Show that Daycare Search Who’s #MomBoss

When I found out we were pregnant, it was completely surreal and a little hard to believe. I felt the same, I looked the same, and knowing a human was growing inside of me seemed more sci-fi than reality. However, once the “cute” bloated pouch made its debut, accompanied with its morning sickness cousin around week 7, IT. FELT. REAL.

As a natural planner {some may say worrier, Type-A, over the top … natural planner is nicer}, that was also when I started thinking of all the things I needed to do. Gasp, I only had 33 weeks left! While I know my more easy-going counterparts are probably rolling their eyes, I think eventually choosing a daycare becomes a stressful to-do list item for many people {whether during pregnancy or transitioning from in-home care to daycare}. Not only are you vetting people that you will hand over your child to, but you could be vying for a class spot that others are too.

The reality is that Houston is a mega-city which means lots of babies in one area, so time, availability, and pickiness may not always be on your side. In fact, one daycare I inquired at told me they have been turning away waitlist requests from people who were NOT PREGNANT YET! And let me just note, I wasn’t targeting the Harvard of daycares – this was a regular church facility. Does that paint the picture of the insane amount of competition I realized I was facing to get him a spot?

Now please hear me; this isn’t intended to freak everyone out because like most mommy issues, it will work out. There are so many articles that tell you HOW to pick a daycare {questions to ask, what to look for on tour, etc}, but I didn’t find much information on HOW TO CONDUCT my daycare search. You can disagree, use some parts or all of it, but the goal is for you to feel a little less overwhelmed and more equipped to tackle the daycare search like a #MomBoss. And yes, I am proclaiming a hashtag for us because just like #GirlBoss – we deserve one too.

All About the Benjamins :: Determine that Budget

When kids enter the picture, whether in the womb or in your house, it becomes easy to make emotional, knee-jerk purchases. After all, your child needs that patriotic, seersucker 4th of July outfit because there are some things that are just necessities in life. However, be mindful that the daycare budget could be more of a logical and less of an emotional, financial decision. Daycare is a monthly expense, so when the high wears off, you are still looking at those numbers each month. In addition to monthly tuition, most facilities have a deposit fee, registration fee, and annual/quarterly supply fees {tricky little buggers, huh?}.

Keep in mind all these factors and determine the absolute maximum amount your family feels comfortable spending each month. And for safe measures, build in about 5% buffer for annual tuition increases {which unfortunately seem to happen annually – boo!}. Setting a budget means you won’t even step foot into the facility that is $300-$500 more a month than you can afford. Who wants to willingly see the things that they realistically can’t afford? We all want what’s best for our children, but there are plenty of wonderful places in different price points, and sometimes the more pricey ones just have more bells and whistles with the same great care. The point is to draw that financial line somewhere so you still have a monthly budget left for the necessities: diapers, wipes, snot suckers {ours has been retired after a traumatic mishap}, and patriotic outfits!

Location! Location! Location!

Now that you have your budget set, the next question is where do you want daycare to be? By your home, your work, spouse’s work, family?  A preliminary picture in your head for how drop-off/pick-up will go helps. Now envision when you get that call that your child’s temperature is .000001 above the facility’s standards or when you could’ve sworn they have a full can of formula, but turns out the can is empty, and starvation is on the horizon. You don’t have to have a perfect game plan now, but knowing a preliminary vision for who will do drop-off/pick-up and be available for the unexpected daycare runs will help determine the geographic location.

Making the Love List

Now that you have your basics of budget and location it’s time for the real fun – making a LIST! Can I get a “whoop-whoop,” Type-As? You may even get a cute spiral notebook for this so you have all your information in one spot to reference and, of course, to make list-making even more fun!

This is the part where you ask everyone you know for recommendations and proceed to internet search like a #MomBoss. If a church facility is the right fit for your family, even make a list of churches, as many have daycare facilities but aren’t always marketed like the big chains. Post on mom forums {BigTent has one for many areas of town, especially Inner Loop}, MeetUp, Nextdoor, Facebook, and you can even research by zip code at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

The goal is to have a list of places to call in the geographic area you are targeting. You have no idea what the tuition costs are yet because that is your next step to tackle tomorrow. Pace yourself – this is a marathon, not a sprint, and you may be pregnant which makes sprinting quite difficult.

**Side note, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is also a tool where you can look at facility violations and determine the weight of that violation for yourself. For example, facilities are now no longer allowed to put the younger babies in swaddlers to nap. For me, those violations didn’t matter as I personally would’ve been cited each night because the SwaddleMe was the only guaranteed way we got several hours of sleep strung together. As long as baby is alive and breathing, I am NOT taking the SwaddleMe off – mama needs some sleep! But on the other hand, you can also see where facilities have literally lost a kid for an hour. While I consider my son to be very independent and curious, I do prefer he be accounted for at all times, so that didn’t sit well with me.

Call Me, Maybe :: Get Your Info

Now that you have your list, this is where searches will start to differ as every family’s criteria is different. You will be able to start filtering out facilities based on tuition, availability, waitlist procedures, visiting hours, etc. The end will result in a list of those that you will dedicate your time to visiting.

Keep in mind some facilities are in such high-demand that you are not allowed to tour until there is a spot for your child. Again, this emphasizes the benefits of starting your daycare search sooner rather than later.

Paging Dr. Mom :: Make Your Rounds

This is a pretty self-explanatory step when it comes to visiting the facilities on your list. So here I will pass on some items I learned outside of the standard observations people note elsewhere.

  • Check out the class your child will immediately be in AND the one above. I wanted to see what the room and teachers were like when he “graduated” to the next class. Some facilities had great infant rooms, but the toddler rooms were underwhelming.
  • The director’s attitude was also an observation I liked to make. Is the director giving you a tour? Do they know kids’ names? The daycare my son started at had an amazing, energized, and loving director. She knew every kid’s name, was hands-on in the classrooms with the teachers, and her love for all of them oozed from her. In fact, she was the one to help this first-time, clueless mom over here with mommy hacks, like to use a wet paper towel instead of wipes when baby has a diaper rash. Turns out wipes continue to dry out their booties even more, oops.
  • How are the teachers’ demeanor? I visited one facility where the teachers were so blah when I walked in that I immediately crossed it off my mental list. I can understand caring for 6-8 babies all day is exhausting, but if you can’t muster up the energy when a touring parent walks in, then who knows how you are with the little ones.

Dibs! :: Enroll Your Child

After you make your visits, you want to grab those spots. Fill out your paperwork and get your money to them – don’t drag your feet. You also want to call and confirm that everything has been received and you are all set. Since you are learning from my experience and checking the daycare search off your list many months in advance, you will want confirmation so you can start focusing on others things.

Honestly, my son had two spots at two different daycares. If you can financially swing it by paying two deposits or enrollment fees, then this is something to consider. I was on the fence about the location of where his school should be {by my work or by our house} and felt super hormonal and overwhelmed.  We decided the non-refundable registration fee was worth my sanity so I could secure a couple spots, yet continue to think it. We ultimately chose a daycare close to home, and I’m so glad we did.

And if your search results in no immediate availability, but just waitlists, don’t lose hope. Remain diligent to follow up each month to see where you are on the list. Odds are you may not get a spot until you are on maternity leave, so just make sure you have a back-up plan for childcare if you remain on a waitlist when you return to work.

There are so many factors to consider when it comes to daycare, but don’t let the actual process be one of those concerns. Many of these items I learned from experience, but some were passed on to me from other moms. So let’s continue to help each other out. What would you add to the process? And if you are even feeling a little crazy, snap a picture during your process and use the #MomBoss tag. Just make sure it doesn’t include other children from the daycare as that’s frowned upon {ugh, so many rules these days!}.

HeadshotAbout Jaclyn D.

Jaclyn was born a Jersey Girl, but quickly became a Texan after moving here with her family when she was 5. After a degree from Texas A&M, she began her career in the oil/gas industry within talent acquisition and met her husband, Red Raider, Andy. After 9 years of Inner Loop living, they welcomed their son Mason {2015} and made the ‘burb life’ jump to The Woodlands. When she isn’t working fulltime, Jaclyn enjoys exploring all the outdoor events in TW, finding the best mommy/baby meet-ups, Crossfit workouts, and of course – the best wine pairing for an evening on their patio.

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Jaclyn was born a Jersey Girl, but became a Texan after moving here at age 5. After a degree from Texas A&M, she began her career in the oil/gas industry within talent acquisition. Simultaneously, she realized she had a crush on a boy named Andy who became her best friend, #1 supporter, and eventually her husband 5 years ago. After many years of Inner Loop living, they welcomed their son Mason {May 2015} and made the ‘burb life’ jump to The Woodlands {hello, nature and commute}. When she isn’t working fulltime in the office, she is putting in the Starbucks fueled hours at home hoping to be a great ‘employee’ for her spirited, sweet, non-stop energy, at-home boss - son Mason. {Side Note :: Being a boy mom should have a manual included at the hospital. Amen?} While off the clock for both jobs, Jaclyn is getting connected in her church, trying the newest workout fads {jogging doesn’t cut it}, making to-do lists, crossing off said to-do lists, Mexican food, wine, wine, wine and trying to convince her husband that New Girl IS a funny show.


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