Our first stop was at a big daycare about three miles from the house. We walked inside and were immediately greeted by the cutest and sweetest receptionist on the planet. She excitedly asked about the due date and if we knew what we were having. Then she went to get the director as we filled out some paperwork. The director buzzed us inside (secure...check) and asked us similar questions in an excited manner. She told us a little bit about their program. It is a Christian facility*, so they incorporate bible stories and such into the curriculum...granted we're talking about infant care for us, so that's more of a down the road kind of thing. The classrooms were all painted like little buildings. One was a barn, another was a church (go figure), another was a log cabin. She showed us the different age rooms and talked about child:caregiver ratios. Then we got to the baby rooms. They seemed very clean and organized. The outside wall was lined with cribs and then there was a large open floor area where the babies were laying about. She told us about how every caregiver is highly trained in their diapering technique. They wear gloves and wash their hands and change their gloves between each baby. They also sanitize the changing table between each baby. That sort of stuff.....so I get the idea that this stuff is important, but does it seem like overkill to anyone else for them to have to wear gloves? I would be comfortable with just the washing their hands between changes technique. Call me old fashioned. Of course, maybe it is more for the caregiver than the parent? I don't know.
But the facility seemed to be really well run. I liked the director. She was really sweet and good natured, she ended the tour talking about how if I have any more questions to please call her and she understood the magnitude of leaving your child with someone. I do have to say that after the tour, I was not lacking faith in their ability to care for Nugget. In fact the only issue with this facility was the price tag, which if you're curious is just a little shy of our mortgage payment. AHHH!
It was on the trip to the next daycare that the numbers started to sink in. I have always run our budget (no surprise there), so I had an idea a while ago (no I won't tell you how long ago) what we could comfortably afford for daycare. When looking at a week by week basis, it didn't seem like that much, but when I figured that monthly number and remembered what we have to spare, I have to admit my skin started to itch.
My only hope was that the next place would be more affordable and if it was within our budget, I could understand sacrificing some of the quality. We arrived at the second daycare to find a toddler running freely across the parking lot, mother 30 feet behind her. Oh Crap! I started to feel like I was going to puke. Granted the toddler was smart, when she saw us pull in, she ran next to a car and stopped. So she had the sense to stop, but we weren't taking our chances with her. We stopped and stared at her until her mother came up and grabbed her arm. Okay just brush this bad feeling off and keep an open mind. We walked over to the door that said "Welcome" and pulled it open. We were looking down a hallway of closed doors and there was nothing reception-like about this entrance. I walked a few feet down the hallway and then turned around. This can't be right. No one was there to see us come in, the door was open. We turned to go out and see if there was another door. As I spotted what must have been the main entrance, a woman popped her head out of the "welcome" door. "Can I help you?" she said. "Hi, yeah we were wanting to tour your infant rooms and talk to someone". She pointed us to the other building and explained that was the infant center. We had walked into the older children area apparently and she did say something about how she saw us in the hallway. But why the hell was the door unlocked? I probably couldn't have walked into a classroom and taken a kid, but still! Probably if we had gone to the other main entrance, all would have been well, but I was starting to really panic at this point. This is probably what we can afford, oh crap!
I tried to calm myself down as we walked over to the other building. Okay this building is going to be fine, I am sure they have tight security for the infants. Sure enough they do have a double entrance, where the person inside has to buzz you into the second door. But we arrived behind a mother picking up her baby. It kind of surprised the caregiver for us to walk in together. When we explained that we wanted to talk to her about the infant care and costs and such, she said 'hang on a minute and let me get her (customer) her baby'. We stood to the side as the mother swiped a card through what looked like a credit card machine and then signed her name. She looked like she was 17 and she called back to the caregiver to ask if she could change her daughter before she gave her back......um okay, you're the mom, you could change her right?
Andy and I stood awkwardly in the room with three babies, two in bouncy chairs holding their bottles and staring at us like who the hell are you people? and one baby in a fancy exerciser thingy. Someday I will know the names for that stuff. It gave us time to be able to look around the building. It was definitely not all the bells and whistles like the other place, but it seemed okay. Alright, I'll be honest, it wasn't the best. It seemed clean enough, but it was ghetto. I could tell Andy was feeling it as well. There was one lady in there and while she was in the changing room, no one was there watching us. Obviously we're not bad people, but you realize how vulnerable you kid would be if you were a bad person. Maybe the 17 year old mother would have put us in a choke hold if we had grabbed one of the kids, but I can't be sure.
She took us through their policies. What we would need to provide: a crib sheet, change of clothes, bottles, milk, wipes, etc. Then we got to the price. It was only $25 a week less than the first place. WHAT? Okay I realize that is $100 less a month, but I was expecting it to be a LOT less because of the drastic differences in the facilities. The credit card machine thingy that the other mom was using had to do with the state childcare assistance program. She explained that was how the state kept track of the moms. She asked if we would be out of pocket and at that point I started wondering if we qualified for the assistance program.
Living in California we saw these on the highway. But after visiting daycare no.2 this is how I felt.
Don't ask me why Nugget has pigtails.
I don't want you to feel like I am cheap or anything. I would have no qualms about paying these prices for childcare, the issue is how we would do it? And unfortunately the only answer is, take out student loans under Andy to cover it. Which again, I would only slightly flinch about. I got back in the car and started to really panic. What were we thinking? We can't afford a child! How does anyone do this? As we made our way home I started contemplating solutions. And really student loans is the only one that would work. I could suspend my 401K contributions, eliminate our Roth-IRAs, get on the HSA instead of the traditional medical plan, get rid of our cell phones, cell my ovaries, but when I started turning these options over in my head, I realized I would have to do basically all of it, to make it work. Maybe the 401K and Roth would be a good idea, but then again, the benefit of continuing those probably far outweighs the idea of having to payback a low-interest-rate student loan in 3 years. I have thought about switching to the HSA but with the unpredictability of a baby and the fact that I don't have the deductible sitting around ready to use, it would actually be more of a liability to go on that plan. The cell phones wouldn't make a dent without all the other stuff combined and if your kid is in daycare, you need a cell phone.
Selling my ovaries will only be an option after I am done having kids, which after looking at childcare costs, maybe I need to be done right now! I could call my student loan companies and ask to suspend them, but that would be a temporary break (they only let you do it for 6 months and you can only do that once, so if I did it and then lost my job in a year, I would be S.O.L).
As you can see this whole two hour experience worked me up into a frenzy. I finally stopped myself and thought 'okay worst case scenario, we take out some student loans...but there is some time to keep looking'. And that is the truth. As easily as I let this work me up and freak me out, there is still some time to look at other options.
A couple of weeks ago, Andy and I looked at the summer semester classes. The good news is he could take a full-load (thus maintaining his GI Bill), but the classes are so quirky that he would be taking two 3-week classes, one at the beginning and one at the end, and then two classes that are 8-weeks long. Like I said, strange. And he would be in class all-day everyday. Meaning he would have to come home every night to a new baby (granted I would be there) and have to do a ton of homework for the next day. It just seemed like it might be too much. He already admitted that his last summer semester was too short for him to really retain any of the information. And he really wants to get an education, not just pass classes. We decided it would be better for him to take it off. We wouldn't have to put Nugget in daycare at 8 weeks old, Andy would get a break from school and really get some good bonding in with our baby.
Budget Natalie figured out that we could make it work. We just happened to have enough to get through the summer. Weird how that works out.
But that means the childcare question has some time. I started looking at some home-daycare ads and found a few that sound good. The prices will be about 2/3rds of the daycares we looked at. I think we can make that work. I will have to revisit my budget, but at least if we still had to take out student loans, they would be much smaller.
Even if after looking at every place we decide that the first one is the one we are most comfortable with, in the end we will be okay. Everything will be okay. I am just thankful we have the option to still keep Andy in school and work towards his dreams and I have been blessed to get my little dream. If I had waited until we could truly afford this little man, it would be 8 years from now, when my student loans were paid off. So I guess I am really glad that I didn't use my rational brain on this one. It took me long enough to get this little dream on his way into my life.
*I don't really talk about religion in my blog....for a reason. I don't want any of my bloggy friends to feel like I am attacking their beliefs or like I am trying to suggest my beliefs on them. I am a big supporter of everyone's right to believe whatever they want. So, trying not to say too much, but still being honest, let me just say that the idea of my child being in a Christian facility kind of gives me the giggles. In fact, the entire ride between the two daycares I couldnt' stop giggling at the idea that should Nugget stay at this one long-term, it would be like he was at Sunday school 10 hours a day, 5 days a week.