We did it. We registered our baby for preschool. Through this process I learned several things about myself, about the child care industry, and about finances.
I have high standards.
I kind of knew this ahead of time. But looking at child care facilities made it very clear to me that I don’t tolerate a lot of things: any amount of dirt, overcrowded classrooms, and unprofessional employees are at the top of that list.
If I want my standards met, I have to pay for them.
This point deserves a “duh” but it I’m still putting it here. In the beginning of this process, I thought I knew how much daycare would cost when truly, I had no idea. Most child care centers don’t advertise their tuition rates; you have to call to find out rates and availability.
In one case, a preschool refused to share the rate altogether, insisting that I had to see the facility first. (I coerced that preschool into telling me the rate over the phone because I was a previous employee and knew what they had to offer.) But man, once we got to those cold, hard numbers, my jaw hit the floor.
I learned what I didn’t want through the process of daycare visits.
I started out the search unprepared; I didn’t have a list of questions and I wasn’t really sure what I was looking for. It turned out that didn’t matter. As we visited centers, I quickly honed in on what I didn’t want: I didn’t want a school that crammed 16 babies and 4 caregivers in a tight space. I didn’t want to leave my baby in a school that had a funny mildew smell and looked like it needed a very thorough cleaning.
Eventually, I got a clearer picture of what I did want: a clean and comfortable center with professional employees who welcomed us from the moment we walked through the door. A school with a curriculum where my child can learn and grow throughout the years to come. We found that place, but first we had to trudge through many daycare visits that checked all the wrong boxes.
I decided that paying more than what I wanted or expected will be worth it in order to leave my child in a setting that will make both of us comfortable.
In the end, I determined that I don’t even care what it costs (within reason). I am willing to pay an arm and a leg in order to leave my baby in a facility where I am 100 percent confident that she will be well cared for, loved on, and safe.
We may have to trim our budget. There will be fewer Chinese takeout nights and spontaneous Chick-fil-A stops. But when I leave my baby with her teachers and go to work, I will have peace of mind that we chose the right center for our family. And it turns out that feeling is priceless.
Extra help for parents seeking child care:
12 Questions to Ask about a Child Care Center, Preschool, or Home Care Facility:
- Is the facility licensed through the state? Many states publish all licensed child care centers in an online public record. I recommend looking up the center to ensure that it is free of any state licensing violations.
- Is the facility clean? You can ask the center if the space is cleaned by a professional service and how often.
- How many children and teachers will be in the classroom? Look up your state’s regulations for licensing.
- Are all adults in the facility certified in CPR and First Aid?
- Does the classroom follow a curriculum? Can I get a copy of the curriculum?
- What qualifications were used to hire teachers or child care providers?
- How will my child’s progress be measured in the classroom? Are parents kept up to date with what children are learning?
- How do teachers or child care providers interact with parents? Is there an app where I can stay updated with my child’s daily progress?
- What will my child eat every day? Ask for a copy of the weekly menu if it is available.
- Where and when will my child sleep?
- What is the parent responsible for? (i.e. Will the center wash bottles at the end of the day? Do I provide diapers and wipes for my child?)
- In the event of an emergency, how will I be notified? What if you cannot reach me?
It’s best to be prepared with these questions when you enter a child care facility for a tour (even if it does make you sound a bit picky). After all, the one you choose will be the caring for the most precious thing in your life – your baby.