We’re over halfway through my maternity leave (sad face) and it was time to sort out childcare. Panic and fear ensued, as reality hit that I would be back in work in a few months and my little bundle of joy and farts would be in someone else’s care (another sad face)
So where did we start?
We always said we’d prefer a childminder to a nursery to begin with – we liked the idea of a more personal service. We wanted to go with a personal recommendation but unfortunately everyone we heard of via word-of-mouth was already full.
This was where I started to panic a little, and wonder if we should indeed use a nursery or if we’d left it too late for that. I was also panicking about the logistics – I work in the city centre and traffic can be horrendous, I don’t want to pay to be stuck in traffic! I asked on some local Facebook groups for some recommendations and I was given:
- more personal recommendations (couldn’t fit me in again but nice of people to share them nonetheless and one did pass my details on to another childminder that she knew was available)
- a link to the local council’s chilcare section – they list all registered/approved childminders and their contact details
- a link to childcare.co.uk – I’d not heard of this but this is what I ended up using – it’s a free service where you place adverts for your childcare needs and relevant childminders get in touch. (and you can contact childminders who have advertised)
So after speaking to 3 over the phone, I arranged to meet them – again, more panic – what was I supposed to ask them and check for?! After lots of Googling the main message seemed to be that I would just get a gut feeling if I met the ‘right one’ but I did take a mental checklist to ask about:
- costs and hours (we want an early start to avoid traffic which not all childminders offer)
- sickness and holiday procedure (some charge for you taking holidays)
- notice period
- what they plan to get up to during the day – routine and activities
So I turned up to meet Penny* – the outside of her house was a bit of a mess and I recalled a forum I’d read the previous night where a mummy said she’d driven off when she saw the state of a potential childminder’s house! I was pleasantly surprised when she answered the door and it was someone I’d been sat next to, and chatting to, at a playgroup just a few days before! Spooky! She seemed great, nice, laid-back with 2 of her own kids and a couple of others in her care.
The next day I went to meet Dee* and I pretty much knew she was ‘the one’ straight away (I had a good inkling on the phone, before even meeting her):
- she seemed nice but also very professional (she took me through all her policies and procedures without me asking – everything from menu plans to references!)
- she has great experience – she’s setting up on her own after working for years in the nursery that I would want to see if we were going down that route
- I loved her house – it had a nice vibe, and her location is better than Penny’s* – more convenient for me and my OH despite us working in different directions
- she has a son just 6 weeks older than little W and this was one of the main reasons I had such a great feeling – watching them play together I just had this feeling that they would be great company for each other 🙂
- they go to a fortnightly baby group that we’ve just started going to – so we could get to know them a bit better over the next few months
I was all for choosing her anyway, and then I got a sign…. we were talking about comforters and I was saying that I needed to get a duplicate for ours as we’d be lost without it but I’d probably left it too late…. she only had a spare duplicate of our comforter that her son hadn’t taken to so we could have it!
I do like a good sign so that was that!
I cancelled my appointment with the third potential childminder, and didn’t bother making an appointment with the nursery that I was going to check out (although it will always be an option if things don’t work out for whatever reason).
We’ll be paying £37.50 a day (which assuming an 8.5 hour day works out at £4.41 per hour) – most childminders seem to range between £4 and £5 per hour. This is nearly £20 cheaper per day than the nursery I mentioned!
Over the next few months I’ll sign a contract with her and we’ll do some ‘settling in days’ where we leave him for an hour – building up to a full day by the time I go back to work. She’ll be giving me my ‘parent pack’ which are all the policies and procedures – don’t be scared to ask for this, it sounds like every childminder has to do this as part of their registration process. (I suspect that older/longer-running childminders are a bit more laid-back when it comes to this stuff but as she’s just setting out she’s doing everything by the book so far which I like!)