Thankfully I’m now past the stage where I need to worry about childcare. But Seventeen years ago it was pretty much all I could think about. I had a 7mth old baby at home – I had used up my three months maternity leave, I’d had a month off sick with post natal depression (caused by going back to work too soon) and now I was back at work full time.
And i hated it.
Oh, I didn’t hate my job – I just didn’t earn a lot, and it felt like I was simply working to pay someone else to look after my baby for me.
I think the biggest problem was that I had a friend looking after him – she had had a baby around the same time, and she didn’t want to go back to work, so it seemed like a perfect solution for us both.
Only it wasn’t.
It was like she’s suddenly had twins – and naturally her baby was first in the pecking order. Plus, she was just a new Mum, trying to get through her day. Looking back, I wonder hoe she ever managed it. Within 6mths it pretty much fell apart. I knew I had to bite the bullet – I found a new (better paid) job, and looked for a qualified childminder near to my new place of work.
I found a total star, and Lynn became an extension to the family, easily taking on son no.2 as well. But when son No.3 decided to come along things began to change – and I realised how much stress had been removed form my life simply from having excellent, reliable childcare with someone I trusted.
It was the same story again when they were old enough for nursery – Son no. 1 went straight into the nursery just down the road (funny how you do all your learning with your firstborn, isn’t it?!) because of its convenience. But once he started school it became clear that the local nursery wasn’t quite cutting it, and was causing more stress than it solved. By the time child no.4 needed a nursery we took our time to look around, and chose a little more wisely.
And once again, we were rewarded with a brilliant place to leave our child, secure and happy she was nurtured and looked after and learning in the most fun way possible. I trusted them.
It’s that time of year again, of course – it’s not just ‘back to school’ week for the bigger kids. oh no. It’s ‘First day of nursery’ week for lots and lots of young families. And it’s HUGE. It’s such a big thing, and it often feels like you’re cutting a physical part of your body the first time you leave your child with someone else. no matter how much you know they’re ready for it, the loss of that person by your side all day is a big step, and trusting someone with the most precious thing in your world takes some doing.
I’m actually very lucky in that I live in a rural area – whilst my choices are possibly more limited, the competition for places is less fierce, and finding somewhere with vacancies wasn’t tricky. I know for young families looking for good childcare in cities like London it can be a total nightmare, and the hunt can’t start too soon.
If you’ll take a smidge of advice from a stranger who’s had four and learned a thing or two along the way? May I suggest you check out LEYF (London Early Years Foundation) – this video is beautiful. I know it’s an ad, and it’s only applicable if you live in London. But actually it’s great no matter where you live – THIS is what you need to look for in your childcare. It’ll speak to the heart of any parent who’s ever left a child at the nursery door – and should certainly speak to those who are about to.