequent drop-offs were the same for weeks: a mad cackle and dash-crawl to hir brand new teachers, or pull up a chair at the snack bar and never leave. Ze would see me at pick-up, and go right back to playing with hir carer because Mom, it’s bubbles time, just hang on, ok? Again, nothing like the picture of separation anxiety I’d slightly dreaded.

The carers seem to be fond of hir, despite hir well known defiance and horrible diaper changing etiquette.

PiC is the designated primary person to contact and they always try to contact him first. Any time they call me, they apologize and explain that they did try him first but couldn’t reach him.

What’s not awesome

The place is a damn viral incubator. It’s to be expected that kids will share germs but because this is a larger facility, there are that many more multiples of infectious disease vectors. You guys. SO MANY GERMS.

Ze has been sick at least half hir enrolled time, and sick enough to be sent home. Which means we’re paying a full month’s fees for half a month’s care, plus taking time away from work to care for LB myself. Well, both of us. PiC and I have started splitting the sick days. The first couple of times, I just took care of hir myself because we were frazzled by the surprise at-home days and it was easiest for me to just be home with hir.

We settled into a better routine once we got a handle on it. He does pick-up and drop-off, and I cover the mornings so he can work, and he comes home early to take over in the afternoon so I can work.

They don’t provide meals so I have to pack a lunch for school days. We split that too: I do lunches and he does bottles. It’s one more task for our evening routine, and I don’t love having to remember yet another thing.

$$$$: It’s really expensive. It’s been budgeted for since before ze was born but MAN it’s still a lot of money.

Status: Holding pattern

We have regular email updates from the daycare center but PiC also reports back. His latest update left me feeling a little less enamoured with hir current group. (We’ve nicknamed all the kids for their anonymity.)

***

PiC: Patient Zero’s transferred to a different group now, so it just leaves a handful of the older kids. LB loved watching the infants but I get the feeling that they need lots of staff time so the older kids aren’t getting much attention anymore. They’re kind of just left to entertain themselves.

Me: Who’s left?

PiC: Bruiser isn’t always the first and last kid there anymore, but he still always looks like he’s on the verge of tears.

Me: Bruiser’s so cute. But so sad. And looks like the model for Hitler’s Youth: perfect blonde, blue eyes, built like a tank.

PiC: Yeah, he looks like he has a destiny. He has an older brother.

Me: Mega-Bruiser?

PiC: I think Bruiser could take his brother.

Me: Cruiser, then.

PiC: Yeah. Precious Moments Puppy is still there. Also always looks on the verge of tears but I think he’s just channeling the atmosphere. It’s a shame that Vale of Tears isn’t there anymore.

Me: Why? She cried all the time. She made LB sympathy cry. She was the saddest of them all.

PiC: Yeah but she was like the walking emotional outlet for the entire group. She was The Giver, feeling all the feelings, so the rest of them could be happy.

Me: That’s true. Also messed up. Also it sounds like they’ve turned into the room of infinite sadness.

PiC: Sort of, yeah. It makes me feel like there’s pressure on LB. Whenever ze’s sick, they’re like, “Where’s our LB? Ze is so quiet and detached!” And I’m like, shit, lady, LB can’t carry the happiness for a whole group! That’s so much pressure!

Me: I dunno. Builds character.

***

We’re looking into other daycare options, mainly because of the cost, but now also in case the group composition changes so much that LB isn’t having the time of hir life anymore. We have totally reasonable standards, yes.

The thing is, I’m not comfortable with the in-home set-ups that I’ve seen so far. They *sound* nice, some are bilingual, they’re all much smaller and theoretically more hands on. But I’m just not comfortable with the feeling that there’s not as much accountability.

Facilities have standard regulations and background checks they’re expected to present, whereas the in-home daycares where I don’t know anyone and don’t necessarily do those things makes me nervous. Particularly in the case of more family-style care groups – how do I just trust that no one in the family is a predator? How do I trust that if they do harm LB in ways that aren’t immediately obvious, they won’t just cover it up? It’s not that I think larger facilities are infallible, but there are more controls in place, and I don’t feel awkward saying: do you have background checks for all employees?

I’m not sure what the answer is yet, but this has worked for now. We may just suck it up and keep paying the price for the peace of mind. Well, we will for now while we keep looking.

17 Responses to “Our childcare situation: Winter update”

  1. I know people who have amazing in-home day care situations, but I had no sense of how to evaluate those. So we went with the crazy expensive close-to-home center, and it worked really well for us. For starters, we both work and have commutes (Los Angeles!). And in our case, the volume of kids that they see (and there wasn’t *that* much staff or kid turnover in most of her particular classes) meant that they were able to help us identify when Baguette’s behavior and development started to vary from the other kids so that we could start a battery of therapies.

    Mind you, we’re in debt from those five years of day care costs. Not irrevocably, and we’re working our way out of it, but far more than we’re used to.
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    • Revanche says:

      Just about every person I know who has used in-home care has been really happy with it but I just can’t get that sense of “this is right” that I was looking for.

      I budgeted for the highest cost I could reasonably estimate so we started cutting our spending in other areas over time but it’s still a wrench to see how much we’re spending there, which means we can’t be saving that. Still, it sounds like it was so worth it that you had the right kinds of eyes on Baguette.

  2. The sick-all-the-time really does stop after immunities build up. And then your kid will hardly ever get sick.

    We have always felt more comfortable with facility daycare than in-home for the reasons you mention.
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    • Revanche says:

      That day cannot come too soon for me. We got ANOTHER notice of infection today. Noooo!

    • Cloud says:

      Chiming in to agree. My kids rarely get sick now. We have missed very few school days.

      But yeah, it sucks while you’re in it, particularly if you don’t have the “fly in grandma” option we used to get through the worst of the sick run. There are emergency nanny services to help with this, too. But they are pricey.

      We ended up loving our day care center, and still use some of the teachers as babysitters when they are available.

      • Revanche says:

        Two data points: this makes me feel a little better. I’d wondered why I remembered being really pretty healthy as far as contagious diseases up through our teen years, I maybe caught a cold once when I was in high school. Maybe twice? At best.

        As much as spending the money bothers me, I’m clearly much more bothered by the idea of taking risks with groups that I’m not comfortable with.

  3. NZ Muse says:

    Nothing useful to add as I have no experience in this field (just sympathy about cost, convenience and what must be nervewracking choices to make).

    But, THOSE NAMES. Trust you guys to come up with the best references.

    • Revanche says:

      🙂 It’s worth the effort if they’re appreciated. Of course, we use them so often I generally forget the kid’s REAL name …. whoops!

  4. Hypatia Cade says:

    If you are looking at other centers, some criteria for evaluation:
    1) carers have degrees
    1a) carers have degrees IN early childhood education/development etc
    2) longevity of the carers in the field
    2a) longevity at that center in particular (good centers attract and keep good workers)
    3) higher pay for carers (also higher pay for you)
    4) licensed daycares if you look at in home ones do have some oversight; registered just have to document that they exist for the state. Usually smallish family things only have to register; larger ones have to be licensed.
    4a) NAEYC certified = meets a variety of programming standards http://www.naeyc.org/academy/accreditation/search

    FWIW we do center care also.

    Group composition does shift – I’d expect if LB is getting be one of the older kids, she’ll soon be promoted to the next room. When that happens you will see another shift in terms of interaction/challenges/group dynamics both because of age and caregiver style. You may find you like a center at one age group and are more meh at the next age group because teachers tend to have a lot of autonomy over their classes

    • Revanche says:

      Thank you for these tips!!

      I intellectually knew that these shifts would be happening but this was our first experience with it. It’s interesting to see, and see how honestly it doesn’t seem to affect LB’s excitement over going or coming home. Ze seems as happy as ever so ze must be getting enough social interaction? I think? I may feel more comfortable with a less strict environment when ze is older, and can properly communicate about hir day and experiences.

  5. We’ve had some similar challenges (I’ve a post scheduled on it!). I had concerns about in-home care for exactly the reasons you mention, although as Pickle gets older and more verbal I am less worried about it – so if our current situation falls through in the next year, I might be more open to that option than I was in the past. I’d certainly be open to it for after-school care.
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    • Revanche says:

      I think I’ll feel the same along the same reasons: when the kids are more verbal, we are more likely to be able to communicate with them and vice versa if something is wrong. Looking forward to your thoughts.

  6. When my son was little, we had two women in the neighborhood who would watch children. Between the two of them, they could cover our day care all five days a week.

    At one point, though, I imagined that my son would be better off in what was touted by other supposedly responsible mothers as the best day care in the city, which was close to the university where I worked. Somehow I got it in my pea brain that if I showed him were my office was, he would understand it was just down the street, and Mommy was much closer to him now.

    Wrong.

    He was just miserable there. Whenever I came to pick him up, I’d find him pacing the chain-link fence around the perimeter, searching for my car. He immediately got sick, and he STAYED sick the entire time I had him in that place. One day as I walked in the door earlier than expected, I saw my son climbing up on makeshift table created by slinging a door over the backs of two of those little plastic kiddie chairs. The whole lash-up fell down…right on top of the little girl who had crawled under it.

    While staff was distracted by the girl child’s shrieks, I grabbed my son and RAN. Never went back. The home day care was infinitely better.

    Later, after he was in school and we had moved uptown, I got a well paying job in publishing and figured, WOW. I can afford to hire a housekeeper/babysitter to come pick him up from school (school buses do not apply to kids in private school), stay with him until I got home, clean the shack, and maybe even put some dinner on for us. We found this woman through an agency, who sent us several candidates to interview.

    That was a fiasco. She was the single stupidest human being I have ever met. It was hard to understand how she learned to tie her shoes, much less take care of herself. She had a child who was farmed out to her mother’s day-care center; Mom informed her that she would have to pick the kid up by 5 p.m., no if’s and’s or but’s. I didn’t usually get home before 6. So we agreed that she would leave him parked in front of the TV when she left and I would try to escape the office as early as I could.

    One evening I strolled in the door to find my son sitting in front of the TV, engrossed in whatever drivel was playing. The ironing board was left out and the iron was on top of it…turned on AS HIGH AS IT WOULD GO.

    I called her and fired her that evening.

    Then I farmed him out to one of the church mothers, who had 10 highly competent and lovely children of her own and who would take in a few urchins from the fancy school. This worked out very well. But we had to hire a taxicab to pick him up at the school (don’t ask…other parents had engaged a limo service; their little darlings were _literally_ chauffeured around), and the whole hassle got a bit tedious. So I finally quit my job and built a business as a freelance writer. This let me work out of my home…which in those days was a whole ‘nother ridiculous story.

    Unless day care centers are a helluva lot better than they used to be, I’d advise finding a competent, well regarded woman who watches a small number of kids in her home. Drop by at unexpected hours so you can surprise her and see exactly what’s going on when she thinks you’re not watching. You can often find such women through churches, certain upscale schools, and mothers’ groups.

    Telecommuting, however, is the definitive solution to day care.

    • Revanche says:

      You have also had the worst luck with people!

      Honestly, my real objection to this daycare (other than germs which, as everyone else has pointed out, is a rite of passage the first year anyway) is the money. We have drop in rights at any time, they are totally flexible in their pick up and drop off hours and have security protocols. These are important to me and they have it all, so it’s mostly a matter of money and making that happen.

  7. Laurie says:

    It may seem like your child is getting sick a lot now, but it will eventually ease – the immunity takes some time to build. Childcare options are a big decision for parents, so it is understandable that you would periodically re-evaluate this decision.

  8. Hannah says:

    I absolutely think its worthwhile to pay for peace of mind. We have always had babysitters rather than daycare providers because we really wanted people we personally trusted. I think if you can tell your child is happy and well-cared for, then you are in a good place. If it changes, you’ll need to change providers ASAP.

    • Revanche says:

      Every time someone describes their babysitter or nanny experience (always positive) I throw my hands up at our luck. I don’t know why it’s been so difficult to find someone sensible and reliable. What’s going ON, Bay Area??

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