At some point in the last two weeks, I realized that we had to start working on a daycare solution for next January. As in, nine months from now. Because good daycares all have ridiculous waiting lists, especially in L.A., I should really have started working on that the day I found out I was pregnant. Maybe the day after, once I had figured out what we were going to work out with our employers regarding leave.
What we do have in California is better than what most people in the States get. Maternity leave is six weeks in most places, and for most people, in the U.S. But additional leave time is mandated by individual states. So in California, I can get up to three months maternity, but only if it’s medically necessary. It’s more than likely that six weeks after birth, I will be proclaimed fit to return to work. Fortunately, after that, we go into what’s called the “child bonding” time, which is an additional up to 12 weeks at 60% pay. It will all add up to keep me home until early October. And then Paul can claim his child bonding time, and stay home with the baby for another six to eight weeks. And then my mother is coming to visit for a month. So all together, we managed to compile six months of time for someone in the family to be home with the baby.
But January, 2009 – that’s when our baby, small as he will be, will have to go to an infant daycare. We’re not delighted with that, but it’s reality. And expensive as a daycare is, I still make enough to justify the cost. Also, for the sake of my own career path and my own work, I can’t stay home for a long time. I work in Internet, after all, and specifically, as the Emerging Technologies Specialist for a small interactive agency. I have to get back to it, or risk losing my footing. There are a lot of women who would sacrifice themselves and their careers for their kids. I’m not one of them. Especially since it’s not only in my best interest, but in the best interest of my family, financially, that I continue to work my way up from the level I’m at. The reality is, if we want a house, college, retirement funds, both Paul and I have to work. We live in a world of a two-income family, and I’m just thankful my income is connected to a career and my own personal development, instead of to just paying the bills to survive.
Anyways. I digress from the daycare issue. We did NOT start looking the day I found out I was pregnant. We started looking two weeks ago. And we gave up on our own neighborhood very quickly. We live in a lower-income zone of L.A. – certainly not the ghetto, but not the sort of area where you find the kind of daycare we wanted. There are lots of family daycares, which I’m sure would be fine, but I wanted someplace where they were going to start working on educating our little nerd. If I was home with him, I’d be working to develop his motor skills and his comprehension and reading to him – even if he couldn’t understand everything yet. And that’s what I want a daycare to do. I do not want my kid parked in a crib or a swing all day. And there’s no way to tell if a family running a daycare out of their home is going to be consistent in their interaction with the kids – or even if it will be possible to devote that much attention to a small baby when there are other kids of different ages to keep an eye on.
So we started looking in Pasadena, close to where Paul works. Pasadena is a wealthy area, with lots of parents like us, and with more parents who can afford that sort of daycare. Unfortunately, that meant wait lists – of anywhere from 12 months to three years in the case of the Caltech children’s center. (I would have LOVED my little nerd baby to be with the other nerd children, but that’s not going to happen) I called five daycares trying to set up tours and apply for space. Of them, only one – Kids Klub Pasadena – had a tour coming up. So we both took yesterday morning off to attend a tour, and check out the daycare/preschool.
I was actually pleasantly surprised by the establishment, which is HUGE. It’s the size of an airplane hangar, with multiple areas and over 200 kids ages zero to four. They had a Science Corner, with enormous aquariums full of fish, terrariums with lizards and other scaly beasts, and a project on butterfly development in progress for the older kids. They had a playground full of equipment and picnic tables, with a play yard in back with a couple dozen little foot-propelled cars and trikes. They had a full size small “general store” where kids could pretend to go shopping with play money. They had a library full of books at all levels. And, for our wee one, they had Baby City – a separate zone with cribs for the non-sitting-up babies, and booster seats on the floor, or embedded in tables, for the bigger ones in the potato-sack phase.
Most importantly though, we saw the infant care providers interacting with the infants. They were reading to them, and showing them objects, and singing to them. And we could see the babies’ eyes tracking whatever was happening. Then the director, leading the tour, handed me the log sheets they fill out daily, with all the information on what the kid ate, when he napped, and the contents and frequency of diapers. And all my baby books say that is key to keeping a baby’s routine consistent between home & daycare, so your baby is easier to live with. They have assigned primary caregivers for the babies – 3 babies to a caregiver – so the child’s care is consistent and our son can bond and feel secure while away from us. They had everything the books told me to look for.
Most importantly though, they had space for our little guy in January, at a not yet complete facility a few miles out of Paul’s way. Then we can transfer to the main location, which is right on Paul’s way to work. It’s a solution! A working solution that does not involve having to find a family run daycare we trust while we wait for our baby to make his way off a waiting list! It’s a solution I’m happy with, and a place our baby can stay on a longer term basis, so I may not even have to look for a preschool! It’s a ridiculous load off my mind, and one less thing to do. I was going to have to spend maternity leave looking at preschools for two years from now (in L.A., you apply for a preschool as soon as the kid is born to make it off the wait list in time), but if I can park my kid at this center, and have him just stay there as he gets bigger, that’s even better! We saw the groups of older kids, the 2 – 4 year olds, in action, being read to, learning to read, learning to write, doing arts and crafts and playing, and it looked like we would get just as good a preschool education there as anywhere else.
Therefore, yay, we have daycare! It’s one less thing to worry about and work on. We’re happy.