I have never really considered myself a "Stay At Home Mom". Primarily because taking care of a child is WORK, but also because I have always tried to contribute by raising some income. I prefer the term "Work From Home Mom"! When Oliver was 4 months old, I took a job working 10-15 hours a week from home. In the past 6 months, 99% of my works as been doable from my home, and has been flexible. I work during naps, at night, and anytime I find a spare minute. However, I recently had the opportunity to up my hours to 20-25 hours a week and go into the office some.
After looking at the situation, we realized that there was no way for me to realistically work 20-25 hours while watching Oliver full time. There just are not enough hours in a day! We started the task of looking into childcare options. After lots of research and calling around, we finally decided to put Oliver in a Mother's Day Out Program for a half day twice a week.
Talk about a nervous wreck on his first day! He has only been 2 days now, but it is going really well! I wanted to share with you some of the tools that I used and some of the questions we asked before deciding on a childcare situation.
1. Decide what TYPE of childcare works best for you.
There are 6 main types of paid childcare available: full time daycare, part time (only a few days a week)-full day daycare, An in home daycare (at someone else's home), a sitter (in your own home), a drop in center, and a Mother's day out program. We were only looking for a few days a week, so that cut any full time only childcare centers. Of the 6, the most expensive part time options are a sitter and a part-time-full-day location. When we priced those, it would have taken 80% of my pay check to use either of those options! The best options for us were an in home daycare or a Mother's day out program (MDO).
2. Find an option that isn't far from either your home or office.
I didn't want to be driving 30 minutes out of my way just to drop Oliver off for 3 hours. I looked at the route that I had to take into the office and eliminated any in home daycares or MDOs that were more than 10 minutes away. If you are looking for a MDO program, your best bet is to look at churches. I called every church on that route to ask if they had a program.
3. Make a list of places that have openings.
I found out the hard way that just because you like a daycare, that doesn't mean they will have open spots for you! I made a list of good options and called each one to eliminate the locations that didn't have openings for his age.
4. Do a walk through.
We didn't end up finding any home daycares that worked for us, so I only walked through 2 MDO programs. At both locations I met with the director, toured the classrooms, and got any necessary paperwork incase we decided to enroll. Preferably you would be able to meet the teachers and see the school when it is active, but I was only able to do that at one of the two places.
5. Questions to ask:
A. Security system: when are the doors locked, who has keys, how do they check who is picking up the child, etc..
B. Teacher/child ratio: Oliver's program has a 1-3 ratio for his age classroom. The ratio changes as they get older. The smaller the ratio the better
C. Sick Protocol: In particular I wanted to know if they would ever administer medication if a child was sick or if they just call the parents. I would not want a site to give my child medication.
D. What is offered with tuition: Do they provide snacks, wipes, crafts, lunch, etc. Also ask if they have a refrigerator for milk and something to heat it with if those things apply to your child. Our site includes wipes, snacks (if you don't want to send your own), crib sheets, a refrigerator and a bottle warmer.
E. What is their policy on breastmilk: believe it or not, some places won't allow pumped milk over formula. Make sure to verify if you want to send pumped milk.
F. Early drop off or late pick up options: If those might be something that you need.
6. Buy your kid a cool lunch box and a super hero tee-shirt so no one picks on him:
Someone's gotta be the cool kid :)
The birmingham area has a great list of all of the part-time and MDO programs on the Birmingham Mom's site. We ended up finding a MDO program at a church that wasn't on this list, but it was a great starting point for me.
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I am 25 years old with a 2 year old son and a wicked handsome husband living in Birmingham, Alabama.