Childcare Drama: When Things Don’t Go as Planned


Finding a daycare was one of the most stressful—and drama-filled—things I’ve ever done. It took four tries to really settle into a routine that’s working. Here’s what happened to us, and what you can learn from our experience.

Childcare Plan Take 1: Grandma 

When our son came along, we were confident in the fact that our childcare was set. We had planned on my mother-in-law coming and caring for our baby for several months, leaving us free to find childcare until after his first birthday. Fast forward to my his 5-month mark. My mother-in-law wasn’t coming. We had two months before I went back to work to find childcare. Enter stress.

I got stress hives, which actually ended up being stress shingles. My son wasn’t sleep trained and I didn’t know how that would limit our options. I asked colleagues and friends for suggestions. I scoured Yelp, Nextdoor, Facebook, and Craigslist. Alas, I found someone that met our criteria—small in-home care that’s close to work with an immediate opening.  

Childcare Plan Take 2: In-home daycare

I went and interviewed with the care providers and they met our son. I told them that he wasn’t yet sleep trained, and they said not to worry; babies get on a schedule pretty quickly. I thought the owner was nice and no-nonsense (although a little over the top). I put down a deposit and completed all the paperwork. I did not check the list of 10+ references the owner provided. I thought if anyone has this many, they’ve got to be good. (Afterall, who would say anything bad if they were on a referral list?)

I also appreciated the clarity with which the owner had laid things out. They were very clear in establishing what was okay and what wasn’t. If we violated policies then, “No soup for you!” and we could be asked to leave. I’m pretty sensitive to people’s boundaries and expectations, so I wanted to make sure we did everything right (communicated, were respectful of hours, paid on time, etc.) Besides, we needed care, and we needed it fast.

So we embarked on our daycare journey. My son was seven months old and he did mostly great, with the exception of not taking his bottle and not doing well with the afternoon nap. This really worried the owner. Not taking a bottle worried me, too, but I think the owner more. I talked with an advice nurse and she said sometimes that’s what babies do. My son was doing well eating all of his solids, though, so he wasn’t starving. Despite trying formula, a combo of breast milk and formula, and then fresher breast milk (I thought maybe my milk was off or tasted bad), it was a no go. He just wouldn’t take his bottle or do his afternoon nap, which was a non-negotiable for the daycare, as we came to find out.  Afternoon nap-time was the the caregivers’ break.

This “noncompliance” went on for about three weeks, and my husband and I weren’t too worried. We thought it was part of our son’s adjustment phase, as this was his first experience with care outside the home. What began to bother us, though, were the negative interactions we had at pick up time. After every pick up we would get in the car feeling guilty and somewhat like sh***y parents because our son had another “bad day.” A bad day, mind you, consisted of not taking his bottle and not doing his afternoon nap.

We became anxious that he might be treated badly in the owner’s frustration of not being able to have a break. I checked with colleagues and friends to see if this was normal. We thought this was part of caregiving, as not all kids assimilate on a schedule. (And who likes assimilation?) It had barely been a month since care started, and given the amount of money we were paying, we thought this shouldn’t be a huge issue. Furthermore, I didn’t really like my child (who is not even a toddler at this point) being labeled as bad, either directly or indirectly. This was creating unneeded stress and drama that we were unwilling to cope with, so we decided to find different care.

A few days after we secured another spot (thank you Children’s Council!), we got an email from the owner saying it wasn’t working out. We agreed. And guess what, just like that, my son started doing his afternoon nap!

Childcare Plan Take 3: Small daycare center

The next place we went, a small center, was great. There was no crying at drop off and my son went enthusiastically to his carers.  Moreover, he was taking his bottle and eating all his food. I could tell by his interaction with his carers as well as his behavior at pick up and drop off that he was more himself.  This place was cheaper, took the children on daily outings, and was even closer to my work. But two months in, Drama reared its ugly head again. They were losing their license!

While I cared about this, I cared more that my son was happy and thriving in our absence. And the daily cloud of anxiety that I had been carrying with me prior to landing here was finally floating away.

We were sad to see this place close, but we had made good connections through it…so much so that we found a nanny through one of the carers.

Childcare Plan Take 4: Nanny share

Now we have a nanny share, and it’s great. It’s drama-free  (knock on wood), close to our house, and all the families are nice. Most importantly, we know our son is well-cared for. We feel super lucky!

Lessons Learned

Use the Children’s Council.  

I didn’t know about Children’s Council until our second time looking into daycare. They are a great resource, and I recommend calling them rather than doing everything online, as you get a faster response with access to what you need. Through them, we realized that there are a lot of places out there—places that I wish I had known about in my initial, panicked search for care.

Check references.  

I know this is a given, but I didn’t do it. And I should have.

Ask for help.  

My friends and colleagues were really supportive throughout this process, and they love my son. One even offered to help us cover the deposit as we were transitioning daycares. They helped me reach out to care providers and make the best of a very stressful situation.

Don’t burn bridges.   

Also easier said than done.  Even though the first place did not work out for us, we did our best to leave on good terms.  You never know if/when paths might cross again.




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