There are several reasons I don’t talk in-depth about my job as a childcare provider on social media. First and foremost, I love my clients and I respect their privacy. It wasn’t until recently that I considered how much my input might help another mom. With that in mind, here are a few interview tips, as you search for the best childcare solution.
1) Interview early, often, and all over
Start looking around when you are pregnant! Even if you have a long pregnancy leave and your partner has fabulous leave as well, you’ll still want to have daycare nailed down to one or two places before your little one comes. Taking a newborn baby to a dozen places to meet with potential childcare providers is just not a good idea (think germs), and if you just rolled your eyes at the thought of going to 12 different places… think again. Hitting a home run on your first at-bat isn’t likely. Call everywhere, conduct phone interviews and then line up several places to see in-person. Visit as many places as you can and see what’s out there.
2) Ask questions!
I can’t stress this enough, ask questions. LOTS of questions. In-depth questions. Ask about what they provide, what they expect you to bring, what kind of food they serve and when. Do they have a set nap schedule or is it more flexible and based on the child? How is discipline handled? Some of these questions might seem silly since your baby will only be a few months old, but they won’t be infants forever and you’d rather know up front about any potential future conflicts.
3) Conversations are a two way street
After you’ve gone through your elaborate checklist of questions, you may think the quiz show part of the interview is over… not so. Now is the time for the daycare to ask you a few questions. Remember, the interview should go both ways. You’re seeing if they’re a good fit for your needs, and they should be making sure they can fulfill those needs. Daycare is essentially co-parenting. Make sure you find someone who is on the same page as you and will help raise your child in a way that is consistent with your parenting style.
3) Third time’s a charm
Have more than one interview with the place you have chosen. I personally conduct at least 2-3 interviews with each new client. The first is with the parents – kids optional. The second interview is with children if they didn’t attend the first, and the last is during daycare hours, so the family can visit our play space and see a typical day.
***I never allow anyone over unless I’ve previously met with them and I’ve notified all current parents that prospective clients are stopping by that day. This may be something to note when asking your own questions about who is allowed over during daycare hours.
4) Daycare and the modern baby
In this age of baby-wearing, co-sleeping and self-weaning, it’s very hard for mothers to choose what is best for their family without feeling bullied. Many moms can’t continue nursing once they return to work – and may feel compelled to co-sleep or baby-wear to gain back that feeling of connection. I am 100% for all of those practices. I’m a proud extended-nursing, co-sleeping, baby-wearing mama. However, try to remember that the choices you make for life at home will affect your baby at daycare, too. Although you may find a cloth diapering, organic baby food making, baby-wearing childcare provider who knows how to properly store and heat breast milk (they DO exists! I am one!), we can’t hold your baby for every nap, all the time. It’s just not possible. Which is something to keep in mind.
5) Nothing is right for everyone
As someone who was raised in a daycare home and now runs one of her own, I think it’s safe to say that I’m “pro” daycare. I think daycare is amazing. Especially for kids that need a quieter, smaller environment. More than half my day is spent holding someone (often times more than one at a time) and I love that. Some kids really thrive in a setting that feels more like home. That being said, daycare isn’t for everyone. And as big of an advocate as I am for in-home daycare – I’m a bigger advocate for doing what works best for you and your child. During your search for childcare, I encourage you to make a list of the things that are most important to you and work from there. It might turn out that a nanny, childcare center or family member is a better option.
Regardless of what you decide, I want to wish you luck and patience. As with most parenting rites-of-passage, choosing someone to care for your child will feel daunting. But with a little luck and these five interview tips, you’ll be well prepared to find exactly what you’re looking for.