Meet the Squishy
The Big Announcement

Adventures In Babysitting (Or, Daycare) (Or, Guilt)

(Blogging Lesson #429,873: It's really, really hard to think of a follow-up post to ultrasound photos that's not a complete letdown, especially since every time I look at my site for inspiration I'm hypnotized into staring at the photos for the billionth time.)

We've been touring daycare centers this week. Would you like to know how it's going?

Center #1: The Gulag

According to the nice glossy brochure, this place had a fixation with trees, and all the heavy-handed metaphors that go along with that. Children: They need strong roots! Children: They grow strong and branch out! Children: You have to give them water occasionally!

The cover of the nice glossy brochure, then, naturally featured a photo of a few adorable tykes holding watering cans and crouched around a small garden. Children: They make great migrant labor!

This center was also one of the most expensive ones on our list. But they were promising to take my seedling and nurture him into a mighty redwood, and honestly, how many places can make concrete promises like that?

Then we showed up for our tour. The center was one small wing off a neighborhood community center. Actually, the center was one hallway in some sort of administrative building for the neighborhood community center. The play area was completely paved over, save for one three-foot-long patch of grass with some dead tomato plants that I recognized from the brochure cover.

The infants (sorry, "seedlings") shared a room with the toddlers (sorry, "saplings"). When I asked how the babies were supposed to nap in a room full of screaming two-year-olds, I was told that "most of them just get used to the noise." Then they demonstrated how the ceiling lights directly over the cribs were controlled by a separate switch, which had about the same impact as unscrewing a single florescent light bulb in a high school cafeteria.

Bend over and take it: Currently costs $350 a week, but the rates are going up in the fall. Parents provide diapers, wipes and all solid foods. Center provides Cheerios and a dank, gloomy setting.

Chance in hell: We're number three on the waitlist for January 2006 placement.

Guilt factor: Off the charts. Once we got back in the car, I cried, because oh my GOD, that place was so EXPENSIVE, so it's probably a HILTON compared to the other places on our list and oh my god, I am the world's worst mother already.

Center #2: Even the Hippies Are Rich Around Here

Next, we went to a home-based center that was, surprisingly enough, based out of a home. A home the size of Rhode Island, because what better way to teach your child about income disparity and the out-of-control D.C. real estate market than to have him spend half his day at a house seventeen times bigger than your entire condo building?

We met Robin, the owner, who showed us around her lovely and homey little center. Also the small airport she calls her backyard. Also the kitchen where she makes homemade baby food out of organic fruit and vegetables everyday and prepares both breakfast and lunch for the older kids. And some other stuff, but I was a little distracted by her fringed wolf-print t-shirt and the whole socks-with-Birkenstocks thing. Then she put her hands on my belly and formally introduced herself to the baby.

Bend over and take it: Currently a bargain at $260 a week, but rates are totally going up. To, um, $310? Would you freak out at $310? No? Wait, I meant $320. You're still interested? Ha ha, sucker.

Chance in hell: Depends. Who knows. She'll have to check the moon cycles.

Guilt factor: Not nearly so horrific. There's a backyard with grass! And tons of toys! Plenty of cozy friendly staff and a laid-back, non-institutional atmosphere! On the other hand, this place is WAY COOLER than our house and I'm never going to have the time to make homemade organic baby food and oh my god, I am the world's worst mother already.

Center #3: The Hey, This Ain't Half Bad Center

Next up was a place that rhymes with DinderDare, which I was prejudiced against because there was one near my house growing up and man, it looked like fun because there were a lot of toys outside, but my (stay-at-home) mom would always tell me how horrible it would be to have to go there and I eventually came to believe that children who attended TinderTare were children with mommies who didn't love them very much.

But I actually loved this place. Really. The play area was large and grassy except for a small blacktop area where the older kids could play basketball and hopscotch and four-square. Four-square! Damn, that takes me back.

The infants had their own room -- two rooms, actually, so they could keep the crawlers/walkers separate from the itty-bitty layarounders. To satisfy the yuppie within me, even the infant room follows a monthly curriculum so your child will totally be ready for Harvard at age 10. (The theme for May is "Colors." Okay, it's not Quantum Mechanics or anything, but hell, their skulls haven't even fused yet.)

Bend over and take it: $325 a week. Are rates going up in the fall? OF COURSE rates are going up in the fall. Silly person. However, besides diapers, wipes and formula/breast milk for the itty-bitties, the center provides breakfast, lunch and two snacks for the older ones, and free transportation to-and-from local schools for the older older ones. There are also computers at the center, which means Squishy can totally keep up his blog from daycare.

Chance in hell: We're number six on the waitlist for January. They accept six infants. Do the math. I must somehow contact those six families and tell them that HinderHare is only for children whose mommies don't love them very much, so please place your brat elsewhere.

Guilt factor: The lowest yet. Squishy could like, learn shit here and have fun. Also the closest center to my office so I could be there at a moment's notice to nurse or kiss skinned knees or bring toys to smooth over any guilt that surfaces later that will surely come from being the worst mother in the world.

Center #4: McDaycare

The next center was another place that rhymed with WinderWare and was on our list simply because they didn't have a waitlist when I called to ask about the waitlist. (The waitlist quickly became my first question. Not, "how much?" or "do you keep the infants confined to a small pen?", but rather "HOW BEHIND AM I AND HOW MUCH OF A BRIBE WILL IT TAKE TO MOVE MY CHILD UP THE LIST?")

The reason they didn't have a waitlist is because they accept approximately 627 infants at a time. To be fair, the babies are all divided up into the standard six babies, two caretakers to room, but still. Room after room after room of fussy, messy, mucusy babies who cried and flung themselves at me because apparently, I look just like a lot of babies' mothers.

The play area was covered in AstroTurf, which, our tour guide chirpily explained, keeps the kids from getting dirty. "You'll never have to wash grass stains!" Jason and I politely responded that yes, wow, that's incredibly awesome, but inside we both died a little at the idea of choosing our baby's care based on the laundry benefits.

Bend over and take it: Same as the other MinderMare, rates go up in September, blah blah blah.

Chance in hell: They liiiied on the phone, as there is a waitlist, but considering the place holds enough children to populate a small country, our chances of getting a spot here are probably the best of any center so far.

Guilt factor: While virtually identical to the other JinderJare, we didn't like it as much. Was it the AstroTurf? The large enrollment numbers? The plates of mushy brown bananas stacked up in the kitchen?

Center #5: Holy Shit

This place cost $1,475 a month. $436 a week. And no, this price does not include weekly spa treatments or pony rides or Latin lessons. And you have to bring your own Cheerios. Moving on.

Center #6: The Big Fat Tease

Finally, we toured a private school where every woman I know seems to send her children. Lucky damn bitches. A lovely building, lovely grounds, lovely teachers. Spacious infant room. Spanish lessons at age two. Bible stories and weekly chapel to prevent future juvenile delinquency. Fewest number of visibly coughing, hacking or otherwise mucusy children of any place so far.

Bend over and take it: $310 a week until (you guessed it) September, when (guess what) rates go up. Parents send in meals and donate to group snacks, but hey! Spanish lessons!

Chance in hell: Snowball's chance. The Big Fat Tease Center keeps even the infant rooms on a strict school-year-type schedule instead of moving kids up after certain birthdays. The center director tried to explain Squishy's hypothetical placement using a late September birthday but seriously, it was so complicated I couldn't really follow it. Basically, it's very, very unlikely that they'll have a mid-year spot open up, and then because they use a September 1st birthday cut-off every year, the best she can guarantee is a spot in the two-year-old room in like, 2007.

Guilt factor: See, if I hadn't had fertility problems, I totally could have stuck with my original plan to conceive in October, given birth in late June before it got too hot, taken three months' leave and then made the September placement no problem. But it didn't work out that way, so we're screwed.

I couldn't even give my kid the right birthday. I am so the world's worst mother. Already.

Comments

kalisah

so....basically what you're saying is that you have to get your baby on the waiting list BEFORE you actually get pregnant. Or married. Or reach puberty even.

Sue

I have another phrase for you...rhymes with daycare..another concept in daycare...Nanny-share!
Find another family (that you know and trust) that has a nanny and split the cost! Quite a few people in my office have done this recently..I can't claim to know all the ins and out of it because I don't have kids, but I've heard a lot of them singing its praises! Just an idea - good luck in your search for the Squishy!

laura

Oh, honey (pat. pat. pat. hair pats.) Put Squishy in with the hippies til a spot opens up with The Big Tease. It'll be okay, I swear.

Jinan

Wow! what if money was a factor? It sounds cheaper to take a leave for good from work. Yikes!

Kristie

Daycare is expensive. I personally put my girls in private, in home daycares until they were toddlers just because I didn't like the idea of the "infant rooms". This was a little bit cheaper and I felt better knowing they were in a home rather than a center.

There are lots of co-ops around where the daycare providers have to endure home visits and make out menus and not just serve beef-a-roni at every meal. They also have a system where if your provider gets sick they provide you with a back-up person. They trade "back up" hours so you always pay your regular person and they work out the back up hours amongst themselves.

Once the kiddos become toddlers the centers are awesome! They have schedules and curriculums and aren't allowed to sit in front of Nickelodeon all day! Also they are socialized and start learning how to behave in the classroom so you don't spend their year of kindergarten on the phone with the teacher discussing separation anxiety and behavior issues.

Good luck to you. Daycare interviews suck. I always wonder if I forgot to ask something important.

Cagey

Holy crap! I was feeling sad about leaving my career behind in the dust while I go off-roading on the Mommy Track, but holy crap! the waiting lists! the expense! the guilt! the mucus! Holy crap! Sheesh. (Lesson: You can't win either way - the guilt will follow in some vein or another)

Anyway, don't be too hard on yourself. Surely, you will select the best Ivy League daycare for Squishy.

Holy crap!

Pratt

This post was one of your best.

Princess

I personally would be leaning towards the hippies, and thats something that I NEVER thought I would say.

I also like Tinder Tare however they wait list issue is terrible!

Sheryl

If there's a university nearby they always have excellent care, and you usually don't have to mortgage your next child. Also ask the granola lady if she knows anyone else who does child care in their homes.

2007 may seem eons away, but it'll be here before you know it, and his daycare/education will be more important then (because for the first year let's face it, they just need a shoulder to spit up on.) So find the daycare of your dreams, and then sign Squishy up for whenever they have an opening.

lakeline

Oh, you poor thing.

1.)You are NOT the worst mother in the world. In fact, Squishy is a very lucky little boy to have you.
2.)I kinda like the granola lady, too, which scares me. Hmm...
3.)I'm going to start thinking about having kids in a year. I think I'm going to put myself on the wait list now.

ktbug

I must admit -- I am one of the lucky bitches that has her kid in the Big Tease private school. BUT - I too was on the waitlist from hell with them and had something become available before anticipated! You, Jason and Squishy have GOOD KARMA working for you and lots of people crossing fingers, saying prayers and generally sending positive energy your way!
Also -- I totally empathize. When I started looking at daycare options it was much the same and that was 4 years ago. Hang in there!

Jenny

I feel your pain on this. Especially the tuition. I'm paying more for my kid to finger paint then some of my coworkers are paying for private high scool.

Sara

WOW! Daycare is EXPENSIVE there! Home daycares here in Southern Indiana run about $70-$90 a week and NICE daycares are about $140 for a newborn. Even in Indy, the daycares are about $175 a week.
Stay home!

Hil

Hey, Amalah,

Just wanted to drop in and say "Congrats!" on the baby and good luck slogging through all of these "administrative" tasks that you have to handle before he shows up.

I found out I was pregnant two and a half weeks ago, so I'm about four months or so behind you on this. Thanks for posting all of your experiences. It feels good to read how someone else is handling all of this!

Chris

Four-square! How cool is THAT?!

You gotta go with the four-square place. It's a moral imperative...

Michelle

I may have missed the answer to this and of course Im totaly prejudice because well, I am one but have you thought about hiring a nanny? Squishy would be in his own bed, with his own toys, not to mention you would have to pack a suitcase everyday to cart off to daycare.

Just a thought

alfredsmom

Im in favor of the home nanny idea too. Or the splitting a nanny idea.

Zoot

*snerk*

Amalah

Live-out nannies in D.C. cost about $500 to $700 a week. Minimum. Plus health insurance.

I know everybody really means well and wants to help, but seriously, Jason and I have investigated the child care situation from every angle. I didn't include all our personal preferences and the options we've decided against because I was just trying to write a funny entry about a handful of centers, not the Amalah Daycare Manifesto.

I can't afford to stay home, I can't afford a private nanny, and there are about four hundred boring boring reasons why sharing a nanny isn't going to work for us. (And yes, we already considered all of the above.) We're going with a center, and we're capable of choosing one just fine, thanks.

But honestly, what's the point of doing anything if you can't rant and bitch and moan about it on the Internet?

Amanda

If my mom hadn't lived so close, I would've opted for a center as well. The fact is that there's less of a chance of neglect or child abuse at a busy place where parents come and go all day.

And here in the bay area, full-time infant care STARTS at $1500 and goes up to $2500 a month.

And the lovely guilt your feeling? Welcome to motherhood, you're going to be GREAT at it!

Dorothy

Ah, I went through this about a year ago. I ended up "choosing" the only place my little angel could get in to. I referred to it as "Oz," because it was run by people with no heart, brain or courage, and there's no place like home. Or, this could've been my guilt talking. She is now at the Emerald City, a place I like oh, so much better. But I totally feel your pain. It's a long yellow brick road.

Jinan

Yes Amy, I believe we all meant well by our comments. And I am sure that you and Jason will handle this issue best to fit your lives. We just love you so, and thank you for sharing your experience! Personally this type of entry will help me plan for my future. Good Luck!

Serenity

Children: You have to give them water occasionally!

Oh hell, that one had me in stitches for a good 10 minutes.

Kathryn

Amalah, honey, I hate to start with the assvice, but I am going to recommend highly that you do not allow your adorable Squishy to go to the bad, bad BlinderBlare place.. I'm just saying...my mom worked there for about 10 years, and the one she worked at was a bad, bad place. I think it had something to do with being in the center of our city, but still...bad, bad place.

I will, however, say that I worked at a place like the moonbeam mansion when I was in college...Fantastic(al). Kind of funny, because I tend to make fun of those types of people...and...hee hee--fringed wolf shirts and all? But still, a very loving place, and I honestly think all of the kids there LIKED to be there..

Okay...enough chatting for me...I'm off to doze away my Friday afternoon margaritas. Feel free to ignore my assvice if you want--not all JinderJares are the same.

Tanya

Man I am lucky. We pay 80 a week for an in home day care, run by our pastor's wife. My son gets organic food, he has his own garden plot in the backyard, and all his own tools to boot. I didn't realize how expensive day-care could be, and wow! I have no right to complain about cost at all.

Jenny

Okay, first of all, I've been through this too, and it does indeed suck but damn, you put the best words to it I have ever seen. Thanks.
Okay, next, Tindertare is not as bad as some make it seem. I actually worked at one when I was in college part time. Because they are a national chain, they have big fat corporate standards that are constantly being cross-checked. As in any corporation, this can be annoyingly red-tapish when you are a teacher there and you need to buy, say, a new pair of scissors, but for child safety/quality control issues, its great. I really enjoyed working there, and I considered putting my kids in one when the time came but it was out of the way of my commute.

Because I taught daycare, and then nannied for a while after college and then taught daycare again in my post-college graduate/Reality Bites phase (daycare was my GAP) I have always felt comfortable with going with my instincts when it came to choices about my kids. So, even if you don't feel great about your instincts, trust me, you have them, I can see them, and you guys are going to be great parents. If for no other reason, than because you know how to laugh. At yourselves. It makes it easier for when your children start laughing at you as well.
I've lurked here for a while, had to speak out on this one. Best~

Shelly

WOW...Daycare is expensive in DC! Good luck!!

warcrygirl

I am fortunate enough to stay at home with my two heathens, er...angels so I had no idea how expensive daycare was. And I realize you were injection humor into your post but as far as the guilt is concerned, please don't let it bother you. There shouldn't be a Working Mother vs SAHM; everyone is different and whatever works best for the Squishy is what counts.

Karen

I'm a lurker too, but had to speak up as well. My kids, 5 and 2, go to Tindertare and LOVE IT! They both started when they were 12 weeks and we have never had a problem. They enjoy the structure, love all their teachers, made a bajillion friends and learn everyday. I had the guilt at the beginning too, but I'm in the same situation as you, so daycare was our only choice. The guilt went away as soon as I realized that this was school for them. They look forward to going and I feel better knowing they are learning and playing and having fun everyday.

Good luck to you guys...although I don't think you'll need it. You are already great parents. =)

Tiff

Immediately after I read this entry, I saw this cartoon at Spamusement and it made me think of you.

VHMPrincess

Hi - we live in the DC area (VA) as well. Some good friends of ours had a baby in one of the standard places (I can find out which for you) at 4 months old. They let her sleep ALL DAY, ruining the "sleeping thru the night" that she was doing. This was hard on the working-mom, needless to say.

She then switched to Creme-de-la-Creme which is a new one in this area and LOVES it - loves it so much that even though they moved across the COUNTY they drive to the other end to keep her in the same daycare. Have you given them a ring? And she was able to get her then 6 month old in within 2 weeks. (it took her a while and a couple of surprise visits to the daycare to figure out what was going wrong at the first one)

Kathryn

erm.. umm.. Feeling a little guilty because I realize my post yesterday sounds a little harsh. I hear too many margaritas will make a person say things...

Anyway, I just want to explain myself. WinderWare is not, in and of itself, a bad place, necessarily...I think, in the case of the one my mother worked at, it was the children who attended it who were the problem...the LinderLare problem was mostly that they are unable to discipline the ill-behaved beasts who attended that center. They pretty much ran rampant, and there was nothing the (well-meaning) teachers could do about it. Not that I advocate lashing the children with leather whips or anything, but it is very difficult for them to kick a child out of the center, even when that child should be removed.. They just don't really have that sort of discretion, or apparently they chose not to exercise it.

You'll be able to make the best decision for baby Squishy. Pay no attention to the tequila-soaked bitch..

Not-For-Profit-Dad

We're coming out the other end of the daycare experience right now with our (IUI and injectable-induced) twins. The reality is you make your peace with your choices. Newsflash people - it is an imperfect world and we pay most baristas better than the people who take care of our children. And still when it comes time to pay we have to drop trou, grab our ankles and think of the queen. Why? Perhaps because government supplies zero support for anyone but the poorest -- and just be glad you don't qualify for that kind of "help." Perhaps because there's a 25% guilt surtax they add on because, well it's your kid and like you'll chose to take that vacation and put the squishy in the cheap-ass daycare?

Hopefully you get good people in the room who listen to and respect your preferences as the parent. Hopefully the staff turnover is mild and none of the other parents send their kids in when they KNOW they're sick -- or at least very sick. If you're a little-bit smart and a little bit lucky you won't have too many days when you tear your hair out. But have them you will. But Stay-At-Home-Moms pull out plenty of hair too. Like I said, we all make our choices and live with them.

As for us, when we realized my wife was NETTING $150/week after we paid for daycare, we decided there had to be a better way. But we went through a long process to get to that conclusion. Best of luck with your process. The Squishy's got great parents.

girlwonder

i know that you live in and around the dc area and my friend works at this snooty to do place called tyson's corner daycare center where they never tell kids no because of the negative impacts.

i'm not sure how much it costs but i know the staff there is fabulous.

girlwonder

note to self: read comments first, then comment. sorry for the unneeded advice :)

Lisa

Have you considered the Good Dog Carl option? I think Ceiba could do a fine job until Babalah starts crawling.

harvardgirl

From the department of "plus ça change":

I like my day care! We get breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and there's lots of green grass outside, and there are good educational opportunities. Also there is beer. Sometimes I even get to sleep a little bit! It only costs $40,000 a year, and my mommy says it is worth every penny. It's called Harvard. Blah.

patricia

I worked at a daycare center for 7 years and I can tell you that A LOT of parents would have loved the astro turf option. I still remember in the summertime how the first thing some parents said when they picked up their kids was, "you're covered in dirt!" well, yeah, newsflash: children get dirty. that's the fun part about summertime!

one set of parents so traumatized their child that she ended up in the corner of the playground once, crying because her shoes got dirty. so she had to take them off then her socks got dirty, those came off, then her feet. ugh. it took me the better part of the summer to teach her that dirt was okay.

anyway. i'm sure you'll find a good place for your child. also, make sure you ask if you can drop in announced. any place that doesn't let you do that, is no place you want to leave your kid at.

Jessica

You don't need a nanny or a center or to break the bank. If you can't stay home or don't want to, here's what you do. . . you find a stay at home mom who would like a little extra cash. I had a career, (student loans, etc.) couldn't bear to leave my baby at a center or with anyone else and left my job. I watched a friend's child after she decided to take him out of the rhyming place. She paid me the same that she paid the center. However, her son got breakfast, lunch, snacks, tons of attention and a great little friend to play with, my daughter.

Also, the place that rhymes. . . my sister worked at one. I would strongly assvise against doing that and she advised me the same even when she worked there.

If staying at home is even a slight consideration, read "Home by Choice." It's a very interesting book with lots to chew on! Good luck!

Amalah

Ok y'all, my bad. Daycare was a TERRIBLE choice for a journal entry.

I'm closing comments now because I've had about all the assvice and KinderCare horror stories I can handle. Thank you all for caring so much and for your reassurances that Jason and I can (and will) make the right choice for Squishy.

(And to all the other pregnant bloggers who thanked me for demonstrating exactly why you should never, ever write about your daycare options? YOU ARE WELCOME.)

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