When we left off last, my little Boss Lady was (relatively) comfortably ensconced in a daycare run by a woman with decades of experience under her belt and I was attempting to get over the mommy guilt that comes standard with such an arrangement. I was also making a crucial mistake in service of trying not to be the stereotypical helicopter mommy: ignoring my intuition. It turns out that there was more in the mix than standard anxiety, but, as I wasn't entirely sure at the time that I was being reasonable, I was reluctant to act. Hindsight being what it is, the warning signs are pretty obvious now and I've definitely learned my lesson when it comes to choosing a childcare provider for my daughter. Generous mommy that I am, I'm going to share the benefit of my experience.
Let's call these Calisa's Daycare Do's and Don'ts:
1. Do get references, but remember they're not everything. I've now had two different kinds of bad experiences at two daycares, both of which came with recommendations. What I've learned is that one person's (or even several people's) good experience won't guarantee your own, because your expectations won't necessarily be the same. So you're going to have to take your time to determine whether the provider is a good fit for your family, which brings me to my next point:
2. Don't rush it. I was in the unfortunate position of having just a week to find a daycare the first time. I asked all the requisite questions and everything seemed fine, but that pressure definitely put me in a tough position of having to choose fast from a very small set of options. The second time around, I had even less time to find a place for her as I was already working full-time and I couldn't afford to take more than one day off of work in my new job. This was a recipe for disaster, because although the provider was well-recommended (see #1) and I spoke to her about my expectations, my back was against the wall and I didn't give myself time to hear any alarm bells that were ringing.
3. Do know exactly what you want from a childcare provider and don't be afraid to make it clear (repeatedly, if necessary). I was new to the whole daycare thing the first time around, so while I did ask all the standard questions (thanks Google), I neglected to ask how often they check pampers. Does that mean I'm to blame for the diaper rash? Nope. But you'd better believe I added it to my list of questions the second time around. However, because I was under pressure (see #2), I wasn't as firm about my expectations (though I did explain them), which might be why the second provider decided to bathe my daughter and feed her food I didn't send in spite of clear instructions to the contrary. Of course, I reiterated my instructions when I realized what was happening (more on that next), but by that time, the precedent had already been set. I was playing catch up to figure out what was going on with my child, which is insane.
4. Do always (ALWAYS) follow your instincts. This mommy thing is a tough gig. You never really know anything for sure and you're constantly making educated guesses based on prior experience, which generally (thankfully) turn out to be right. I've known this for a while and I rely on it to take care of Boss Lady, so I have no clue why it took another (much wiser) mommy to point out that the only way to really know if a childcare provider is the right one for you is when you feel it in your gut. Mind you, we're not talking perfection here - as that oh so wise mommy pointed out, perfection is you at home with your child - we're just talking about a good fit. If I'd listened to my instincts, I would've pulled my daughter out one week earlier when I confronted them about her damp blankets and discovered that they'd been using them to dry her skin after the baths I specifically asked them not to give. In fact, I might've pulled her out three weeks earlier when I realised that the only answers I'd be getting to questions like "did she nap today" and "how was her day" were vague ones like "... yeah" and "... fine."
There you have it. Straight from me to you to help make your transition into daycare/babysitting/etc. a little easier. As for me, I've decided to rearrange things so I can stay home with the Boss Lady a little longer. At least until she can answer me if I ask whether someone's been bathing her and feeding her secret grapes. So, what do you think? Have I scared you off daycares for good, or do you feel more empowered to choose the right place for your kiddo, thanks to my fails? Have any childcare provider stories of your own to share? All are welcome! Post them below!
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