My Day Care Nightmare
I am extremely happy to share my daycare nightmare with all of you! I had my daughter in Seattle, WA in September 2009 and I learned a very painful lesson (very quickly!) about finding affordable child care in this country, particularly a larger city. I had put myself on wait lists that were two years out the minute I found out I was pregnant. I was told that I should call and schedule appointments with these places so that they would get to know me and possibly bump me up on this list because they would see how serious I was. I attempted this to no avail. I was calling everywhere in the city, even though I did not have a car. I knew I had to go back to work after two months and it was scaring me when I still had nothing lined up by the time she was born. A few weeks after she was born, I had a friend of mine call a handful of in-home daycare centers to see if they would have any openings for newborns. I learned quickly that many places did not like to give care to anyone under two because of the potty training factor. Also, because the state is tougher on the number of children allowed per care giver, meaning less money and more work for the providers. Another factor that was becoming an obstacle was the fact that I was a low-paid, single mother who did not receive child support. Working Child Care Connections through DSHS was able to help me pay for the daycare and unfortunately, a lot of places did not accept this. The reason behind this, I found out, was because they were not allowed to charge me anymore than the low rate that DSHS had set for me. In turn, this meant less money for the daycare providers. Finally, about a month before I was to return to work from my maternity leave, I found an in-home daycare that was very close to my home. It honestly wasn't completely up to my standards (she had overbooked her kids; she seemed greedy that way. She also yelled at the kids a lot and only had two other people who were her assistants and kept all of the children in one room most of the time. She also seemed to just want to throw them in front of a TV and didn't have much interaction. Most of the children were also older, louder and rowdier, and she did not have a separate infant/toddler room.) Being completely scared and out of any options, I decided this was the only place I could take her until something opened up (ironically, she is nearly a year old and the only place that is opening up still isn't available for another three months!) I signed her up, I paid my co-payment that was affordable to me and we began our journey. After a week, the owner already started telling me that my child was very unhappy there. She would cry and cry for hours. She would not sleep. She asked me if she did this at home. I said "no." Granted, we weren't the most silent household but we certainly did not have screaming toddlers running around, throwing toys at her and touching her at all hours of the day. This was what was happening during her stay. This fussiness during the day was certainly bleeding into her nights at home with me, too. The caregiver told me that this would be a two-week trial period. She said this was in the handbook, which she never actually gave me. Nor did I sign anything agreeing to this. The next week, things had not really improved. She was still fussy and crying a lot. One of the assistants figured out that singing and rocking her while she ate soothed her. This upset the owner because she nor her assistants "had this kind of time to spend with her." I was shocked. I thought that was what daycare providers did?! Spend time with your children? Apparently, she was hoping to just keep her in the car seat or in a playpen and leave it at that. Another shocking thing that started occurring was that she was going through impractical amounts of formula and wipes. I decided to take a trip to Costco to make sure this was covered. I brought in two large bags of wipes and large cans of formula. I was surprised when two days later, I got very nasty messages on my voice mail about how I needed to provide my own wipes and formula and that I need to bring some in to replace the old ones the next day. WHAT?! Another thing that struck me as odd was that some kids were allowed to come in on days they were "closed" when mine was not. For example, I was not allowed to bring her on Saturdays but my attentiveness drew my eyes to many other parent's sign-in sheets that were allowed to. I noticed it was the same with holidays. Interesting! After the third week, I was beginning to feel a huge weight on my shoulders. My gut was telling me to get her out of that center but I did not know how I was going to be able to live after I had just spent nearly all my savings during my unpaid maternity leave and daycare. I knew I was doomed! I was going to be fired! How could I possibly find a new job when the economy had just reached it's lowest point? How was I supposed to work if I have not daycare options? In home nannies were expensive and did not take DSHS. I did not have the kind of money they were asking for! I could feel the ulcers taking permanent residence in my postpartum belly. The insurmountable stress, adorned with postpartum fog and hormones was beginning to really get to me. I was afraid for my life and the well being of my child. I had even thought I would be forced to give her up for adoption because I would be too poverty-stricken to take care of her. A sad time indeed! At this point, I was very desperate and pleaded with the daycare to let her stay. They said they would extend her "trial period" until one day, while at work, I received a phone call the Tuesday before Thanksgiving that the center was closed Wednesday through Monday. She said that this was in the same handbook (you know, the unattainable one.) I immediately went into hysterics. I was scheduled to work that holiday weekend: Wednesday through Saturday! What was I going to do?! I discussed this with my boss, who was very unhappy about my new situation. Luckily, she was willing to work with my schedule through the next month of December, where I could come in once in a while if I had found someone to watch her. I guess I wouldn't be affording Christmas presents, after all. Sigh. The next day, Tuesday November 25th, 2008, I dropped my daughter off before work. I was accosted the minute I walked in the door by one of the assistants that I still needed to bring in wipes. Having reached my maximum stress level, I snipped, "Look. I just gave you two huge bags of wipes from Costco. I even have the receipt to show you that I bought these on this date. I REALLY don't have the money to supply wipes for your entire daycare, okay?" As the word "okay" left my tongue, the owner entered the room and said, "Hello, I would like to let you know that we have decided that your daughter can't come here anymore. She is too much work for us and we don't have time to bounce her to sleep. She needs a lot more one on one time. You can keep her here through tomorrow but she is not welcome to come back." I felt my heart sink. Reluctantly, I handed my daughter and her diaper bag over to the assistant and as I closed the door behind me, I began to sob. An hour later, I received a call from the owner of the daycare and I could hear my child screaming at the top of her lungs in the background. The owner told me that she had accidentally put my wipes in another child's cubby and that she would return them to me when I took my child home. I was so shaken by all that had just happened that my boss allowed me to go home early. I told her the whole situation and she agreed that I should take my daughter home and take the whole holiday weekend off. I promised her I would try to figure out some schedule out with friends and roommates so that I could come back to work the following week. I knew in my heart that this proposed friend daycare would not last long and that I would not be able to find another daycare soon enough, but I told my boss I would do the best I could. That afternoon, I went to pick up my very unhappy daughter and let them know that I would not be bringing her back the next day or ever again. As I suspected, none of the wipes or full formula cans were returned to me. The following month of December was a very dark and scattered time. Too broke for the holidays and feeling completely defeated, I cried most of the time. My friends and roommates were beginning to feel worn from having to care for my daughter and I started working less and less, until I wasn't working at all. I filed for unemployment for the few weeks that I was unable to work. Of course, it was a measly amount and I had to pay it back later. At this point, things were bad enough that I needed to get on welfare or we weren't going to be able to eat. I won't deny that this was the worst Christmas season of my entire life! Thankfully, once January approached, my boss figured out a way for me to be able to work remotely from home and I have been doing this ever since. I took a huge pay cut, however, but I am able to get by. Spending the last year with my daughter has also been amazing and I am thankful for having such an understanding boss. I won't deny that working for a female-run company worked in my favor! Now, ten months later, we have moved to a smaller city in the same state and I am returning to school. My job still allows me to work remotely from home and I found my daughter the most amazing daycare/preschool that accepts DSHS and had one opening just in time for me to start school. I think she will be very happy there.