There was never doubt in my mind that I would return to work after the birth of my first child. I loved my job, revered my boss, and took immense pride in my work in public service. We also live in the LA area, and the high cost of housing required both of our incomes. And lastly, I didn’t want to stop working. Even if I were to leave my full time job, I realized I would still want to fill my time with other unpaid work, such as board service or being active in local politics. So, the million dollar question for me was: who would take care of our child while we worked?
These questions are immensely personal. Our values, education, and timeline for returning to work weighed heavily into the decisions we eventually made to send our son to a family-run child care.
Here’s what I advise any expecting parent.
With your partner, agree on your “musts” – and remember what your “musts” may shift over time. These were ours at the start of our search:
Hours – they had to be long enough since I worked a 9/80.
Location: We are a one-car family, and traffic (pre-COVID) is usually very bad, so ideally daycare would be near home or my office in Downtown Santa Monica.
Program Quality. I had to feel good about the provider and vice versa.
Other factors may matter more for you. These are some to consider:
- Availability. Will there be an opening for your child when you have to return to work? As Santa Monica Councilmember Gleam Davis often points out, parents – disproportionately women – often postpone their return to work due to a lack of childcare, which has profound impacts on earnings and financial security.
- Price. Because money does not grow on trees.
- Religious Affiliation or Pedagogy: Montessori! Reggio Familia! Church or Synagogue!
- Languages Spoken. Ours is Spanish dual immersion.
- Center vs In-Home Day Care. Centers might have longer hours, but usually cost more and have fewer infant spaces.
- Documentation Status. You can get in trouble for hiring an undocumented immigrant as a nanny. But childcare is also expensive, as the U.S. invests very little in it. And because of tremendous demand, immigrant women make up the majority of the domestic workforce (which includes childcare workers).
At the end, we landed at Kennedy Family Child Care in Santa Monica, a family child care near our house. The daycare is in a 1920s bungalow is old and it has seen better days. The center closes at 5:30 p.m., so to make this work, I had to negotiate with my employer to start work one hour earlier than everybody else. For years, I was that person who left 60 to 90 minutes before the rest of my team (all childless). KFCC was actually our third stop. We tried two other family child cares. One couldn’t give us full time hours in time for me to return to work. The second was a disaster for our family. More on that another time!
Child Care Resources
- Contact your local Childcare Resource and Referral Organization. For Westsiders, it’s Connections for Children, a 501(c)3 that will provide a sheet of licensed childcare providers.
What can you do to help?
- Pay on time
- Get to work on time
- Ask questions
- Advocate for universal preschool
- Be generous