Returning To Work: Top 5 Tips for Finding Childcare

working momWhether you spent an entire year (or two) home with a new baby, or just the bare-bones amount of time allotted for maternity leave, the transition back to work for a new mom can be extraordinarily difficult.

After my son was born in 2007, I had the great luxury of staying home with him for an entire year. During that time, I started my own "mommy blog," called Perfectly Disheveled, which led to me to a fortunate writing position with a huge parenting site. Taking that year off allowed me to home in on what I really wanted to do with my career: write about what I knew. It also allowed me to say goodbye to a career path that wasn't ever going to be kid-friendly. (Apparently, television producers don't appreciate the importance of sleep training and day-care pick up/drop off times).

-- See salaries for writers.

-- Compare your salary to a writer's.

Despite the fact that I had found the best-case scenario, work-wise (for a site that was in fact, all things mom), I still, however, had to wrangle with the daily feat of being a full-time working mom. For me, the first priority when returning to work was making sure our child-care situation was not just in place, but was perfect.

Deciding, arranging, and feeling confident about the person or people that are essentially going to rear your child for the eight-plus hours you go to work is no small accomplishment. In fact, I believe that more than anything else, as a working parent, this is paramount in having a successful career: You need to find a caretaker that is an extension of yourself so that you can leave feeling certain that your child is safe and loved in order for you to maintain focus and move ahead at work. Period.

Childcare Musts:

1) Map out your hours and figure out the math. Start by figuring out what your hours at work will be. What time do you need to get there? And what time would be appropriate for you to leave? This will determine whether it might make most sense for you to hire a full-time nanny or use day care. In my case, I knew I wanted my son to be surrounded by children; I also knew I couldn't afford to have a nanny for nine hours a day, five days a week. Therefore, I found a neighborhood day care, and because they close at 5 p.m., determined that I would have to hire an afternoon helper/babysitter to pick up my son.

2) Cast a wide net. In order to find your very own Mary Poppins, (without having to spend money going through an agency), you're going to need to use every resource out there. I used Craigslist and had tremendous success. But you can join/sign up for sites like Yahoo's Peachhead Nanny, where potential nannies and families post their credentials and their needs, and users can respond, inquire, and make referrals. I also recommend signing up for local newsletters or websites dedicated to parenting in your city. I live and breathe Jen's List (a daily email sent out by a Los Angeles mother). Her site and daily newsletter not only has coupon codes, interesting stories, and great product reviews, but she offers a list of nanny and babysitter leads. Check with your local Mommy and Me class, church, or synagogue for information on childcare or a mom who may know of any leads.

3) Hire a teacher. Right now across the country, teachers are being laid off left and right. In my search for an afternoon helper, I received over a dozen responses from teachers looking for extra hours. I found that their hours were perfect for the "afternoon shift" that I was looking to have covered. I also loved the notion of my child being cared for by a young teacher as a) they obviously have experience and backgrounds working with children and b) they have been finger-printed and background-checked. This is crucial!

4) Give it time. Start your search and hunt for your caretaker as soon as you get the word, or even the inkling that you may be returning to work. As I said earlier, you want to be able to walk in to your job feeling 100 percent confident that your child is in the best possible hands (that aren't yours). In order for this to happen you have to make sure you give your child (and his/her new caretaker) enough time to get adjusted. I spent two weeks transitioning my son to day care -- this meant going every day with him for small periods of time until both of us seemed comfortable enough for me to leave (which I also started in short increments). Once I felt like he had made the adjustment at day care, I introduced the babysitter and had her shadow me for a couple of days until, again, I felt like we were all at a point that we could separate and she take over.

5) Give important information. No matter who is caring for your child (nanny, day care, even a family member), always make sure that you're leaving them with all pertinent information. From contact numbers and names of family members in relation to your child, to allergies, medical conditions, and local numbers and addresses of ERs, a clear list in case of emergencies is a must.

Obviously, not everyone has the luxury or time to make the transition soft and smooth; but preparing as much as you can and giving it your attention is the best place to start.

Next: Working Around Kids' Schedules >>

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Maryanne, if your husband is laid off then he can be the stay-at-home parent! If one is willing to make the personal sacrifices, the family CAN live on one income. If more parents made this choice, our social fabric would change. Teaching good manners and strong morals are critical, but far more important is ensuring the child's psychological/emotional soundness.

April 14 2010 at 9:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I had a nanny for the first year or so for my baby, but after that wanted her to learn socialization skills so enrolled her in a day care center. The added advantage of a day care center is that there are checks and balances - no one should ever be alone with your child.

I didn't find the transition back to work difficult, except for those occasional sleepness nights when baby just couldn't seem to go to or stay asleep.

April 14 2010 at 4:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My wife runs and in home day care (for 30 years now). She takes care of many children. They are family to us. Kids today won't do well in society if they're brought up in a parents home with no "kids" around (not brothers but other kids). I used to think the same as Jane, but it's not practical to think one income is enough, unless it's very high.

My son and wife presented me with my 6th grandchild 8 months ago. My son quit his full time job to be a stay at home dad. His wife is the major bread winner and they're comfortable with that. But my grandson has flourished when my son takes him to the library or park and is around other kids.

Sure, ideally, if it were Leave it to Beaver time again, mom would be home baking cakes and making the house smell good, dressed in her perfect dress, make-up and high heels and dad would be wearing a suit and driving to the "office" every day. Sadly, those times are gone.

April 14 2010 at 6:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jim's comment

Is this the same Jim that called me an idiot? What would I know? I am only a woman and mother—who once had to work full time and use daycare. How can you defend your wife's career--i.e. JOB!!!! When you previously stated, “ideally mom would be at home”. In my statement I did not say that I want women to regress. I stated that parents need to be just that…. Parents!!! It sounds to me that your son is doing what’s right for his children. However chances are that his wife will grow resentful because…. Here’s the kicker… women generally want to be home with their babies. Maternal instinct is not a myth. Just as a man’s protective nature is not either.
Our society has been programmed into thinking that being a mother is not as important having a career and “freedom”. Those things are great, and women should strive for higher education and a career, but when motherhood comes knocking, we as women need to answer the door. Some women don’t … God bless the fathers who step up.
Jim, don’t be disillusioned, your wife may care deeply for those children dropped off and abandoned at your home, but they would rather be at home with THEIR OWN MOM. A first mom is better that a “second mom”. Go ask your wife if she would go back to work and leave her children at a day care. Let me guess what her answer would be… a resilient no! That is probably why she works from home.

This speaks to the average selfish woman who has a choice but doesn’t make the right one. There are special circumstances that are not included in this generalized statement.

P.S. Someone who cannot make a valid, intelligible point often resorts to name calling.

April 14 2010 at 3:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Shoe Queen

Wow...Judging by some of these comments, quite a few people have not yet discovered that this is the 21st century. G-d forbid a mother might actually enjoy her career and find it rewarding. Saying a woman is a bad mother for having a career is antiquated, narrow-minded, and misogynistic. I don't see anyone calling a man a bad father for having a career outside of the home. Maybe we shouldn't bother educating little girls then, since apparently people think only boys should be allowed to grow up and choose to have careers. I have a question for those of you who feel the need to bash working moms: Do you also have a chip on your shoulder when it comes to stay-at-home dads? Being at home with the kids doesn't automatically make someone a good parent, it's all about the QUALITY of the time parents spend with their children. There are plenty of parents who have important, fulfilling careers and value the time they spend with their children.

April 14 2010 at 5:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Shoe Queen's comment

Do you honestly think a child cares about "quality" time? Heavens no! They only want to be with Mom or Dad. There's nothing sexist about it. What's antiquated is thinking a woman cannot have a career at another time in her life--when she's not parenting. If she wants a career, great, just don't have children. Of course girls should have great educations--maybe Dad wants to stay home, and the better parent she can be. Encouraging women to make sound choices is NOT "working-mom bashing."

April 14 2010 at 9:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have been studying to become an elementary school teacher for over four years now and have only two years left to go. The best thing to look for in child care is the quality of the people working in the field.

April 14 2010 at 1:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Budget, Budget, Budget, so that a parent can stay home to raise their child. Single mothers should be encouraged to receive support from their families. Some mothers have to work, I understand. However some mothers don't "need" to work. Would you rather have a fancy home, two or more cars, brand name clothes..... or the look of admiration and love coming from your child's eyes. Being there for their first word, walking...etc. Child Care workers are just that ..."workers" they are doing a job. A mother is loving her child when she cares for them. She is not "giving up" her career, she is taking on a much more important calling.

April 14 2010 at 1:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Christy's comment

Christy, you are 100% correct. You couldn't offer me any material thing in the world that could keep me away fom my toddler. Time flies & I can't & won't miss precious moments for more money!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

April 14 2010 at 1:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Geeze Christy. YOU my dear are a complete idiot. My wife is an in-home (our home I mean) child care provider. She is a 2nd mom to these kids. She's not a "worker" as you state. You obviously have no freaking idea what the hell you're talking about.

I guess if you are taking them to a "school" type setting, yeah, you get the same type of child care there as the kids get from teachers in the government school systems.

We've had parents leave their kid with us for a week while they vacationed in Hawaii because they thought she would be better taken care of than by their other family memebers. We have kids stay with us while their mom is undergoing treatment for Cancer.

Get your head out of your posterior Christy. You are an idiot!

April 14 2010 at 7:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sarah Le

Jenny - I agree with you. Evil comes in all colors, shapes, sizes, genders and ages. Not to be paranoid - but just to be very very cautious. Don't get into situations where you put yourself/child in harm's way. Also, for those with nannies and sitters, a nanny-cam is well worth the investment.

April 14 2010 at 12:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Sarah Le's comment

Sarah Le, thank you & you hit the nail on the head!!!!!!

April 14 2010 at 1:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Something else that I believe individuals should look for in childcare is curriculum. If you're sending your toddler to daycare for several hours a day, it's important that they do a lot of learning.

I'm a toddler teacher (and parent of a preschooler), and I feel that it's just as important that you find someone to teach your child, not just watch them. Give them the experiences they need in order to build the rest of their learning lives. That's not to say a child who isn't in daycare will be behind--Just make sure they get the learning they need.

Definitely research curriculum... if you're spending money each day to have your child be taken care of, you should do your best to make sure it's in an environment that will give them solid foundations. Remember that learning starts from birth!

Don't forget to research financial aid, parents. Often, childcare seems very expensive, but there are a ton of programs out there to help working parents make ends meet while giving their children the best education possible.

April 14 2010 at 12:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to zelgadas99's comment

Absolutly, I have a 2 year old & this week I enrolled her in summer camp & 2 & 3 yearold pre-pre-school in Sept. Kids need that for social skills & basic learning so thay are very prepared, Kindergarten is a lot harder then when I was growing up!!!!!!!!!

April 14 2010 at 12:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Harry, have you watched "Nancy Grace", the 2 biggest stories right now are 2 white, young females who killed there own children!!!!!!!!!!!

April 14 2010 at 12:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

#52 comment, I am sorry if you had a bad experience but bad people come in all colors, religions & nationalities!!!!!!!
Please don't trust everyone that is not Mexican!!!

April 14 2010 at 12:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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