Shortly after my first child was born, the very idea of going back to work left me with a sick feeling in my stomach. Sure, I loved my work, but how was I going to leave my baby? How was she going to manage without me? How could I possibly trust someone else to care for her like I did, to be sure she was safe and loved?
I couldn’t even think about it for the first several months, but once my daughter was six months old, reality started to sink in. Other Moms were talking about child care placements they interviewed and where they put their babies on wait lists. I started to feel like I was slacking on the whole child care decision.
Since being a stay at home mom was not an option, clearly I needed to make a decision soon. I had no idea what I was looking for. Did I want my daughter to be in a child care centre? A home-based child care? Would it make sense to hire a nanny? What were the pros and cons of all these? How much did all these options cost? Did grandparents want to help with child care? It felt like there were too many options.
For me, it helped to focus first on what my family’s needs were. Ask yourself what are your needs and priorities:
- Cost: What can you afford? Do you qualify for the child care subsidy?
- Hours: What hours of care do you need?
- Location: Do you want a place that’s close to home or your place of work?
- Age: How old will your child be at the time of placement? In most child care settings, there are fewer infant spaces. In a child care centre, a child under 18 months is considered an infant. Home based child care providers can only care for two children under the age of two.
- Number of children: If you have more than one child, do you want your children at the same place?
- Anything else? For example, if your child has special needs you will be interested in asking about inclusion services
It also helped me to think about what my baby needed from her child care placement as she grew. Keep in mind your child’s unique temperament and personality! If she could have decided for herself, I think my daughter would have asked for:
- plenty of time, space and materials for unstructured free-play and to be physically active. Play is the work of children;
- opportunities to learn social skills by interacting and playing with other children;
- a safe environment, both inside the placement as well as outside and when on outings;
- warm, caring connections with consistent providers;
- stability and a predictable routine; and
- opportunities to learn, with preparation for kindergarten
It can feel like there are too many options to pick from, even after you decide on the type of child care that works for you. Once my husband and I narrowed down our options, we went online to the Child Care Directory Information Line (CCDIL). They have a questionnaire about the type of care you are looking for, which they use to send you a customized list of child care providers. If you have any questions about child care, give them a call. They will also provide you with A Parents’ Guide to Quality Child Care. For me, this booklet was a great help and I especially appreciated the list of questions they suggest asking providers – many things I had not thought of, such as asking about closure dates.
If you are looking for child care, the best advice I can offer you is: Start early, get help from CCDIL, read A Parents’ Guide to Quality Child Care, interview and visit at least three different placements, and listen to your gut. You’ve got this!
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For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.