3 Unexpected Reasons I Love Having My Daughter In Centre Care

It feels like it was a lot longer than six months ago that I was a first-time mum navigating the new daycare-drop-off-then-get-to-work-on-time routine.

When I was researching my options it was easy to dwell on all of the things that both her and I would be missing out on by not having the time together that was traded for her in care while I was at work. It was easy to worry about the worst case scenario – that she might be mistreated without my knowledge, or that she wouldn’t receive the level of care and attention that I could provide her one-on-one at home.

What I didn’t imagine, of course, were all of the positive things that come out of her being in the care of others and around other kids who are developmentally at a very similar stage. The top three reasons I love her being in centre care are:

1. Her confidence has soared

Being away from us during working hours on weekdays has meant she has learned how to build trusting relationships with other adults. She knows that mum and dad are off to work and that we will be back to collect her after a fun day with her teachers and friends.

Being around other kids, she observes social behaviour and picks up language and skills that I would struggle to provide the opportunity for her to develop at the pace she has being at daycare. At her centre, her days are filled with an abundance of activities, including lots and lots of messy play – paint, glitter, sand, more paint – all of the things that I quietly prefer she does away from the living room carpet and her bedroom walls!

2. They are just as aware of her needs and development as I am

Early childhood educators are special people – imagine wrangling 10 or more energetic toddlers on the days you least feel like socialising. Children climbing on you and spitting half eaten bread into your palms multiple times a day is all a regular day at work. This is their world, and it never ceases to amaze me how extraordinarily aware of every child’s individual needs they are.

In an instant, they can tell me how much sleep she’s had and the reasons they suspect that perhaps she’s not been quite herself that day. They’ll identify the new skills she is mastering and where we need to provide additional support. They are just as aware of her needs and development as we are, sometimes even more so. I love them for that.

3. I have a network of experience to learn from too

You never really have this parenting thing nailed, and just when you think you do, it all changes again in a heartbeat. Having a group of people who know my child almost as well as I know her has proven invaluable. When we were struggling with sleep routine, we had someone to suggest ideas that were actually relevant to our daughter. When possessiveness ruled and sharing was a non-event, we were gently guided with how to manage this challenging behaviour. It’s never unsolicited advice, and always with ours and her interests at heart.

For all of the self-doubt, mum-guilt and worry I experienced in those early months, it has certainly been outweighed by the positive experience that centre care has been for our family. She loves daycare, so much so that as we pull up we hear an enthusiastic “yay” from the backseat as we wait to take our place in the carpark at the beginning of each day.

Our family has gained so much from being part of the Kindercare community, and we are extremely grateful for the early childhood educators and team there for being part of our village.

Samantha Howarth is mum to almost 2 year old Everly, and the Customer Experience Manager for My Kids Village, a website set up to help parents connect with their village. Start your childcare search and find your village at My Kids Village.

Outsourcing the Safety of a Piece of your Heart

Can you remember the moment you brought your baby home for the very first time?

In the thick of that glorious, sleep deprived, rollercoaster of emotions, everything hurts newborn bubble – I distinctly remember sitting on the couch, staring adoringly at the teeny tiny little bundle of deliciousness whose entire length of her outstretched body only extended from my knees to my postpartum tummy and thinking to myself –

“so this is what it feels like to have your heart exist on the outside of your body.”

Once the months of breastfeeding angst, monitoring the colour of poop and adjusting to our new normal had settled enough, the mothers in my antenatal group, my Plunket playgroup and other friends with babies were all starting to think and talk about the same thing – what are my options for returning to work? Who am I going to trust with the safety of my baby in order to enable me to be a confident working parent?

I remember making a point of sitting down one afternoon to look at childcare options while Everly was napping, and being a puddle of tears. I welled up at the thought of handing her off to be cared by someone else for 8 hours. What if I miss her first words? Or her first steps? What if she doesn’t get the attention she needs because she is around so many other kids?

It was hard. Being a first time mother, I had no idea what I didn’t know. What questions do I ask and what do I look for? How can I tell if my child will thrive here or not?

I spent so long researching the options in my area, trying to get a feel for what other parents experiences were. Do I go with an in home service or a centre? What are the pros and cons of both? I navigated my way through pages of information, the websites of private and government subsidised services and Education Review Reports – just to try and help me make sense of it all.

The experiences of the other parents I knew echoed mine.

“I finally shortlisted some options, and I went to visit them, and they had no space for 6 months, 8 months, until next year so it was back to the drawing board.”

Parents of kids under the age of 14 everywhere, everyday need to make decisions about childcare. Whether it’s early childhood, after school or before school care, and for school holidays. If a family is relocating for work or a change of lifestyle, decisions need to be made about what’s going to happen with the kids while mum and dad are at work.

There are over 800,000 parents in New Zealand and there has to be a better way to help them navigate their options, answer the questions they don’t know they should be asking, and start that evaluation process from the comfort of their own home for the care of the little people most precious to them.

What if there was a single place online that could help educate us about what our needs are in addition to what we think they are, and narrow down our options based on the criteria unique to our individual families? What if we could request to be contacted by multiple providers or make appointments using a form from one place rather than 20 different websites – some of which don’t even work or give us zero confidence that the enquiry got through.

Helping parents everywhere to answer these questions and solve these challenges is the goal of My Kids Village, a social enterprise founded by parents, for parents. We are only just getting started and over the next few months we will be endeavouring to help parents answer these all too familiar questions and assisting them to connect with their circle of people that makes up their kids village.

If this sounds like something that would be helpful to you, or someone you know, head on over to My Kids Village and register for free as a parent to receive helpful content and updates as we release them.