Save for the occasional anxiety-induced meltdown, I’m a pretty easygoing person. This mostly carried over into my pregnancy and parenting as well, though now that I’m a mom I sometimes fear that my approach might be seen as careless or even irresponsible. For example, when I was pregnant, I totally had my one cup of coffee per day, highlighted my hair, and enjoyed hotdogs (OMG, so many hotdogs). We chose our daughter’s pediatrician based on proximity to our house. I occasionally just wipe baby’s binkie off on my shirt when it falls. I have let her sit in the grocery store shopping cart without wiping it down first. To be clear, I am not knocking people who do or don’t do this stuff! I just personally tend not to get hot and bothered about things, and honestly, living life this way has always worked for me.
My husband and I determined pretty early that we couldn’t afford to keep our 2-day nanny (thanks, Fairfield county price gouging), so this summer I took on finding daycare for my daughter. Being an easygoing person, I knew that this might be tricky. Where to begin? How to know what I want? What are the right questions to ask? I first turned to coworkers, who gave me some referrals. I then quickly eliminated at home daycares, as the few I researched did not open early enough for my schedule. Of the local daycare centers, I picked a few based on convenience of location and whether I know people whose kids have gone there. This is quite different from the person I talked to who researched 52 (!!!) daycares before touring and choosing the perfect one. My final list had 3. Here’s how it went down:
Daycare 1: This place is located right off the highway, so easy access. I attempt to enter the building but am unable to because of security locks. Yes safety! I am greeted by the director, who is friendly and likable. I tour the facility, which is homey but somewhat drab and in need of a good scrub. The director starts talking about the infant curriculum and its alignment with Common Core, at which point my brain turns off. In one toddler room, all the kids are eating lunch and looking like they’re having the worst time ever. I notice that lunch is cut up chicken with green beans. GREEN BEANS, PEOPLE. This place is also pretty pricey.
Daycare 2: This place is located close to my commute but not near a Marshall’s or Target, which is practically a deal breaker. I walk right in and wander briefly before someone intercepts me. She doesn’t introduce herself – I assume she’s the director, but in retrospect she could have been some random imposter. The rooms are kept up nicely, but there are no toys anywhere! What do these kids do all day? I’m touring right at the infant room’s lunch time, and all the kids are lined up in their high chairs, which reminds me of this documentary I once saw about Romanian orphanages. This place is nice-ish overall, and it is way cheaper than the first, so bonus.
Daycare 3: This place is the farthest from my work but the closest to good shopping – convenient for
shoe shopping running errands after work. The inside is clean, bright with natural sunlight, and there are colors everywhere. Baby girl, usually reserved with unfamiliar people and places, is chatty and interested in looking around. The staff is friendly and each had a nice uniform top. Hey, it’s important to look good, right? In one of the rooms, a tiny boy runs up to me, thinking I’m his mom, which is pretty much the saddest thing ever. Back in the office, the director pushes the rates across the desk on a post-it note like at a car dealership. The price is between that of the two other places I’ve seen, and they’re willing to be flexible about which two days we choose to send baby.
Questions I asked at all 3: How much is it? Do I have to pay through school vacations? What is your sick policy? You’re open at 7:00, right? Do you have openings? How much is it, again?
The conclusion of this is like the most obvious episode of House Hunters ever. Do I choose the pricey, well located fixer, the affordable out of towner, or the reasonably priced, cozy house with good feng shui? Yup, I went with number 3. I’m not sure if I asked all the right questions or overlooked too many details, and I haven’t been through their curriculum with a fine tooth comb. Honestly, at the end of it, the place just felt right. Although part of me wonders whether my approach was serious enough, I feel confident bringing baby for her first day.