I’ve been asked by several people lately concerning this topic, as it was my milieu for so long, so I thought I’d put this up on my blog. I could probably write a whole book about it, but since I have things to do today, I’ll keep this to a novella.
The thing about family-based childcare (an individual approach, like I did) is you have to find someone who really wants to do it, because they love you, and not because of the money. The money just isn’t worth it. You have to really think about whether going back to work is worth it to you to pay someone else less than minimum wage to care for your most precious one.
Now I was lucky because when I started the grandmother told me that she’d be my back-up in case I ever got sick. I don’t normally get sicker than a cold so I never “called in” but I did use her when I went out of town or if my own children had dentist appointments (Daytime Brother came with us to the doctor appointments because my pediatrician is awesome.) If he was really sick he would stay home, but he came to us every day except in very extreme cases. (I was much more lenient than a normal daycare would have been with his germs.) How do you feel about coughs, sneezes, fevers and vomitting? Where do you draw the line for keeping her home and where do you draw the line for her exposure to others? You need to clearly communicate this with your provider. You also need to talk holidays; some places are automatically closed on holidays and if you have to work you need to make your own arrangements (for example the place the my friends take their little boy was closed on Veteran’s Day but both of them still had to work.)
Much like finding a pediatrician, you need to find someone with whom you’ll agree philosophically. In the beginning that’s easy: it’s pretty much feeding and sleep. As your baby gets older (and this is hard to gauge in advance) you’ll get into discipline and structure issues. It is very confusing for a child to live by two sets of rules every single day, and the more in alignment you and the childcare provider can be, the better adjusted your daughter will be. What kind of behaviour is okay? How will you deal with the inevitable errant behaviour? How will you react to someone else disciplining your child? (some people really don’t want anyone except themselves correcting their children.) It’s hard to know before you’re in the thick of it, so be prepared that if you feel you aren’t on board with your provider down the road that you’ll either have the hard talk or find a new provider.
A note about field trips: do you want someone who will stay home all the time or who is out and about at the park and other places with the children? Are you okay with someone else transporting your daughter? (I have a friend who wouldn’t even let her sister-in-law, who happened to be her childhood friend, drive her babies — only she or her husband could drive the children.) Field trips come with their own inherant risks.
Finally, are you prepared to let someone else witness all the major milestones in her life? Rolling over, crawling, cruising, walking, talking, those will more than likely happen when you are away. Are you prepared for her to have a stronger attachment to another woman? Are you prepared for her to call the other woman “mama” (until she learns more words she will call all female caretakers mama)? Are you prepared to let someone else know your daughter and anticipate her needs or behaviours better than you? Or will any of these cause jealousy? If any of these make you uncomfortable it will come out either in your relationship with her or with the caretaker or both.
There are a lot of options when it comes to providers. You could find someone whom you trust and who is willing to bring her into the family. You could find a small day care. You could find a large day care. Some situations are multi-age. Some situations have children grouped by age. What do you consider to be ideal? What would be acceptable? What is unacceptable? Know your limits and don’t do something that makes you feel uncomfortable. Do not get yourself into a contract situation, you need to be free to pull out if you need to. Ultimately you are the parent and entitled to all the inspiration and intuition you need to guide you.