It was never going to be a happy new year when 2016 started with my quest to find the perfect childcare for Baby Lighty. As readers of my previous post will know, I’ve already been very emotional about the end of my maternity leave, but the closer to the end I got, the more I found my thoughts to be consumed with worries over childcare.
Mrs Lighty was always the friend that would tell her working mother friends not to feel guilty; that they were providing a positive working role model for their children; that they were working to make sure that they didn’t go without. And I still wholeheartedly believe this. I therefore know that I’m not alone in feeling like this, but then why did I still feel so anxious about handing my baby over?
All of a sudden it wasn’t just a question of sending him off to a childminder, but it was a question of who do I want my little boy to be raised by? It sounds drastic when put down in black and white like that, but the more I thought about it, the more that it boiled down to just that. I’m entrusting this person to raise my little boy while I’m at work.
We’d originally thought of a nursery, and had viewed our two local establishments before Christmas. Instantly we were up against a hurdle: the one we liked wouldn’t hold the space for us, even if we were to pay a deposit; the one we didn’t like so much would hold the space in return for a retainer fee – but, of course, we didn’t like it as much as the other one. And as was always going to be the way, when Mrs Lighty phoned the nursery of choice after Christmas, it was full. This meant that my New Year started by meeting with various childminders. Throughout the meetings, the same thoughts would whirr through my mind continuously: just how will they know my little boy in the same way that I do? How will they know his quirks? When he’s tired? Or hungry? Or what he’s trying to communicate?
With this in mind, I thought I’d share some of the questions that I asked the childminders as I made this difficult decision:
- Do you have first aid training?
- What is your emergency fire procedure?
- Do we have to pay for childcare if Baby Lighty is sick or absent because of holiday, or if you, the childminder, is on holiday? What about bank holidays?
- Are there any charges for late pick up?
- What’s included in the price? Do we have to provide food / nappies / baby formula?
- If food is included, is there a sample menu that I can look at?
- What are your discipline policies?
- Do you provide a report / journal of my baby’s day, and how he is progressing?
- Will you follow Baby Lighty’s routine, or will he be expected to follow yours?
- Do you take the children out on day trips and / or to baby groups?
These are just a few questions, and I’m sure that if you’re in the process of finding the perfect childcare, you’ll have many more to add to the above list. If you do, I’d love to hear them in case I’ve missed anything during my search! It’s also worth bearing in mind that some of these questions won’t apply if you’re looking at a nursery rather than a childminder; for example, staff holidays should be covered by the other members of staff. Similarly, you may have different questions for different childminders or nannies, such as pet policies for those that have pets.
Even once I’d asked all the questions I could possibly ask, and once I was satisfied with the answers, it really boiled down to a matter of trust. Who did I feel most comfortable with? Who did I think Baby Lighty would get more attention from? And where did I see him being the happiest? Well, having now been working again for two weeks, Mrs Lighty is happy to report that Mr and Mrs Lighty now know that we’ve definitely made the right choice. Already I can see that Baby Lighty is learning things from being in an environment with other children and from a childminder trained in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework; he’s getting to play with different toys to those he has at home and go to different playgroups than he does with me. I love reading through his progress sheet every day, and so far Mr Lighty has come home from picking him up with a cute story each time about his interation with the older children – particularly the girlies, who all seem to adore Baby Lighty. Plus little touches such as the sweet little gift and card Mrs Lighty received from our childminder on Baby Lighty’s first day all go a long way towards building that aforementioned trust.
Even so, even with the trust that builds every time I drop Baby Lighty off and have a lovely long chat with my childminder before dashing off on my now-much-shortened commute to my new job, the fact of the matter is that no one is going to know Baby Lighty as well as Mrs Lighty does. At the end of the day, I just had to hand the baton over to the person that I felt would treat him the best, which is exactly what happens two days a week now; and that’s all that us working mothers can do.