Finding Childcare 👫
Recently, one of the mamas in my Empowering Mindful Moms group posted the following: “I'm freaking out!! I'll most likely have to go into the office a few days a week beginning in the Fall. I have no idea what to do as far as daycare. Where do I begin? How will I know if these people are kind and won't harm my baby?”
Making decisions about childcare for the first time can feel completely overwhelming, leaving you uncertain where to even begin! But deep breaths. Hopefully you have some time to figure it out and it may turn out to be a wonderful experience, both for your sanity and your child’s development.
I initially struggled with the idea of letting a stranger watch my kids, too...But got to the point where I couldn't just rely on my mom and needed to find somebody else a few days a week.
I’ll talk toward the end about places to find a sitter/daycare, but first let’s talk about options and try to calm your nerves.
There are a few options for daycare:
- A babysitter or nanny that watches just your child/children, usually at your home.
- A sitter/nanny-share: Someone who has been hired by two or more families to watch their children together
- A daycare facility (sometimes out of someone’s home, sometimes in a facility)
- An AuPair - a young adult from overseas who lives with your family and provides childcare in exchange for a weekly stipend
There are pros and cons for families for each option and it’s ultimately a personal decision as to which route to go, but it’s often hard to even think clearly and make decisions when you’re freaking out about the prospect of leaving your child alone with a stranger.
So a few things to keep in mind:
You have time to get to know the place / the sitter
This stranger person isn’t going to just swoop in and start taking care of your child while you feel left in the dark as to what’s going at daycare or at home. You can plan to get to better know whoever you choose before you feel ready to leave your baby alone in their care.
Ask questions & check with references
Once you find somebody you’re considering, you can interview them to ask questions. Ask for references and get feedback from other mamas who know them or who have used their services in the past. Set up a time for them to meet you and your baby so they will no longer feel like a total stranger when the time comes for you to leave them in charge.
Observe & keep your own anxiety in check
If you’ve looking at babysitters/nannies:
Consider having them over to watch your baby for just a couple hours at first, while you do a few things around the house. You’ll feel much more comfortable after they’ve spent some time with your baby while you’re still nearby and able to observe them in action before feeling okay about heading out and leaving baby behind.
When you do venture out, start out gradually. Hire them for just an hour while you do a quick trip to the grocery store. Then for a few hours while you maybe go on a date night. Gradually build up to a full day at work.
If you’re looking at daycare facilities:
Do your research
Visit places, interview caregivers, ask for references, talk with other parents. Make sure the place is accredited. (NAEYC, National Association for the Education of Young Children for facilities/centers and National Association for Family Child Care for in-home daycare). Make sure to visit potential options in-person and take a tour during the workday, while caregivers are in action. Also drop by at some point unannounced for “one more quick peek” to get a feel for what it’s like when staff isn’t expecting a visitor.
Trust your gut
If a place or somebody doesn’t feel right, don’t hire them.
While you're making a long-term decision, observe how the caretaker is with both you and the baby. Some may seem more concerned with doing and answering everything “right” to impress you or eager to just get the job or have you sign-on, leaving you wondering, “Do they even like or have experience with children?”
Others may immediately gravitate toward your kiddo, excited to hold or play with them. This sometimes creates some strong, protective mama-bear feelings. But try not to let that get to you. You WANT somebody who loves kids and can’t resist interacting with you adorable baby off the bat.
It’s initially hard to pass your care-taking role to somebody else, but ultimately, you want that person to be as loving and connected with your child as possible. Your kiddo will still know you’re mama, I promise!
Come up with “systems” to alleviate your anxiety
Think about what you need to feel more comfortable leaving the caretaker in charge. Would it help to have a baby monitor that you can see via your phone? A nanny-cam? Does the daycare have cameras you can access online? Do they allow you to call to check-in at anytime?
Consider requesting that the caretaker give you updates via text every hour or two. Consider using a journal where the caretaker can jot down events of the day, such as naps, feedings, diapers, activities, any concerns, etc.
Hopefully these tips & strategies help you to feel a little more confident in taking this step.
All of these details, however, comes secondary to actually finding childcare.
Step One: How do I find childcare?
Once you've gotten past the initial dread of going down this path and decided which route to pursue (babysitter, daycare center, etc.), there are lots of potential options for finding actual providers. Here are some to consider:
- Friends & acquaintances with kids in your area. They are often the best resource for getting input on options and obtaining potential referrals.
- Neighborhood listservs. If your neighborhood has a listserv, send an email saying you’re considering childcare and would love some recommendations. Personal referrals help alleviate the stress of going into this decision and new territory blindly.
- Local Moms Groups. Many areas have local moms groups that include a Facebook group where you can ask questions and get referrals. If you only need a few days/hours a week, you may be able to find somebody with a sitter looking to pick up more hours. The bonus there is you have another mom to share feedback and concerns with.
- Nextdoor.com. Another avenue for requesting referrals or exploring ads from people looking for work.
- Daycare.com. Search via Zipcode for daycare options near you.
- Care.com. A site that has a fee but allows you to search profiles or post an ad for a caregiver. (You can join for one month, make several connections, then cancel and take your time interviewing and making a decision).
- Google. While I don’t love the idea of Googling about pregnancy symptoms or seeking medical advice regarding that bump on your baby’s forehead, Google can be great for finding daycares near you. You can get a better idea regarding what each place offers and often can find reviews.
- CulturalCare.com or AuPairinAmerica.com. Services for matching you with a live-in aupair.
I hope this information is helpful for any mamas feeling overwhelmed by child-care decisions. I can tell you from experience, it gets easier once you have a clear path and get farther into the process of finding the right option. And once you're in the grove with someone you trust, all the effort to find the right fit becomes worth it. We all need a little break from momming sometimes!