Life as a New Mom

A first-time mom adjusting to her new everything


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Interviewing daycares, the finale

I’ll be honest and throw out something that might be an unpopular opinion: choosing whether or not to put our child in daycare was based 99.9% on the money, not whether or not we felt it was “best” having a parent at home 24/7.  You can debate all you want about the merits of working v. staying home, but there are successful examples on both sides of the equation and we were committed to making our decision work, no matter what it was.

That being said, for the sake of simplicity I only considered 3 numbers when evaluating the cost/benefit ratio.  I took my monthly income, my monthly cost in gas to drive to work, and the monthly cost of daycare.  I did not consider any other bills I currently pay, or registration for daycare.  The reason I did not consider any other bills is because if I were to stay home, we’d be paying those out of one income anyway, so including them in the equation muddied an issue that was straightforward:does it cost more to work and put a child in daycare, or to stay home?

Every daycare I looked at resulted in different numbers, but the same net effect.  I was only considering infant care at this point, because it gets cheaper as the child gets older and the class ratios increase.  Of course, I was really hoping to be able to go with Chain B, as I felt it was the best match.  The reason we looked at daycare in the first place is because we both wanted me to have options for continuing my career instead of losing significant time and having to return at an entry-level position, either full- or part-time.

Unfortunately, the math worked out so that, even considering only the cost to commute and child care, it was so expensive I would be bringing home negative hundreds of dollars a month.  So I will take my maternity leave, with paid benefits, return to work for 2 weeks, and on the first day back give my notice.  I’ll then stay home until our child is older, care is cheaper, and I’ll find some activities I can participate in to try and keep my skills up and sharp.

I will need daycare for those 2 weeks I go to work, and I think I’ll just go ahead and register at Chain B, since they only have 2 spots open for the month we’d start and I’ll need something no matter what.


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Interviewing daycares, part 3

What a week!  And a busy, deliberative, weekend to boot.  I saw Chains B and C, and wrapped up my willingness to see more because honestly, it’s information overload.

Chain B was amazing.  It was not the cheapest chain I looked at, but it wasn’t the most expensive.  I knew the location and it’s relatively easy to get to from our home and my commute to work, and it’s close to home.  I was going in with a favorable impression because this chain responded quickly to any emails I sent and I liked their communication style; that might seem silly, but I can’t stress how important it is to me that I feel comfortable knowing I’ll get any information I need or want quickly, efficiently and succinctly.  The facility was clean, the classes had a wonderful mix of diversity, and they even had an R.N. on staff (though not employed as a nurse).  I really liked this place, left with a great feeling, and knew it was my top choice.  It just felt right.  Every other place I’d left, I left frustrated; here, I left ebullient.

Chain C was the cheapest chain.  I don’t want to make it sound like the chain was bad, because that’s not the case.  It was decent, with less diversity but competent instructors and nice facilities.  It was further away, so that was a downside.  Their communication was poor, and overall it reminded me of oatmeal – good, but bland and forgettable.  There were nice parent testimonies as well, but after falling in love with Chain B, I couldn’t bring myself to commit to Chain  C.  Perhaps if I’d seen Chain C before Chain B I would have more things to say about it, but it just paled in comparison so nothing came away as noteworthy.

The only thing left is to sit down, crunch numbers, and make a decision.  Stay tuned for the outcome…

For those of you who have looked at infant (or any) daycare, what were your criteria?  How did you weigh the decision, and was it difficult or easy?


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Interviewing daycares, part 2

I’ve now been to two different daycares, one part of a chain and one church-affiliated.  Chain A (the others are all chains also) was a private tour, and ChurchCare was an open house.

Chain A was a HUGE bust.  Even though it’s placed in an affluent area, and was the most expensive chain on the list, there were things that didn’t deliver on the promise of its location and cost.  The infant instructor couldn’t speak English well, and that’s something I feel is very important given how early children can pick up language fundamentals.  I expect others to speak to my child as though he’s intelligent, without baby-talk, and in complete sentences.  This instructor left me with doubts about the type of exposure my child would have to language, so I was disappointed early on.  This chain also teaches Spanish, but it’s not something that a parent can opt-out of should they wish.  I don’t know that we would, but I would like to have some say in whether or not my child learns a foreign language, and which one.  Lastly, and most concerning to me, they have a menu for the lunch and snacks the children eat (including infants, as that room goes all the way to 12 months).  It does not vary based on age, so I asked how they modify the foods to accommodate all the students from 5 months to 5 years of age.  The example I used was cinnamon apples.  The apples are peeled and cooked, but only diced.  Even for infants.  I don’t care how finely it’s “diced” by the Magic Bullet you say you have, a child just starting on solid food needs something pureed.  That they cannot or will not do so suggests that there is a choking hazard there I’m not willing to gamble on.

ChuchCare was a different experience just by virtue of it being an open house instead of a one-on-one meeting.  It didn’t start on time, which I sort of expected but I still wanted it to…I just really love punctuality and it makes it easier for me to plan knowing that something will indeed start at X and end at Y.  Everyone was quite friendly, and their facility was very nice.  The website leaves something to be desired as there are numerous broken links but I’m optimistic that everything put on the secure site for parents is functional.  The infant room was nicer than Chain A, and they participate in a food program so you know your child is going to get exactly the food you want them to have.

The downsides to ChurchCare are the price and the community.  The price isn’t as low as I was hoping it would be, so it’s still a net loss of money with me returning to work either full- or part-time.  I’ll talk more about that once I’ve seen the other 2 chains I’m visiting and have to make a decision.  As far as the community goes, while they’re very nice people I’m just not sure it’s the right fit for us.  Part of that is because they expect annual contributions via fundraising and I feel that if I’m already paying a significant portion of money to you (and your prices are not that much lower than your competitors, certainly not by $600 per year) then I don’t want to be on the hook for multiple fundraisers.  I don’t want to devote that much time to someplace just because I’m contractually obligated.  The other thing is that I’m not sure the demographic is diverse enough.  It’s hard being in a 90% environment if you’re in the 10%, and I don’t want that for my child if it can be avoided.

I’m visiting Chain B today after work, so hopefully I’ll have more good experiences!


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Interviewing daycares, part 1

I had absolutely no clue what I was in for when I decided to look at daycare pricing and facilities, so I would have all the information I need to make a decision about returning to work.  I knew I’d experience some sticker shock and that it would be frustrating, given my low salary.

With the cheapest daycare clocking in at $271 per week for full-time care, I was right.  But that was the tip of the iceberg.

Before I started looking, I knew a few things:

  1. What my monthly net salary was, after gas to get to work.  For the sake of simplicity in comparison, I left out all the other living expenses, and was comparing my take-home pay to how much daycare cost.  I had to remove the cost of gas to get to work because I have no telecommute option, and one must be at work to work.
  2. I was willing to look at both full-time and part-time care options, and willing to consider not only daycares but babysitter/nannies.
  3. I was not willing to drive more than 10 miles to drop my child off somewhere, and within that 10 miles, it had to have some sort of convenient access to a highway so drop-off and pick-up were easily manageable.

I went ahead and set up tours with some local daycares, some of which are operated by larger chains, and some locally owned.  I’ll be honest and say that in this instance, although I generally support local businesses over non-locally owned ones, I had no preference.  I wanted to find one that was a good fit for me, and that (hopefully) was affordable.

The big struggle for me is that I really want to find one that’s affordable.  Until I see some part-time pricing, I’m not sure if any will be.  But finding someplace that feels right, that communicates in a way I like, is equally important.  If you don’t return my calls in what I consider a timely manner, then we’ll have a difficult working relationship.  To me, a business being reachable shows that they value my patronage and in the case of childcare, alleviates concerns about being able to contact them (or they me) in an emergency.

Stay tuned for how the tours turn out…