Editor’s note: Jake Sherlock and his wife Jenny are expecting their first child in March, and they’ve chosen to share their challenges and experiences in this column. Look for it periodically here at ColumbiaMissourian.com.
By the end of May, our soon-to-be-born little girl is going to need day care.
Jenny plans to go back to work on May 1, which is about the time I’ll take my time off from the Missourian. I’ll have four weeks at home with the baby, then she’ll be enrolled in day care once I go back to work.
The big question now is: Who can we trust to take care of the most important person to ever come into our lives?
We started our quest to answer that question a few weeks ago. So far, we’ve toured two day cares, but we feel like we need to see some more. But before we get into that, I need to disclose something.
In our hunt for day care, I’ve not identified myself as a columnist for the Missourian, only as an expectant dad looking to get his daughter into a good facility. To be fair to the day cares we’ve toured, I won’t be identifying them in this column.
Both day cares told us to come and have a look whenever we liked, although one told us the best time would be between 9 and 11 a.m., because that’s when the facility is at its busiest. I was glad to hear both facilities had a drop-in policy. I don’t want a dog-and-pony show; I want to see exactly what life is going to be like for my infant daughter. That’s why I chose not to identify myself as a columnist.
Both facilities we looked at were day-care centers with lots of children. But we’re also interested in seeing some at-home day cares. So far, I’ve yet to find one that is taking infants.
The reason? From what I can tell, it’s money and familiarity. One of my co-workers takes her daughter to an at-home day care, and she loves it for just those reasons. Her at-home day care is about $50 a week less expensive than the two centers I toured.
As for familiarity, it seems that’s a staple of at-home day cares. I’ve talked to several at-home day-care providers about availability, and all say the same thing: Once a family decides that a particular day care is a good option, they tend to get baby’s younger siblings as they come along, too.
I’m starting to realize that at-home day cares are kind of like an exclusive country club: It’s tough to get in, but once you’re in you’re set for life.
One of the best pieces of advice I can pass on to anyone else hunting for day care is to take advantage of the Missouri Child Care Resource and Referral Network, which was instrumental in helping us narrow our search. I found the agency in the phone book while combing the Yellow Pages for day-care listings, which was a lot like searching for a needle in a haystack.
The Referral Network was able to help narrow that search by weeding out the day cares that don’t have openings, that aren’t licensed and that are clear across town from our house. This left us with a list of 12 potential day cares. And if we don’t have any luck this month, we can get another list next month.
If not for the Referral Network, I’d have likely spent a week on the phone just inquiring about openings. Not only was the service a real timesaver, the staff provides such essential information as hours of operation, special services offered and a clickable link to MapQuest directions.
Best of all, the Referral Network is free. Considering the price of some of these day cares, that news is especially welcome.
But there are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a day care, not just price. What other factors should we consider? What has your day-care experience been like? Jenny and I would love to hear what you think. Please leave a comment below.
Jake Sherlock is a news editor at the Missourian.