There was never any question about whether we would or wouldn’t need to choose a childcare provider – I would be going back to work full-time and that was that. I started looking at our local nurseries quite soon after Oliver was born because I was very conscious that out of our group of mums, I was probably going to be the first one back to work, so I would need to be on the ball with it. I had also heard various stories about how I should have registered my baby with nurseries before he was even born – Luckily in my case that wasn’t necessary!
So by the time Oliver was 3 months, I had booked to go and view 4 nurseries which had either been recommended to me, or were within the vicinity of our house. A little tip for you – plan your childcare provider to be closer to home than work because if you are off work for the day, but still using the nursery, you wont want to be driving all the way to work! The nurseries I viewed were all much of a muchness. All followed the same curriculum and all preached the same about encouraging your child to meet the correct developmental milestones at the right age and yet they claimed to achieve this without pressuring the children to conform and meet targets – go figure. I was particularly taken with one establishment which had a fantastic outside space, an amazing hillside which was basically the size of a football pitch. However I encountered the same problem with each nursery which effectively took every one of them out of the running – the times available for drop off did not support my new flexible working pattern. In order to achieve my 5 days in 4 routine, I would need to have Oliver safely delivered at nursery by 7am and the earliest time on offer was 7.30, which incidentally would cost me extra on top of the standard day rate.
Just when I was unsure of what to do or how to make things work, my sister asked if I’d had a look on the childcare app – the one she’d been telling me about for ages and each time I had just nodded along and said “will do”. Well it turns out that it’s a really bloody good app – http://www.childcare.co.uk ! It opened my eyes to the alternative types of childcare available such as child minders, nanny shares, au pairs, and also gave me hope that I could find something to suit my needs and my budget! I quickly established that a child minder would be the best fit for us, so using the app I was able to do a local search. I also set up a profile – much like ones used for online dating only in this case outlining my desired childcare arrangements as opposed to outlining my desired future husband. Similarly to the dating apps, I also received several messages from childminders who “liked my profile” and wanted to be considered for Oliver’s childcare.
I arranged to meet 2 child minders, the first being a 5 minute drive from our house. She was really nice, friendly and without doubt a professional – although I do remember feeling a bit like I was being interviewed by her, rather than the other way around! In advance of the meeting I had nervously researched what questions I should ask in an attempt to look vaguely professional and in control of the situation . . . Lies. The second meeting was with a lady called Chloe. The first thing that stood out in Chloe’s favour was the fact that she lived literally just around the corner, a 30 second walk from door to door – this was perfect! I just needed to meet her and make sure that the “chemistry” was right.
When visiting all of the nurseries I had deliberately taken Oliver with me because I wanted to observe how the staff interacted with him. In all but one of them, they didn’t really acknowledge him at all. The nursery that broke this trend did so to the extreme – they took him from me and fully integrated him into the baby activities and encouraged me to go and have a good look around while they took care of him – which I really loved. Similarly to this, when I went to meet Chloe she acknowledged Oliver straight away and sat him down in the middle of her kitchen floor so that he could interact with the other young boy who she was minding that day – which incidentally Oliver loved. There was something about the setting being her home that made it seem so warm and friendly, and yet it was wonderfully adapted to suit a child orientated environment. Chloe clearly loved her job and was incredibly professional. One of the things I particularly loved was her attitude towards healthy eating. She was passionate about the children being involved in the food preparation and giving them a good understanding about healthy foods and snacks. This was something that was particularly important to me as I didn’t want Oliver to grow up having the same relationship with food that I had and therefore battling with his weight in the same way that I had.Everything seemed to be falling in to place – Chloe was lovely, her methods and planned activities sounded fantastic, she had a wonderful outside space which included a small tree house! We would be able to drop Oliver with her at 7am where he would receive breakfast, lunch and snacks before being collected at 5pm – And crucially this was at a price we could afford. Basically it was a no brainer. The final hurdle was for him to do a taster session with her for a couple of hours to make sure he liked Chloe as much as I did! To cut a long story short – he didn’t cry when I left him and he didn’t want to leave when I collected him . . . so my mummy ego was massively dented but I was also so relieved that it worked and that Oliver clearly loved it there!
So now, nine weeks in and we’re settling well in to the new routine. I’ve already had my first review with Chloe about Oliver’s progress and how well he’s doing. He’s socialising with lots of other children on a daily basis, he went from just sitting up to crawling and standing within the space of a week and he’s now confidently mimicking words and sounds. Yes, he has contracted every single version of a cold within that nine week period but that’s ok, he’s just developing his immune system. I don’t really think we could have wished for more!So my recommendation to you would be to ensure that you look at all of the options available to you, don’t just draw the line at nursery – consider everything, especially if you are going to be working flexibly upon your return to work. Remember to consider location and ease of access whether commuting or not. Consider whether the cost of milk, formula, food, nappies or wipes are included in the price as this will all have an impact on overall cost and potential savings and remember to be realistic about drop off and pick up times. That being said however, generally speaking as long as you have a clear idea of your budget, hours needed and what’s important to you about the person who looks after your tiny human while you’re busy providing for him or her, then it will all come together beautifully!