This is not a guide for choosing a daycare. This is our approach to finding a daycare for Jimmy, given our set of circumstances and given our circumstances, we really didn't have much choice, but here goes... because ch-ch-ch-changes...
Let's start with an observation:
At the county playgroup there numerous children under the age of 2 who are there with a grandparent, because the parent/s have to work. I thought it was lovely that the children were spending time with a grandparent and not some unrelated carer at a daycare. I'm sure the grandparents were enjoying themselves too, but...
But some friends had been in this situation, with the maternal grandmother looking after her only grandchild. She really seemed to love looking after the baby and the baby loved it too. But the situation was less than ideal: the maternal grandparents were now separated by an ocean and the maternal grandmother could not stay forever. The problem was a lack of daycare spaces for the child's age group - it still is. The child is under 2.
I started looking at the grandparents at playgroup in a different light. Sure, they still loved being with their grandchildren, but they were making a sacrifice because there are so few daycare places for the under 2s.
Way back in January, while my sister Asha was visiting, the nearby daycare had an Open House (Open Day for the Australians out there) and we visited. I even put Jimmy on their waiting list, to start April/May. They never called and that was ok.
And then May came around, and we were still in Manhattan, KS, and I lined up work and suddenly we had to seriously start thinking about daycare for Jimmy. Ep!
We have one really, really big constraint when it comes to where to send Jimmy: we don't own a car. For day-to-day living not owning a car is fine, but the instant we want to travel anywhere that is not covered by the bus routes or within walking distance, we either need to travel with friends who own cars or one of us stays behind with Jimmy while the other bikes.
So, requirement 1: daycare must be accessible by foot or bus.
This left us with 2 options. The nearby daycare and the K-State one. We had seen both before actually needing either of them.
I called the nearby one and Jimmy was placed on the waiting list - there was no mention of how many children were between him and the next available spot. Feeling a little lost, and reluctant, I took my time getting around to calling the K-State daycare.
Well! Firstly the person I spoke to couldn't help me, but was able to take my number so that someone who could would be able to get back to me in 48 hours. It took this person nearly a week to call me back (not impressed), then she referred me to information on their website (already read), and informed me that there was a fee of $30 to join the waitlist (already read that), and then she informed me that the waiting list was 17 children long. Seventeen! I said no thank you and ended the conversation.
One daycare option. One.
Our backup plan was to have my Dad (aka Pop) come for a few months and look after Jimmy for us, but I really, really wanted Jimmy to go to a local daycare because I felt (and still feel) that the socialisation is really important. I also really, really wanted to have my Dad look after Jimmy because they would have a blast together, just like the other children being looked after by their grandparents.
I did look into a few other places, places that we could take Jimmy if we bought a bike trailer, but one was not actually a daycare, and the other one doesn't take children under 2.5 years.
The situation out of our control, we waited and hoped. My parents started devising contingency plans for my Dad's visit.
Then, one day, while Jimmy and I were at the library with some friends, I received an unexpected phone call that started like this:
"Hello, this is XXX from XXX, can I speak to James?"
"Ahhh... He's two. He's not very good on the phone and he's got his mouth full."
"Can I speak to his mother?"
"We have an opening for James."In my disbelief at what had actually transpired in the conversation I hoped I had correctly remembered the time for our appointment. I could not believe our luck - this was the only place we had Jimmy on a waiting list.
The only one.
If it was a physical thing, I would have grabbed it and not known if I should hold it tightly so that it couldn't slip away or hold it gently so as not to damage our chances of keeping the spot.
I handed over the registration cheque the day after our first visit as actual clients. Even though I was a little unsure that I would actually receive my work permit, but I also wanted to make sure that Jimmy would be looked after and cared for before I could commit to working.
This particular daycare might be within easy walking distance of our apartment, and, although it is apparently one of the more expensive daycares in town, we don't need a car or bus to get Jimmy there. This makes the cost worth it.
Jimmy is yet to spend a full day there, but he seems comfortable there: he wants to play in the playground; he's walked off with the director while I was filling in some paperwork, they left the room, walked into another room, and were gone for about 5 minutes; last week, while dropping off the paperwork (egads! this is happening), Jimmy spent 20 minutes in his 'classroom' while I was in the director's office and he didn't seem to mind that I had been away. I think he'll have a great time there, at least most of the time.
Jimmy will start there next week and then we'll know if the most important requirement for selecting a daycare is met: it must be a good fit for Jimmy. I'm not entirely sure what we'll do if he doesn't like it there. Michael and I are a little freaked out at the idea of a non-family member looking after Jimmy, but the daycare staff are professionals, trained in childcare, first aid and CPR.
Fingers crossed that Jimmy likes being there full-time. With everything else falling into place for my return to the workforce, a happy Jimmy in daycare is now the most important thing to ensure. Fingers crossed. Now, to get things organised for Monday... Ep!