By: Rachel Ventura
As most of you know, child care is a huge deal. From parents who work full time and need full time child care, to parents who like an occasional night out and only require a date night sitter, the need is huge, and can be daunting. Finding someone, or some place, that you trust your most important and valuable possession(s) with, is no small feat. And, there are so many options out there. Where do we even start?
One of my first jobs was at a child care center. I was a young, unassuming 18-year-old when I was hired as an infant room assistant. Throughout my four years there, I wore many hats: toddler room assistant, preschool teacher assistant, and my last two years there were spent as the Pre-K teacher, which I loved. I enjoyed being able to teach these amazing little people about the world around them and provide them with the skills they would need to be ready for public school. I took pride in my classroom and curriculum from month to month.
Because of my experience there, I have a soft spot for early childhood teachers and child care centers. When we first decided that our daughter needed the social interaction that we ourselves couldn’t provide for her, my husband and I had no hesitations that a child care center was the right choice for us. I had been a stay at home Mom for the first two years of my daughter’s life. She was, to say the least, completely and overly attached to me. I was 5 months pregnant with our next child and I knew she needed something to help her with the transition. A new center, Kiddie Academy, was opening right as we were starting our search, and it was located not even two minutes from our house. It seemed like fate.
We went on a tour of the facility and fell in love. The building was brand new and so beautiful! I liked that the rooms were smaller, especially for the younger kids, so it wouldn’t be too overwhelming for my daughter. They had a wonderful outdoor play space with climbing structures and slides, and an indoor gym for days that are too hot or yucky. They had a kitchen and a cook, and provided lunch as well as two healthy snacks each day. The teachers were also so nice and welcoming. We signed up for three half days and were excited to begin!
The first day was tough. I stayed with her for about 10 minutes and when I told her I was leaving, she immediately started to cry. I tried to console her for a few minutes but it wasn’t helping. The teachers told me to go and said she would be ok. I knew this. It happened all the time when I worked at the daycare, but it didn’t make it any easier. I left her there, screaming her little almost-2-year-old lungs out, with people that she barely knew. My heart was seriously broken. As I drove out of the parking lot, I, of course, cried as well. This continued for almost two weeks. The teachers assured me that my daughter would cry for maybe 10 minutes at the most, and then enjoyed the rest of her day. She was happy every day when I picked her up and talked about her day as if she had fun. But the drop-offs were becoming unbearable.
One day, just when I thought that it would never stop, and I would have to pull her out, instead of crying and clinging to me, she said, “Bye Momma,” waved, and continued to concentrate on the puzzle she was working on. I was surprised, proud, and sad all at the same time. I was extremely happy that we wouldn’t have to deal with the screaming at every drop-off any longer, but it made me realize that my little girl was growing up. It was a small milestone, but it felt huge to me.
She remained at the child care center for a little over a year. She made many friends and learned SO much! When my husband got a new job, which came with a small pay cut, we decided that it was time to take her out. It was a very tough decision, but we knew it was right for us. She had recently changed classrooms, and although she really liked her new teachers, the bond wasn’t as tight as she’d had with her previous teachers. Also, since she would be starting a new school in September anyways, so taking her out for the summer would allow us to have fun before school started and just seemed right.
I will say this: her emotional and behavioral tendencies have regressed some since leaving school. While attending Kiddie Academy she was just better behaved, even at home. I’m grateful that we live in a town that has a public preschool program. I think that she needs the structure that school provides. In less than a month, she will begin the half-day program, three days a week, and she is extremely excited about it! She already knows her teacher’s name and has been begging me to bring her to the store so we can buy a new backpack and supplies. I don’t think she will this time, but I’m pretty sure I will cry after I drop her off on the first day.
At the same time she is starting this new school, my son will also be starting a new adventure with Early Intervention. I don’t have any personal experience with this program, but I am hopeful that it will help him with his social, behavioral, and speech skills. And that it will be fun! He is 15 months and although my concerns aren’t enormous, I do think this will help. By this age, my daughter was already talking a lot. My son doesn’t have any words yet but he can let us know what he needs and wants by pointing, making the cutest little sounds, and shaking his head no. He’s such a good boy and I want to be able to give him every opportunity that is available. I’m excited for these appointments to begin! I’m sure there will be a future blog about this adventure, so stay tuned!
In addition to programs and child care centers, there are the all-important babysitters. My sister is eight years older than me and had her first child when I was 13. I was always available to babysit and I loved it! My husband and I are the babies of our families, so by the time we had our children, the family babysitters were not really an option. Our brothers and sisters were all grown and had kids of their own. Although they would be willing, it feels selfish and like an imposition to bother them with our children so we can have a date night or something. We end up just bringing the kids along or staying in. Also, my in-laws live in Florida and my parents are down the Cape. They can, and do, take the kids when the need arises, but it is an hour away and not the most convenient for all the time.
So where does the search for a babysitter begin? Recommendations from friends? Websites? Your neighborhood? Luckily for us, we live in an amazing neighborhood. One of our neighbors, who we know and trust, has an almost 12-year-old daughter. She loves our kids and they love her! In anticipation of us hiring her, she even took a babysitting course at her school this past year! We have used her for small babysitting gigs and she will be our go to babysitter for many years to come. It is such a relief to have this option.
However, many people aren’t so lucky. I work for Care.com and I can tell you that there are so many amazing, qualified babysitters on the site just looking and waiting for a wonderful family like you! The site offers many resources and tools to make the searching and hiring process an easy one. You can post a job and search for caregivers, view background checks, read reviews and hear recorded references from former employers, and much more! I urge you to check out the site and see how many caregivers are in your area. Plus, the site is not just for babysitters and nannies. You can also find pet care providers, senior caregivers, housekeepers, tutors, and more.
How to provide care for your children is a big decision. What do you use now or have you used in the past that worked for you and your family? I’d love to hear about it, and I’m sure others would too!