Thursday, January 12, 2006

Shades of gray

Last night we had our first official interview with a potential daycare provider. I'm surprised that it took this long to meet someone in person, but to be honest, nobody else has sold themselves well enough over the phone to warrant the in-person visit. While everyone says not to just hire the first person you meet, I think it's safe to say that I am most assuredly being picky enough about this process.

Having said that, I am quite stumped by last night's meeting. I expected to walk out either saying you're hired or we're just not interested, and instead, I don't know what to think. I figured that nobody would ever be a perfect match and that I would just have to pick someone who came close enough, and whose shortcomings were things I could live with. But every shortcoming seems like a major shortcoming when your child is involved. Don't get me wrong, I think this person would take excellent care of Liam. I just don't have that a-ha! feeling about her. But to be fair, I don't know if I'll have that feeling about anyone.

One of the biggest issues for me to wrap my head around is the number of children under her care. I seem to run into this issue a lot: the daycare provider who has cobbled together a clientele composed of many part-time charges. So she may have twelve kids total under her care, but normally, she stays under the legal limit of five. Notice how I said normally and not always: it never seems to fail that there will be more than the 'allowable' number of kids at certain times of day (i.e. before school) or maybe one day of the week when her schedule is a little heavier than normal.

To make things even more complicated, the legal limit is five, but you can also care for all of your own kids in addition to that five. The woman we met with last night has one pre-schooler of her own (plus a daughter who is over the age of 10, so she doesn't legally count in the numbers game). So while I'd like to be a stickler and find someone who follows the letter of the law, I also think, who's worse: someone with the legal number of paying customers (5) but six of her own pre-school age children, or someone who occasionally has an extra paying customer, but only one child of her own?

In most other ways, this daycare seems ideal. Outdoor playtime is really highly stressed. There are circle times and crafts and field trips, with all the kids wearing customized X Daycare t-shirts. You walk downstairs to see the main daycare area, and there is a neat little row of coat hooks with the kids' names and photos above; there are letters and numbers posted on the walls, a bulletin board with all the kids' birthdays, photos of the kids enjoying their activities. Though she doesn't drive with the kids often, she does carry extra liability insurance, just in case (thanks Kelly!) The current customer who referred me raved about the food, assuring me it is so healthy; I did freak a little when she included fish sticks and french fries in her list of typical lunches, but that was also alongside things like spaghetti and vegetable soup and sandwiches, and I know I can't keep Liam away from the good stuff forever. :)

The woman we met with last night comes really highly recommended by someone who has been enlisting her services on a full-time basis for the past three years. At the end of our meeting, I asked for more references, and I plan to call those three families tonight with some really pointed questions to find out how much of an issue my concerns really are. I hope to have a much more definite feeling after those conversations. Even if I decide that she's not right for us, at least a decision will have been made.


Kelly said...

Sorry...I should have checked my spelling before I said post.
Anyways, my advice was that although it is nice to know the person making the recommendation, I think it is important to know what the "key requirements" are of the person making the recommendation. If their child is very different than yours, your needs/wants will also be different which will impact your opinion of a care provider.
Just something to keep in mind when receiving "recommendations".