I have waxed poetic before about how much I adored my day care for Russell on Long Island. Turns out, it was a blessing and a curse.
Now I can't find one here I like.
Russell has been going to daycare here, three days a week, for three weeks now. And every day I walk out of there feeling not quite right when I drop him off. At first I thought it might just be that I was used to to ladies on Long Island, and after a week or two I would learn to love this center too.
Not. So. Much.
It's not that he isn't getting perfectly adequate care, he gets changed, and fed and he's safe there. It's just that, beyond that, I don't feel that he's getting anything at all.
So it's time to trust my gut. Yesterday, I went and found a new daycare.
First, I spent about an hour at the daycare I am currently using just to get an idea of a) whether I was just imagining that it wasn't what I wanted and b) what it was (if anything) that bothered me. Up until that visit, it had just been a 'something doesn't feel right' experience.
I highly recommend this tactic for ANY parent who has a kid in daycare. After a couple of weeks, go in and spend an hour. It's very telling. (And if they don't want you to - get your child out of there ASAP) Every daycare has a different personality. Every set of caregivers interacts differently with your child. An hour with them helps you see what your child's day is like. And, truth be told, I expect them to behave slightly better with a parent in the room. (It's like having your boss in the room - don't tell me you've never behaved better with the boss in the room.) You can evaluate the things that are important to you, not just what their literature and their 'tour guide/director' tells you are important.
After an hour at our current daycare, I went to a daycare I had contacted earlier about a space and just spent about 15 minutes sitting in their infant room and talking to the ladies there. I had Russell with me. I could see how they interacted with him (and me) and the other kids.
Now that I've had a daycare I love, and one I am uncomfortable with, I know what I am looking for. OK, at least I know better what I am looking for.
For me, a good daycare:
*Has to be clean. Now my house isn't gonna make the cover of Ladies Home Journal, and kids are messy (often all the way to disgusting) so I won't be all hypocritical and require it's so clean I can eat off the floor. But it has to smell good, or at least not smell bad. There can't be bits and pieces on the floors in the infant rooms. That sort of thing.
*Has to be safe. Duh. Not just babyproofing, but visitor flow control, no one in or out without reason, that sort of thing. It has been my experience that the chains have books worth of literature about how safe your kid is there. Do they have emergency plans? Do they have a nurse on site? Most of the time, this is all required by state law. Check that your state certifies the place.
*Has to have pleasant staff. This one is KEY for me. Easily the most important step, and what was missing at our current daycare. They have to interact with the kids in a pleasant way, talk to the adults...care. I want them to do more than tend to my child, I want them to care about him. The ladies on Long Island did. I need to be able to communicate and relate to the ladies taking care of my child.
Those are the basics. Without those three, my kid ain't going.
The place Russell is in now, is missing the third one. The ladies are nice enough, but they don't interact well with me, and they are so busy tending to diapers and bottles and putting out fires that they never really interact with the kids. That was what was missing.
And the new place has it. At least, it sure seems that way from my visit. I loved the way they engaged Russell when we went in. I loved the way that they had time to interact with the kids in the room. More than anything else, I loved the way they interacted with me. I was asked questions, and they were interested in Russell's development. (How old was he, was he sitting up on his own yet, etc.)
We will be putting in our two weeks notice at our current daycare on Monday. Russell will be starting at the new place in January after the holidays.
I feel so much better now.