Fatherhood: Week Three - The Search For Daycare

My son is just three weeks old and my wife and I are trying to find him a daycare.

With less than three months until my wife returns to her job, we’ve been weighing the options of who will care for our son during the day. We've visited some local infant care facilities and discussed the possibility of me doing freelance work while being a stay-at-home dad, an option that seems to slip further away with each unanswered article pitch I send. 

The two daycares we’ve visited up to this point are similar. They have clean facilities, licensed qualified employees who underwent extensive background checks, an educational program in place to help children develop, and they make sure everyone who visits the infant room wears blue booties over their footwear (I assume it’s for health reasons, but I’m still waiting for an explanation).

Location, appearance, and cost is what makes these establishments different. One is more expensive, but very well appointed and less than a mile from our residence. The other, which is on the way to my wife’s work, is a decidedly less-fancy church non-profit.

You can see immediately where the extra money goes when you walk into the pricey facility. It’s all over the shiny walls, floors, and employee uniforms. When we toured the church’s non-profit preschool, the walk-and-talk focused on the how qualified and trained each faculty member was and how long they had been there. I found this dialogue reassuring.

The church daycare also has two available spots for August. The other facility, which is part of a national chain, has a waiting list until December. The choice seems obvious, but my wife and I have been weighing the options for days.

We’re not alone in our quest for our son to have the proper development that comes with quality childcare.  A report by the United States Census Bureau stated that five years ago only 24 percent of children were cared for by a parent while their mother was working. The cost to parents of early education is nearly twice as expensive as a year of tuition at a four-year public college.

After reading this, I want to work from home even more and help raise my son. Growing up, I recall being raised by a slew of family, friends, and babysitters while my dad worked and mom went through nursing school. Sometimes I feel like I missed out on some quality time with my mom, especially since she passed away when I was only in my twenties. I feel blessed to even have a child considering there was a time when I never thought I’d be a dad. 

I want to be with my son as much as possible, but I also want to give him the best childhood we can afford. I’m not worried about staying behind while my wife works. I’m unconcerned with the traditional male role as breadwinner. My main fear in taking on child-rearing duties stems from the difficulty in finding adequate freelance income. I want to be able to contribute something more to our family, and I have yet to get a writing pitch accepted outside of the local publication I contribute to.

It feels like I’m rushing into a world I don’t know much about. Most of my peers who freelance seem to have it together with a set of publications they can go to for work. I respect and admire them a great deal. I believe it has taken many years for them to get to where they are. I’ve been at it for a little more than two years and finally feel confident that I could make something substantial out of my writing.

Just as it seemed I was hitting my stride, my wife and I heard two words we never could have predicted: you’re pregnant. We were so excited about becoming parents, but it has felt like a never-ending game of catch-up. I wish I could’ve prepared more for this event professionally so we didn’t have to endure this frustrating search for someone else to take care of our son. 

There really isn’t any evidence that I couldn't take care of my son better than a daycare would. If it’s already this difficult to decide which facility is better than another, I'd rather do the job myself. I’d get some great quality time with my son, but maybe he would be missing out on the social benefits of being in daycare. 

Anything could happen in the next few weeks. I’m just glad we are able to explore all of our options.