Why am I writing about child care when you are only fourteen weeks pregnant? Because if child care is going to be necessary for you then it is best to get that unborn baby on to the waiting lists pronto. As soon as I reached the magic twelve week mark I started to put Baby C on child care waiting lists.
I started my search for child care centres first by just looking around when we were driving through the neighbourhood…it is funny how things like child care centres that you never noticed before you were pregnant begin to catch your eye after you are up the duff. I asked people what centres they recommended and I also looked online. At the start I put Baby C on about ten waiting lists…at this point which centres we wanted to get into was based solely on word of mouth reputation and convenience.
When I was about twenty four weeks pregnant Daddy R and I went and actually looked at the centres. Just having a quick tour can tell you a lot…you immediately get a feel for what the centre is like. The people who work at the centres can also tell you a lot…many of them had worked a quite a few different centres and were more than happy to dish about what went on elsewhere. Anyway, after visiting the day cares Daddy R and I decided on our top three centres and then we put some effort into actually getting into them.
Ask the centres how their waiting lists work. Some are simply first come, first serve and they ask that you not bother them once you are on the list…they will contact you if you are offered days and that is that. Others say the more effort you put into showing them that you are serious about your spot on the waiting list the better the chance you have at actually getting in. This is because the child care waiting list game is crazy…the centres are hard to get in so you put your name down everywhere…but so does everyone else…so every centre has the same 200 people on their lists…and yes there can be more than 200 unborn babies on a waiting list. Anyway, the ones that I wanted to get into I would email about once a week just to let them know that I was still interested. And once Baby C was born I emailed all the centres with his updated information. And once he had his first round of vaccinations we went around and visited the centres again…it is amazing what you think is acceptable before you have a baby and how those opinions change once you have a three month old.
And finally when he was about six months old we got offered places! Even with being on the waiting lists for over a year we were not able to get three days at one centre so he spends Monday at one child care and Wednesday and Friday at another centre.
Of course child care is not the only option. Here are some other paths you can take if you are wanting…or more likely needing…to go back to work.
1. Child Care Centre
While child care centres are expensive…you are talking about $80.00 a day for most nurseries…you get half of your expenditure up to $7500.00 back through Centrelink…and as long as it is an approved child care centre it is very easy to set up your Centrelink refund.
Child care centres are always open…your centre can not call in sick.
They provide a structured environment that includes constructive play and socialisation.
While your centre can not call in sick you may have to…runny noses and runny bums are rampant…be prepared for your child and you to catch anything and everything.
You have to put a lot of trust in your centre…as your baby can’t speak you can only go by the reports that their carers give you. Did Baby C really nap for four hours today? And why didn’t he eat his applesauce? Did you really try to get him to eat it? The centres do write down the nappy changes, and the food consumed and the naps and you also get a verbal handover when you come to pick your baby up but as Daddy R says you sometimes get the impression that they are just telling you what they think you want to hear.
2. Family Day Care
Family Day Cares is a more informal day care often hosted at the home of a neighbourhood family. These day cares can be very organised, approved centres or they can be a more casual set up. A list of family day cares in Queensland can be found here.
Family day cares tend to be slightly less expensive than child care centres. And if they are on the Centrelink approved care list then you can apply for the Child Care Rebate and get your refund just as you would at a child care centre.
Family days cares may provided more personalised care in a more homey environment than a child care centre. Additionally if you would prefer your child to be surrounded by a certain culture or taught in a different language it may be possible to find a family day care that supports those desires.
Family day cares also have the potential to be more flexible in terms of hours than a child care centre.
I would imagine that word of mouth reputation is extremely important when choosing a family day care centre…in the absence of the set programs that child care centres provide you want to make sure that your child will have a safe and constructive daily routine.
If the carer is sick then you might need to make other arrangements for your baby for that day.
Nannies can range from a live in au-pair to more of a baby sitter arrangement. You can also opt for a share care situation where one nanny looks after the children from two families.
One on one attention…or one on two if you participate in share care…which is especially valuable when your baby is very young.
Depending on what arrangement you make your nanny might also provide some help around the house…you might stipulate that you want the nanny to perform some light cleaning while your baby is sleeping or maybe your nanny arrives a bit earlier than is necessary so you can get dressed and eat breakfast in relative peace.
Again depending on what you and your nanny agree to they can provide convenience and flexibility that a child care centre cannot…if you need to work late one night then you and your nanny might be able to arrange that and if you need a babysitter for the weekend then you know just who to call.
That one on one care does not come cheaply…nannies can be very expensive and unfortunately nannies do not fall under the Centrelink approved care umbrella. You may still be eligible for the Child Care Benefit but nannies do not qualify you for the Child Care Rebate program.
You need to trust your nanny…I remember we had one nanny growing up who every day would plop us down in front of the tv to watch the afternoon soaps…ordinarily my sister and I weren’t allowed to watch much television so we loved it but I am pretty sure my parents wouldn’t have been very happy knowing that we were being minded by Guiding Light and Days of Our Lives for two hours a day.
If your nanny is sick then you will need to make other arrangements for your baby for that day.
4. Family Members
You know…and love…the person who is looking after your baby. And you know that they love your baby as much as you do.
Family members also have the potential to be very flexible in terms of times and place…they can come to your house and if you need them to come early or stay late you won’t have to pay them a dollar a minute like you would at a child care centre.
You might experience some guilt that you are burdening your family member…both in terms of time and physical ability. This might be especially true if it is the grandparents who are looking after your baby…they have already raised their children after all!
Constructive play and socialisation might be a concern as well…you don’t want your little one just hanging out with the oldies all day!
Also if things aren’t going the way you thought they would it might not be easy to extricate yourself and your baby from a situation without family politics getting involved. You will obviously be very grateful to the family member looking after your child and that might make it difficult to ask them to stop feeding your baby sugary, processed custard and instead give them unsweetened, organic applesauce.
Of course you don’t have to chose just one of these options. If you have to go back to work when your baby is very young you might start out by having the grandparents look after them for a few months and then transition into a child care centre when they are a bit older. Or you might only get into a child care centre one day a week and you are working four…enter a share care situation for the other three days. You can be very flexible and use each option to its advantage…and to your advantage.
Just remember that no matter which option you chose ultimately your baby will be fine!
And if I haven’t provided you with enough to think about here is an interesting Huffington Post article about stay at home moms and working moms.