Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Work, Home and Family - Trust

I wrote last week about childcare and school when Mom is outside of the home. This week I'm writing about an essential element of that whole puzzle: Trust.

Yes, yes, I know that in some places childcare of any quality at all is non-existent or two parents are working minimum wage jobs and can't afford childcare and need to rely on kind relatives or friends or working two different shifts. We are indeed fortunate that we have been able to find two same-age openings at a in-home daycare with a lovely woman who had been doing childcare for 30+ years because she enjoys it, not because she needs the money. This was also the cheapest option for childcare we found - we're paying less for 2 children per week than many of our friends are for single children - and for us was the best option. I realize that many aren't so fortunate. And I feel very blessed that we are.

I vividly remember being in childcare myself when I was in 3rd grade and my parents both needed to be at work early in the morning. They needed someone to watch me before I got on the school bus in the morning for about an hour and half. Unfortunately, none of the neighbors were available or willing, so I had to go elsewhere. The place I was at was an in-home daycare that was smelly, unclean, filled with rude and unruly children, and run by woman who truly didn't care what happened to the children in her care. Someone actually broke a leg while in her care and her own son got hit by a car and broke both arms! It was awful. Unfortunately, it was literally the only place available. Before and after school care at school, which is the norm here now was not available. I wasn't legally old enough to stay home by myself yet (12 is the age that happens at). So that was it. My parents quickly decided that one of them would always be home in the mornings after one terrible semester there. Cut in pay? Sometimes. Worth it? Definitely. And this woman came highly recommended by a friend too!

Other than that, I had three options.

I was fortunate enough to have an elderly neighbor that watched me. She was a retired school teacher and I have many fond memories of reading her books with her, writing creative stories, helping her husband by pulling weeds in their impressive flower beds, and cooking simple meals for them.

Another option was walking to my Dad's office on the college campus after class. I remember teaching myself how to type on his manual typewriter and how to take shorthand from a book on his desk. I remember enjoying powdered soap in the soap dispenser in the bathroom (something very different from home). I remember coloring with his highlighters on typing paper. All while he graded papers and prepared lesson plans. It was a very special treat to go to the candy booth in the Student Union and get Bazooka Bubble Gum - 3 pieces for 10 cents!

The third option? My parents wonderfully flexible schedules as college professors. My parents spent a lot of time grading papers and making lesson plans after I was in bed so that they could be home with me after school. Most of the classes met while I was in class, so that worked out great but other than that, they had the flexibility to complete their work while I was sleeping or otherwise occupied.

All things considered Trust is the most important thing when looking for childcare or schooling of any kind. For me, there are three areas of trust that I look for.

First, keeping the children safe. I trust my childcare person and my occasional evening babysitters to keep my children safe. Ditto for family or other friends who watch my kids occasionally. I have a relative who would love to 'watch' my children for me. However this woman let a 3 year old play outside unsupervised in a non-fenced yard and doesn't understand why a toddler needs to stay in a parent's view at all times. I won't let her watch my children. Period. Maybe when they're old enough to babysit other children, but not right now.

Second, keeping them healthy. My one SIL and I have 'discussions' about letting my MIL watch my children. My children only see my MIL and FIL a couple of times a year, so it really doesn't matter to me for those 3 days, twice a year if my MIL feeds them a diet of only ice cream, chicken nuggets, and french fries for those three days straight. Since my SIL lives right there and sees her on a regular basis, her daughter is not allowed to be fed by grandma more than once a week. I get that. If my children were there all the time, I wouldn't allow it either. Right now, the relationship with my MIL is more important than 6 days of junk food a year. If my daycare lady did this, I'd find a new one. But with my MIL for 6 days a year, I can live with it.

Third, morals and beliefs. My daycare lady lets us set the tone and type of this. She focuses on basic manners (please, thank you, helping, no hitting, sharing, etc.) and lets us dictate the rest. I don't expect my children to learn school skills there (that's what preschool is for in my opinion) and I don't expect her to teach my children the morals and religious beliefs that my husband and I have. That's our job. For you it might be different, perhaps you want a daycare with an academic curriculum or one who teachers certain religious beliefs. Look for that. If you're like me, it might be easier to find someplace you are comfortable with.

If you can't find someplace you trust, keep looking and asking. I have a rule that I don't send my kids to friends or family except as a "treat day". Why? I don't want to loose friendships or get in power struggles. It's not worth it. It's much easier, in my opinion, to gently ask someone with whom you have a business relationship to change their tactics than to tell grandma they're doing something you don't like. I've watched too many people destroy relationships with friends and family because of this. I won't do that. My daycare lady is a dear friend now, but she's my daycare lady first. It just makes it easier.

Where we live they recommend starting to look for daycare when you first become pregnant. In some places it's before that even (I have yet to figure that one out). We started looking in October, found our lady in March and had our children in May. They started attending in August.

I had weeks and months in there when I was convinced that God was calling me to stay home, not to mention a few panicky moments about what to do about my job - which I really felt I was supposed to return to. The openings we were finding were either something we were not comfortable with or cost far more than I would make. God provided the perfect person in His time and in His way through a random comment to a woman at church, who just happened to be on the licensing board for home daycare for our county. We didn't know that when John made the comment. For us, it is just one example of where God provides in His timing and not ours and provides abundantly.

If you're looking for childcare - whether you want to return to work or need to - I recommend you decide what areas of trust are important to you and look for those. Talk to everyone you know - whether they have children or not - because you never know who might know something that can be helpful!

What are your trust areas? And how did you choose your childcare/school?

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Lea