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Tending to Baby, Part 1: The Daycare Option

After a year of staying at home with my lil one, I'm back to work and loving it. The decision to work was easy, but babycare was my big dilemma. I searched for daycares, nannies, and nanny-share options. I'll share my journey with you in this three-part series.

This week: The Daycare Option.

I wanted my daughter to attend daycare to learn how to be a social being and be stimulated while I was at work. Daycare would teach her that she's not the center of attention, how to share, and how to take a lick and keep on ticking.

At the same time, I would be opening the door to colds, earaches, and biting! And, you need to factor in the time it takes to drop off and pick up your kid. Most daycares that I looked at closed around 5 p.m. "Excuse me boss, I am going to have to leave at 4:30 p.m. every day so I can pick up my baby on time." Not a good way to start a new job. And, all of this is assuming you have the option to attend daycare.

Here in San Francisco, finding daycare is like finding a needle in a haystack. Many well regarded daycares have year-long waitlists. By the time she'd be able to attend, my daughter would be in preschool. (I didn't know I had to have her name on the list when she was born!)

So I went on word of mouth and hunted around for smaller daycares. These are facilities run out of people's homes with a 6:1 child-to-caregiver ratio. Some of them were cute, clean, and well-maintained operations. Others, not so much.

The one I felt most comfortable with required each child to sleep for four hours a day. Come again? Yes. My child was expected to sleep for nearly half the time that she would be there. And, this place wanted to charge me more than I was going to make. So, I continued on my search.

If you do find a daycare that you are crazy about, here are some things you might want to check out:

  1. Make sure the daycare provides a safe and healthy environment for your child.
  2. All daycare centers must be licensed.
  3. Upon request, they should provide you with references. (See if you can call families who have already graduated from the facility as well as current enrollees
  4. Inquire about the staff's background and how long they have worked there. Also, ask what the daycare center's hiring qualifications are for them.
  5. Know what the napping and sick policies are.
  6. Make sure unannounced and unscheduled visits to the daycare are allowed.

Unfortunately for me, daycare was not an option. Next stop . . . nannies.

macy macy 9 years
Four hours for nap time is absolutely ridiculous. Every child is different and has different needs. The questions to ask are important. Check out lists across the web for ideas like and make up your own list of questions that are important to you. They should mostly apply regardless if you go with a daycare center, home care, or nanny.
orangeflower orangeflower 9 years
I"m having so much troulbe with the cost of daycare! good gawd its almost like rent! The lady I like is almost 800 a month. But another lady who is around 500 a month, i didn't feel that happy about. And centers are almost 900 a month! I'm going crazy trying to figure out how we're going to afford this---as well as find someone we're comfortable with. it's so draining.
Novaraen Novaraen 9 years
Oh yeah...and because i have twins, the lady gave me a little bit of a discount for enrolling two at once...which for me is nice. :D
Novaraen Novaraen 9 years
I had the same trouble with the bigger daycares around town...all had super long waiting lists....and me with TWO two year old boys to enroll. It was unbelievable and somewhat hopeless. So...i decided to look at smaller places and even asked a couple of my friends where they took their kids. My good friend recommended me to a lady who runs a great daycare with about avg. 12 kids and 2-3 adults there at all times. Fully licensed and even handles all the meals(always nutritional!). All i have to do is provide the diapers, wipes and a change of clothes for each of my boys. Its wonderful...she has a great kid-proofed play area in the backyard and the kids have naptime around 12pm for a couple of hours. She is super sweet and LOVES the kids so much. It all works out great for me...i was super lucky to find her. So all i can say is dont overlook the smaller daycares...there are some really nice gems out there if you just look! :D
mbrown81 mbrown81 9 years
I'm in the daycare hunt as we speak. In my area there doesn't seem to be any that are truly up to my standards. Idealy I would like to stay at home, but fiscally it's just not possible. I would really prefer a in home daycare if I can find one. It's so hard to make this decision when all I really want to do is stay home with him.
bfly1133 bfly1133 9 years
Thank you for doing this series! The hubby and I talking about staring a family and this is one of the areas we are currently discussing. This will be really helpful for us. And my friends. :)
Moms Moms 9 years
Who can guarantee that their child would be asleep for four hours? And, why would they want them to sleep all day?
mamaseacat mamaseacat 9 years
Thanks, annebreal. That's scary! Crystalvillage06 - my daughter has been in preschool for 11 weeks and has been sick 4 times. And I don't mean just a stuffy nose and some coughing. I'm talking, fevers and earaches!! Just when you think she's done and getting better, she gets sick all over again. Hearing from you makes me feel a little better that it is normal. (Doc says that normal, too.)
annebreal annebreal 9 years
I don't want to freak you guys out, but I worked at a daycare for two years and I really don't care for children! A few of my coworkers were the same way - it was easy to get hired and we needed the money. That said, if I do ever have kids I'll definitely consider daycare. It's an excellent way to socialize a child - and as for biting and sickness, kids have to go out into that world sometime! I usually worked until 5:30 or 6:00 for late pick-up kids and I think parents were only charged for tardiness if it was habitual. Other things to ask about - general policies. How much tv or video are they allowed to show the kids? I think in my state it's a half hour a day max or something. What do their "ouch reports" look like and what do they feel obligated to report? What are their disciplinary practices? What educational and religious components (if it is ministry or church-based) will be implemented? And stuff like that. Also, make sure you find out how strict their check-outs are, to ensure that the staff members always check for ID so the child is going home with the right grownup! The place I worked at didn't really enforce this and it made me so anxious.
lorenashley lorenashley 9 years
i will NOT be sending my child to daycare.
crystalvillage06 crystalvillage06 9 years
My son started daycare when he was 2.We tried an inhome daycare and I was not comfortable with that at all. We then took him to a "chain" daycare. We went through all the sickness for about 2 months and it was awful. He did make friends which was nice but taking him made me so miserable I went back to staying at home with him. It can drive you crazy at times but I like knowing exactly what he is doing and I keep him in plenty of activities to give social interaction; although I do look foward to kindergarden when I can return to adult world for a few hours a day :)
cbgmick cbgmick 9 years
I'm in Boston and child care here is also a challenge. I think it's hard to find a "good fit" anywhere since there are so many considerations and trade-offs that you have to make. Because centers are regulated and since there multiple staff there, there are some "checks and balances" on the system. I was never comfortable w/ at home child care due to the lack of control and the stories I heard - like the 4 hr sleep "requirement" as well as excessive TV watching, minimal diaper changes, and poor care. But that's the route we ended up going for our first childcare arrangement. I stayed home 17 months w/ my son (now 4 1/2). When I went back to work it was initially part-time and only required me to be "out of the house" two half days/ week. I was really fortunate to find a loving and wonderful home care situation. My son was treated to fresh baked bread every day, no TV, and a music teacher that come once a week. Honestly, she was more adept than I at the whole caregiver thing (overcoming those feelings of inadequacy is a whole other post!!!!). Frankly, I was really lucky that the whole thing came together as it did. . I'm pregnant w/ #2 and want to stay home for around 6 months. My son's caregiver doesn't take children under 18 months, so that's not an option this time around. Plus, once I go back to work I'd like someone to be able to pick up my son after school (he'll be in K next fall) so I think I'll have to go the nanny route. I really look forward to hearing what folks have to say about their nanny experiences. Frankly, the prospect of looking for a nanny frightens me !!!
fsquaash fsquaash 9 years
My kids took 2 naps a day at one year. Wouldn't that be about 4 hours? A caregivier who values sleep is very important to me.
macgirl macgirl 9 years
I only looked at in home daycare options for my first son. The first lady he was with was a sweet older woman. After the first week of him being in her care she told me that I held my two month old son too much when he was with me and I was making it hard on her when he was there. EXCUSE ME? It wasn't like he was held around the clock (OK, maybe he was a bit.. but he was so tiny and cute). I removed him from her care and found someone that enjoyed newborns more. The second woman he was with was amazing. I adored her, she adored him and he loved being there with her and the other kids. I was hoping to use her again when this one is born but she met a man and moved to Oregon :-( So your post comes at the perfect time as I will be on the hunt again.
Neural Neural 9 years
"Requiring" a kid to sleep 4 hours during daylight hours is ridiculous for any child older than a few months. That's awful. Sorry for all those who have had a hard time finding good daycare in SF. I'm in the Midwest and it wasn't hard for me. I guess I'm lucky.
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