Finding the Perfect Daycare
by Candice Work
As I was quickly approaching the end of my maternity leave, I thought the hardest part of my return to work would be saying goodbye to my beautiful son. In a perfect world, I would be able to stay home with my child to guide him and revel in those vital first years. But I knew all too well I couldn’t afford that option, and that the decision of who to leave him with would be one of many important choices my husband and I would have to make as we embarked on this journey of parenthood.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that it wasn’t a simple matter of choosing where to leave him, but that the bigger issue was finding quality—or should I say any—childcare.
My husband and I had heard the lack-of-childcare horror stories, so we had added our names to waitlists before our son was born. But as time was running out before my return to work, we still hadn’t found childcare. The panic and anxiety started to set in.
All kinds of ridiculous notions swirled around my head—I even considered flying in my retired parents from Ontario. I began to get that wired, glassy-eyed look of people desperately holding on to their last chip at the casino. Desperate times call for desperate measures, I’ve been told, and we were definitely getting to that point.
Then, finally—hallelujah—the daycare gods smiled down on us and we found space in a family daycare. But that was a brief arrangement, ending with safety and hygiene issues, to name but a few.
Next came another family daycare which only lasted a week. I have friends who are happy with their family daycares, but it just wasn’t our experience.
Thankfully, after being on a waitlist for 18 months, we finally secured daycare in a group care setting. That’s where my son is now and the arrangement is working brilliantly. Excited to see his friends each morning, my son receives excellent care and good structure throughout the day and is given the kind of one-on-one play and socialization he can only get by being around other children.
Here are five suggestions to help make your childcare search go smoothly:
1. Waitlists—there can be no hesitation here, folks. Get your name on waitlists before your child is born. No joke. This may seem unbelievable, but I can assure you, based on personal experience, it is a necessary step given the existing daycare shortages.
2. Child Care Resource and Referral (CCRR)—the staff here offer an invaluable service. They have a wealth of information for finding home-based or group facility daycares in your area and can e-mail you exhaustive lists. However, much like when a property management company gives you the specs on a potential building, you still need to do your homework. You might have to call at least a dozen daycares, but if they have a waitlist or have a space for you, take the time to check out the staff, space and neighbourhood yourself. Naturally, it’s important that you are on the same page when it comes to food, play, safety, structure, respect, discipline and religion. Call the CCRR at 382-7000 or visit the website at www.islandfamilyinfo.ca.
3. Online resources—consult the Ministry of Children and Family Development website (www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/childcare) for daycare names and explanations of such key terms as LNR (Licence Not Required), among others. Another great resource is Kids in Victoria (www.kidsinvictoria.com). Click on the classifieds link, then the child care link. You’ll find daycares, nannies and babysitters, all at your fingertips.
4. Word of mouth—this is the time to really tap into your social network, either through friends, work associates or community groups. There are women’s groups at the various public health units (www.viha.ca/prevention_services/public_health_nursing.htm) and drop-in groups at numerous recreation centres. Sometimes women get a lot of ribbing for the amount of talking we do compared to men, but when it comes to kids and childcare, I’ve been extremely thankful that we do talk as much as we do. Without that communication, I would never have discovered all of the daycare options, parenting resources or motherhood tips I’ve been given over the last two years. We are such an expressive gender and thank goodness we are there to support each other on this journey of ours.
5. Think outside the box—for example, nanny sharing, working part-time, working from home, or sharing childcare duties with friends or grandparents. As you explore as many options as your imagination will allow, sometimes you’ll discover you have more flexibility than you think.
With a little planning, some fact finding and useful digging, the task of finding viable childcare doesn’t have to be so daunting. In fact, maybe the hardest part isn’t finding the childcare, it’s being able to accept the next step as our children grow older. Kids are so resilient; they adjust to new surroundings and friends and find their place in the world.
Candice Work is the mother of a spirited two-year-old son and is expecting baby #2 this month. In her “spare” time, she is a legal administrator and a burgeoning freelance writer.