So you’ve done your homework, made your list, and you’ve checked it twice. At this point, you likely have anywhere between three to seven trillion options that meet your requirements from our figuring out the basics list.
What do we do next? Well, the best advice that I have for you is to do what I liked to call “drive by” or “pop in ” visits to these places.
Think about it, if you know that your in laws are coming for dinner on Tuesday night you’re going to make something really yummy, clean the house, and light that fancy candle you reserve for special occasions, right? Unless you hate your in laws…anyway I digress.
I started driving to the places that I was really interested in finding out more about at random times and asking if the director, or a staff member, could show me around. You’d be so surprised by some of the things that I saw.
This was the most eye opening thing for me, to see the way that the childcare providers were interacting with the children that were under their care.
You should be very observant of the surroundings, and ask questions if you want further information.
One daycare facility I went to visit showed me around the preschool rooms that looked like something straight from Pinterest. I mean seriously, who has that kind of time? As a teacher, I’m jealous of whoever gets to run that showroom in such a pristine style. As a middle school teacher I just see and head, “ain’t nobody got time for that.”
The school aged program was the same way, and I thought I’d really hit the jackpot.
Then the director walked me to the nursery.
Oh. My. Lanta.
There were four cribs, each housing two babies. One actually held three.
Me, horrified: “They share cribs?”
Director: “Well currently we have a lot of babies, but they will be aging into the next room in the next few months, but the new babies needed to start immediately. We still have the staff ratio to handle this number safely, I promise.”
Me, still horrified: “But they don’t get their own place to sleep? What about germs? Who supplies those crib sheets, both parents?”
Director: “We provide the crib sheets, and they really enjoy the closeness.
Me: “Thanks for your time!”
I don’t think you could have paid me to send our baby there. While the director was showing me the nursery I took a peak around and saw dirty diapers outside of trash receptacles on about every changing worthy surface, and almost all of the nursery staff were sitting on their phones ordering LulaRoe or whatever else you do on Facebook now.
This was the FIRST daycare that I stepped foot in. Positive we were just going to have to default on my student loans and I was NOT going back to work, I walked outside. I got to my car, and just started crying. What if they were all like this? Is my baby going to be subjected to crib sharing and all of the grossness that goes with that? Why would I pay someone to Facebook peruse when my baby deserves cuddling and love? Why didn’t I get to send her own crib sheets for her own crib? Will her dirty diapers just become ornamental to the surfaces she’s been changed upon? Could I just go find that PreK teacher that definitely had her shit together and bribe her to take care of her in home? SOS, SOS, SOS.
After a sob filled phone call to my husband who (bless his heart) didn’t even take the “you must just be nitpicking, or overreacting” approach and instead told me we WOULD find a place that was safe and loving for her to go–I went to spot #2.
After walking in I realized that at 11am every single room (the infant nursery included) had babies and toddlers posted in front of a television watching Toy Story. Toy Story. A two hour movie, before lunch. When I asked how much screen time the center used or allowed I was met with, “Well in the 1-2 room it’s always on, and in the PreK program they watch a movie before lunch, and a tv show while they nap.”
Nope. If I wanted my baby raised by Cailou I’d just pay the lady who retired down the street to reset the DVR every hour.
Bottom line, you will be amazed at what you see when places aren’t pulling out their red carpets to entertain the “new customer” that wants to schedule a visit.
At some of my visits I got really lucky and saw parents and kids dropping off or leaving. I had zero issue asking what they really thought of the place. At two of the locations I checked into, the parents (and their small kids) said they felt like it was just “okay” and that the other options were just more expensive, or didn’t have the hours they needed.
One of the places I was visiting a mom in the parking lot broke into tears telling me she’d been trying to get her son in anywhere else for two months but that the wait lists were just too long and too hard to manage and she felt trapped. She said she only had four weeks of maternity leave when she delivered, and her dream daycare couldn’t take her son when she needed them to. She felt stuck, and admitted she didn’t ever feel “good and right” when she would drop him off.
“You’re doing it right, though. Shop around and find the place you can picture walking in with your most precious person and walking out without them. If you can’t…it’s not where you want her. If you can…they still won’t be YOU, but they will be okay.”
However two places I visited (the one we will use for April/May, and the one that she will be going next August) were AMAZING. The parents, kids, and staff all looked happy and clean. The babies all had their own cribs or pac n plays, and the toddlers were all doing crafts and projects that I would have loved to sit and do with them, too!
Bottom line, you’re going to find things you wouldn’t see if you scheduled your visit. AND you are going to see things that you wish you probably haven’t. Ask about those things. The cribs bothered me, and I got an answer right then and there. The TV didn’t sit right with me, and I got that answer too.
Part 3 of the Childcare Series will cover a massive list of questions that you may want to pull from for your formal visits. BUT, some of the things you may want to ask on these informal visits are questions like:
- What is provided for my baby, and what do I need to provide?
- Ask specifically about bedding, diapers, wipes, etc.
- Once I’m finished shopping around, do you have openings in the time frame I need?
- Even if you love the place…if they aren’t going to be there when you need the childcare to start they’re off the list.
- If I place a deposit, and then change my mind–is it refundable?
- Important! You may feel like you HAVE to write the check right then and there, but are you ready to lose anywhere from 100-700 dollars on a deposit to find something better next week?
- How long do I have to make my decision?
- Some places will have openings upon openings, while others may need a quick one week turn around.
- Could I see a copy of your licensing and that everything is up to date?
- Spoiler Alert: if they say no, that’s a red flag?
- If you liked the place, ask when they can fit you in for a formal tour where you can bring your spouse, mom, or friend and discuss particulars.
- Taking another adult with you just makes sense. You wouldn’t buy a new car without test driving it, and if your significant other is like mine–they will have questions or insights you never thought about!
Stay tuned for Part 3: Questions to Ask your Childcare Provider next week!