Daycare Passage

Our daughters were born 7 weeks early. We were somewhat prepared for that possibility. We joined a Lamaze class for couples with May 2006 duedates, even though our twins weren’t due until July. We assembled M and J’s cribs at the beginning of the third trimester. We interviewed and selected our daughters’ pediatrician well before they were due.

We had not, however, made childcare arrangements. All my research showed that we could expect our babies to be in the hospital until around their duedate, regardless of whether they were preemies or full-term. The doctors and nurses led us to believe the same in the whirlwind surrounding the arrival of our 3 lb 9 oz and 3 lb 6 oz newborns.

There was never any question about whether I would return to work after having children. I love being a mother, more than I ever imagined I could love any role, but I also love my job and my coworkers. I am built to be a better, more patient, more creative parent when I spend my weekdays interacting with adults, and my husband was born to be both a father and a soldier. I deeply admire parents who choose parenting as their primary career, in large part because I know I couldn’t hack it.

Once I had taken the requisite 2 weeks to recover from my C-section, I needed to decide what to do with the remaining 9 weeks of parental leave I had at my disposal. If I waited out the 5 weeks more we expected J and M to be in the NICU, I’d have only a month left to establish a routine, adjust to being a mom, and master breastfeeding before returning to work. Almost equally challenging, we would have to make daycare arrangements in a hurry, because we’d been anticipating that the girls would be 2 to 3 months beyond their due date before needing to start daycare.

I’d decided to go back to work while the babies were in the hospital when our lovely nurse, Michelle, stopped me. She told me quietly that our daughters were doing unusually well for preemies, and that they would likely be released long before their due date. They ended up coming home at the tender ages of 16 and 21 days.

We were going to need childcare 4 weeks after their original due date, instead of the 12 weeks we’d anticipated. All of a sudden, we were in a scramble to find the right place. We were absolutely unwilling to sacrifice quality in the interest of expedience. After all, our newborn treasures would be spending 10-11 hours a day in the care of strangers.

We wanted a formal childcare facility, rather than in-home daycare. We just couldn’t afford the possibility of a single careprovider getting ill or having some other emergency that rendered them unavailable when my husband would soon be headed to Iraq and I’d be parenting solo. I started with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services’ childcare search and scoured the violation reports. Only once I’d reviewed each centre’s history did I schedule visits.

We got lucky. Early on in our search we landed our home for the next 5 years. Its inspection record wasn’t spotless, but the only ding was that their infant changing table lacked a safety rail on all sides at their first inspection, a problem that was corrected within the week. The children we met at our visit were well-behaved but boisterous. There was clear affection between every teacher and every child. The facilities were clean, and our questions were answered directly. The older kids’ classrooms were organized, colourful, and proportioned for children, with posters at a child’s eye-level. The infant room contained a rocking chair for nursing mothers who wanted to breastfeed at dropoff or pickup. They would fully support my bringing expressed breastmilk and, later, homemade baby food.

It’s 5 years later, almost to the day, and today is the girls’ last day at their daycare. Their beloved teacher from the infant and toddler rooms is now the assistant director, and still finds a way to fit in a hug for each of them every day. J took her first steps within the walls of the school to which we will only return as visitors. M and J potty trained there, and learned to read. They learned about death, and grief, as well as security and love, and are now ready to move on to kindergarten.

In a lot of ways, it’s harder for me to leave this family of ours than it is for our daughters. Elementary school will be an altogether new adventure, and J and M are bringing with them all the skills and traits they developed at daycare. They’re off to a great start, and the gifts of their pre-school will be with them forever. If their elementary teachers are half as invested in our girls as their teachers have been thus far, we’re golden.

What are your childcare arrangements? What were your options, and how did you choose? What worked and didn’t work for your family? Was it different for each child? Did you experience additional challenges because of the increased uncertainty of birthdates associated with a multiple pregnancy?

If you’re currently expecting, what would you like to hear from parents who’ve been through the childcare selection process?

7 thoughts on “Daycare Passage

  1. Great post, Sadia.

    Our choice was easy for me – we’d definitely both be going back to work because we couldn’t afford to have either of us at home. And the small matter of me hating the newborn stage :)

    It’s cheaper here in South Africa to get a nanny in to look after twins than have two kids in daycare, so that’s what we decided. Also, how to get 4 people dressed, ready and out the house by 8-ish daily? Near impossible :)

    I’m also sad that it’s J & M’s last day there – I can’t believe it.

    Did you cry?

  2. I was up in the air about going back to work before my girls were born. But, after being born early (4 weeks), coming home on monitors, all the warnings from the NICU doctors about illnesses (the girls were born during flu season), and the fact that my job as a teacher didn’t pay much more than daycare was going to cost us, it made more sense for me to stay home. I stayed home with them for the first 14 months and went back to work full time recently. I was lucky enough to find a job where I still get to spend the mornings with my girls and that has daycare on site for when I am at work.

    Everything’s worked out okay for us, but every situation is different. You just have to do what’s best for you and your family.

  3. I knew I’d be going back to work after my twins were born. I’d carefully researched daycares and had made a choice but by the time my twins were born and ready to begin, there were not 2 spots for them at our chosen place.

    Thankfully, there was a daycare in my school and I was able to get them in there. It was VERY nice as a first time mom to have my infant twins so close to me while at work – I was able to stop in and visit on my lunch and was close by if I was needed at all…but it wasn’t the highest quality place.

    They finally had room at our chosen daycare when I went back the next fall, around age 8 months. We’ve been there ever since and my twins are now 4.5. My 2 year old goes there too and we are so blessed to have such a wonderful daycare/preschool!

  4. I am so sad every time my son or twins have to move classes, I can’t imagine how I am going to feel when they all move on from there. We are so blessed to have such wonderful teachers and directors there, I will miss it much. Reading your post makes me teary eyed and I still have 4 years before I have to completely say good bye. Best wishes to you and your twins on their next adventure…..

  5. I knew I would be going back to work. I admire the parents that stay home but like you, I couldn’t hack it. I had started doing research into places and initially thought I would want a home-based daycare. When I actually looked at a few I realized I wouldn’t feel comfortable with just one person looking after two brand new babies and the other children they planned on. I started to change my focus to centers when I was put on bedrest (31 weeks). I had to wait till after my twins were born to look at the places and so my options were very limited. We did find a place and loved it! At least up until a month ago. We’ll see what happens next.

  6. We’ve tried a few options, but not daycare. My son was in a dayhome 4 days/week from the time he has 1 until the girls were born. Then he went 2 days/week after they were born. We’ve also had full and part-time nannies. I work at home, so it is nice to be close to the kids but still have someone else looking after them. Next month they start a moms’ day out program 1 day a week, which will be a big transition for everyone.

  7. Pingback: Childcare Costs - How Do You Do It?

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