Parenting & Relationships

The Daycare Dilemma: How We Wound Up In 4 Different Care Centers in 4 Years

My child turned 4 years old just a few short months ago, yet we’ve already gone through 4 daycare transitions. And no, we haven’t moved. I’ve lived at the same residence with my husband for the past 13 years.

Searching for affordable and reliable childcare in the area is a challenge many of us face as new parents. I mean, how do you find someone you can trust with your most precious child? A stranger at that.

Plus, how do you find a care provider that doesn’t cost as much as a second mortgage? The price of childcare in these parts is outrageous.

Per the recommendation from other parents we spoke with while I was pregnant, we started the search for daycare before my son was even born. Over the course of several months, we found only one place we were comfortable with and could afford. ONE. Which happened to be the daycare center at the hospital where my husband was employed at the time.

While there is a preschool housed in the building where I work, the waiting list was nearly 100 families long. Not to mention it was one of the most expensive options we found. That ruled that out pretty quickly.

So, we opted to go with my husband’s employer-provided childcare center and applied in February 2015. With our application, we sent in the non-refundable application fee (which is bullshit by the way – it should not cost $75 to process an online application). Then we waited.

We got an email saying we were accepted that June. My son was born just a few weeks later.

The week we received notice of our acceptance, my husband offered another option. His co-worker suggested an in-home care provider that he and his wife used for their two children. It was one town over from where we lived, but a quick 11 minute drive from our house.

We decided to look into it.

My husband called to schedule a meet and greet. We went to the potential care provider’s home just a few days later.

We wound up spending about an hour at her house, getting to know each other to determine whether or not it was a fit. She told us she would be looking after another baby our son’s age, who was about 3 weeks older than him. Along with the youngest son of my husband’s co-worker who referred us to her.

After our meeting, she gave me the names and telephone numbers of the two other families who had children in her care. I called them both and spoke to each mom for at least 30 minutes, in order to get as much information as I could to help us make a decision.

After meeting her and gathering info from the other families, we decided to go with the in-home care vs. the daycare center at the hospital. It was more affordable for our family. Plus, we felt our son would get more individual attention in those early months and years then he would in a center with multiple children per provider.

He started going there as soon as my maternity leave was over and spent the first two years of his life in this woman’s care.

His care provider had three children of her own and quickly took to our son. She treated him like one of her own. He seemed really happy there.

Child at in home care provider
At his in-home care provider’s house.

Then my husband called me excited about a nature center preschool he had seen on his way to work one day. He wanted to check it out, even though it was nearly 20 minutes away from our house.

I immediately said no. It didn’t make sense to me to drive out of our way every day to take him to a preschool that was nowhere near our home or work. But he persisted. And I finally agreed to go check it out.

He scheduled a tour and drove us out there one day. One of the owner’s gave us the tour and met with us to talk about their philosophy. He also shared with us the application process and the number of families on the waiting list. We were encouraged to apply early if interested.

On the way home, we excitedly talked about the center and how much our son would love it there. We liked the fact that he would spend a good portion of his day outdoors and that there were no plastic play structures in sight. Everything was handmade out of wood. Plus there were farm animals and 7 acres of trails for the kids to explore.

We decided to put in an application, with the idea that it would probably take awhile before space became available. We thought it would be good for him to be in a more structured setting with other children his age by the time he turned 3. In preparation for kindergarten.

Similar to the first daycare center we applied to, we put in an application in February. We were surprised to receive a call in June letting us know that a full-time space in the 2-year old classroom was available.

This was a year sooner than we had planned to make this transition. Yet, it seemed like a sign that space became available within just a few short months.

In talking with his in-home care provider, it turned out that the other child in her care would not be returning after the summer. His mother had also applied to put him into the same daycare center as her older child, and got in. The third child she’d been looking after had already moved on as well.

Rather than have the kiddo be on his own for a whole year, it seemed like the right time to take this next step. We accepted the full-time placement with the preschool.

child at preschool
First day at his first preschool!

My son spent two years there as well. And while the drive did start to wear me down after awhile, it turned out to be a great move.

He made great friends at that school. Even at such a young age. Plus, we found a wonderful babysitter as a result – one of the teachers from his 2-year old classroom.

He learned many things in a preschool environment, like how to share, follow directions, follow a routine, and deal with big emotions. All things we reinforced at home, but he had an opportunity to practice in a different way in a structured setting like that.

One of the other families we met at that school even moved to our neighborhood. So we threw out the idea of carpooling. The next thing you know, we were swapping days where each family took both kids to school. It worked out great!

Then earlier this year, we started getting information about the Together 4 Schools program in our school district. Otherwise known as 4K, or 4-year old kindergarten. And the process started all over again.

We filled out the forms to enroll him in 4K. Which also required that we make our own arrangements for wraparound and after school care with the community partner sites within the district. Because 4K is not designed with working parents in mind. 

Only one center in our area offered wraparound care. The elementary school he would otherwise enroll in, did not. It was a convoluted process to say the least. One that required multiple emails, applications and deposits. And several trips to appointments in the middle of the work day to tour schools and complete the enrollment steps.

Once it was all sorted out, we decided to register our son in the summer care program at his 4K placement site. So he could adjust to the new environment and form relationships with some of the kids he’d be going to school with this fall.

We moved him over there in June and then had to deal with finding alternative care when the school closed the week of the Fourth of July. And again the last week in August when they closed to “prep the school” for the new school year.

But he quickly made new friends and readjusted. He got wagon rides to school each day. Plus got to go on his first field trips ever. And he took a sack lunch to school each day, like a big boy.

Child in wagon
Enjoying a wagon ride and packed lunch at his 4K placement site.

He loved it.

It was so much easier going to school closer to home and not spending an extra 40 minutes in the car each day. Plus we saved a good deal of money in making the switch, which was easier on our pocket book as well. 

The two schools were like night and day, yet each worked for our family for a time.

Then I got a text from a friend a few weeks ago, sharing an article she’d seen in one of the local newspapers. The headline read “Teacher says their contract was rescinded after staff discovered they support LGBTQ community”.

It was my son’s school.

Awesome. I thought to myself. I do not have time to deal with this. 

But you know what? I made time.

The school issued a statement that just didn’t land well with me. Which was basically “she signed a contract” and her views did not align with theirs. Guess what? Mine don’t either. Because I support LGBTQ rights as well.

And simply can not support a school that doesn’t.

A week and a half before he was scheduled to start 4K, I again found myself sending in an application and paying yet another application fee to a new preschool opening in our area.

Thankfully, we got the last spot. My son started there this week. 

Child walking into school
Walking into his second new school in three months.

Since it’s new, they weren’t ready to open last week like all of the others. So, we found ourselves with another week of no childcare for the third time in the past two months. 

Inconvenient? Sure. But to me, it was worth it. Simply for peace of mind in knowing that we were putting our child in a school that aligned with our family values. 

I am a biracial woman with a biracial son who married a white man. Diversity, inclusion and social justice are a fundamental part of who I am. 

It’s important to me to instill those same values in my son. To teach tolerance and acceptance of our many differences as human beings. And to appreciate the ways in which those differences enrich our lives. 

Yes, this is a lot of change in his young life. However, he has managed each transition with ease. What I have found through all of it, is that often times I’m the one who gets the most worked up about them. Because I anticipate and plan for the worse. 

Through all of these changes, my son is learning how to be adaptable and to roll with the punches. Which are skills he will need to tap into many times throughout his life.

Because change is inevitable. 

There have been circumstances with each childcare situation we’ve found ourselves in thus far, that I haven’t been entirely happy with. We have had issues come up at each of them, that have had to be addressed with uncomfortable conversations. 

That is also a part of life. And what it means to be an advocate for your child. 

No childcare setting is perfect. All you can do is try make the best decision for your family. Knowing that what’s best for you, might not be best for others. And what’s best for you might change.

Do your research and try to find providers you can trust.

And in all honesty, just hope and pray for the best. 

One thought on “The Daycare Dilemma: How We Wound Up In 4 Different Care Centers in 4 Years

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