Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A lot about daycare

I'm feeling the need to talk daycare. I realized that my post about being frustrated with our daycare costs not going down as expected didn't touch on the things that we truly like (well, love) about our current daycare situation and provider.

And to do that, I almost have to explain our whole daycare history, so bear with me, ok?

First off - I never thought much about it when I was pregnant with Abby. I worked, I was our main breadwinner and our insurance came through my job. There wasn't any other option, so I just assumed I'd go back to work after the baby came.

I never expected to not want to go back to work. But I was pretty much stuck at the time - our debt load was massive and there was no way we could survive on Ron's smaller income. So I did some research and found a daycare, run by two young moms out of one of their homes.

It wasn't a horrible situation, but I was struck when I came to see Abby at lunchtime and at drop-off and pick-up times by how little these women (girls, really - they were very young) actually interacted with the kids in their care. They seemed to spend more time chatting with each other than down on the floor playing. Coupled with the fact that I hated her being in daycare to begin with - we made the choice to have Ron stay home. In a practical way, it made sense since his was the smaller income. And we knew that Abby would be safe and happy with her daddy.

I wasn't expecting to feel the jealousy that came on as i headed off to work every morning, wanting nothing more than to stay home with the rest of my family. I began to hate going to work, and to hate my job.

However, Ron realized after a few months that he wasn't cut out for the stay-at-home life - he needed the interaction with other adults and to get out of the house. And financially, we weren't doing too well on just my income. So he found a job and I found a new daycare provider - this time recommended by someone we knew.

And we loved her!! And so did Abby, and Hannah once she came along. I still wasn't happy with going to work, but I was comforted to know how well my kids were doing and how loved they were. She really made her daycare kids a part of her family, and she and I became friends as well, especially when I came every day at lunch to nurse Hannah.

The two things we regretted leaving the most when we moved here? Our pediatrician and our daycare provider.

I actually drove the girls back to her house for the first couple of months after we moved, since I was commuting back to my old job anyway. But when I found a new job closer to home, it came time to find daycare again. So I searched, and found someone who seemed nice and reliable.

Two things happened after that. The first is that Ron was offered a new job a month after I got mine - he'd been commuting also, and this new job was in town. Plus, he'd be working part-time from home for the first several months, then full-time in the office after that.

We also weren't completely happy with our daycare. There were lots of little things - I guess we'd been kind of spoiled in a way because this was so much more 'business-like' than we were used to. We looked at Ron's job opportunity as a way to let the girls stay home with him for a while again. We kept them in daycare for one day a week originally, but our relationship with our provider soured and we ended up pulling them out entirely.

Back to the search, since Ron's days at home were numbered. We talked to one of our neighbors who watched kids on an informal basis, but she wasn't able to commit to full-time (she's always been our backup provider though, when she's able). After interviewing several, we met someone who we just 'knew' was right. And she was awesome, both with and for our kids. Both Abby and Hannah still ask to visit her and point out her house whenever we go by. They'll ride the bus with her daughter this fall and I'm so happy because they've missed her too - she was like a third sister to them while they were there.

We lost this daycare after just a year in part because she was overwhelmed in the mornings and trying to cut back her hours. She could have kept Hannah, but not Abby since Abby was in afternoon preschool that year (her program was only offered in the afternoons) and needed morning-only care. I also was pregnant with Becca, and she knew she wouldn't have an open space available, so when she cut back, we were the obvious choice since we'd end up having to look elsewhere a few months later anyway. I seriously considered leaving just Hannah there, but we decided it was too important to keep the kids together. That was a very, very sad parting.

We found a replacement daycare, and she was nice enough - although after our previous experience, I don't know if anyone could've lived up to our expectations. Since I was hoping to start my own daycare after Becca was born at this point, we knew this situation was temporary and it was fine for the moment.

I'm not going to talk about why my own daycare failed - that's a longer story than I want to go into right now and I've talked about it some already. I got my current job last August, prompting the need to find daycare again - for 3 kids this time. We knew it would be expensive, but we also knew that the cost would improve as the kids started school. It was much harder to leave the kids this time, especially since I'd been home with them for 6 months.

We found someone we liked and the kids liked well enough, and we were happily going along until she decided that she couldn't handle Hannah's potty accidents and her 'attitude'. Hannah was difficult to handle at that point (just turning 4) but I didn't think it was anything out of the ordinary or that a daycare provider shouldn't be able to deal with. I knew that Abby wasn't happy there at all - there were no kids her age and she was horribly bored with no structure or activities. I think in the end it was a combination of things on both ends (she'd put Becca in a forward-facing carseat at 7 months old and nowhere near 20 pounds!) and she gave us 3 weeks notice right before Christmas.

I was happy enough to have the kids out of there but then stressing over what to do. Our wonderful neighbor watched the kids for the rest of December but come January we needed someone permanent.

I knew someone through church who did daycare - I'd called her a few times during our previous searches but she never had any openings. Her twin daughters were in Hannah's preschool class and I'd heard many good things about her. So I took a chance and asked her one Sunday if she had any openings. She did.

I know that this is where my kids are meant to be right now. This is the 3rd daycare provider that we've been blessed with who treats our kids as her own and truly loves them. And they love her - as do I. I enjoy chatting briefly with her when I drop the kids off and pick them up. I only wish we had more time to talk and get to know each other better, but she's a busy single mom with 4 kids of her own.

From the beginning, she was more expensive than we really wanted to pay, but we knew she was worth it. And it was only temporary - if we could make it through until fall, then our costs would go down and we could breathe again. I guess that's why I feel like the bottom's dropped out after that e-mail yesterday.

I really need to sit down and have a heart-to-heart with her. I love her and her family, and I want our kids to continue going there - since I can't be home with them. I hope we can work something out.

Daycare, in one way or another, has been my single most stressful thing to deal with in the past 6 1/2 years. There are so few quality options out there that parents can afford - yet I know that daycare providers and teachers don't make nearly as much as they deserve.

My friend Cheryl is going through the daycare search right now and I feel for her. She's had her ups and downs with this issue as well. I think most families probably have...

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7 wonderful people said...:

~Amber~ said...

I am so glad the girls have a wonderful daycare...as much as the financial part of it stinks, think about what better people your girls are going to be because of people like your daycare provider!

MJ said...

With our oldest daycare was a nightmare. I remember feeling so stuck!

Thanks for stopping by.

pinks & blues girls said...

You have certainly had your share of ups and downs with daycare. I'm glad this situation is a good one, despite the awkward way she handled the money issue. I agree with what someone said in the comments from yesterday's post... maybe try to negotiate a little? Especially since you have it in writing what you wrote to her a few weeks ago for confirmation.

Jane, P&B Girls

Kerry said...

Sorry you're having to go through this. Hope things resolve themselves in the best way possible for you guys.

Corey~living and loving said...

hugs! Daycare is one of the most stressful things in the world. It is extremely difficult to leave your children with anyone.
I am so sorry for the confusion. I hope you find a way to negotiate a better price. ughers.....
how stressful!

BigBinder said...

See? That is why you got the nice award! You made sure that even though your daycare provider went about something in a way that was not quite right - you still wanted to make sure everyone reading knows the full story and knew that she is of great value to you.
I hope you guys get this worked out wit her, I really do. Good luck with this.

Ana said...

You have definately had quite a journey finding good care for your children. But, you've always done the right thing putting your children's safety and happiness first. I'm glad you have finally found someone that works and I hope the money issue can be resolved smoothly.