About this time a year ago, I was excitedly awaiting the arrival of my first child, and secretly dreading leaving my job for a year. I knew that being home with my son was going to be wonderful, yet tiring – a different kind of challenge than my job is. But I’m a bit of a control freak, and the thought of leaving my responsibilities in someone else’s hands for a whole year drove me absolutely nuts!
I also knew that it would be difficult to adjust to not being at work, and then difficult to adjust to being back at work after experiencing the drastic life change of having a baby.
And here I am today, contemplating how to navigate this new challenge, as it seems to have suddenly hit me that it is happening very soon. I am, very shortly, going back to work.
I am so thankful that I live in a country that allows mothers (and fathers) time off to care for their new children. Twelve months is a long time, and next year, in Canada, it will be 18 months, which I think is fantastic. This allows us to care for and bond with our children in a way that not all parents get to do. But there is a flip side to this coin – I’m currently struggling with the adjustment of mindset required to go from caring for an infant 24/7 to working in an office and conversing with customers (after having cared for an infant all night, because somebody still wakes up hungry every three hours).
Another struggle I’ve encountered is the thought of leaving my son in someone else’s care for most of the day, and only getting to spend time with him briefly in the morning, and for maybe a few hours before bedtime. (Alex has gently reminded me that this has been his experience of his son from the beginning. If he can do it, so can I, right?) But let’s talk more about this child care thing…
Daycare. Daycares are in abundance, it seems – at least in Toronto. And they all make such wonderful promises. I’ve watched Olly interact with other children over the last month and dreamt about how his personality would flourish in a daycare setting (he’s such a social kid). It seems easy enough to choose that option – if you’re making enough to live comfortably in a city like Toronto. And we are not. A licensed/registered daycare facility in the city will eat up 75% of what I earn each month. Sure, there are government subsidies, but there aren’t enough subsidized daycare spaces available for the number of families that need to take advantage of them.
So our next option is an unlicensed home daycare. There are some fantastic home daycare providers out there – we have quite a few friends who have been lucky enough to find these quality care providers. We have other friends who have had nothing but trouble with home daycares, though. And it seems like there’s always a story in the news about a child being injured or dying because of a lack of quality care at a home daycare. It’s unfortunate that we hear these negative stories more often than positive stories, but the negative ones stick with us.
Since we’re still struggling with the same economic battle we’ve faced since moving to Toronto, we’re going to have to go the unlicensed route. So, I’m obviously a bit anxious about this transition. I hope to be able to share our experience with all of you and help some of you navigate the waters of Child Care in Toronto.
Since starting this post, I returned to work on a part-time basis, two days a week. We were lucky enough to have a close friend Nanny Olly for an extremely reasonable price during this time. I was dreading my first day back at work, worried about leaving Olly even though we trust our Nanny completely. But the moment I closed our apartment door behind me that first morning, I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders as I realized that I was about to begin a full 8 hour day that would not be interrupted by crying or screaming or poopy diapers.
We had a wonderful experience for two weeks, and I somehow managed to forget that our Nanny would not be available for the month of June, which conveniently happened to be my first month of full-time work. So on May 23rd I was frantically trying to find a daycare that was affordable and had space for Olly. I managed to find a Home Daycare agency that had a space open in a home in Vaughan, which was not far from my husband’s work. I found a second home daycare, an unlicensed one, closer to my work. We decided to interview both and choose one based on convenience, since they were both charging the same amount. We met with Vaughan and left with great feelings, but my husband was worried about getting Olly there in time for him to get to work in the morning. We met with Toronto, and had less great feelings but there were no major red flags. I figured it would be pretty easy for me to take TTC, drop Olly off and get to work in time. We decided to go with Toronto, but my gut feeling told me Vaughan would have been a better choice.
On May 31st, the day before my first day back at work, Toronto contacted us and told us she needed to raise her rates from $45/day to $50/day. This was to compensate for any potential delay I might encounter on the TTC when picking Olly up at the end of the day. We were a bit pissed off about this, as we had already discussed the terms with her, but we had not signed any paperwork and we didn’t have any time to find an alternative situation. So on June 1st, I dropped Olly off for his first day of daycare with a complete stranger who I didn’t exactly trust, at that point in time.
At noon that day, Toronto texted to say that she thought it would be best if I picked Olly up early, as a full 9 hours in daycare might be too much for his first day. I was surprised at this, as she had told me in our previous discussions that all babies cry for the first few days and sometimes even weeks in daycare. But after half a day, she was concerned that he couldn’t handle it? I was beginning to have serious misgivings, so even though leaving work early was an inconvenience, I picked him up at 3pm.
When I got there, Olly did not seem like himself. He did’t reach for me or smile when he saw me – this was extremely unusual. I took him from her arms and held him close. She began telling me about their day, and I noticed he had a pretty significant scratch on his nose. She explained that the wipes I had provided were too dry and suggested that I buy Pampers instead of Huggies. Because of the dry wipes, she said, he now had a diaper rash. (We’ve been using Huggies his entire life and have never had an issue. Olly has also never had a full-blown diaper rash, only a bit of redness after a poop.)
I kept waiting for her to explain the scratch on his nose, which had clearly bled some time ago, but no explanation came.
While she was speaking, I could hear noises coming from her second floor that sounded like a dog, to me, and sure enough, a dog poked its head around the staircase at one point. She had not told us that she owned a dog or that a dog would ever be present while Olly was in her care. I don’t necessarily object to a dog being present, but I certainly would have appreciated being notified of this, and perhaps being allowed a chance to meet the dog and get a sense of their temperament.
When she finished her outline of the day, I said, “I see he has a scratch on his nose.” She looked at him closer (she had been looking at him the whole time she was talking) and said, “Oh! I didn’t see that. I don’t know how that happened.”
Ok, lady. I know scratches are going to happen – he’s almost 1 and he can’t walk properly yet. But there’s no way you didn’t see him bleeding from the face before I pointed it out.
I left feeling very uneasy about returning Olly to her care the next day. I explained everything to Alex via text message on my bus ride home. Olly was calm and quiet the whole way – again, very unusual for him. He usually chatters away to everyone on the bus around us.
Alex decided it would be best to see if Vaughan still had space available and make arrangements for Olly to attend there, instead. He contacted them and, thankfully, they were willing to help. I was feeling a bit better by the time we got home, but when I changed Olly’s diaper, my anger flared up again. The diaper rash that I knew to expect was so much worse than I could have imagined. His poor bottom had blistered after just one day in her care. There was no way some dry wipes could have caused that much damage. When Alex saw it, he said, “What did she do, wipe him with sandpaper?” He screamed when I tried to wipe him, so I ran a lukewarm bath for him, but he screamed in there too. I ended up putting a fresh diaper on loosely (later, a friend suggested I put some coconut oil on, and that seemed to finally provide him some relief and did improve the rash significantly).
We realized, then, that we had made a mistake and certainly learned a lesson. I’m thankful that a diaper rash is the only thing Olly had to suffer. His first day at Vaughan went much better. He didn’t cry all day – she sent us photos of him playing early in the morning. He ate, he napped better than he does for me at home. He was happily exhausted when Alex picked him up at the end of the day. We’ve signed paperwork up the wazoo and feel very protected in this agreement.
Moral of the Daycare story – go with your gut, not necessarily the most convenient option.
As for being back at work – I’m loving it.