Search May Be Harder Than You Think
From Robin McClure
Why is making a decision about child care sometimes so difficult?
- You haven’t decided about what “type” of care is best for your child. This should be the first decision made in your search for the perfect care partner, but it’s often the last one made in reality. Parents should do some soul-searching about what they feel their child needs and wants, and whether it is practical in terms of time, arrangements, distance, and of course, cost. Do you want an in-home provider or a daycare? If you opt for an in-home arrangement, are you talking about someone in your home or do you want to take your child to someone else’s home during the day when you’re gone. Do you want a nanny or au pair or will a teenage babysitter do? If you opt for someone else’s home, do you want other kids their age or different ages? Are you comfortable in their home? Are they trained? Certified? Experienced? CPR and First-Aid enabled? Or, if you think a daycare is your preference, do you want a daycare program? Preschool prep program? Montessori school? One that provides field trips or one that encourages activities within the same location setting? Meals provided or meals brought? These questions may rightly so cause some stress on the part of the parents, and of course, it’s natural. The choices are broad, but the right decision is critical. So make sure it is an informed one.
- Child care costs can be high. Chances are, once you have made your initial selection, you’ve discovered that costs can be quite high. Depending on where you live and the option you choose, they can be downright staggering. Add in supply fees (at some locations), uniform requirements (at others), food/snack or other type of meal requirements, and you may sometimes wonder how you’ll be able to afford it. Weekly costs may depend on the age of the child, setting and situation, and could easily range from $75 a week upward to $300…or even more. Know your budget and what value and benefit your child will receive from the care selected.
- Once you pick your place, you may or may not be able to get your child in. Isn’t it ironic? You’ve searched and searched, interviewed care providers and talked with parents for their opinion…only to pick and then find out a space is not available for your child’s age. Keep in mind that this is actually a good thing (although it may not feel like it right now). You want a provider that maintains strict ratios or age spreads. Some of the care providers or programs with the best reputations often have the longest waiting lists. A few even start signing up infants as soon as they are born so they will be “in” by the time they reach a certain age. So, if you’re thinking about child care, get busy. And, if there is no room at your top pick, get on the waiting list, but then find your second choice. Who knows? You may like your second choice even better and want to stay put if and when your child’s name finally comes up for an available opening.
- Care is harder to find if you work outside of mainstream hours. Care is perhaps the easiest to find during the traditional hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; a little more challenging for hours of 6:30 a.m. to 6:30-7 p.m., and downright difficult for hours that may involve weekends or evenings. Be prepared to either compromise or to strike a balance by using two different care options. After all, most daycare centers and in-home providers work Monday through Friday, because staff/providers also have families and a life of their own.
- Have a realistic back-up plan in place. Of course, that is easier said than done, but the consequence of not having a backup plan is that you may find yourself without a provider on the very same day you’re to give a huge presentation or pitch a sale. Even though a place may not be your ideal care setting, it is good to at least have your child pre-registered on a drop-in or emergency basis. Then, if your in-home provider has the stomach flu or your regular daycare center is closed for professional training, you aren’t left with a case of the baby blues.
- Don’t expect more of your provider than you expect for yourself. It IS appropriate to have high expectations of your provider; however, it is not appropriate to expect miracles. Sadly, many parents do expect just that. The key is to have realistic expectations, be happy and comfortable with the choice made and/or provider selected, ensure your child is well-adjusted and being taken care of properly, and then…RELAX!