Monday, July 6, 2009

Day Care, Nightmare

I have just started my investigation of childcare facilities and I have to say, it's more than disappointing. I have a very short list of places to look at based upon recommendations from people I know. I started with a local facility heartily recommended to me by two friends (three if you consider a husband and wife as separate recommendations).

I took a friend with me who used to be a Montessori teacher. Phoebe was asleep in her stroller when we got there so I left her outside and my friend stayed with the prams.

At first I thought, "oh this doesn't look too bad. A bit like a barn perhaps..." due to all of the gates to keep the kiddies in their relevant sections. The lady seemed nice enough, although slightly odd. She took me into the baby area and showed me around. It didn't really take long as it wasn't very big. She showed me the change station and explained how they used these particular (cheap) wipes but if my baby has sensitive skin I can take my own wipes in. Then she showed me the charts they fill in to say how many nappy changes each baby has had and whether they pooed, when they slept and for how long and a book that logs what each child has done that day.

She showed me the outdoor area where they play and the sunscreen they use. They're not allowed to go outside without sunscreen. She showed me the room where they sleep, a tiny room crammed with about eight cots, one of which was occupied by a baby playing with a bottle. The rest of the babies were sitting in high chairs. They were quiet, not unhappy but not particularly happy either. One might say institutionalised but that's perhaps a bit harsh.

I think the time of day I visited mightn't have been the best as I was hoping to see games being played, babies being sung to, that kind of thing. It seemed so quiet and unengaging. I asked what sort of activities they do and was given the example of collages and paintings.

The lady who was looking after them appeared to be on her own but there were probably about six babies in there. Sarah said she understood that it was four babies per carer so perhaps the other lady was on her break. The carer seemed nice enough but I didn't really see her engaging the children. She changed a child whilst I was there and I didn't notice her talking to him at all; she just shoved him on the change table and whipped off his nappy without a please or thank you.

It was all just so bland and not at all what I was expecting after the rave reviews. Maybe it's nicer for older children but I just got an icky feeling and didn't really know what to think. I'd had no idea what to expect, nothing to compare it to. I'd been so convinced that this would be the place and all I could think was "this is where Phoebe's going to spend her days? Oh my god!" Talk about mother guilt. The place was tiny, much smaller than the house and far more babies in it and it suddenly occurred to me that she'd be there all day. We never spend all day in the house and if we do we both go a bit nuts and end up going for walk at the end of the day.

Phoebe will be almost eleven months old when I return to work but I've been thinking about putting her into childcare for one day a week from about October when she'll be eight or nine months old. This will free me up to do some projects but will also allow me to get used to not being with Phoebe 24/7. I just couldn't see her being in a place like this at such a young age. It is so depressing to think of her just sitting in a high chair, not being sung to or played with or talked to. I couldn't see where the babies might sit and play and I don't particularly want her wearing sunscreen at least until she's one. Maybe I'm being a bit over the top with that and I'm sure if I insisted they'd be happy for me to take some zinc-based sunscreen in for her. But I suppose that's a minor detail.

When I got outside I felt an overwhelming sense of protection towards Phoebe and just wanted to pick her up and cuddle her and tell her how much I love her. I tried to see the positive side to it. It was a recommendation, it must be good. Then again, if I don't like it maybe a daycare centre just isn't for us. Maybe I should start looking for family daycare instead. I thought Sarah should take a look with her Montessori teacher hat on. She did. The verdict?

"You can't make her go to that place. Tell me you won't put her there. It was HORRIBLE!"

Strangely, I felt relieved.

And yet at the same time I wondered, if that's the place that has come recommended, what on earth are the others like?

Sarah told me that she noticed the babies' bottles in the fridge had no tops on them. She also told me how the carer changed a baby's nappy whilst she was there and whacked his head on a piece of wood above the change table. The baby was screaming and the carer, who was obviously embarrassed said, "oh, I've never noticed that bit of wood there before. We should do something about that." Oh! My!! God!!! She told me how it was worse than the scummy place in Fulham when she worked as a Montessori teacher. Gosh, I really hope this isn't the standard of childcare in Australia but I'm beginning to wonder.

So now we're on a mish to find some decent childcare. Sarah suggested we frequent some playgroups and see if there are any nannies or child minders there. I found a nanny and babysitting service online this afternoon and they charge $165 a day. Holy Mackeral Mother of the Devil! That's almost as much as I take home after tax. I think I'd have about $30 left over for the mortgage and everything else. Hardly worth it really. We're going to check out the number 1 recommendation of daycare facilities next week and just keep asking around for more. And I am considering finding something like family daycare for the first few months. There has to be a better option. And if there isn't I'm quitting my job and selling the house.

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