My original plan was to only take six months off work and as soon as my pay was due to drop significantly go back to work. Choosing childcare for my little boy felt like a horrible and daunting task. In fact, before I made the decision to extend my maternity leave, I couldn’t process the thought of handing my son over to someone else to care for him. He was still on a lot of medication and was still needing regular urgent care at the hospital.

I took the extra time off and I started attending CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) sessions to address my anxiety. My little boy slowly started coming off his medication too. The long list was becoming shorter the more months that went by. Therapy was going well too. There were a few exercises that I was working through with my therapist that really helped me with my anxiety.

Choosing childcare – I couldn’t put it off any longer

My return to work date was coming up fast again and I needed to consider choosing childcare for my baby boy that felt right for us. I looked into my options. Nursery settings didn’t appeal to me at the time. I didn’t think he would get enough one to one time and if he became poorly it might not be spotted as quickly. My dad has a good friend and his wife is a childminder. I got in touch with her arranged to meet at her home.

We arrived at her home with our little boy. We were shown in to a lovely warm and clean home. I took my little boy out of his car seat. We told her about all his health conditions and carefully studied her to see if she seemed put off or scared. She listened carefully and asked lots of questions. She wasn’t put off at all. Our baby boy decided to fill his nappy and immediately she offered to change his nappy. I liked the way she handled him and my son was happy and content being cared for by this new stranger.

Baby smiling. Photography credit: Filip Mroz
Baby smiling. Photography credit: Filip Mroz

We arranged for him to do a few sessions while I was still off work so that I was close by if anything happened. My baby boy settled in no problem! His development came on leaps and bounds. He loves going to the childminder and being with the other children. In pre lockdown days he loved going to beaches, parks, nature walks, playgrounds, farms, play centres, playgroups etc. She had them out every day doing all sorts of different things. We realised that we needed to introduce nursery as a more formal setting to help with speech and prepare our son for school.

Choosing a nursery

This was a difficult choice. The childminder does so much with our little boy that it seemed mean to confine my son to just one building. This was my preconception any way. In fact, the nursery we chose do quite a lot with the children. I am glad I held off on him going too early though. My baby boy had several occasions where his breathing was bad which was spotted by the childminder and when I got to him I felt he needed the hospital. Once he was about 18 months old the hospital visits massively reduced and the time felt right to try a nursery setting.

Initially he was only signed up for 2 morning sessions per week. It was a slow start and he wasn’t keen on going. He seemed to struggle when other children were upset and he couldn’t make them better. After a few weeks though all the children settled in and he started to love going. I was really impressed as well with how much they helped and supported his speech therapy homework. They also assigned some one to one time with him to give him more help.

It really felt like we were getting somewhere. We had a great routine going and had introduced lots of things to help with his speech and understanding. Then a world wide pandemic dominated our lives.

Toddler playing in the grass. Photography credit: Jordan Whitt
Toddler playing in the grass. Photography credit: Jordan Whitt

Lockdown

Lockdown hit and hit hard! Every day my little boy would ask if he could go to nursery and the childminders and it was so hard telling him no he couldn’t. The childminder was missing him as well so we arranged a few video calls so that he could still talk to her. Soon nursery set up video calls as well. The nursery ones are noisy and absolute bedlam but at the same time it’s so lovely to see all the children looking for each other and waving.

Then I had my second baby boy by c-section and the recovery was tough. The plan was that I would have about 40 hours a week of childcare but lockdown put a stop to this. My wound kept opening and the doctors couldn’t stitch it back up so I have had an open wound. Looking after a 3 year old with an open wound is really tough going.

Both me and my husband are classed as key workers so after explaining the situation to nursery they helped us out by taking my little boy back for a few hours a week. With all the restrictions that the local authorities placed on the childminder she couldn’t initially take him back. She needed time to get prepare her home. With my sons medical history it wasn’t decision we made lightly but it turned out sending him back to nursery was the best decision. I hadn’t realised quite how much lockdown had affected my sons mental health. It has also allowed me time to recover. There is mixed opinions over children returning to school in September, my opinion is to do what’s best for you.

Einstein's theory on a chalkboard E=mc2. Photography credit: jeshoots
Einstein’s theory on a chalkboard E=mc2. Photography credit: jeshoots

Choosing childcare checklist

  • Think about what you want from a childcare setting and make a list
  • Make a list of questions you would like to ask the childcare provider – what do you do with the children? How many children are in their care or are assigned per member of staff? How much do you charge? Do you accept the funding at 3 years old?
  • Do your research! Check Ofsted reviews. If possible, check what other parents have to say.
  • If your child has health issues then ask what kind of plan would be put in place – most will ask what sort of thing you want in place. I had a written plan on what steps I wanted my childminder to take and I set up a WhatsApp group in case she couldn’t get hold of me. The group was made up of me, my husband and my parents.
  • Trust your gut! You have to feel comfortable with the person looking after your child so trust your instincts, choosing childcare is a big decision.

Did you see our recent blog on what preemie charity events to look out for this year?