Friday, April 6, 2007

The Childcare Quest

This is the beginning of April and I don't need childcare until our classes begin at the very end of September, but this afternoon I am interviewing two in-home daycares. This seems very early, but turns out I'm just barely on schedule- according to some, I'm even behind. The quest for childcare is a rigorous one.

JP and I have decided on a small, in-home daycare (sometimes called family daycare) for our son when I start my 3L year. I didn't want to use a bigger, fancier daycare with an infant because they just felt too institutional- I want him to get more attention from the caregiver and not spend so much time hanging out in a crib. The toddlers and older children at those centers seemed to be having a great time, so I could see us using one when our baby gets older. JP was in daycare for most of elementary school and Loved it- he has very fond memories of going there. I also didn't want a nanny to come to our apartment because I'm just not comfortable with that yet- our baby can't talk to me and tell me how the nanny is, so I feel more comfortable in an environment with other babies and toddlers and other parents coming and going (especially with graduate students- their pick ups and drop offs are all throughout the day). I think a nanny is a great option, if you can afford it, when you have more than one child and will be gone all day. It would be nice to come home after work to a house that's been "lived in" while you were gone (and maybe even some of the kid-related chores done!). I also like the idea of my kids being able to come home after school and do all the normal things like go to friend's houses, go to their activities, and just play and relax in their own house. So by the time we have more kids, and they're in school, I can definitely see us going the nanny route. I visualize a progression from in-home daycare with an infant, to a slightly bigger daycare with our toddler (UT has a wonderful one that we're hoping to use while JP is in grad school), and then eventually to a nanny in our home. I'm sure there will be changes along the way, but that's my general view of our childcare future for now. JP's new plan is to own and operate a ranch outside Austin (seriously), so who knows, maybe he'll be home with the kids (and horses and cows) and we won't need childcare at all!

So anyway- I have interviews with 2 caregivers this afternoon in Hyde Park. Both names have come to me highly recommended from other graduate student parents at UC. I'll post about how they go and what I took away from them. I'd be happy to hear other people's comments about childcare experiences and whether they agree with what I felt were positive and negative aspects of each option. I'm really glad that I get to do this first while in grad school- I'm not dropping off my baby for an entire day or an entire week. I'll have a light class schedule next year and while I'm hoping to stay on campus for a little while and study (I know I won't get it done at home- I can't get anything done at home now!), I can always leave and pick him up if I miss him :) Also, JP is planning to stay home starting in January, so we won't need any childcare from January until August when he goes back to school. I think this will be a good, initially temporary way to adjust to childcare for all of us.


  1. FYI, if you can, get on the UT child care center's waiting list NOW. They may not let you if JP hasn't been admitted yet, but if they'll let you, DO IT. I know people who signed up as soon as they found out they were pregant and were told the waiting list was up to 2 years!

  2. I tried out 3 at-home daycares with my daughter, and I fired them all. I found that in an at-home daycare, the caregiver is allowed to watch up to 10 children (in most states). Granted, only two of them can be under 2yrs, but with 8 other children running and screaming and playing, how much time can that person devote to your infant? And how will the older children interact with your child?

    My daughter is now in her 2nd childcare center. The only reason she is in a 2nd is because we moved between states. I have been thoroughly pleased with both centers. I have found that most centers have an infant ratio of 1:3 or 1:4. This means there is one caregiver for every four infants enrolled, and another caregiver and another and another. One might say "how does one person hold four babies" but it really works out. The babies can be alternated between feeding, lying, napping, swinging, jumperoo-ing, and just being held. And childcare centers are very well equipped with all the necessary equipment to entertain/ pacify/ stimulate multiple infants.

    I'm not saying there aren't good at-home childcare situations. These are just my findings, and you most certainly have to go with what your gut tells you is best.

    When you start getting on the waiting lists, I recommend getting on multiple lists. This way, if your dream daycare isn't available right when you need it, your child can start care where it is available, and you can switch when a spot comes available. Also, stay on the other waiting lists, even if you do get in to the perfect place. If the perfect place turns out to be not-so-great (i.e. the 2nd at-home daycare, which I thought I LOVED, "forgot" to change my daughters diapers on most days. FIRED!), then at least you have a back-up ready to go.

    Best of luck, and listen to your guts. Mom's guts know best!

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