Thursday, August 18, 2011

Childcare 101

One pretty big item on my list of “this is seriously giving me hives, we need to make a decision and act on it pronto” is childcare for Baby Geronimo.  We have decided that, at least for the time being, I am not going to stay home.  At first, I was pretty resistant to this idea – I’ve always thought I’d like to stay home with my children until they went to kindergarten.  However, I’m in the process of switching roles at work that will be substantially less hours and travel, and we decided together that long-term, this is a better decision for us right now (I know, you’re all shocked that we agreed on something baby-related…we are, too!).  If I am being honest, I also secretly wonder if I am cut out for staying home full-time.  I have plenty of girlfriends who do this and are planning to do it, (and please let me preface these next statements by saying they are non-judgmental to the max), but I’m just not 100% sure staying home would be for me.  I went to stay with my sister-in-law to help with my nephews and niece a few months ago, and I swear I have never respected anyone more.  Andrea has a full-time, 24-hour/day job that I think is harder than mine most days!  As I said before, it is very possible that I’ll change my mind once Baby B makes his/her arrival, and I think my 4-month maternity leave will be a good trial run for me to see how it would be, but for now, the plan is for me to come back to work.
With that said, Dan and I have GOT to get busy on discussing childcare.  I have a girlfriend at work, Carrie, who is expecting in October.  Carrie told me that she thought that most daycares had a 6-month waiting period, but boy was she wrong.  She started calling a lot of places just last month and most of them won’t have space for her Samuel until May 2012 (she's due in October and will be back to work in January)!  Quite a few other people have told us that if we are even considering daycare in the least, we need to go ahead and choose some that we like and get on their waiting lists NOW.  We can always defer when the time comes or just tell them we’ll no longer need a space, no harm done.  With that said, how does one go about choosing a preschool?  Through the little bit of research I have conducted on this subject, I already to know that it is going to be a LOT of work.
The first thing we need to do is identify the things in a preschool that are important to us.  Mind you, Dan and I have not yet discussed any of this – once we do, I will report back on whether we were even on the same page!  My "wish list" is made up the following (in no particular order!):
  • I want a clean, safe environment for Baby Geronimo to spend his/her days. 
  • I would like something that is fairly close to where we live – preferably close to downtown Raleigh, if possible.  We live less than 5 minutes from downtown, and Dan works downtown.  While my office is not downtown, I’m only about 15 minutes away, so I just want it to be accessible so that in case of an emergency one of us can get there quickly. 
  • I want the school to be accredited, and I want a good teacher-to-student ratio – the fewer children a teacher is responsible for the better, so that every child receives the attention he/she needs and deserves. 
  • It goes without saying that I’d like for it to be learning-oriented and with excellent teachers, so that Baby B will be nourished and challenged! 
I know, I haven’t mentioned anything about cost yet – but it’s because I really don’t have any idea what childcare costs these days!  Dan and I are very fortunate to have good, steady jobs, and I am by no means saying that cost is not an issue, but I am willing to pay more for a good school.
So how does one go about choosing?!  The general consensus from the research I’ve done and people I’ve spoken to is that we should do our research, develop a short list, and then schedule visits to the schools that made the cut.  We should be sure to meet with the preschool directors in person and observe the teachers with the children – and possibly even ask for references from other parents that we could speak to for recommendations.  The problem for us is going to be even finding any time to sit down and develop a short list.  Several girlfriends have recommended the NC Division of Child Development to use as a reference.  I think I will start by searching that site for 5-star preschools, and then go from there.  I’m sure there will be many follow-up posts on daycare visits and this whole process, so stay tuned for those.
The other option that we have discussed but not in great detail is a nanny.  This is a whole new beast to deal with!  Ideally, we’d want someone with a background in nannying and preferably a degree relating to child development.  We would want this person to come to our home Monday – Friday.  I would not expect them to do any kind of cooking or cleaning or anything like that for us – our main focus would be childcare.  I have several girlfriends who have chosen this option and love it as well.  They have given me several websites to look into such as Sitter City and Care, but I’ve not gotten around to doing a thorough search yet.  The good thing about these websites is that they provide background checks, which we would definitely be interested in before even interviewing nannies.  I would ideally love for someone to stay at home with my child until he/she is around the age of 2, at which point I think I would feel better about sending them to daycare (I know, 2 is a random age, and I’m not sure why I picked it other than it sounds good.  I just like the idea of my child getting one-on-one attention, nurturing, loving and learning from a nanny before going to preschool to continue learning and developing their social skills.).  Again, I have no idea how much this would cost.  We cannot afford to pay someone a $55,000/year salary to stay at home with our child.  The limited research I have done says that the typical cost ranges form $10-$14/hour for one child, which seems reasonable but would still I think cost us more than if we put our child in even the best daycare.  The only thing working to our advantage from this standpoint, while horrible in itself, is that with the economy being so bad and teacher jobs being cut everywhere, my girlfriends have told me that there are a lot out there to choose from.  While it is unfortunate that our economy is in this state and that qualified teachers can’t find jobs educating our future, I am hopeful that this option will work out for us.  We’ll just have to crunch some numbers depending on what we decide to do to help determine which option will be best for us. 
Whew, that was a long one, but these are important issues!  Do any of you have any suggestions or opinions either way on this topic?  We’d love to hear from you, and could use all the advice we can get!
Until next time…
Sarah

2 comments:

  1. Sar - staying at home is def an adjustment and I think you're maternity leave will give you a perfect idea of what it's like. The first four-six months are probably the hardest though, so keep that in mind. Once they start being able to do things on their own (sit up, crawl, etc) it's a whole new ball game. I personally love staying at home with the kids but it can be trying at times. And I would say 2 is a great age to start daycare!! Logan goes to a preschool-type center like the one you were describing you wanted and he LOVES it!! We started him at 2yr 4mo and it's been awesome - especially for potty training!! Just some thoughts I thought I'd share...

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  2. My assistantship in graduate school was actually traveling to and evaluating infant, toddler, and preschool classrooms across the state of Kentucky. So even though I'm not a parent, I may be able to help you know what kind of things to look for when you observe :).

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