Well, we did it. After a minor panic in realizing that we were [shockingly] behind the eight ball in securing daycare for our unborn child, we signed the safety deposit/sign-up fee/first week’s tuition check yesterday. Maybe not for the date we wanted, or the price we wanted, but we’re “in” just the same. Which is kind of a big load off my pregnant mind.
I know this sounds crazy, but we only looked at one daycare. This is very unlike me, as most of you know I am a hopeless over-researcher and will spend a ridiculous amount of time to make big decisions like this one. BUT, although there are many options available in our area, only ONE is within walking distance (which is a huge plus, since I walk to work and it is a pain to have to drive the baby to daycare, then drive home, then walk to the T and go to work each morning). With this place, I can walk the baby to daycare in the morning, and then I can easily hop on the T from right there to get to work. On the way home, I can get off at the T stop right by daycare and then walk home. Lovely, lovely, lovely. Still, I knew that even the most convenient location wouldn’t win me over if I didn’t feel comfortable there.
Lucky for us, Benjamin and I almost cried when we took the tour — the place was adorable. The kids were happy and diverse, the teachers were smart and caring. They hit every major requirement I had (on my clipboard full of questions to ask) and many more. As we peered in the various classrooms (infant, toddler, pre-k, etc.), happy little faces peered back. I saw tables set for craft projects and healthy snacks being given out. The kids were smiling and interacting and all of them seemed safe, happy and comfortable. Whenever possible, the teachers take them outside on little field trips around the area (in those adorable baby wagons or walking with each kid holding on to a long rope — so cute!). We were sold.
The daycare we chose is a KinderCare. It’s a chain. One of the biggest ones (at least in my area). In the beginning of the process, I wasn’t sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing. On one hand, it means big prices (yuck) and corporate “regulations”, so they might not be as willing to compromise on missed days or pick-up time. On the other hand, it means strict hiring standards and background checks. It also means adherence to the highest safety standards. I love those things. What I found out when we visited the center is that it also means lesson plans for all ages and a positive, learning-centered environment. While I know some people might see this is as a negative (my child will be in “school” from infancy), I think it is a positive. The atmosphere in the KinderCare center was one of creativity, self-directed learning and education from Day 1. Even in the infant room, they do what they can to stick to a schedule (not always possible, I know!), and I think that structure helps to develop important skills for the little ones like listening and delayed gratification.
The ONLY downside to KinderCare that I can see so far is cost. Nearly $2,000 a month for a 5-day a week schedule. Phew! Benjamin and I decided that we will try a 3-day a week schedule to put the cost back in our budgeted ballpark. It also makes me feel a little more balanced about sending my baby off to daycare (which I know will be very hard for me) for only 3 days instead of 5. I will take Mondays off, and Benjamin will try to keep Fridays free with no jobs, and we’ll make it work.
As I said, we also didn’t get the start date we wanted. Can you believe that signing the check in March 2010 (at 21 weeks pregnant, mind you) only guarantees us care beginning in THE THIRD WEEK OF JANUARY 2011?! Craziness. Although we wanted the first week of January (which is when I am hoping to go back to work after an extended maternity leave), my fingers are crossed that people ahead of us will drop off the list and we’ll get our target date. If not, again, we’ll make it work.
So, one big thing checked off that long list of to-do’s. About a million more to go!