Childcare is an issue that affects many families in this day and age. More often than not, mums have to return to work once their maternity leave is up. Some mums are able to go part time, but some, like me, have to return full time.
The hardest thing about returning to work is finding childcare. Who would look after my most precious possession whilst I was at work all day? In an ideal world, I would have a close family member or friend look after my child when I couldn’t. However, we weren’t that fortunate. My mum works, my dad works, my sisters work, my brothers work, most of my family work. It was just a shame that I had to work as well.
I always knew I would be returning to work, and I also knew I would have to return full time. Because of this, we needed to find childcare for Alfie 5 days a week.
For us as a family, we only had two options – childminder or nursery. To help with our decision we made a list of pros and cons:
- Opening Hours – most nursery are open all year round, apart from bank holidays. There would be no need for us to worry about finding someone to cover childcare whilst the nursery shut for holidays. There would also be no need to worry about covering sickness either.
- Cost – Lots of nurseries give you an all-inclusive price. You pay one price for either a half day or full day session. This often includes attendance, nappies, wipes, food and milk if you need it.
- Socialising – I felt Alfie would benefit more from being with a larger group of children and adults. Being from a large family, he is used to lots of people. He is pretty sociable, but felt he would only grow in confidence from more social interaction.
- Opening Hours – yes this could be a con too! Some nurseries near us only opened 8 – 6. As my train leaves the station at 7.59, this was not helpful to us! And my train doesn’t pull into the station until 6.08 in the evening, this wasn’t very helpful.
- Availability and choice – there are not as many nurseries in our area as there are childminders, and the ones we do have tend to have long waiting lists. There are actually only 2 nurseries that we could choose from. All the other ones close to us meant at least a 30 minute round trip before our day had begun (and that was before you factored in any traffic!).
- Cost – nurseries can work out more expensive if you don’t put them in for a full day (e.g if they only went 9-5 instead of 7-6).
- Time – I felt like Alfie might get more one on one time with a childminder than at nursery, especially if the childminder had older children that were at school all day.
- Days out – I felt like childminders tend to get out and about a bit more, and have more days out compared to what a nursery might be able to do.
- Choice – In our area, there are a LOT of childminders. This would give us so much choice when it came to who we wanted to pick
- Cost – Childminders tend to charge by the hour. If you need unconventional hours or less hours than a full day, this could be a good option.
- Price – it is not often all inclusive, so you have to provide your own nappies, wipes and milk and sometimes food as well.
- Social interaction – often there are less children so less interaction with children of a similar age. We felt this would be a huge con for Alfie, who is used to being around lots of children at once.
- Holiday cover and sickness – This was a huge con for us. We simply couldn’t afford to take time off if our childminder was sick, or try to arrange cover if they went on a long holiday. With us both working full time, it would have either cost us a lot, or meant we had to pull in HUGE favours in order to cover holidays.
- Hours – your childminder may not open early or late enough to fit in with your working day.
- Choice – although I have put this as a pro, it could also be a con. Having to wade through lots and lots of options can be harder than only having two to choose from!
So as you can see, there are lots of pros and cons for both options. We were quite lucky that we knew pretty early on that we wanted a nursery, rather than a childminder.
There were two main reasons for this:
One we thought Alfie would thrive better in an environment with more children. I don’t think he would have coped so well being with children who were much older or younger than him.
The second reason was holidays. As we both worked full time, we couldn’t afford to take holiday every time our childminder needed a holiday, or have to find cover at short notice for illness etc. Without having family as back up, we could potentially end up using all our holiday to cover childcare, and not get any quality time off together.
Once the decision to go with a nursery was made, the next step was to find one that suited us. We were very lucky that a brand new nursery opened just after we had Alfie. I booked an appointment immediately to go and look round.
We met with the manager who was very lovely and she showed us round and explained what her vision was for the nursery. She had so much enthusiasm, you could tell she was very passionate about her job. The nursery is situated on a farm, which is amazing. They get free use of all the facilities giving the children lots of opportunities to do new things every day. We were very impressed with the attitude and care of the manager, and the look of the nursery.
Next we headed over to the second option of nursery. Unfortunately the manager wasn’t available to see us, and we were shown round by another nursery worker who didn’t have much information on the baby room as she didn’t work in there. It was a perfectly lovely nursery, but after the wow factor the first nursery, we weren’t as impressed, so we didn’t stay very long.
Even though we were pretty confident which nursery we would chose, Craig and I still went through the pros and cons of each nursery to make sure we were on the same page. The cost was comparable, so we didn’t need to worry about that, and the opening hours were both the same. One was close to our house, and one was close to the train station, so we didn’t need to worry about location as they both were convenient for us. So, in the end, the decision came down to our overall impression of the place, and we came to a decision quite quickly.
We signed Alfie up immediately to the first nursery when he was just 8 weeks old! Everyone was amazed how organised we were, but I’m glad we did it so early as they now have a very long waiting list. It also meant that I could enjoy my maternity leave without having to worry about what was happening when I returned to work.
Having to send your child to be looked after by strangers for 70% of the time is a really hard thing to do. For us it was a necessity, but it doesn’t stop the guilt. However, I was confident we had picked a good nursery for him, and once he had settled in, he would be very happy there.
Alfie has now been attending nursery for a month and he loves it! We were able to have a few settling in sessions which went well, although there were a few tears. I was so nervous on his first day, and there were a few tears at drop off – from me and Alfie! It was also my first day back at work, so it was an emotional time all round.
Now, he is itching to get out of the car as soon as we pull up. If he could, I know he would run in! He jumps into the arms of whichever nursery worked opens the door to us, which really makes me happy. Everyone speaks so proudly of Alfie, I know they love having him there as much as he loves going.
I’m so happy we found such a lovely place, and it makes it that bit easier to leave him there. I’ll be honest and say that I wish I didn’t have to leave him there every day, but I know it’s good for him. Already I can see how much he has learnt in a short space of time.
I’d love to hear how you approached childcare. Was there a clear winner in terms of where your child would go? Or was the decision more difficult?