I think I did everything right. At five months pregnant I began researching and touring childcare centers. Thanks to the internet, I found an established center near my home full of happy children in a bright, clean environment. After I grudgingly accepted that this service would consume nearly half of my paycheck, I paid my deposit and slept soundly knowing my daughter would spend her early years being loved and nurtured while I was at work. However, right after she was born, my husband was offered a job in New Orleans that he couldn’t pass up, this is when things got frustrating.
Fast forward two months and we rolled into town with the Mardi Gras floats. I did as much research as I could on childcare centers before I arrived, but there was very little information online. This was discouraging, as I live in a world where online presence matters. It was difficult to find any reviews, and of course, they will not tell you the tuition until you come take the tour.
Some places didn’t respond to my inquiries, or if they did, they were already full. It felt like the only options I could find were too expensive, too far away, or had unrealistic hours that wouldn’t allow me to work full time.
Then my husband mentioned a center he noticed on his drive into work. I looked up their website and it was ancient. No reviews, no photos of the facility, and no information to inspire confidence. I was apprehensive, but we decided to look into it anyway.
This is how I was reminded not to judge a book by its cover. Yes, they had room for my daughter in the infant section. Yes, it was a clean, licensed facility with strict safety standards. Yes, parents can stop in anytime to check on their kids. The hours are 6am to 6pm to accommodate the working parent. And the tuition? Nearly 30% less than any other center I had considered.
I found a loving group of people who have been with my daughter from before she could roll over, and now they are helping her learn how to walk. I get a report on her each day and discuss her progress with her caregivers, who give me advice and tell me what to expect as she grows. The staff is proactively setting my daughter up for success in preschool, kindergarten, and the years beyond. To me, a childcare center isn’t just a place where someone supervises my child; it is a place where my child will socialize and have learning experiences through the fundamental years of her development.
My advice to the new parent? Keep an open mind and use all available means to find childcare that fits your needs. When you visit, how are you treated? What are your instincts telling you? Don’t be afraid to stop another parent in the parking lot and ask their opinion. Great early childcare centers do exist. They might not invest in their marketing, but they do invest in your children.
I know for many parents in New Orleans, finding an affordable, quality childcare provider can be difficult. I know that my family has been fortunate to find such an amazing fit for our daughter. That’s why I am asking you to support an investment in our young learners through a smart start initiative.