After my first day back at work after having my oldest baby, I went to pick her up at a nanny share.
I walked into the upstairs room and my 8-month-old daughter was wide awake, strapped into her car seat, alone on top of a bed. I had no idea how long she had been there.
It’s one of the most painful memories I have of parenting- I felt like a failure for allowing her to be in that position. I still feel like I failed her. I would never want any other mother to experience this pain.
Today I want to share with you some of the resources I wish I had, and things I wish I had known in order to make child care and early childhood education decisions for my daughter. Maybe I would have done everything almost exactly the same- but maybe not. Either way, I want others to avoid the pain that I feel when I look back on that time.
To that end, I’m proud to partner with Colorado Shines to share my favorite resources for finding the right child care for each step of the journey- infants, toddlers, and school-aged children.
Looking For Child Care For The First Time
After spending 8 months fixating on every single one of my daughter’s movements, I knew I wanted a caregiver that would keep her as close to her normal routine as possible.
I wanted to know when she ate, slept and pooped- especially because I was still pumping and wanted to time my sessions with her schedule. I had the nanny use a printable caregiver tracker- but now they have apps for that. Here is a helpful roundup of baby schedule tracking apps from Pregnant Chicken.
Having trouble establishing a sleep routine? Here are our toddler sleep tips for parents.
I had to have a bilingual caregiver- we had only spoken to our daughter in Spanish from birth, and I wanted to make sure she was exposed to Spanish at all times. For more information on creating home language plans, check out our guide to raising bilingual children.
I wanted my child to be safe. That’s ultimately why I wanted her at home with a nanny- but to be honest that was just my own assumption.
I did zero research on the types of child care available to me, or on the pros and cons of each setting. Part of that is because of postpartum depression (more on that in a bit) and part of it is because I had no idea where to even start to find quality care for her.
Colorado Shines has a comprehensive guide on all the types of child care available in Colorado- access the guide here. It even goes through pre-kindergarten options, special education, and preschool program info.
Emotional Wellness For Parents
I felt so alone during that first year and that meant my postpartum depression held strong for longer than it probably should have.
I also didn’t have a ton of time to go out and socialize- when my daughter and I got home from work/nanny, we wanted to stay home. Being a blogger/influencer, I know that I can turn to social media for stories from other parents- but I also know that those stories are often not the whole picture.
I love the Share Your Story section on the Early Learning CO website where you can either share your parenting story or read real-life stories of other parents in Colorado raising their kids. Check it out here.
Transitioning Your Childcare Situation
Once my daughter got older, we needed to think less about daycare and more about school readiness and socialization. Here are a few considerations as you transition to a new child care setting.
Finding A New Childcare Center
It’s not always easy to find a new center. Google can work, as can asking other parents. But- it never even dawned on me that there would be a database with all the different types of child care centers- and a search I could narrow by language.
But there is- and the tool includes English, Spanish, Mandarin, French, German and Sign Language.
Even better- the entire site is translated to Spanish, so in theory, I could have asked the opinions of our family in Costa Rica as I was making my decision.
Find the care center search tool here. The search tool also offers options to narrow your search down to Head Start programs and CCCAP centers for low-income families.
Kids are super resilient for sure, but I also think they have a certain emotional fragility that we need to honor. Over these years I’ve kept this downloadable transitions checklist handy because not only does it outline everything parents need to know about changes, but it also offers links to outstanding resources for follow up.
Staying on Track Developmentally
There’s so much information about the big milestones for babies- when they should eat solid food, talk, walk, crawl, roll over, etc. But once the first 12-18 months are over, it’s hard to know if your child is on track developmentally and prepared for school.
Interviewing the Childcare Provider
Definitely download this checklist which includes questions for preschool teachers about early childhood education programs. You learn how to ask questions about how children learn and what types of child development standards are in place to prepare your children for secondary education and beyond.
Starting School and Raising Older Children (Ages 5-8)
While parenting can seem to get a bit easier once kids are in school, it can also get tricky to navigate before and aftercare, developmental milestones, and sometimes financial instability.
Choosing A School
Choosing a school for your child is so hard- not only do you need to check what schools are available, you have to vie for a seat in the school you like.
As I was touring schools when my oldest started kindergarten, I knew what I wanted from a school in terms of school culture and environment, but I didn’t know all of the academic targets the school should be hitting.
That’s why this guide to the Colorado State Standards is helpful. It includes content areas and the academic standards schools should incorporate into their framework.
Navigating Child’s Social Needs
That first time your child has a hard day at school and there’s not much you can do about it is a tough one for every parent. Coupled with the fact that our 5-8-year-olds don’t always express themselves in clear terms can make navigating social needs tough for even the best parents.
I don’t take a stance that every time my child has a tough social situation that the other kid is automatically a bully, but this past year we did have a recurring problem with one of the other children in her class.
It was really hard for me to navigate advocating for my child while also honoring the perspective of the other parent- not to mention putting pressure on the school to hold everyone accountable.
To that end, I love this list of anti-bullying resources from Teach.com which provides a myriad of awesome resources from trusted sources on how to advocate for your child.
The first 6 years of parenting had a lot of ups and downs- many of them financial. We had an expensive birth with our second, child care costs in our area went up, and I ended up leaving my full time job because it didn’t make sense to work to pay for child care.
A few years later, my husband lost his job as well, and we had a lot of trouble making ends meet. As our socioeconomic status has changed over the years, I’ve navigated so many government programs in search of the medical and educational support we needed, and I never knew that there was an entire list of resources for families in need right on the Colorado Shines website.
Even better is the free hotline you can call and just talk to an actual person if you need help (1.877.338.CARE).
Parenting is the hardest thing we will ever do- and it’s also the most rewarding. You are not alone- the State of Colorado has provided amazing free resources for parents so that we can move forward confidently in our parenting journey. Make sure to utilize the resources so you can focus on what’s most important- spending quality time with your child.