For the first two and a half years of our son Atticus’ life, we were fortunate enough to have family members close by for babysitting. From nearly day one of his life at home with his father and I, my mom (our son’s Nana) was there to help.
I was home for maternity leave from my job (unpaid of course), with my mom at my side to help on the days when Atticus’ father was working. I was also fortunate enough to have a work from home position; therefore a segue back to working life was comparatively simple. He gurgled and cooed next to me on the floor, I was able to stop working and nurse when I needed to, and he napped nearby, next to the room where I worked in our tiny apartment. Nana was there on some days for extra help, and he napped in her arms on countless occasions.
As I was an older first-time mother, having Atticus at 40, my own mom was much older than some grandparents. My mom also came with a litany of lifelong medical issues which, around the middle of Atticus’ second year, started to become worrisome. While she was able to find a medical management solution, we were left with a challenge: find daycare, find it quickly, and find something that not only adhered to our ideals as parents but was a facility in which we could afford the care.
The challenge seemed insurmountable. How do people do this? How do people arbitrarily choose strangers to watch their children?! I immediately got to work, with the three-month deadline kindly handed to us by his Nana and Papa.
As a mom in my 40s, I feel my approach to parenting was vastly different than it would have been had I been a first-time mom at any other age in my life. Because of this, my view on parenting and how to “mother” was bolstered by my passionate desire for learning. Everything about being a mom became something I could learn about, including finding a preschool.
I utilized ALL of my resources: friends who were parents years ago, friends who were also first time parents at later ages, local parenting groups, and, even less so, some online research. I didn’t always agree with what I was told, or information given to me, but I took it all in, and with my partner, Anson, we decided what was best for our son.
I received quite a few suggestions from friends via social media, and yet ran into the same issues with all of them:
I panicked. What now? This need for a vast pool of resources brought me to the Step Up to Quality program. A friend suggested looking through the Step Up to Quality program list to give me an idea of what types of state licensed facilities were in my area, and how they were rated on a number of factors. We found three facilities on the list that met our criteria and made inquiry calls and scheduled visits with all three of them. One was a large child care center, one was an in home daycare licensed for up to 12 children at a time, and the final one was a facility called Imagination Station, of which there are four locations in Omaha.
The two facilities that lost our vote were not for lack of quality, but for simply not being a match for our family. Then our visit to Imagination Station happened. Immediately our son ran into a preschool classroom and started playing in the middle of a small group of children around his age. Naturally the children sat there mildly confused at this sudden addition to their routine, but the teachers in the room explained that Atticus was a visitor for the day. The children quickly relaxed and started sharing toys with our son as if he had been there for months already. They pulled him in one direction to show him this or that, and ran excitedly with him in the yard while Anson and I asked a slew of questions to a few of the teachers that were outside.
In the end, I realized my logic and research landed us with Imagination Station, as they were willing to work with a not-yet-toilet-trained toddler in a preschool room, and the drop-off and pick-up times were ideal and generous. It was in our budget and allowed us to start him at a part-time attendance (which I found a rarity among other facilities). His vegetarian diet wasn’t even an issue as meals could be accommodated for children with special diets and allergies. Yes, all the criteria were there, but in the end it was where I saw my son light up the most, where I felt he would fit in, and where I felt safe leaving him during the day while I worked.
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