Parenting

The daycare dilemma

She may be Type A, but Katie held off on the childcare thing, and is now stressed about getting a spot

Credit: methyl_lives

There is a line from Gilmore Girls after Lorelai gets engaged (the first time, I think) that I always found especially funny. After trying on wedding dresses, she tells Rory “Apparently you’re supposed to order your dress on the first day of junior high or it’s off the rack for you, missy.” I used to laugh out loud when I watched that episode (I’m a huge GG fan — I’ve seen the whole series a few times through — don’t judge) but after the past couple of weeks, I don’t find it as funny anymore.
 
If you’re supposed to order your wedding dress when you’re 14, you need to register for daycare as soon as you graduate high school. Maybe even before prom. You should move the tassel to the other side of the mortarboard and run straight to the nearest computer to get on as many waiting lists as possible. Don’t intend to have kids for 10 years? Who cares. Do it anyway. And don’t stop with the first baby. If you want to have more than one, get ’em all on the lists. It’s just easier.

That’s what everyone will tell you (OK, maybe not at high school graduation, but you get my drift). I heard it a thousand times over, from the moment I told people I was expecting. Even at that point, back last spring, I was behind the eight ball. Or, I should say, the eighteen months ball, because that’s how long it takes to get a daycare spot in Toronto. Sophie will need child care next fall and I was supposed to be thinking about it before the previous summer (and possibly, when you do the math, before I was actually pregnant). Crazy.
 
So here’s the thing: I’m half Italian, and along with an amazing pizza dough recipe and the ability to grow leg hair faster than you want to know, I’ve inherited the Italian superstition. Call me Nonna, but I just could not bring myself to put an unborn, unnamed baby on a random list somewhere. Despite my need for organization, it felt strange and uncomfortable. It was the same with having a baby shower. I have wonderful friends who wanted to celebrate our new bundle of joy but I was dead-set against it. Old-school and perhaps a little irrational, but that’s the way I felt. So we didn’t do it (the baby shower or contacting daycares), and now I’m paying for it.

We started putting Sophie on lists as soon as she was born, but it was too late. I think we may have worked out a solution (fingers crossed) but it seems wild that eleven months isn’t enough time. And don’t even get me started on the cost. I crunched the numbers — it’s more money to send your child to daycare for four years than to send them to university. I am willing to pay for top care for Soph, don’t get me wrong, but I just don’t know how low-income families, families with multiples or more than one child not yet in school, or families who, you know, want to go on vacation or buy a house or save for retirement can do it. We’ve been doing some serious in-depth budgeting to make it work with all of our other financial plans and obligations.

I don’t mean to diminish what daycare providers can give to our kids — they should become someone the child looks up to, loves, is happy to see every day — and that’s something very special. I suppose the superstitious Nonna in me and the budget-conscious wife and mother just didn’t expect it to take so much time and money.
 
 For those of you who just saw the line turn blue or pink or whatever, if you can bring yourself to do it, start researching daycares. Put Baby X on all the lists and try to forget about it. I’ve learned my lesson for when Baby #2 comes along. Maybe. Then again, I’ve yet to find a solution for the leg hair, so I doubt the superstition will be nipped in the bud by then, either.

When did you sign your baby up for daycare?

Photo by methyl_lives via Flickr