If I had a husband, or at least a relationship equal, one of us would work while the other took care of our baby. We could even both work if our schedules allowed. Should we decide that daycare was the right option for our family, there would be two incomes to help make that happen. Since this is not the case for me, I’m faced with a complex situation: finding the best daycare center in town for my son without going broke in the process.
I have always been one to favor quality and convenience over price in general, so I approached the daycare decision in the same manner. Here’s what I was looking for in order of importance to me:
1. Health and Safety
Infants are more susceptible to illness and injury than older children because of their brand new immune systems and inability to control their own movements. It was very important to me that I found a facility that maintains a clean and sanitized area for infants separate from the other age groups. I also want safe sleeping practices, sanctioned tummy time, and constant supervision.
2. Child to Teacher Ratio
State regulations say that for every 6 infants there needs to be at least 1 teacher. This doesn’t seem like a lot, but I toured a daycare that had 12 infants, most mobile, and only two teachers. I was overwhelmed by all of the babies in the room that I actually counted how many there were. I did not want to put my son in a place that operated at maximum capacity because it would go against my number 1 priority of Health and Safety.
Because my son’s father and I are estranged, it is extremely important that I have complete control over who can pick him up or drop him off. Obviously if there are any future court orders in place, the center would have to oblige, but otherwise I want to have the final say. Locked doors, key-coded access and video cameras are all items that would help appease my sense of security.
4. Parent Communication
Not only am I a single mom, but I’m a first-time mom. I already know I’m going to want every single detail of my son’s day relayed back to me. I hate that I won’t get to be with him a majority of each day, so I want insight into his routine and progress for those times I can’t be there to witness them myself.
Close to work or at least along the route to work / home. I want to be able to see Zaylen on my lunch break if I choose, get to him quickly in an emergency and minimize the time it takes to drop him off / pick him up.
So I know this seems like a silly aspect to care about for an infant, but children learn and develop so much during their first two years of life and there are a lot of ways to stimulate that development. I wanted to find a childcare center that offered a variety of lessons and areas of focus specific to infants. Some programs offer infant sign language, sensory development, and more.
Even though price was not my determining factor, I did need to be realistic in my choice. Just because one facility was “the best” or had everything else I was looking for, doesn’t necessarily mean I can afford to enroll my son there. I make a decent amount of money at a job that I love, but $1600 a month for daycare is simply not viable. I also ruled out centers and nannying services that seemed too inexpensive to be true, because they were probably too inexpensive to be true. Health and Safety, Security and Child:Teacher Ratio matter far more than a low monthly daycare cost.
After numerous phone calls and facility tours, I found a daycare that offers infant sign language, online video camera access, daily sanitization of the infant room with sterile processes in place, a normal operating ratio of 4:1, daily routine / progress reports with immediate phone / text communication for major milestone achievements or emergencies, flexible scheduling options, and a moderately priced tuition all within a 10 minute drive to both my job and my home. As an added bonus, all of the infants present during my tour were extremely happy babies. They were laughing and sharing and appeared very social. I am so excited for my son to grow and learn at the daycare center I chose for him and am happy to put my daycare decision drama behind me.