“I can do this.
He can do this.
They can do this.”
These are the words that I kept telling myself over and over again as I started the trial for the daycare we had picked for our little darling. He was five months old. That is really tiny! My little one who was barely able to sit up by himself, was going to be managed by a group of strangers for 8-10 hours in the day.
As a nuclear family, my husband and I had decided even before conception that our baby would be enrolled in a day care after my six months of maternity leave were over. We were also sure, despite it being the norm in India, that we don't want to keep a nanny. We would take care of the initial months ourselves, with a little guidance and help from our respective parents (who all lived in another city). And come six months, baby would go to a Daycare.
But unfortunately, our experience wasn't as smooth as I had hoped. My husband visited four different centres to check the facilities; he narrowed down on two. I went (and begged) to get enrolled at a centre that was in our minds most convenient, but also the most sought after in the region. We got in. We went for three days. We bailed.
As we ended up experiencing four difference centers, and learned a few things along the way. This is a handy list for those mums and dads trying to decide on which day care center to choose for their little ones.
1- Check the Basics First
What was I most afraid of when I took that first test run at the daycare that we had narrowed down on? That he'll cry and no one will tend to him. That he'll be hungry and no one will feed him. That he'll not get the attention he's been used to at home.
Well, let's be honest, any good provider will give loving care, but not as loving as yours. They will prioritize feeding of infants (and even toddlers) in a timely manner. They will ensure that the children under their care don't feel neglected, and that the caretakers are fully attentive to each ward there.
But the extent to which these basics are met is something you need to check for yourself. Either you or the secondary caregiver must spend some time in the center, to see first-hand how the staff are managing the children (not just your own). If you see them managing someone’s child properly even when the parent isn't there to check, then you know they'll take care of your precious one in your absence.
2- Set aside Trial-Days
Whatever age you start at, your child (and you!) need to have time to adjust to the concept of a daycare.
Talk to your child (yes, even infants), get them excited about going there ("wow! you're going to have so much playing with new friends"), and slowly ease in the hours (start with a half hour for a couple of days, and increase it to one-two-three hours over multiple days). While some daycares allow parents to sit with the child during the initiation, I would highly recommend against it. The best way to ease baby's separation anxiety is to actually stay out of their line of sight. She will learn that Mumma (or Papa) is going away, but also knows that she will see you again soon.
Plan to spend at least 1 week, and at max 3 weeks for the transition to your chosen daycare.
3- Check the Logistics
Is it the closest day care near me? Is it close to either parents' office? If you pick for instance, a place close to the father's office, what will you do on days that he has to travel? Or vice versa, how will the father manage to drop off the baby close to your workplace when you have meetings to attend? These are things to consider. Make sure you and your partner are comfortable with sharing day care drop and pick up duties.
But also know that sometimes, you may need to see other considerations like the quality of teachers, facilities, teacher-to-student ratio, activities done, and so on. Location can not be the only deciding factor, even though it is certainly an important one. Speaking from personal experience, despite having a daycare in the next building to our home, we picked one that was a forty-five minute drive away on good days, and maybe even 90 minutes when traffic was bad. And it wasn't close to either of our offices!
4- Get some References (Other Parents)
The advantages of living in Mumbai, a city so tuned to working mothers is that day cares are a dime a dozen. Most of these are well run, and dozens of parents swear by them. Of course as a parent you only have good things to say about your chosen daycare, else you wouldn't keep your child there! Right?
But still, make an effort to talk to parents at more than one centre, you're sure to get a perspective on the of day-to-day functioning. For e.g. some centres have CCTV setups, some provide updates on Whatsapp, some send a diary with the day's details, some have live update apps. A parent can tell you what they wish for (but are ok to live without) from their chosen day care. You can then decide whether it works best for you or not.
5- Trust Your Mommy-Gut
In the initial few days, maybe even later, there will be tears shed - both baby's and mumma's! But if you have decided on going the path, first make yourself stronger. But at the same time, make sure your instincts are with you…there shouldn’t be anything fundamental bothering you about the arrangement. I decided against two very renowned and popular daycares in Mumbai only because I didn't feel "calm inside" when I took my baby there.
Trust your mom instincts. Don't rush into it, but don't dwell on it to the extent that it makes you a nervous wreck either.
At the end of the day, the decision on which daycare to pick, and whether to ditch the idea of daycare altogether, is yours and yours alone. Don’t be afraid to change your mind after you have given everything due consideration. Take a deep breath, push that emotional-mum aside and channel your inner practical-mum to arrive at the best decision for your bub.
Also Read - 6 Things Every Working Mother Should Do
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