I did. Choose the wrong child care, that is.

I posted a while ago about selecting a childcare and my worries related to it. I can finally say that Hailey is in the “right” childcare but the path to get there was not as smooth as we would have liked.

Let me share with you how the search for quality child care unfolded.

I did the majority of my searching for child cares in the summer. I needed to find a caregiver starting at the beginning of October. I primarily looked at home daycare. I thought an institutional daycare would be too much like school, too regimented. I did look at one small institutional childcare during my search just out of curiosity and my preconceived notions proved accurate.

The variety in home daycares was immense and overwhelming. They ranged from bigger & smaller homes, cluttered vs. tidy, clean vs. dirty, pets vs. no pets, organic food vs. not, warm caregivers to off-putting, $30-$57 a day, 5 kids vs. no other kids, free-range vs. heavily scheduled…the variety seemed endless and no one place seemed to have everything we wanted.

I looked at a handful of places then selected one Hailey and I really liked and really connected with. She turned us down (for her own personal reasons).

My search continued.

I looked at another handful of places and selected a lady I thought would be decent. She wasn’t everything we were looking for but seemed like she’d do a decent job. This was mid-August. Hailey was supposed to start care at the beginning of October.

Two weeks before Hailey was supposed to start the child care provider changed her mind. I didn’t ask for an explanation. Whatever explanation she provided me really didn’t matter. What mattered was I was 2 weeks away from needing full time childcare and I now had to restart my search.

After I got off the phone with her, I immediately called another lady. I had been given her contact info a few weeks ago by a neighbour who had interviewed her, liked her, but elected not to use her.

I set up an interview with her, my husband came with me this time. I told him that it was his decision this time because I clearly had chosen poorly the first time.

Mostly I was confused by the turn of events and started questioning my decision-making abilities. I wanted him to weigh in on this important decision, something he had not been interested in doing during the summer.

We left the lady’s house deciding that she wasn’t everything we were looking for but that she seemed decent. Her references were good so we decided to go with her.

Hailey started not quite 2 weeks later at the beginning of October.

After a couple of short “test” visit to get Hailey used to being left with this lady, she started full time. As soon as she was there full time she started crying when I dropped her off each morning.

This was so hard on me. Having your crying baby pulled out of your arms is traumatic. Everyone told me it was normal but I kept thinking to myself that it wasn’t normal for Hailey.

Over those first 2 weeks, every time we said the lady’s name to Hailey she would shake her head and say “uh-uh”. It was a funny game to us because she literally did it every time.

My husband and I (and everyone I told) kept rationalizing the behaviour saying that Hailey was acting this way before she was with a stranger full time, she was at a new house she didn’t know, the routine was new, everything about it was new and would take some time to get used to. Eventually the crying would stop once everything became familiar.

On the 3rd week, the lady went on vacation and Hailey was back with my parents and I took a few days off to cover this week.

During this week, we were contacted by an institutional childcare centre we had been on a wait list for. I almost declined immediately but there was a nagging sensation within me and I set up an appointment to visit. My husband came with me.

Hailey’s reaction to this place was immediately positive. At every home daycare she had hung back by the door, a little bit timid. At this childcare centre she ran in and explored everything. She contently walked through the entire centre on her own. When the toddler class was moving to another room she got in line and tried to follow.

My husband and I both loved the place. We didn’t have any expectations going in. In fact, we had already assumed that it probably wouldn’t be a good fit because it was a large childcare centre. The only reason we were on the wait list was because it was located next to my husband’s future office.

I walked out in tears. This was the reaction I had been waiting to see in Hailey. The one where you just know it’s a good fit. When my husband asked me why I was crying I thought about it for a minute….relief. I felt relief. His response: I guess that makes our decision for us.

I went back to the childcare centre the next day. I had to see whether Hailey’s reaction had been a fluke. It was so different than any other I had seen. We were invited to stay in the class for a while and go outside to play with them. On my way out I told them we would take the spot starting at the beginning of November, a week and a half later. We had finally found that high quality child care we had been searching for.

When the home day care provider came back from vacation I called her and told her Hailey wouldn’t be returning and made arrangements to come pick up her stuff. The lady expressed sadness but didn’t seem angry. We gave her 2 weeks pay. We had no desire to me mean about it. I liked her as a person. The only concern we had with her was the food she was feeding Hailey but we had already started to work that out together.

In hindsight, we can see that the crying every morning and Hailey saying no every time we said the lady’s name was actually the main concern for us. But when we were in the middle of it we get dismissing it, not recognizing that Hailey was actually trying to tell us something.

She was telling us she didn’t want to be there. We knew that much. We kept thinking the reason was because it was different and new but that proved to be an inaccurate assumption.

The childcare centre let us visit as much as we like the following week before Hailey started full time. This was awesome. My husband and I spent the next week taking Hailey for visits at different times of the day and even staying for lunch a couple of days. It was great to see what the structure of the day looked like and how it was organized.

Hailey started at the beginning of November. We now have 2.5 weeks under our belt and she’s only cried two mornings, none of which were in the first week. Her teachers even commented that they’d never would have known it was her first week by the way she was acting. She was happy throughout the day with little to no crying. What a relief…drop offs have been easy and relaxing. So much so that the first few days were a bit weird…I kept waiting for her to cry but she never did.

Every time we say the name of the childcare centre Hailey does not shake her head and say “uh-uh”. I keep trying. She hasn’t done it once.

Looking back, I can see that Hailey was trying to tell us that the home daycare was not the right fit. We just didn’t realize it.

Everyone told me that crying was normal. But I knew deep down that something wasn’t right. It just took me a while to figure it out. I even remember asking a couple of other moms who were telling me that their child cried every day for the first while too whether or not they had considered looking for another daycare. Both said no, they knew it was their child not the daycare provider that was the issue.

But sometimes things aren’t the right fit and that’s ok. Listen to your child. You know them better than anyone else. Trust yourself and your child enough to listen to them.

Do I regret the decisions we made? No.

Nothing bad happened. I don’t even know what exactly was “wrong” with the home daycare. It could have been the lady. It could have been another child. It could have been that the house was haunted for all I know.

All of our wrong decisions led us to where we are now which is a better fit then anything we ever looked at and quite frankly it’s going smoother than I ever thought possible.

And that’s life. With each “wrong” decision we learn something and move on. Most things are reversible.

All things are meant to teach us.

The space at the childcare centre wasn’t available at the beginning of October, when we first needed childcare. We probably would have never even gone to visit the childcare centre a month before because we were sure it wouldn’t be right for us. It took a “bad” experience to help us clarify what we wanted and to challenge our assumptions and force us to get out of our own way, to look at a centre when we had already decided against them in general.

During the month and a half of turbulence we never let ourselves get too overwhelmed. I remember a conversation with my husband right after we chose the home day care that she actually started going to. I kept asking him “what if we make the wrong decision?” His response to me was “Let’s make the commitment to ourselves to reassess after a month”. The shortened timeline helped me de-stress dramatically.

And that was our strategy throughout this process…we took one step at a time knowing we could change course at any point. We kept marching on, trusting that everything would work out even though we didn’t fully understand how at the time.

And it did.

Photo by mikecogh