Thursday, March 6, 2014

Parenting -Adventures in Childcare

I have always wanted to be a stay at home mom. I wanted to be there for them when they came home from school. Go on field trips with them. I wanted to be MOM. Unfortunately, we have not been able to make that happen. First off, it took a long time to become a mom. Lots of doctor's visits, shots, praying, in the end we ended up with two beautiful girls.

We put our oldest into daycare at 6 weeks old. I wanted to stay out 12 weeks, but we could only afford for me to be out of work as long as short term disability would cover. We looked at a few places and then I fell in love with this one center. It was a great place filled with people who doted on our little girl. It also came with a price tag that destroyed us.

When she was three, we asked my mother if she could watch Sarah for a few months while we saved up to move closer to my parents. The original intent was for my mother to watch her and pay her something, since she had been laid off. During this transitional time it was a lot of meeting up in the Steak n' Shake parking lot. Not the most convenient of options, but it got us through a really hard time.

Once we moved, my mom was lucky to get a temp to perm job. This meant we needed to find a reasonable place to put Sarah. We tried to save money by enrolling her into a home daycare. This was very traumatic for her. She would scream going there and scream coming home. The woman who ran the daycare said that she just wasn't happy. So after one month of trying, we decided to enroll her in the same "center" that she grew up in, just the location where we had moved.

We went from paying 230 a week, to 150 a week, back up to 230 a week. It once again killed us financially, to have a safe place to watch our precious girl.

My mom's job didn't work out, but we kept her in the center to avoid the back and forth of it all. After discussions with my parents, they agreed that if we had another baby, they would help us out and watch him/her. A year later (after four years of trying and 5 attempts at IUI's) we were blessed with our second baby girl. This time I was able to stay home the full 12 weeks. My mother generously agreed to watch her during the day, as well as pick up our other daughter at school.

This worked great until my mom's own life went upside down and she was no longer able to watch the girls. Back to daycare they went. For $380 a week we put them into the child care center that we loved and trusted. We struggled and went deeply into debt. We had to borrow from friends, family, and robbed Peter to pay Paul. It was a huge mess. You must also remember this was before I learned about Dave Ramsey. We were horribly irresponsible. We fell apart.

After 4 months of having the girls in daycare, Nolen was laid off. My mom agreed to watch the girls while he job hunted. It was a lot of my mom watching the girls and a lot of Nolen watching the girls. Six months later he found work, then three months later was out of work again. It was a huge mess.

Over a year after his original layoff, Nolen found a job. My parents moved a distance away that made it not very practical for them to watch the girls on a long term basis. However, my mom said she would watch them for two weeks (until Nolen got his first check). We could not have done it without her! Thank you MOM!

During these two weeks we went on the search for a reasonably priced daycare. We could not justify (or we thought) paying the amount at the old center. They were truly a daycare, not a school. They "pride" themselves on teaching the children, but Sarah went into primary school not knowing what she needed to know. We felt comfortable with the center, but we decided that it just wasn't worth the money in the end.

Nolen and I searched and searched. Daycare after daycare was worse than the one before. Finally I ran the budget to see what we really could afford and have money left to save. We discovered that with my new salary (I had gotten a promotion), reducing our health care premiums, Nolen's higher pay in his new job, Dave Ramsey, that we could in fact afford what we were paying before.

The question was, did we really want them to go there. We did some research on Montessori schools, as Bekah is a brilliant little girl and we wanted to give her the best. We also wanted a school that would help Sarah with her homework after school. This lead us to the girls current school.

Unlike the daycares we looked at before, the kids at this school, were orderly and quiet. But you could still see they were having a great time. They offered homework help, a private kindergarten, quarterly assessments, sign language and Spanish. It was all we ever wanted.

Is it expensive? Not when you break it down to the hourly rate. I looked for a nanny and the cheapest was $10 an hour. The school the girls are attending is about $5 an hour. They get the benefit of being with other kids, learning and I feel secure that they are safe. In fact, it is $5 a week cheaper than the previous childcare center.

Two weeks in and we are in love. The girls come home happy. There isn't any arguing over homework with Sarah. Bekah is getting her first real cold (isn't that always the case) due to being with other kids. All in all we are very happy. We just have to stick to our budget. Plan accordingly and we will be alright.

So that is our journey in finding childcare for our girls. Do I still want to be a stay at home mom? HELL YES. I hope to one day be a work from home mom. Maybe as an author/blogger/tutor. You never know. For now, we are working toward our goals and we feel good about our decision.

Please comment below your struggles and successes in finding appropriate childcare for your child. Tell me your story about being a stay at home mom. You never know, we could help each other in some way.