Leaving my little boy for the first time at day care, I was a total mess and found myself sobbing into a cup of tea in the café next door. It honestly felt like the worst thing in the world and I wondered whether it was the right thing to do.
As you prepare to go back to work, the reality of sending your child to day care can be terrifying. On one hand you can’t wait to have some more adult time. But on the other, the thought of leaving your beautiful child in the care of someone else is heartbreaking.
It’s totally normal to feel like this. Everyone does, especially with their first child. Over time it gets easier as you and your little one get used to the routine and you find your groove. And before you know it, you will see the benefits as your child starts to build friendships and become more independent.
Here are our top tips to make the childcare transition easier:
1. Don’t leave organising childcare to the last minute. It can be seriously hard to get in, so put your name down at a few places as soon as you can, even when you first find out you’re pregnant. Check them out in more detail (they run tours) when you first start maternity leave.
2. Do your research. Ask as many people as you can about their childcare experiences and which ones they recommend and why. Also check out the government sites for centre information and ratings in the area you are looking for childcare such as my child and starting blocks. Your local council will also generally have a list of childcare centres and may run a centralised reservation list.
3. Location, location, location. One near your home is always convenient but you could also consider ones that are near your work or your partner’s work. Think about transport options too. Will you be driving to the childcare centre or be using public transport?
4. Focus on staff and not how good the toys are. Too often people choose a day care centre based on how it looks. The staff are the most important aspect, so spend time getting to know them. Meet the director, understand how their roster works and how often they use contract staff.
5. Start childcare orientation well before you go back to work. It may take a little while to get used to leaving your child. If you have the luxury of time, try to start childcare well before you go back (we’d recommend at least a month). Start with a few hours, then work up to a half day, then a full day to transition at your own pace.
6. One day on, one day off. If you are working part-time and you can choose your childcare days and your work days (we know this may not always be possible), we’d recommend one day on and one day off. Kids often don’t sleep well at childcare so it can help reduce small person fatigue (and dinner time meltdowns) by spreading out your childcare days across the week.
7. Consider a nanny to supplement childcare. If you’re working more than 3 days a week and don’t have family who can help, a nanny could be a good option to break-up your childcare days. With two children this option also becomes much more cost effective. Maybe consider partnering with a friend to make this option more affordable?
8. Dealing with a sick child. Discussing a plan with your partner is a good idea. Some things to consider are each other’s carers’ leave and work flexibility. A good way to deal with two parents’ busy work schedules is to share caring responsibilities by both working half days. ‘It meant we could both share caring for our sick child but it was far less disruptive to our work day’.
Written by Kate Pollard, Co-founder of Circle In.
To find out more about the government entitlements and planning your return to work, read our article.
To find our more about the Child Care Subsidy.