There’s a little bit of everything when it comes to daycare. It can be a lifesaver, a game changer, a bank breaker. It can be friendship, fear, and fun. Honestly, it can be whatever you want it to be depending on who you are, who your kid is and what your situation is. So don’t let daycare scare you. Just know, when entering the journey, there are probably a few things of what to expect in daycare.
What to Expect in Daycare:
Planning ahead is key.
I heard those crazy stories of people putting their kids on waitlists before they were even pregnant. And as a planner, that wasn’t going to happen to me! No, I didn’t pre-waitlist my uterus, but I did visit a few places early in my second trimester, and reserving a spot was no problem. Just don’t wait till you’re on maternity leave. When there are only eight cribs in a room, there are only eight spots. If you’re looking for an in-home spot, though, that’s a little trickier. You need to plan as far ahead as you can so that you have an “in” when a spot opens. Sometimes it’s dumb luck, but planning can definitely help.
You do have options.
What I learned is that I shouldn’t have been so narrow-minded in my search, as in only searching daycares within five miles of my house, with certain hours and within a certain price range. That wasn’t my brightest move, but I didn’t really know what mattered to me yet when I was pregnant! The commute can be worth it. The extra dollars can be worth it. Even more constraining hours can be worth it too. Once you have a baby, you will totally do what you gotta do to feel good about your care provider.
Daycare is expensive.
While I do not feel that I need to elaborate on this factor, I will anyway. Not everyone has the childcare hook-up, so if you’re a full-time working mama, penny up. I prepared for it to be expensive, but even the lowest range mainstream option was a few hundred dollars more monthly than what I was expecting. Hourly, doesn’t sound so bad, but monthly? Aim to pay off a couple of bills before you start.
It can be emotional.
Oh, you heard me, the girl who is way better at work than stay-at-home mommy, I panicked at the last minute. Actually, I had such a rough transition that I committed to a new daycare mid-meltdown on only my third day back to work. Prepare, even if you’re not the emotional type, that handing over childcare to a daycare provider can be a tug at those heartstrings a little more than you think.
The first few months are the toughest.
Coming off maternity leave and hormones, it was really hard to send my child to daycare. He was new – all of this was new – and I was a wreck. They are just so sweet and innocent at that age, and it may seem crazy to send them to a place where they don’t get the utmost affection that you think they deserve. They may be exhausted from their new schedule, they may not nap as much, and you may feel tons of guilt. But once they’re able to interact and play more, it’s a different ballgame.
Your feelings may change.
Picking a daycare isn’t easy. Indecision is real and making the choice can be hard. Then when you make a choice and validate those feelings, they may change again. They can change with age, with the season and simply with time. How I felt when I picked a daycare after we started, once we transferred to an in-home daycare and after those first few months were all very different things. And now at an older age, those feelings continue to change.
Sickness will happen.
Ugh, we caught one of those horrible 24-hour viruses approximately one week into daycare. And when I say “we,” I mean the daycare provider, me, my son, my husband, my mom… I think you catch the drift. Fortunately, that was one of only two dramatic illnesses we’ve had so far in year one. The rest have mainly been colds, lots of them, and note that colds are not just contained to your child. I was warned about the sick factor, and I’m not writing this to place judgment solely on daycare. My kid manages to get sick when none of the other kids are! Mouthing every object known to man and crawling on the floor – it just is what it is. Can someone say Tylenol?
It’s not perfect.
No one is you. Naps may suck. Routines may differ. And even some of the kids may not be your playmate cup of tea. Be flexible. Give it time. Providers sure do their best to do their best and give your kid all the love and attention they need, and let’s be honest, many times that’s probably a higher level of effort than what I could give. Keep it out of sight, out of mind, and as long as your kiddo is happy and healthy, you’ll feel much better.
Every place has its pros and cons.
We started at a traditional daycare, switched to an in-home daycare, and then due to reasons beyond our control, had to switch to a different in-home daycare that is totally different than the first. Three daycares in approximately three months, and I can pull pros and cons from each place. The grass isn’t always greener, but it can definitely be a different shade of green. Sometimes there are just certain shades that may be more preferable to you.
It can be a total blessing.
Some people are really judgy if you send your kid to daycare, but I really don’t get it. It’s part of life and often a necessary sacrifice to work. Every once in awhile I get a twinge for everyday life with my son outside of the office, but on mornings when I’m tired and he’s cranky and flails in the middle of changing a diaper blowout, I’m like thank you, amen, and I take him to daycare guilt-free. Not to mention, my son loves going and playing with all the kids and toys. Win-win.