Unexpectedly offered a daycare spot for 1yo. What to ask. How to decide.
March 22, 2018 6:16 PM   Subscribe

I had planned for my mom to care for the baby when I return from mat leave and then put him in daycare at 18 months. I got a call and he's been offered an infant spot when I go back to work. Should I send him to daycare at 12 months instead of 18 months? If I don't send him, will I never get a spot? And how do I decide if I like the spot? This is in Toronto. This daycare is not my first choice and I would move him to my first choice if I got a spot.

Additional info:

I will tour the daycare on Monday.
I expect the fees will be in the $2200/month range, which I could save not sending him. This is not a small concern. That's $13K that could go into my savings account.
This is a two minute walk from home. My first choice is a two-minute walk from work.
It's possible that I won't get a spot when he's 18 months so if I turn down this spot he will be spot-less at 18 months.
I'm worried that though my mom says she wants to do it, she may not be up for it.
I planned to take Thursday and Friday off to take the baby to music classes and baby activities and give my mom a break. Not sure daycare will be cool with that.

First, what should I be asking and watching for on the tour. I will read some articles on this so the basic stuff I will probably learn, anything else?
Am I crazy to give up a spot and risk not getting one after?
Can I put him in one daycare and then move him after 6 months if my first choice becomes available? Is that cruel?
Do I really want to put him in daycare at a year old? He's so little! (Tell me about your infant room experiences with daycare!)
Any thoughts on how I should make this decision?

It doesn't make me feel great as a mom that the questions listed as similar to this are about people not liking their babies. No judgement to those who don't, but I like my baby and am enjoying my mat leave and would extend it longer if I could.
posted by If only I had a penguin... to Human Relations (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Take this spot. If it doesn't work out, have your mom care for the baby until you get a spot in Choice #1. EASY.

I was fortunate to have my infant in the World's Best Childcare Center (literally, there are multiple articles written about it monthly), but when my kid was 2 we moved and he was in a Normal Childcare Center and I just couldn't handle it. But remember that you can move him at any time. It isn't that big of a deal.

* You are super lucky to have your mom willing/able/capable to do this.
posted by k8t at 6:47 PM on March 22, 2018

I have two acquaintances whose kids have been in daycare since they were 6 months old from 730 am to 6 pm. They are confident, strong, playful, delightful little boys, both of them, who adore their moms and who get along with everybody. Both boys are four now.

Both of these women wish they had spent more time with their kids when they were babies. They both enjoy their careers.

It's a trade off.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 7:03 PM on March 22, 2018 [5 favorites]

I put mine in daycare right around 1 year old. They both loved it and were perfectly ready for it. (It was an outstanding daycare.)

That said, if you like being home with your toddler, I don't understand why you'd send him to daycare half a year before you actually have to go back to work. Is there that much of a shortage of daycare options where you are? I know it can seem like a big deal to find it, but everyone finds something when they need it. I'd consider jumping the gun by a month in order to take advantage of a suddenly-open spot, but not six, if the spot was the only reason.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:11 PM on March 22, 2018

I was extremely anti daycare with my 1st child, but I put my daughter in when she was just under 2. I'm so happy with our daycare and my daughter absolutely adores it and truly loves her teachers.

That's said, I am happiest - while she is little -with our current arrangement, where she only goes 3 days a week to daycare and spends 2 days a week with my parents. 2 days a week is also all that I would feel comfortable leaving her with my 65 year old mother (my dad, too, but its mostly my mom). Those 2 days a week take a lot out of my parents, and I do not think that they would be able to provide nearly as high quality of care if they were doing it 5 days a week. I love this arrangement because it saves us a significant amount compared to full time day care but it also gives my parents more breathing room then being full time care takers would allow.

Depending on your parents it may be best to either seek part time care like I do, or to just rely on them to care for the kid when they get sick, which is a frequent occurrence.
posted by gatorae at 7:22 PM on March 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Our kids didn't start daycare until they were 2 and a bit and we live in North York where there don't appear to be waiting lists for daycare spots. If we were living downtown then we would be all over the offered daycare spot because getting something 2 minutes from home is great and you guys have huge waiting lists.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:31 PM on March 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Ok, just first off, don't let the similar questions trip you out (not that you are, but just in case it helps to hear). I'm chiming in as someone who went back to work part time at 6 months and full time at a year and would've extended maternity leave if I could've. I remember the process of going back to work as pretty traumatic, but most of the pain was in looking ahead to going back to work, which wasn't wonderful, but also wasn't nearly as hard as I thought.

These questions have no easy, clear answer. In my experience, everyone makes a perfect plan and then suddenly their daycare provider's husband gets a job offer in Texas and they have to suddenly find something random on short notice, or whatever. Our perfect, wonderful nanny needed to move on about 2 months before I was ready to put him in daycare, (this was at like 19 months), but my 2nd or 3rd place daycare did have an opening, and we took it, and the transition was hard (all transitions seem to be), but only briefly very hard, and we got through it and things are fine now. We may transition him to my 1st choice place if an opening comes up, but as I said, all transitions do seem to be tough.

I toured about 6?8? daycares, and I came away with very clear preferences. If you haven't tried it, it might help answer the question about whether this is a good spot. The fact that you don't know whether or not you like it probably means it's at least fine -- about one-third of the places I ruled out due to something glaring (crying babies being ignored, that sort of thing).

That money is a lot. What about this approach: call your number one choice, ask them when they see a spot opening up. Then talk to your mom about whether she realistically feels she can do this. If she can, maybe give it a shot. You could save that money and then, worst case, find a nanny to fill in sometimes for your mom. It also depends on how flexible your job is. A daycare is much more reliable than any single person who naturally gets sick from time to time even if they're totally up to the task.

Anyway, good luck. These choices all feel so tough, but then once you move forward with the best choice that circumstances allow, you see that it's fine. It's not that any option is fine, but it's that if it's not fine, you adjust. So you don't need to stress out too much; you can take your best guess and try it out, then adjust if it doesn't work.
posted by slidell at 7:42 PM on March 22, 2018

An idea: When you tour the day care, tell them you like the place (assuming you do) but you weren't quite ready to go back to work and ask if you can pass this time but keep your spot at the top of the list for the next opening?

Also, call your first choice day care and ask them where you are on the list and how likely they are to have an opening in 4-6 months time? They can't promise anything but they should have some idea of how the list usually moves. Also, do they get a bunch of openings in the fall when kids move up into kindergarten, creating openings for younger ones? That would be about right for you.
posted by metahawk at 8:15 PM on March 22, 2018

Response by poster: Telling them I'm not ready to put him in daycare yet (I have no choice but to go back to work at 12 months) but if they could hold my spot at the top of my list is an interesting idea. But would there be spots if I don't take him a spot in the infant room? At 18 months he would go into the toddler room. If the toddler room is filled with kids who were in the infant room, then there's no guarantee of spots in the toddler room coming open. Does that sound like something I should worry about?

Just to be clear, assuming she's up for it, (I did talk to her seriously today and she says she is), my preference is to have my mom care for him. He'll get much more one-on-one from her and she'll take him to the library/parks/babytime/early years centres, etc. so he'll have plenty of stimulation. And I expect I'll be able to take one or two days a week to take him to music classes and/or the library myself. If I put him in daycare I don't think I can do only 3 or 4 days a week (I plan to ask, but I'm guessing it's 5 days or nothing).
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:03 PM on March 22, 2018

My daycare offers 2 and 3 day / wk options, but limited to T/Th and M/W/F.

I'd ask the daycare whether to worry about no spots opening up. You could also call your top choice spot and ask. Where I live, you kind of have to call regularly if you want to get a spot; there's some informal interaction between "who was on the list first?" and "who happened to call recently?"

Do they keep the same teachers when they change rooms? If not, then that's another reason to feel fine switching daycare if a spot opens up at your top choice.

But it sounds like you want him to stay with your mom, so go with that. You'll find another option when you need one.
posted by slidell at 9:20 PM on March 22, 2018

I went back to work 4 days a week after a year (initially I took Ftidays off, then switched to Wednesday’s), In retrospect, 4 full days was very long for my kid at one year old and I think she would have done better with maybe two full days and two half days in care.

Personally if I had a nearby willing/able parent to do childcare, I’d send the kid to part time daycare and keep the parent for back up childcare and babysitting on sick days/evenings/weekends. If your mom is the carer, what is your plan for alternative care when she is sick or unavailable?
posted by bimbam at 11:45 PM on March 22, 2018

I’d check if you could do a short day schedule with the Daycare. That way it will give your mom a shorter day and preserve your spot with daycare. It may also be morecost effective.

My kid has been in daycare since he was five months old. I’ve been quite happy with his teachers and the general environment of the place he goes. They’re about two minutes drive from work for me and that has been a real advantage when he has needed to be picked up early or I forgot to drop off something like diapers.
posted by sciencegeek at 3:04 AM on March 23, 2018

If your first choice place only starts at 18 months then you might be ok. But if it starts at 12 months it could be hard to get a spot at 18 months, depending on your neighbourhood. If you’re downtown I would probably take the spot, unless your mum would be available longer in case you end up with a wait for a spot at 18 months.

Echoing that with family member care you really need a plan for if they get sick, have appointments, etc. You also may want to start your baby in care when your mum is also available because that first year or so in daycare, especially once they’re toddling around, tends to be a year the baby catches everything and builds his own immune system.

If it’s full-time or nothing and you want to have your baby with you one a day a week, you totally can if you’re still paying the full fee.
posted by warriorqueen at 3:42 AM on March 23, 2018

It might be nice to take the spot and have your mom as a backup. We put our daughter in daycare at that age and she HATED it even though it was a very nice place and the other kids/parents were really happy with it -- it just did not suit her at all. So we switched to a nanny share and have never looked back. At 3 she started a free half-day preschool and she loves that.

If she hates it, you have your mother and can wait until she's ready/a better spot comes up! And the part-time idea sounds like a great one.
posted by caoimhe at 4:36 AM on March 23, 2018

Oh I just saw the expense part -- my God, I would totally keep him with your mother for that for a few months! But then again, I am very cheap!
posted by caoimhe at 4:45 AM on March 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

My kids both started daycare much younger, my first at 6 weeks old and my second at 16 weeks. It costs a fortune and feels terrible to leave babies that little, but I didn't have any family who could watch them and it was either that or lose my career. They both seem happy and well-adjusted, so it's not that bad.

My MIL was planning on watching my son when I was pregnant, but her health deteriorated very quickly and we had to struggle to find care at the last minute. If you are going the parent care route, start thinking of backup plans in case she gets sick, goes on vacation, etc.

Here's what I looked for in a center: low staff to child ratio, healthy meals, attentive staff, low turnover, clean play areas and toys, evidence of a regular schedule, no tv.

We moved cities and switched daycare when my son was just shy of 2 years. I was really worried about how he'd react, but it was a pretty easy transition for him. He was about to move to a new "classroom" at daycare anyway, so it would have been a switch either way.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 7:15 AM on March 23, 2018

I greatly prefer a daycare closer to home vs work if you can work the pick-up/drop-offs. Particularly if that puts the daycare closer to your mom when they call at 11am because your child developed a high fever.

In terms of finances, we found the stress of not having to worry about coverage worth the extra cost. But, I also know being late / missing work a lot would negatively impact my career.

In my location, child care ratios change at 15 months, so there's often openings right at that point and then ratios change again at preschool (3-year) so that's another common entry point here. It may be worth seeing if there's a similar pattern there.

Other thoughts: Have you discussed with your mom your specific hour coverage needed? E.g., I have to get to work at X, you need to be here by X and I will get home at X.

If you don't use your mom for full-time care, having her for sick day coverage is great. You can also ask about having your mom pick up the baby after the afternoon nap and have a few early out days. Our daycare is fine with having the kid out some days as long as they have a heads-up but we don't get a financial break from the cost (unless it's a very specific whole week off that we pick once a year).
posted by typecloud at 8:22 AM on March 23, 2018

Take the space. And, if your mom is cool with it, you could ask her to take the baby home early some days and cover sick days or help you with drop off. She might actually find f/t care to be very stressful and this would help maintain the relationship and her energy, while perhaps keeping her on board for the future. :D
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:29 AM on March 23, 2018

Response by poster: This is downtown Toronto, yes. It turns out that A) Fees are actually $2400, so $14,400 for the extra six months . It's insane. So I'm leaning heavily towards my mom. If she's sick or unavailable, I can stay home. My work is flexible. My mom lives a 45 minute drive away (farther once traffic starts), so just having her come for a couple of hours post-nap or whatever would actually bother her more than all day 3-5 days per week.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:02 PM on March 23, 2018

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