I have three kids. Two of them have “survived” daycare. The last one is about a quarter there and I still find it the most unpleasant thing to have to find.
I was blessed to have a mother who watched my oldest until he was two and so when my second one entered my life thirteen years later, I wasn’t prepared. Because at two you could “communicate”. At least this is what I told myself when I first put him at a daycare center. OF COURSE I would know if something was amiss because he would be able to tell me, so putting him in a daycare to be socialized would be just fine. WRONG. The first daycare I put my son in was like a front seat preview to what hell may look like. From that day forward, I have been determined to secure my place in heaven. Hell isn’t for me. *shrugs* I digressed.
There are so many questions you have in mind as you try to find the "perfect" daycare:
1. Will they give them all the snuggles they want?
2. Will they be able to sleep for however long they want?
3. Will they follow their schedule?
4. Do they have cameras and how tight is their security?
5. Are there rogue caregivers there?
6. Are the other kids as well-behaved as mine?
7. What does your "sick" policy look like? Will I be battling colds every single week?
8. Is this going to cost me one year of my salary every single week?
And on and on.
Our second child was all of nine weeks old when we had to put her in daycare. My husband almost cried doing it. I did too, but I didn't have enough maternity leave to stay home and so we did what we had to. On the first day, he picked her up early. He was working from home during most of that time, so she was with him many of those days. But by the time she hit six months, we had her in daycare full-time.
The beautiful thing about motherhood is God seems to allow you to cross paths with other mothers who are going through the EXACT same thing you are. When I met my friend Rachel, I wasn't pregnant, but my husband and I were talking about it. A lot.
Rachel had just had her first son a year prior when we met at work. For some reason, I asked her about her daycare set-up and she introduced me to Ms. Angie- a TOTAL GODSEND. When I left that company, I got pregnant and figured I would check out the daycares I had become familiar with through advertising. My memory served me well. Even after 13 years it was still H. E. DOUBLE HOCKEY STICK.
By the time I visited Ms. Angie, I was discouraged. However, from the moment I met her I knew immediately I wanted our daughter there. I was all of five seconds pregnant, but I told her I wanted her to keep a spot for me. And she did.
Ms. Angie operates an in-home daycare with six children in it. It is in the basement of her house. You enter using the side door and land in her kitchen, where there seemed to always be something simmering on the stove. I immediately liked that because I knew Soybean wouldn't starve. Long story short, I felt like I was dropping her off to someone in my family. It didn't have the latest gadgets or toys, but it had lots of love, learning, and food. Oh, and it was CLEAN! Like you could eat off the floor clean. *happy dance* I couldn't ask for more. Fast forward and after three years, we had to take Soybean out so she could be socialized at a preschool. It was THEE saddest day of my life, but it was necessary.
So by the time we had our third child, I thought I was well-versed and had this daycare thing DOWN. Do you hear me? An old pro. *pats shoulder*
We wanted to put Lenny in Ms. Angie's but couldn't, so we were tasked to find another option. There was a brick in my stomach for over a year- even after we found a daycare center to take her. We looked at all the "big box" glitzy ones and some of the smaller centers as well. Nothing compared to Ms. Angie's. NOTHING. We eventually settled on a daycare that had both infants and a Pre-K program so Soybean could attend because NOTHING IS WORSE THAN DOUBLE DROP OFF.
They loved on Lenny (Soybean too), but there's something about an in-home daycare that can't be replicated. I missed that.
Well, this past Monday, I dropped my daughter off at her "new" daycare because Soybean started kindergarten at another location and it took me almost 2 hours to pick them both up and make it back home. NO ES BUENO. And the DOUBLE DROP OFF was a bit much for me to handle when my husband wasn't able to get one of the girls, so we had to leave the center we grew to love.
When I walked in the new center, I felt like a number. No one greeted me or seemed prepared for me. I quickly ran off before Lenny could feel my angst. And it's days like this that make it so difficult for me to drop my baby off. I know some of you want to "shame" me and say, why do you work then. Truth is because I CAN and WANT to. I enjoy having a career and I have raised a pretty productive and loving college student, so I think I did okay. *Have several seats* Thanks.
I digressed. Again.
Nothing in this life prepares you to leave your baby in the arms of strangers who are only there because they are paid to do so. Nothing. So, to find a provider who loves your children like their own is nothing short of a miracle.
Last week I heard from Ms. Angie who tends to check on Soybean from time to time.
Well, in TWO weeks Lenny will be all hers. The heavens sang and so did I that day. We finally got to go back home. Yes, there is a double drop off, but the peace of mind I have makes it much easier to navigate. Plus, I have three years to digest the brick in my stomach and to let her grow under someone who is so special to us.
So, as you continue to navigate the world of daycare, remember, you will find the "ONE" and when you do, treat them well. They deserve it.
P.S. Do you have any nightmare daycare stories to share with me? Do have a process that will help new moms figure out how to navigate choosing a daycare? I would love to hear from you.