As a parent you are suddenly, ready or not, either the sole or partnered decision maker in the life of one very small human being. And oh the decisions you need to make! Do you want to vaccinate? Circumcision? Formula or breast? Co-sleeping vs crib? Do you believe in self-soothing? Do you pierce ears? Rear-facing or front-facing car seats? And those are only a few! Don’t even get me started on the rows and rows of baby products (Cloth? Organic? Generic?). And when you’re a first time parent you obviously have no experience to draw from in terms of your preferences! It’s a whole new world of trial and error and eventually you figure it all out…honest!…well mostly anyways!
Then they suddenly hit the year mark, two year mark, three year mark…and then comes some of the BIG decisions! Are you planning on heading back to work? How do you feel about daycare? What are your plans for your child’s schooling? These decisions can have longer lasting impacts on both you and your child. Forget Pampers vs Huggies…let’s talk about private vs public schooling or, if you really want to boggle your mind, home daycare vs daycare centre vs stay at home mom vs family care…
A and I have already tackled some of these challenges and I fully admit there were some trials, some errors plus we still haven’t even picked a school for V with registration looming in the new year.
Work vs Stay at Home
The first decision we had to make as a family, when V was 1 year old, (so blessed to live in Canada with our full year mat leave!) was one of the easiest to make. Financially I had to go back to work although I had the luxury of only doing so part time. The company I worked for prior to leaving on my parental leave actually laid off their workforce during my time at home so I had to look for new, gainful employment when my benefits ran out.
I chose to return to my background in retail and began to work for a large box store with locations and banners in the US and Canada. Although they were, for the most part, flexible around appointments and family time, the work environment was not a good fit and we parted ways about 8 months in. I then returned to being a stay at home mom for the summer while looking for a new opportunity that would allow me to use my education and skill set. I took the summer to spend a lot of time with V, playing outside, taking in activities in our area, and spending time with my husband. It was a great time at home but I really did miss adult interaction. 1 year olds really aren’t that conversational and require much less hovering than an infant so I was anxious to return to a working environment.
I ended up being offered a fabulous opportunity with a major financial institution in Canada and started work full time in Sept of 2012. The scheduling was originally a little less flexible than part time retail but after a year of moving forward with the company I was offered a Monday to Fri, mornings only, shift within my business and I’m now proud to say that I’ve found my niche…I’m one of those lucky moms with a career she loves, part time, and am able to spend my afternoons and evenings playing (aka napping) with my little guy at home!
Home Daycare vs. Daycare Centre vs. Family Care
Now this decision also involved a few trials and errors until we came to an arrangement now that makes everyone happy!
When I originally went back to work we had started with family care (aka having a family member who lived very close watch V while I worked). It was important to A and I that V become close to his family and spend time building relationships with his grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. We ‘traded’ watching V for me tutoring my niece with her school work in the evenings, and it worked well for the first few months. Unfortunately with the stress of working a job that wasn’t fulfilling, illness in both households, and V being a little slow to socialize/talk, we decided that after I finished my summer at home we would look into more formal daycare options.
A licensed daycare centre was never an option for us as the waiting lists are long, and the fees were high. They also do not have very flexible hours and require intense contracts upon your enrolment in the facility. We therefore decided to support a family friend who was thinking of starting her own home daycare as a way of being a business owner and spend time with her own young family. We had had play-dates together previously, our children were close in age and it seemed like a great fit. The fee was fair and the hours fit well with our work/life balance. We started with an original 6 week trial period and eventually moved into a full contract for 4 days a week. The daycare was close so I walked with V in the mornings and A picked him up on his way home in the evenings while I was at work.
It was everything we hoped it would be, V was socially engaged, involved in a wide variety of activities from a visit to a local pumpkin patch, story time at the library, playgroups at the local Early Years Centre and making friends he truly loves. However starting the week before Halloween someone in our household was sick every single week until the middle of May. Being a small kid, having weaker lungs, and spending most of his time sheltered at home for two years did V no favours when he began interacting with the germ farms that are other little kiddos! We had a total of two stomach bugs, 4 ear infections, 1 ruptured ear drum, a febrile seizure, pneumonia, croup and more colds than we can count. I sincerely hope to never, ever go through another year like this ever again! As a family we were worn down emotionally and physically.
It also brought our finances into focus as well. As part of our contract with the daycare provider, unless she cancelled, we were required to pay for each day V missed due to illness or otherwise. This makes business sense but with V being sick as often as he was (and obviously for the health of other children we could not send him to daycare ill!) we literally paid hundreds of dollars last year in daycare fees for days we spent at home with him. What made it all the harder was that I was usually the one staying home with him and I did not receive pay on those days. I was also receiving coaching at work for missing so many scheduled shifts. It was hard to justify paying out of pocket for so many sick days when we definitely didn’t have the money to spare. I was also suffering from a lot of job related anxiety due to missing so many days with V or being sick myself. It was at this point we began to discuss alternate daycare options that might be available to us.
The other issue that came up was the differences in parenting styles that weren’t evident in play-dates but did become a stumbling block as V spent more time at daycare. A and I are confident and happy with our parenting style and the same goes for our daycare provider. All of our children are happy, well behaved and functional tiny members of society! Our provider is an excellent parent with strong values but, as wonderful as those are, they are very different from ours. This became an urgent issue for us as V was receiving conflicting messages at home and daycare which caused him to act out emotionally and created conflict between us and the provider. If you are looking at a home daycare I definitely do recommend seeing if you can observe a day in the life at the daycare or obtaining parental testimonies from other parents who utilize the service. As awesome as it may seem through a meeting or website you must see if it will fit your lifestyle as it is never healthy for a child to be caught in the middle of two vastly different child rearing philosophies! After a meeting we decided to give our notice and part ways at the beginning of the summer however the provider, due to upcoming business opportunities, decided to terminate the contract early. We do remain friends, as well as V with his daycare buddies, and are all in a more stress-free place!
V has returned to family care and is once again a happy and more even tempered young man! He gets to spend time one-on-one with one of his favourite Aunties and she gets to love on him daily! He is spoiled with hugs and kisses from his cousins and their neighbourhood friends which helps maintain his social skills and we are proud to say that he has yet to be sick this year and we’ve passed the Halloween marker (knock on wood!). The arrangement is definitely a great fit for our current lifestyle and I’m so happy that V has found a place that he truly is one of the family.
So as I said, definitely trial and error! We don’t regret any decisions we made in the process of finding our ‘best fit’ but it did take us almost two years to find where we were meant to be! So don’t feel bad if the same happens to you 🙂 No judgement here!!
Private School vs Public School (Sub decision: English vs French Immersion)
This is our next BIG decision as parents. We have already decided that V will be enrolled in the French Immersion program offered by our public school board but this does not start until he’s eligible for Senior Kindergarten in the year he turns 5. For now we need to decide what we’re comfortable with for his enrolment in Junior Kindergarten which starts next September.
The local public school he is in the district for is, and this is no exaggeration, one of the worst schools in the province of Ontario. Due to local school closings it is now a ‘mega-school’ that draws from a large amount of low income housing, deals with a high number of learning/behavioural difficulties and has an extremely large student population. For example this year there are 5 split kindergarten classes with approximately 30 students each. That is a total of 150 kindergarteners alone and the school goes all the way to Grade 8! They have a high teacher turnover and there has been violence in the kindergarten classrooms between children. Now I’m not talking the occasional emotional outburst where someone gets clocked on the head, I’m talking pencil stabbing related incidents (you learn the darnedest things from hairdressers with similar age children…). I’m sure you can see why I’m a little concerned about registering my under-weight, under-sized, loving child, in a school where he could be completely steamrolled by his classmates or even older kids. I wouldn’t say I’m a helicopter parent by any means (and please people who know me feel free to tell me if I ever become ‘that’ parent) but I do have what I believe are fairly reasonable concerns for my child’s well-being at a school that will have him for 8 hours a day 5 days a week, 8 months out of the year. We do plan on attending the orientation nights and I will be prepared with questions!
We are also examining other options such as a private school or nursery for the one year. We aren’t rolling in the dough but hopefully we could make the tuition payments work, or apply for scholarships or grants so that V is able to attend. There are a lot of great options in the city we live in so we are really spoiled for choice. We do also have the option to hold V out until SK because kindergarten isn’t a requirement for children in the province of Ontario. However V is a bright, social kid who already asks us when he gets to go to school so we really want to make sure he attends as soon as we can find the right environment.
I will definitely update as we get closer to making our final decision on this one but for right now all we can do is inform ourselves, wait it out and see what happens in the new year!
So I guess there are no really ‘small’ decisions in the life of your child but I’m definitely finding as V gets older the decision have a more long running impact on his life and his behaviour and A and I are still doing our best to manage all of the information that gets thrown at us as parents. I say just go with your gut, don’t be afraid to admit you made the wrong decision, correct it and take the lesson onto the next big one that comes up! Best of luck Mamas and Papas!!