After 2.5 years as a stay-at-home mom, I reentered the corporate workforce. Finding childcare was stressful to say the least, and I wasn’t really sure what to look for. My criteria were something along the lines of affordable, keeps my kid alive, and doesn’t have a wait list of 2 years. The transition was very smooth, and Etta Mae was very happy with her new daily routine. I accepted from the start that there were going to be things that wouldn’t thrill me about daycare. But I was committed to giving the benefit of the doubt as long as she was happy and healthy.
Naturally, I got to know the teachers and aides in the 2-year-old hall. And despite my annoyance with the types of snacks served, I felt confident that they truly cared about the kids. Etta Mae was having a great time and she had even made a BFF! “E is for Etta Mae and Emily” became the most commonly heard phrase in our house. Even better, the daycare was right on my way to work, and they drafted my payments from my Amazon card which meant lots of Amazon reward points!
Etta Mae turned 3 in July, and she was moved to the 3-year-old hall. After 5 months figuring out this whole daycare thing, I felt like I was starting over! From the beginning, my mommy instincts told me something just wasn’t right. Unfortunately, I couldn’t put those feelings into words or come up with any real evidence that there was a problem. I was, however, becoming increasingly frustrated with the types of snacks the kids were given and the fact that the television was always on at drop off and pick up. And while the thought of three-year-olds in uniforms was adorable, it wasn’t really in line with my parenting style (we’re all about bodily autonomy over here). My child who was bubbly and creative (and bossy and opinionated) at home, was shy and quiet at daycare. Never quite coming out of her shell.
Around this time, I saw a post stating that The Child Development Cooperative had a couple of rare openings for 3-year-olds. I had heard about the Co-op and its unique style of childcare. But I also knew that it was pricier than our current daycare and WAY on the other side of town for Jason and me. Not to mention, Etta Mae and Emily were still thick as thieves and the thought of separating them nearly broke my heart.
I decided to go out on a limb and tour the Co-op. The play-based learning style was exactly what I had been dreaming of. It was significantly smaller, and I could tell that there was a tight knit group of teachers and parents whose only priority was the kids. I nodded in agreement as the director talked about the kids playing outside for several hours each day, regardless of the weather (within reason), and when she told us that instead of having toys that do only one thing, they were focused on giving the kids pieces and parts to allow them to create their own experience. I was excited about the idea that as a cooperative, each family contributed at least 15 hours per year in time at the co-op. And no TV or computers! Instead of focusing on academics to prepare the kids for kindergarten, the objective was to let the kids learn naturally through play.
As we all know, change is scary. I spent the next couple of days going back and forth in my mind about whether the change was “worth it.” Ultimately, I decided that this was a great opportunity to do something unique for Etta Mae at a critical time in her life for learning and development.
So far, I couldn’t be happier with the change. I can see Etta Mae’s confidence growing and her personality blossoming. The first time her teacher told Jason that she had a little sass that day, I was simultaneously embarrassed and thrilled that it meant she was comfortable enough there to be herself. The director is in contact with the parents via email frequently, knows all of the kids and parents by name, and is on top of any questions or concerns I have. Breaking up with our daycare was one of the more difficult parenting decisions I’ve made, but sometimes taking a great risk comes with a great reward!