I am now actively searching for childcare. Let me preface this by saying that from the beginning, I have been in favor of daycare, and S has favored a nanny-type arrangement. Of course, we wish my mom could provide care, but she is only 55 and not yet able to retire from her job. S and I are both willing to consider the other's viewpoint, and so we are looking at both options.
I like daycare for the following reasons:
-- there are lots of adults present to monitor each other (less chance of any kind of abuse or neglect, hopefully)
-- we're not relying on someone to show up at our house every day (ie, I don't want to hear about someone else's experiences with traffic, car trouble, etc when I need to be to work at a certain time, ya know?)
-- the child gets to interact with other children (more important when the child is older, certainly)
-- there are games and activities not present in the home environment
I'm wary of nannies/solo daycare providers because:
-- who knows what they're doing when you're not there (TV for hours? ignoring her cries? or worse)
-- I don't want to trap the nanny in our home, but the idea of Annalise in someone else's car, rocketing down the freeway, makes me really nervous.
-- If I am really honest, I know that I could be threatened by a close relationship between a nanny and my precious baby. Particularly if I was otherwise "threatened" by the nanny, I think. For example, if we have a young, attractive, energetic nanny that my baby adores, that would make me feel worse than if a grandmotherly type was her object of affection.
-- obviously, they are much more expensive. I won't use this to make the decision, but saving a bit of money would be nice.
-- I don't think that hiring a nanny is a guarantee of a consistent, loving bond for Annalise. Nannies quit, need to be let go, etc. We know several families who have gone through 4+ nannies in just a few years.
S likes the idea of a nanny because:
-- he wants her to develop strong attachments with her care provider (and wants the care provider to be equally attached and invested in her well-being).
I think that our mutual concerns about daycares are reflected below, so I won't list them.
Have I mentioned that S is a clinical psychologist, and that half of his patients are children? At his urging, I've been reading this book of his called "The Irreducible Needs of Children" by Brazelton and Greenspan, and lemme tell ya, it's a very interesting read, but it will make you feel really crappy about putting your child in daycare. It kinda makes me want to quit my job and be a SAHM. Which would be nice, in many ways, but is not practical in my particular profession. I think the ideal think, really, would be to work part time with set hours and no call, etc. Kinda like that per diem Kaiser job (urgent care/same day appointments) that I did before starting heme/onc fellowship a few years ago.
I have visited 4 daycare centers so far, and we have an appointment with a home daycare provider on Sunday. S came with me to one of the daycare centers -- the one affiliated with my workplace, and only blocks from each of our offices. He was enthusiastic about the infant room, which has an amazing 2:1 child to teacher ratio. We were much less impressed with the toddler room (12-24 months). There is still an outstanding ratio of 10 kids to 3 adults, but we didn't like what we saw during the outdoor playtime. First of all, several of the children were sick; one with a wet cough and at least two with snot literally running down their little faces. Some of the children seemed kinda lonely/lost in the play area. Two of the teachers were talking to each other and generally ignoring the little ones. I think it was probably worse than normal because the "lead teachers" were in a meeting at the time we toured, so there were fewer teachers than usual around to supervise. Still, one can imagine that a shy (yet compliant) child could potentially be ignored for hours at a time. It made us really sad. Oh, and I didn't yet mention that this center actually has ZERO available spots. I got on the list a few days after finding out that I was pregnant last May, and yet I probably will not get a spot until she is well over a year old. My university has thousands and thousands of students and employees but only 6 infant daycare slots!
Two other centers that I toured are farther from our workplaces and have worse child to teacher ratios. I toured both of these during naptime, so I didn't get much sense of the interaction between staff and kids.
I visited one other center yesterday, and it is pretty ideal in terms of location, but again has a 4:1 ratio of children to teachers in the infant and toddler rooms. I stopped by yesterday and saw a lot of adorable babies (mostly in the 6-12 month range, it seemed) playing with various toys, but the adults were pretty busy changing diapers, feeding a crying child, etc, so that again, I can see that individual kids might not get attention for hours at a time if it is not their time to be changed, etc. I also can't quite picture how a less than 3 month old will fit into that environment, other than being set down in a crib for hours.
I am pinning all my hopes right now on a home daycare provider in our neighborhood. She was recommended by one of my colleagues, and I have spoken with her by phone and she seems nice. She cares for only up to 3 children at a time, and right now she is caring for a 6 month old and a 1 year old and has one available space. On the other hand, she has her own children (ages 6, 11, and 15), so they will be there too after school and presumably during summer vacation. We are meeting with her tomorrow and I am really really hoping that we click with her and love her, and that her house is decently clean, that there are no big dogs there, and that there is no swimming pool in the backyard.
As for nannies, my attempts to get a direct recommendation from someone have fizzled. Craigslist depresses me, and I haven't yet place my own ad or inquired with any agencies.
This feels like such an important decision, and I am dreading the day when I have to leave her with anyone.