One of the biggest responsibilities of motherhood, choosing the right childcare is hard, whatever your situation. Full or part-time, work at home, near home or far from home. It not only has to suit your beloved Little One, but also to meet your expectations in terms of how they will bring up baby for you and how the hours and location might suit your own unique family routine. For a working mum, will Daddy be sharing childcare responsibilities, helping to pick up or drop off or will that all fall to Mummy and if so, does your childcare solution offer hours to suit you?
I weighed up our options primarily based on what might be affordable, quite early in my maternity leave. Horror stories of oversubscribed day nurseries sent me scuttling round to visit and we put his name down at the best we found within a three-mile radius.
Society and the media set and expect high standards of parenting these days (and rightly so, although it can place unnecessary pressure on some parents to know exactly which state of “perfection” they are supposed to subscribe/conform to). Likewise, I had high expectations for our chosen childcare setting. They would be looking after my precious Little Chap for me after all!
Here is a list of selection criteria we considered before taking the plunge:
Location | Heading into town on a commute made it a no brainer that a location en route to my local tube would make life easier than one in the opposite direction and closer to the previous tube zone!
Quality of teaching | It may seem bizarre to consider teaching standards for a 10 month old but I was adamant that if this was going to work, my son wouldn’t just be stuck in a corner to amuse himself all day but nor did I want him over stimulated either. I needed a setting with a routine as close to the one he had become used to as possible. That meant opportunities for fresh air and exercise, continuity of nap times, regular healthy meals, drinks and snacks, and a range of stimulating, interesting activities and opportunities. We wanted our son to be able to explore the world around him with a communicative and affectionate adult we could trust. I also hoped for a level of calm, orderly authority from the staff, an ability to set an example and provide the necessary boundaries.
Safety and hygiene | This seems obvious but settings that were less than clean were an instant turn off, no matter how friendly or dedicated the staff or how happy the children. All I could see were days off work to tend to a sick child. I felt happy that a setting’s Ofsted registration would ensure an acceptable level of safe practice, ensuring proper accreditation for staff employed with appropriate checks in place. I also judged them by what I could see with my own eyes – the bolts on the gates, the key pads on the doors and the level of interrogation received on arrival.
The atmosphere | This also sounds obvious but I was not about to drop off our Little Chap in a room full of seemingly unhappy, unsettled babies nor did I want him copying over stimulated older children. I aspired to find something a little close to an atmosphere of calm exuberance among the older pre-schoolers and peaceful babble among the babies, the apparent comfort and happiness of the children at all ages, being a very important litmus test of whether this was the place for us.
Quality of nursery management | We wanted to know that in addition to the nursery staff having hands on contact with our son, there was also a higher level of authority that related to us as parents too. Open, friendly and warm managers prepared to answer all level of questions without making us feel overly demanding or fussy scored highly. This made the whole process one hundred times easier.
So two years down the road with just eight months to go before the Little Chap starts ‘school’ in the nursery at our local prep, where we hope he’ll continue to bankrupt us for the next decade, it was rather disappointing to find our trust in the local day nursery we had selected falling apart.
However, that, as they say, is a whole other story, which I will save for another day…
© Mayfair Mum, 2012