As the last few weeks of Lauren’s maternity leave dwindled down, we had to figure out what we were going to do with Mathias as we both headed to work. This was a very difficult decision to make and it’s not a decision dads can treat like most others. Choosing daycare or in-home care isn’t just like shopping at the mall for guys. If you are anything like me you pick the first thing up that you like and keep moving so you can get the hell out of there as fast as possible. I don’t linger, I don’t compare, and I don’t wait for a coupon. Try something on in the store? Hell no, I like the color… let’s move! Well, I didn’t have that luxury this time. This is my only child (so far), my son, I couldn’t just say yes to something because it was the cheapest option.
Luckily, I have an extremely smart and diligent (slightly obsessive) wife who was able to scour the local area for childcare and there are plenty of options around Jacksonville. If you are looking for a basic rundown of the types of childcare and the pros, cons, and costs of each I recommend this article from Baby Center. It helped get us started with the search and thought process. We based our decision on three main factors, but these vary depending on the priorities for your own family.
For us, convenience was key. Lauren and I head opposite directions from our house to go to work. She heads east to the lovely beach and palm trees of Ponte Vedra while I head to west to the concrete jungle that is downtown Jacksonville. Having some sort of care at or near are house was important since that was the midway point from where we both our work. That way any drop-off and pick-up driving for each of us would not add much time to our commutes. Knowing we wanted to stay close to home, we started looking at the next factor.
It turns out you can put a price on happiness or at least the price of care. If you want your child to get one-on-one attention at your house…well, you are going to have to pay for that. We flirted with the idea of in-home nanny services for awhile due to our hectic schedules since I am finishing my last semester at Jacksonville University and working full-time. We even brought in a babysitter to watch Mathias while Lauren started back at work part-time, with shortened days or just a couple days a week in the office. In the end, although the care would probably be great, the price was too rich for our blood and we began looking at daycare providers in Jacksonville which leads us to the third factor.
Quality of Care
This is the tricky one. Where mother’s intuition, Google reviews, and daycare visits combined to help us decide where we wanted to send our son. Lauren looked at every aspect of the facilities and the personalities of the teachers/directors she met. We did eliminate a few based on our feelings of how well kept the buildings were or what the classrooms looked like but when we finally had to make a choice on what we thought would be the best quality care we had to trust that our choice was the best Mathias would get.
No matter what factors you use to decide on what type of care your child gets just know that you will have doubts, that you will feel guilty, and that is normal. Even after making the decision to place Mathias in daycare it has still been difficult dropping him off or picking him up. I know he is not getting the same attention he gets from his mom and I when we are both around but he is getting the chance to interact with new people, observe older kids, and it gives Lauren and I the chance to find a new normal routine.
Good luck on your own choices whatever they may be. There is no one right answer when searching for childcare. Find what is right for you and your family and if you do choose childcare outside of your house then here is am informative video on what to look for and questions to ask during your search.