A beginner’s guide to motherhood

Daycare. The, often times, dreaded word new moms don’t want to even think about. At least, that’s how it was for me with Amelia. I so enjoyed being able to be home with my new baby for the three months of maternity leave I was grateful to have through work, but it did come to an end. Just the thought of having to go back to work and not be able to take care of her really hurt me. I think mostly as a mom, a new mom at that, because I felt that I needed to be there with her, I wanted to continue to be there for her firsts and soak in every moment of her new life. I was really sad about having to go back to work but I also needed a mommy break, and I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t. At the same time though, I wasn’t thinking about myself, I was thinking about who is going to watch MY baby while I am at work trying to bring more money in so we can pay our bills every month. Man, is this stressful! I am so thankful for my husband (love you boo!) during my leave because he paid for a lot of our things since I didn’t get paid for maternity leave (which is BS in itself, if you ask me, but I know there are other factors that go into it). Anywho….

We were so fortunate to be able to utilize our family members who could watch Amelia in the beginning when I started back at work. One good thing that came out of COVID was the benefit of some family members being able to work from home at the time. We were able get by with this for at least 6 months or so, when she was about 4 months to 9 months. We weren’t comfortable at the thought of someone else we didn’t know looking after her. This world is so crazy that it is hard to trust people now, especially those who are taking care of your reason for existence. We also weren’t sure, financially, how we were going to be able to make it work for daycare costs, being that I was just back at work part time after leave, eventually getting back into full time. I don’t think you can ever fully plan when becoming a new parent but wow, do you get slapped in the face with a lot of unwanted stress and sadness. I promise you the good far outweighs the bad though. It’s just a matter of hanging on, even by the tips of your fingers!

Back to daycare. I finally really thought about it one day, when family members were having to start going back into work as they were lessening the work-from-home days for them. We had to have someone watch Amelia while we both worked, unfortunately. I so wish there was a way we could somehow split being stay at home parents, but it just isn’t/wasn’t an option. We contacted a few daycares in our area that really stood out to us with our eyes on one in particular that I’d heard so many great things about, especially knowing friends that have their children attend. Due to COVID, most of these places were not doing in-person tours, which we understood and respected the safety of the children and staff. The location we really wanted was booked months out and we really needed a place asap.

We managed to get Amelia enrolled into her current daycare and they were able to get her started as soon as we needed, so it worked out for us. We were bummed that we weren’t able to get her into the one we really wanted but we still felt content and happy to have found her daycare. I called and spoke with the Assistant Director of the school/daycare and she was really nice from the beginning. She went over my questions/concerns with me, to include how everything works. I remember I just flat out was like – I have no idea what to expect or how to even do this, since it was my first time haha, and she was very sweet and patient with me. We actually got to set up an appointment time for an in-person tour of the little campus (I say campus because it’s not like your average one-building daycare, it’s a variety of buildings on one property with each building housing its own age groups – classrooms). The daycare itself is labeled a “Reggio-Emelia Inspired School”, which ties into their methods of being a “nature-based school”. In short, they tend to play and learn more with nature (i.e. playing outside, painting with their hands, petting the campus animals, etc.) when compared to more traditional daycares/schools. They are definitely more hands-on when it comes to learning and we really liked this concept of their school.

If you are here as a first time parent, you may be curious what kind of questions I had prior to selecting a daycare for Amelia. First, let me say that I did A LOT of research to help me come up with what questions to ask. These were the most important to me:

  1. What is the cost and what all is included in that cost (i.e. meals, etc.)? Are there any additional costs?
  2. What would an average day look like for her (going in at 10 months)?
  3. Are all the children that attend school required to be vaccinated?
  4. What are the school hours? Do they work with my job hours?
  5. What measures of security are in place?
  6. How many children are in each class?

Of course, I encourage you to focus on what is most important to you and your child’s wellbeing prior to deciding on which daycare is right for you and your child’s daily needs. You can certainly build off of these questions I started with as you need.

What was the process after getting answers?

Once I determined this would be a good fit for us, our working schedules, and Amelia I proceeded to the next step – enrolling my precious baby girl into her first daycare school. The Assistant Director emailed me the enrollment paperwork and everything was pretty much done through email after that. The paperwork consisted of the basics – our contact information, who we are, who Amelia is, and any specifics they should be aware of, to include adding authorized pickups and emergency contacts. I received a copy of the school handbook and what is expected of us as Amelia’s parents as she becomes a “student” of the school. Pretty simple and straight forward information.

We made our first payment and voila! We were now going to begin our next big step as a new family! How exciting and scary all at the same time this was!

I’ve compiled a list of what to look for in a daycare for your child, or at least what I feel is important to me. Disclaimer: I am not licensed in this area by any means, I am simply providing my take.

  1. Research what your local daycare facilities are. I happened to receive word of mouth from friends/coworkers of where they take their children; ask where your friends/coworkers/family members take their kids. Get online and check reviews, study their websites – do they appear professional? Make yourself a list of the ones that stand out to you most to start with. Begin contact through your preferred method of communication, if able, to start gaining more information on facilities.
  2. Compare pricing. Don’t be scared to straight up ask what they charge (they know you need to know). Determine what each location charges and what all is included in the pricing. Are meals included in the monthly pricing? Most, if not all, places will charge monthly. Find out how you make a payment – can you use a credit card or does it have to be straight out of your bank account?
  3. Visit the location. How does the location look to you? Good first impression, visually, physically? I personally go by my “vibes”. Do you have a good “vibe” of the place? If you’re able to have a tour of the facility, do the children look happy and content? How are the employees? Do they seem to enjoy what they do? Cleanliness? Pay close attention to these little details because they go a long way.
  4. Be sure to consider your work hours. Not all daycares have the same hours. Are they open early enough for you to drop off your child before work, especially if you have a long commute? Do you have plenty of time to get there to pick your child up after work prior to their late charge hours? I have an hour commute to/from work so this was highly important to me.
  5. What security measures does the daycare have in place? Do they have a specific check in/out process that involves checking I.D.’s, are doors locked, etc.? Do they have authorized pick ups?
  6. Do they have immediate openings? Is there a wait list? This may be one of the first questions you want to ask them, especially if you’re in a time crunch like we were.
  7. Ask about what their average days look like for the children, specifically for your child’s age group. How many children are in each classroom, how many teachers? What activities do the children do during the day? What meals are fed? If you have a newborn or young baby, what does this look like? Can you bring your own items (such as formula, breastmilk)?
  8. Immunization policies. What are they? What are the protocols for sick children?
  9. How to stay in “The Know” as a parent? Do they have a phone app or a social media group you can join as a parent? Find out how they get important and/or urgent updates to parents.
  10. What are their cleaning protocols? Do they sanitize classrooms every day?

What to bring to daycare?

Now that you’ve decided on where you want your child to thrive outside of your arms (I know it’s really hard at first mama!), it’s important to know what to bring to daycare for your child’s daily necessities. More often than not, your daycare will provide you a list of items to bring for your child. These lists may include:

-Immunization records and/or a health wellness letter from your child’s pediatrician.
-A blanket for nap time (depending on age). Young babies they tend to recommend not having a blanket due to safety concerns.
-Crib sized sheets (possibly two)
-At least one change of clean clothes, although I tend to pack 2-3. This should include underwear, socks, and shoes as applicable.
-Diapers, wipes, diaper cream, formula, breastmilk, bottles (baby necessities)
-Sunscreen or bug spray (if outside)
-Prescriptions that are needed

Amelia has a really cute cheetah print bag (because why not?!) that we put all of her things in every day for school. Being that she was less than a year when she first started, we sent at least one bottle of formula in her bag for them to give her later in the day. Amelia was eating table food when she started daycare so she was able to eat during the meal times, then get her bottle later in the day. Being that they spend time outside sometimes, I make sure she always has sunscreen and bug spray, just in case.

I hope this helped you in some way or another. Being a first time parent is TOUGH, especially when you have NO idea what is going on! hahahaha, but don’t worry! I am learning this is totally normal! This is why I’ve created this blog. Not only to follow our journey as new parents but to also help other new parents along the way. Let me know your thoughts on my lists above. Did this help you at all? Is there something else you would have liked to see? Please comment and let me know! Thanks for being here and -don’t forget!- you’re doing a great job!!!! ~Ashtyn