The enormity of choosing childcare
“Surely I can't be the only one who worries about all of this stuff”
The childcare setting for your child is a massive decision for any parent and I really felt the weight of it heavy on my shoulders. Constantly you worry if you are doing the right thing. Are you providing enough for them? The parenthood guilt creeps in trying to balance your career with their settings, matching up drop off and collection times and then considering how your child will grow in that environment. To confuse matters more, the costs, assuming the most expensive will be the best.
You're weighing up the location, the timings, the gut feeling when you walk in the door, the building and equipment, the smells (yes I know it sounds nuts but someone showing us around a nursery had proper minging cigarette breath - put us right off them) and of course there is the staff. To make it trickier a place may tick all the boxes on paper but then when you go and visit it's a let down. One place said it had a swimming pool and French lessons so I was daydreaming of my little cherub reciting Frère Jacques while running around in her swimming costume, but turns out you can't swim unless you're potty trained which cuts out about two years of her time there plus she hasn't really managed any English words yet and these were the best parts about the place.
Now the staff is a big one. Are they someone you instantly connect with and trust your most precious little bundles with? Do they listen to you and nod to all your wild concerns or do they blank you and make you feel even more nuts than you are? Do they look presentable or a bit scruffy? Your child is going to be looking up to them so you want them to look nice but not over done. Do they look kind and have a warm smile so that your little baby will want to be comforted by them when you're not there? Do they also look like they will be fair, yet firm and not a pushover so they get some discipline to keep them in check when you're not around? See! All this is running through your head before you can commit. I wonder if nursery staff realise this.
We recently moved the girls’ nurseries and all of these thoughts came into my head. It wasn't like the first time choosing the nursery when you're shown around holding your little shiny baby in a car seat awkwardly through the rooms while they throw statistics at you about the nursery and how all the food is organic and how many nappies you get free when in fact you could buy shares in pampers with their daily rates. This is not all new; this is a "we have tried other nurseries, now we really know what we want and we want to know if we can get it here".
I actually felt much more objective in my thinking, but it was still a difficult decision. You still never know if you've made the right choice until you finally make the move. But a wise woman told me, right back in the early days with G when I was still a rabbit in the headlights wandering around thinking would I ever settle into this being a mum role, that to always go with your gut instinct as it will always be right. Mothers intuition she called it. G's nursery teacher said the same to me when I was expressing my concern about the move but she's a mum and she gets it.
There were loads of reasons for the move but the clinching factor for us was the staff. They are friendly. They ask you about things going on in your life and remember when you've been on holiday etc. It's a smaller nursery so maybe that's why they can add the personal touch, but I dropped G off after her hols at the old nursery and her key worker wasn't around and none of the other staff asked her about her holiday. I know it sounds pretty small but I wanted them to at least show some interest in her and know about the big things going on in her little life. Plus we also wanted a nursery where they were approachable to talk about our family. We are not unique being a two mummy family but we are not the norm (just yet!). It was important that the people in the setting we chose for our children could talk about this. There is no doubt that the girls will ask questions and we want them to be surrounded by people who can answer them as honestly as possible. Plus I've already experienced the G wanting a daddy few weeks, which I wasn't prepared for and didn't know how to deal with, and it was in fact the nursery which helped me with this. Their support is huge and no doubt it comes naturally for them without thinking, but for us it's a big deal.
Then we are balancing up if they will get lots of fun and playtime alongside learning for each of their needs. G was behind with her speech so that was a big factor for us as we wanted to make sure she would get the necessary support and encouragement. We also wanted to make sure that the little chaotic one would fit in well. She’s still very young and needs lots of cuddles and attention, but she should also be able to grow her independence. No wonder this gave me sleepless nights. Surely I can't be the only one who worries about all of this stuff.
My main battle in my neurotic mother-brain was about the cost. I automatically assumed that with higher costs, care must be better and give you an automatic peace of mind, but I've found it not to be the case. So I battled in my head thinking the girls needed us to spend the most on their childcare to ensure the quality was high but the reality was they were surrounded by the newest equipment and toys (even a smartboard) but what was lacking was the personal approach which we both wanted our children to have. We wanted them to be surrounded by people who cared about them and took time to develop them, taking an interest in their achievements. After all, it's people that make the world go round not materials.
Although the first few weeks of the move were nerve-wracking, second guessing the decision, as soon as they see their little t-shirts ready for nursery and they are excited and talking about going, it hits home that the right decision was made. They are happy and that's what matters.
We've done all of that trying nurseries and getting settled and now we need to start school visits for G's school application. I'm so not mentally ready for this! My little firstborn starting school is a massive milestone, which I need more time to get my head around plus the pregnancy hormones don't help!
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