"Looking for Infant Care. The hardest thing since giving birth."

Julie Jenkins Sathe

I suggest that parents who seek infant care for their baby or toddler simply follow the list of suggestions below to make their path smoother. I say “simply” but it won’t be simple. It will be hard. It will pull at your heartstrings. It will challenge you in ways you have not yet been challenged. But most parents will find a good fit for them and their child that enhances their family life, their child’s development and ultimately creates the third leg to the stool that balances the working family’s life. Trust your heart and your senses. Listen to others, but follow your heart. And never, ever feel stuck.

Trust your instincts. Look at many locations, ignore the address, the neighborhood and go as if you are window shopping. The experiences, the variety of places will open your mind to what you like and what you don’t. You may find a program and staff that you love that is not near your home. This experience will lead you to find something that is both convenient and inspires the feeling that you loved. So, trust your feelings. Sometimes convenience becomes secondary.

Go without an appointment. A child care center (not a person’s home) should allow all parents to come without an appointment. Even in a home environment, short notice should be okay. If an appointment is required, my gut says “no”.

Use your senses. All of your senses. Look, smell, listen, feel and taste (the food) if possible. Parents are smart. Trust yourself. You can tell the difference between a well-used art room that is messy and an environment that is unclean. You will not confuse a messy spaghetti lunch with an unsanitary kitchen environment. Do you smell air freshener or cleanser? Do you smell cooking and play dough or mold and urine? Trust your senses.

Consider second chances. If you might have caught a bad moment, a day when staff ratios were impacted, the director was sick or an incident made your visit or call uncomfortable, give them a second chance. Call back and see if it sounds different, feels different. Visit again and try to vary the hour that you visited. Everyone has an off moment.

Ask the tough questions. I always start my questions with parents, especially new parents by inviting them to ask ANY questions. Even the scary ones. As parents, we tend to tip-toe around the REAL questions that we want to have answered. For instance: How will you make sure no one takes my child without permission? What will you do if there is a crisis and you cannot reach me? How can you be sure that the teachers are observed and they are safe to be with my child? What do I do if I am unsatisfied with care?

Go alone first. Take your child for round two. Avoid taking Grandma with you. It’s just my opinion….you know who she is. If she disapproves or criticizes your parenting don’t take her.

Make a decision. Your child will have as good of an experience as you lead. Be a positive leader. Let them hear you say how great it will be. Keep your fears completely away from children’s ears. Even babies. Yes babies. They can hear you talking on the phone to your girlfriend, sense your apprehension and they will “do” what you need them to. If you need them to be upset when you leave, this is YOUR problem. Check it at the door. Go out for coffee alone with the girlfriend, but don’t create drama for your child.

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