Choosing the right care for your child is one of the most dreaded but most important choices a mum has to make. Baby Hints & Tips contributor, Amanda Nicholls knows all too well the ins and outs of finding that perfect place for your little one.
I had been warned that finding daycare in Sydney would be a difficult task with some centres having up to two year waiting lists. I heard the words, but being a glass half full kinda gal, I cherry picked the six most suitable daycare centres based on a few choice credentials:
- Close to home or work
- Came recommended from friends or colleagues
- Looked clean and staff were pleasant
- The play area looked like a fun place for my future offspring to play the day away
- And of course – the fees, while all on the exxy side, I needed ones that weren’t going to defeat the purpose of returning to work in a year’s time.
I made a short list of preferred daycare centres, sent off my application with over a year’s notice before I intended to actually enrol little TBA Baby Nicholls and stopped thinking about it. Until I was due to return to work. I realised that I hadn’t heard from any of them. Not one. I nervously started to follow up to be told the kind of responses that no first time mum wants to hear… “You’re still on our waiting list, a spot might come up in the next 12 months,” “Everyone on our list is important, it doesn’t matter that you need to go back to work in six weeks.” Cue panic attack.
One by one I realised my top daycare choices were not going to come through for me. I spent an entire day driving to every daycare centre in a 20km radius begging for mercy. By the time I returned to work, my daycare situation was this: one day at a local centre – Mondays naturally because nobody likes sending their kid to daycare on a Monday (something to do with public holidays and still having to pay fees). Tuesday hubby worked from home, Wednesday I worked from home, Thursday and Friday I had to send my baby to my parents house an hour away while my mother (bless her!) filled the void until we had permanent care.
It was another seven months and three centres later that I was able to get my daughter enrolled into one centre four days a week and get her into a settled weekly routine. A year later we moved and had to start the daycare witch hunt all over again.
So I could tell you what I think the most important things to look for in care for your child are, or I could tell you my best tactic for escaping back to the car park on the morning drop off with your outfit still in one piece, but these things you will eventually figure out yourself once you and your child settle into their new daycare situation.
What I will say is you need to plan what you will do with your child when it comes time to return to work, and then find a solid back up plan if all else fails to come together in time. It’s hard enough to return to the work force after the life changing moment you go from wanting a baby to actually being someone’s mum. So when the two lines show up on that home pregnancy test, make time to put those daycare applications in somewhere between discussing baby names and picking a nursery theme. Trust me – I thought the daycare conundrum everyone warned me about was ‘Future Amanda’s’ problem… learn from the error of my ways and prioritise your care plans ASAP. Happy hunting!
Here’s a few helpful links to start the daycare decision process for your growing family!
Care for Kids
Family Match Australia (Au Pair)
Human Services (Childcare Rebate)
About the Author: Amanda is a magazine editor and an author of children’s books whose secret guilty mummy pleasure is binging on back to back episodes of anything from Gossip Girl to Sons of Anarchy and The Walking Dead. While writing is her passion, being a mum to her two beautiful girls is what she does best. Amanda’s husband constantly complains that her stories are never ending, a trait which she has almost certainly passed onto her three year old who not only looks just like her mum, but can talk underwater like her too. Hailing from the Blue Mountains in NSW, Amanda is currently loving life as a family of four and spending every minute she can spoiling her girls. Any spare time she has after that is spent playing Candy Crush.