Choosing a Childcare Centre with confidence – Make a decision you can feel great about with these insider tips
The time has come to return to the office and thus find a place for our little guy to spend his time while I’m at work. I found deciding on a childcare centre ALMOST as overwhelming as deciding on a pram!
Did you know that a child’s brain develops most rapidly between birth and five years old? Research shows that quality education and care during these years leads to better health, education and employment outcomes later in life. These years are critical for establishing self-esteem, resilience, healthy growth and capacity to learn (National Quality Framework) Oh the pressure!! Knowing all this, it was so important to me that I felt confident with who I was entrusting with my child's care.
I toyed with the idea of a nanny, family day care and flexible casual care alternatives but made the decision to go with a Childcare centre based on my son’s personality – a million miles an hour and best entertained by a big bunch of children, heaps of activities and needing to keep a bit of routine and structure.
There are a heap of centres out there and I had no idea where to start. To combat the overwhelm I enlisted the help of an expert - working mum of three and Early Childhood Teacher Alison Uren. I am so grateful to have been able to gain direction from her eleven years of experience in childcare centres, preschools and schools. Here are her extremely valuable insider tips for choosing a Childcare centre so that you too can find a solution that you feel great about.
Edit your options
Personally, I got stuck in procrastination mode before finally asking for help and left my decision a little late so I had some options crossed of the list for me straight away. If you’re forced to settle for a childcare spot that isn’t your first preference don’t stress - keep your eyes open for alternatives and your name on the waiting lists until something more suitable comes up.
Do your research
Check out as many childcare services as you can. Ensure that the childcare service is registered and at least meeting the minimum requirement of the National quality standard. If the centre is marked as ‘Exceeding’ in all areas that’s even better.
Check out the services policies and procedures; ask questions about it specific to your family’s circumstances e.g. Does your child have any additional needs?
Drop in unannounced
Don’t book in and give them an opportunity to make sure they turn on their A-game!! You want to see what the everyday looks like. While there are national benchmarks for childcare centres and FAQs on centre websites, there is a lot of equally important information that you can only discover in person. Drop in unannounced, pick up enrolment forms and have a look around.
Check out these key things
It’s a big step sending your child to be cared for by complete strangers. It’s ok to ask a heap of questions! I'd rather be the annoying mum than the one leaving beside myself with nerves every day wondering if my child is safe and happy. If the staff are open to your barrage of questions and answer professionally and confidently that’s a good gauge on how you’ll feel about communicating with them in the future. Here are a few things you might want to ask about.
Use your resources
There are so many great resources available to you in addition to your own detective work.
I write to you while simultaneously breaking at least three of your “I will never do that when I have a baby” rules. Wearing yesterday’s active wear, slippers and a mum bun while the little guy sleeps (more like ‘naps’) in his plastic swing and last nights dishes remain in the sink. I know, I know… I should have put him down in his bassinet so that he doesn’t get in to bad habits, while wearing skinny jeans with freshly blow dried hair and makeup (because come on, babies do sleep so you do have time to put in some effort right?) and now be whipping up some protein balls in my immaculate kitchen and doing a home workout. But I’m sorry to say…. HA!!
It’s never struck me more in the 3 months since having my son how much we judge each other and put pressure on ourselves as women. My working life certainly was challenging as a young female trying to navigate life in a management role, with long days, late meetings, being constantly switched on, making tough decisions and facing the backlash. I really do still appreciate that. What I didn’t appreciate at the time was that there actually was no comparison between that life and the one that my friends were living at home with new little ones depending on them. I really was clueless no matter how many times I had it described to me. These roles are both tough, but so far removed from each other that my pre baby self and my new self really do need to just give each other a pat on the back on move on. No more judgment.
Some key things I wish I could tell myself?
1. It’s a different level of tired
When mums used to tell me how tired they were, I’m not going to lie, arrogant me thought “yeah right, you don’t have an alarm waking you up at six in the morning to go to work, or meetings until 10pm. You can get up, feed the baby and go back to bed. Heck, you can sleep most of the day if you want to!” Yes, I want to slap me too.
You may be woken up countless times throughout the night, or you may not. Your baby may have a good long day sleep, or may not. The only guarantee is you’ll never actually know when your next good night sleep is going to be (if ever) and you will not be able to look forward to the weekend to sleep in and ‘catch up’. Ever.
2. Your priorities will change
You could put the baby on his play mat and run around all day (if he’ll let you) to cook gourmet meals, keep your house spotless, washing basket empty, finish your latest sewing project and just generally mirror one of the perfectly polished mums on Instagram who you picture yourself becoming. But you actually won’t want to. You have a little life learning something new and growing everyday. You’ll want to sit and watch and help him navigate the world. These first weeks will pass quickly; don’t let them pass you by.
3. You can’t control everything... or anything really!
In those first weeks as a mum you won’t know what’s going to happen next. You’ll go from a life that is perfectly predictable and planned out in your diary to the hour, to a world of unknown. I could never have known how hard breastfeeding would be for me, and painful, so so painful. No one told me that could happen. I suffered through three bouts of mastitis in six weeks, with two hospital stays, followed by my husband getting the flu and then appendicitis. My boy was cluster feeding and feeding for an hour, sometimes two! Some nights he only woke once, some nights two hourly. You are a control freak and that will be hard for you. But you need to let go.
4. You will lose yourself for a while – but be reborn
When my little man arrived and we came home to face the reality of life with a newborn I really couldn’t recognize myself for a couple of months. My usually health conscious, switched on, motivated self was struggling with the day to day. I wasn’t looking after myself, I was forgetting to eat and when I did eat I was grabbing sugary treats to try and find some energy. My body couldn’t fight the mastitis infections because I was so run down. I was worried about leaving the house because I didn’t know what was going to happen, what if there’s a nappy blowout? Was he going to want to feed? (I haven’t mastered the “sneaky feed” that others seem to do so effortlessly. When I feed my boy everyone knows about it!) This wasn’t the me that I knew, this isn’t what I planned for myself. Where had I gone? Would I ever return?
You will, but you’ll never be the same. You’ll learn how to balance these new priorities and as your journey continues you’ll recreate yourself. How exciting is that?
My life as a purely stay at home mum has been a steep learning curve and sadly, short lived. Tomorrow my new and old lives collide as I head back to work part time. What new reality check am I about to receive? Watch this space.