Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I never knew

Sometimes you don't realize how lucky you've been until you have to do things the regular way. Case in point: toddler childcare. When we were in Kentucky, one of the mothers in our playgroup mentioned that there was a mother's day out program for one-year-olds over at her church. I stopped by one afternoon to check out the location, signed my daughter up, gave them a check for $55 for the first month, and we were done.

The center was ridiculously clean and well-stocked with toys, etc. Access to the center was strictly controlled, and children were only released to people on their list of approved guardians whose photo IDs were on record at the center. The classrooms each had sinks and access to child-sized potties. The teachers were super-nice, super-energetic, and super-organized ... they managed to corral the one-year-olds into making crafts, eating snacks without stealing from each other (too much), and even worked with the older kids to start potty training.

photos courtesy of Miss Heather, taken during Liza's last day at school in Kentucky

Once we got past a few weeks of Liza the Velcro Child who screamed every time I left, I was perfectly happy to leave Liza there for three hours every Monday morning while I worked on my Lazy Mama stuff (and retained my sanity). Liza adjusted like a champ, becoming much more social and at ease in new situations, which was the entire intent of sticking her in the program to begin with. One of the big things I was upset about when Jason was offered the job up here was that Liza wouldn't be able to attend the two-year-old program next year. I was really looking forward to having two mornings a week to myself, and for only $85 a month.

Now that we're up in Cleveland, I've been researching potential pediatricians and preschools, which is every bit as much fun as it sounds. After scouring the yellow pages and contacting the state's child care referral service, I had a list of a handful of places that accept 2-year-olds. Apparently "mother's day out" programs are a Kentucky thing, or at least not a west-side-of-Cleveland thing.

All but one of the programs are actually day care centers that happen to accept kids on a part-time basis, and they're priced accordingly. The center I liked best was clean and well-organized, with teachers who seemed welcoming and a vibe that didn't scare Liza into shrieking immediately (unlike the Montessori place, which I thought I would like but gave me the willies and turned Liza back into Velcro Child). Unfortunately, that center costs $280 a month for two half-days a week. Yeah, that's more than three times as much as the church-sponsored place in Kentucky we liked so much.

Today I was finally able to visit the one church-sponsored center that has a two-year-old program, and although it's very affordable, I wasn't especially impressed. Entrance to the school was through one of the classrooms, and the door was just propped open, so a kid would have no problem getting out if they wanted to. The rooms were adequate but not especially inspiring, and some of the toys had seen better days. The teachers seemed nice, but the program for the two-year-olds wasn't very structured. It probably didn't help that I arrived shortly after the dropoff time, when all of the classes had a few minutes of free play, and the place looked sort of like a zoo (but no one was crying or upset to be there - they all seemed to be having a good time). And the program is only one day a week, for two and a half hours, so by the time I drive home and back to pick up Liza I won't really get much time to work.

Since we really can't afford to shell out $300 a month for me to get some free time, I guess it's going to boil down to whether I think Liza will get enough out of the church program to bother. In the meantime, I still have another three pediatricians to visit before I feel like I've done enough research there. Fun, fun, fun.


Anonymous said...

I am flabergasted at how much quality daycare can cost. We are expecting our third child in October. Thus, next year, we are going to have two kids in after-school storage and another kid in full day storage. The rates in the Dallas area average roughly $20,000 per year for the three kids!

These prices sounds similar to what you are finding in the Cleveland area. But I feel like there has to be a better option!

Anonymous said...

I just checked, and I could hire a nanny for the $20,000 per year for daycare.

Does anyone have experience with using a nanny? Would I be trading one set of issues for another set of problems?

Any thoughts?

Gretchen said...

Some family friends have a nanny for their twins, who are about a year older than Liza. Overall, it's worked well for them, but there are some things to consider before you decide to go that way:

- Their nanny doesn't live with them, so nights and weekends are still an issue (they both travel a lot for their jobs)

- Their nanny doesn't cook, at all, so the kids eat a lot of sandwiches and prepackaged meals

- Some nannies are better with babies than with toddlers and kids, some the other way around ... so you'll need to be comfortable with the nanny with all of your children, not just the baby

- Being a nanny isn't exactly a high-paying, desirable job. Turnover can be fairly high, and the education level of the nannies can be fairly low. Best case, you find someone with a degree in early childhood development ... but are they going to be happy making $20K with no benefits?

If you want, I can check with my nannied friend and see if they'd be willing to talk with you about their experience. You may also want to look into what one of my bosses did, which is having an in-house babysitter two days a week and working the other three days. The babysitter was working on her degree, so she scheduled her classes on the days Barb was at home. When Barb was at work, the babysitter was home with the youngest and ferried all the rest to/from school and sports etc. They were really lucky to find her, and she stayed them for five or six years, I guess.