Day care dilemmas

Few things make me really mad, but this morning I was fuming. I had a run in with a business who tried to take my money without actually offering anything in return. Foolish people, they had no idea the lengths this family will go to, for the sake of $20.

Let me explain. Earlier in the year, after agonising about whether cutting the apron strings would stunt my son’s future development, and catapult him into therapy, I decided to put him into nursery for a few days every week and get back to work. Of course once the decision was made, despite knowing my daughter had gone into day care and survived to live another day, I was racked with guilt.

Guilt aimed at myself – over my obvious selfishness, and the guilt that comes from those silent accusations, radiating out from judgemental ‘earth’ mother types. You know the the sort. The mum’s who are happy to schedule their every waking minute around baby groups, Jolly Jingle music classes and ‘Beginners Russian for Babies’. They appear to spend every single day painting with scraps of string, making animals out of paper mache and mass producing trays of multi-coloured cup cakes.

These are the mother’s who make you feel like an unmaternal monster for daring to enjoy your life before children, and incredibly selfish for even suggesting you want one after. Hats off to you if you are built this way, but please, enough with the comments and tutting. To these people, I say why don’t you concentrate on your own finger painting children, and leave the welfare of my children to me.

I think it is safe to say that I am not such a mother. I never have been, and no amount of intensive craft training or raised eyebrows are going to turn me into one. I did the whole baby group thing the first time around, so when my son came along I was reluctant to go back. Those dreaded weekly meets became all about graphic stories of ruptured placentas, lengthily labours and a fiercely fought battle over who had prepared the best spread of food on the day. Chinese water torture has nothing on a baby group.

Not wanting to starve my son of any joy in his life, we did give Gymbaroo a go. Being much younger than the other performing toddlers in the class, he refused to jump through the hoops or even go up to cuddle teddy. He actually spent much of the time fighting to get of my lap and out of the door. By the end of the term, as I sat with gritted teeth through all the songs, I had to agree with his gut instinct. We made our bid for freedom, sadly never to return.

Of course I love to play with my son. We happily spend many hours building train tracks, re-potting tubs of play dough and reading the same book, over and over and over again. Mealtimes I could do without, but the rest I would never want to miss. But as much as I value this time, I also need to keep my brain ticking over. I need to have a few days where I’m not covered in cracker crumbs and knee deep in sand. I also have to earn a living and pay the bills.

Anyway, back to that guilt.

Eventually my paranoid state subsided and common sense prevailed. Helped along by a timely reminder about the importance of social skills, as my son attempted to scalp an unsuspecting friend who came to play.

With a decision made, I set around finding somewhere that he could go. I naturally went to the nursery with the best reputation, a family run business with a queue for places that ran out of the door. 3 months I was told, 4 at the tops. Fair enough I thought, if there are no places then it must be good. So I handed over the $20 registration fee and resigned myself to the wait.

Trouble is, patience isn’t really my thing though, so after a few days I thought I’d give the other nursery a go. This one didn’t have such a good reputation. ABC Learning Centre is a chain, with 1000’s of centres around the world, and an army of staff who probably aren’t all great. But with an open mind and the need to work looming over me,  I went along for a look. I was impressed with the reception my son and I received and he was given a place starting a few days later. As I said, patience just isn’t my thing.

Along we went on the first day, with teddy stuffed into a Bob the Builder bag so big, my son could have used it for a cot. Yes, he was a little bit teary at first, but not nearly as bad as me. I walked away that day, with my forked tail tucked into my jeans, went home and did nothing. I sat and worried, imagined the worst and then called 3 times before picking him up to bring him home for lunch. The next day was better, and by the 3rd he was fine. By the 5th day I was fine too, so decided I’d better stop calling up to check he wasn’t still howling at the gate for me. As if. All tears stopped when I walked away.

That was nearly 8 months ago now, and I have to say my son has never been happier. He helps pack his bag, climbs into the car and runs to go into the toddler room. His speaking has improved, he plays rather than ambushes and has even learned to sit still for more than 30 seconds at a time. He also sleeps better at night. Bingo!

Now back to the reason for my climbing blood pressure. In all this time, I have never heard so much as a peep from the other nursery, the one with the ‘excellent’ reputation and a waiting list longer than an IKEA store. Not once have they called to say there are still no spots or even to apologise for the delay. Nothing. So armed with the knowledge that other children have since been taken in, I went along today to ask for my $20 back. I saw no reason why they should keep my money simply for filing a piece of paper.

The owner, after admitting to already being asked the same thing by somebody else that day, said “No, the money was non-refundable.”

I don’t think so. If my son’s promised place had materialised, or I had even had a call, then yes, I would have agreed. But there wasn’t and they didn’t, and $20 is after all, still $20.

“Circumstances change” she tried to claim, “and we do have the best reputation in the area.”

“Well my circumstance didn’t change”, I replied, ” and I wouldn’t have paid and waited for a place that was never going to be there”.

“Fine”, she snapped back, slapping the $20 that she was for some reason holding, into my hand. “Take that then, and good luck to you.” She indicated to the door and I left, fuming. I can only presume that she thought I would need the good luck in finding another nursery who would take my son.

So there you go. Reputations are not all they are cracked up to be. If someone runs a child care centre like a cash register, and takes money from everyone who walks through the door, why would you ever want to entrust your child to such tender fleecing care. I think I’d rather spend every day covered in bits of sticky back plastic and smothered in PVA glue.

Finally, to all those mother’s who are made to feel like sending your child to day care is on a par with pushing them into a lions den, smothered in Bovril. I would say ignore what other people say. Just because you need to have a few days to yourself, whether to work, or think, or even sleep, it doesn’t mean you don’t love your child, care about their development or even enjoy spending time with them. It just means you need some time… to work, or think, or even sleep.

If that isn’t a good enough reason, then a recent study estimated that children who go to day care cut their risk of the most common type of childhood leukaemia by around 30%. Something to do with them building up their immunity to the small stuff, after spending their first year with a constant streaming nose and a face encrusted with snot.

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One thought on “Day care dilemmas

  1. I’m not going to comment on the $20 – but rather, having stumbled over your blog by total accident, I want to say well done for being brave enough to recognise what was best for you and your son.

    Child care or no child care is a hard choice and it sounds like you have made it well. Congratulations.

    Also I loved the ‘forked tail’ line – very funny.

    best regards


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