Wanted: Child Care That Isn’t Terrifying

My house has been filled with the laughter (and tantrums) of a child under two for the past four years. What has also filled my house is a healthy dose of need on their part and a healthy dose of mom guilt on mine. While their need is all encompassing, my mom guilt can typically be boiled down to one general source. Daycare.

plannerI don’t by any means think that my being a working mom is a bad thing. In fact, I think it’s a great thing. I’m proud of the example it sets for my girls and proud that I am able to provide them with a steady and happy home. Still, the mom guilt that stems from week day drop-offs is real even if it is unfounded. So heavy is this guilt that I have not sought out a steady, on-call babysitter for my girls. First, paying to leave the house goes against all of my money-saving instincts but a close second is the thought of leaving them again on the weekend or in the evenings. It goes against all of my mom instincts. To this point, I haven’t really needed a babysitter. My social calendars are typically filled with playdates where I can visit with the mom while our kids play, and I am fortunate enough to have my parents for work events and selected errands. Recently though, several events that I have wanted to go to have been popping up, making it a very busy July that doesn’t seem to be slowing down. I fear I am overburdening my small pool of friend and family babysitters.

So, my quest for a babysitter must begin, and I can’t say that I am looking forward to it. My quest for a daycare provider in both Indiana and Colorado dug up some pretty terrifying experiences that I don’t want to repeat, especially in my own home. The first daycare provider that I went to visit in Colorado was an in-home daycare I found advertised on Craigslist. Yes, that should be a warning sign. But at that time, I desperately wanted Riley to be with an in-home daycare, and I didn’t know where to start looking. When I went to visit the home, I found a very sad-looking elderly Cellar stairswoman sitting in the kitchen alone. She didn’t speak but motioned to the basement. Cautiously I began going down the stairs, calling out to see if anyone was there as I went along. I found a dark, uncarpeted basement with one plastic Playskool playground set up in the middle of the floor. A fairly pleasant woman wearing an oversized T-shirt met me, and we began discussing how she ran her daycare, which sounded like a very memorized version of the State of Colorado requirements. Although I had already made my mind up at that point that this was not the fit for my baby, my conviction was made even firmer when her husband emerged from the darkness. A disheveled man with long hair that hadn’t been combed, or washed for that matter, for quite some time. The outfit was made complete by the in-home detention monitor that he wore around his ankle. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

My experiences in Indiana were definitely better. Of course, I had learned that Craigslist is not the place to search for child care. Still, the list that was published on a state-sanctioned site included several locations that smelled like permanent cigarette smoke and directors who reported to work in Oscar the Grouch PJ pants. Eventually I did find a quality daycare that provides them with a safe and educational environment. Both girls are thriving there. The path to get there, though, still haunts me. I have these lessons to guide me in the search for a babysitter; I just hope I don’t need to learn too many new ones along the way.