A new nursery

Last week Toby left the nursery he has been at since he was 13 months old and started at a new nursery.

new nursery

There were a few reasons for this; there were always a few niggling issues with his old nursery, nothing that was serious enough for us to move him but things that given a choice we would have changed. The nursery he has moved to was actually my first choice when we were putting Toby into full time childcare when I went back to work. The only reason we didn’t send him there was because it didn’t open early enough for me to drop him off and still get to work on time. Obviously that isn’t an issue now so it was no longer a reason to keep him where he was. The other main reason we have moved him is because this nursery is a lot cheaper than the old one! This doesn’t seem to have any ill effect on the care the children receive, and it means we can afford to keep Toby going four afternoons a week for the same cost as three afternoons at the old nursery. The other thing that influenced our decision was that the old nursery doesn’t receive council funding to provide children with their free hours of childcare when they are three and the new nursery does. Although we are planning to move back to England in the next year there’s a chance we’ll still be here when Toby turns three and it was easier to move him now than wait until he is three and there’s less chance of getting him a space.

Anyway, last Thursday we went along to the new nursery for a settling in session. We had told Toby what was happening but I don’t know how much he really understood. I think he was pretty confused when all the staff were giving him cuddles when he left his old nursery on Wednesday! On Thursday Barry had taken the afternoon off so we all went along. As soon as we got there Toby went off and started playing. I spoke to his key worker for a while and then we went and sat in the manager’s office for half an hour and left him to it – I don’t think he even noticed we weren’t there! When our hour was up we headed home again, Toby seemed like he’d enjoyed himself and we told him he would be coming back again the next day.

On Friday we went again. The plan was for Toby to stay at least three hours but that I would phone after two and if he was doing OK then he would stay to have his tea and do the full afternoon. When we pulled up in the car I told Toby we were at his new nursery – ‘new nursery’ he said and seemed quite happy to go in. In the hallway I was explaining to Toby that he had to change into his special ‘inside shoes’ (he didn’t have to do this at his old nursery), and I showed him the cool slippers that look like trainers that I’d got him. One of the staff came out and at this point Toby started saying ‘home’ and trying to pull me towards the door. He’s only just learnt to say home and what it means so he likes to use it, even if it’s not necessarily what he really wants. I told him we weren’t going home and we went into the toddler room where he’d had so much fun the day before. At first he clung on to me and refused to go and play. Then he had a spell of lying on the floor. After ten minutes or so he decided to go off and have a look at what there was to do. I stood up and he came back to cling to my leg again. Then he found something else to do. I probably could have sneaked off without him noticing but I don’t really like to do that, so I said goodbye, and he cried as I knew he would. He has been going his old nursery full time nursery for well over a year and still cried at least half the time when he was dropped off so I wasn’t too worried. I left him to it and sat in the car outside for a while just in case they rang me straight away to say he wouldn’t settle. No call came though so I headed home. I called them a couple of hours later and he was absolutely fine so we left him there to have his tea and do a full afternoon session.

Unfortunately this week hasn’t such plain sailing. It’s been a struggle some days to even get him in the door. Yesterday when we pulled up outside he started crying and saying ‘no nursery’ and then ‘me home’. When I left him he was really crying for me (and it was the same on Tuesday) but there have been no calls to collect him early and we’ve gone to pick him up they said it’s taken no more than five minutes for him to calm down. I’m sure there’ll be plenty more tears of drop off but as long as he continues to settle down quickly I know he’ll be fine. It doesn’t change the fact that leaving him crying is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, and it doesn’t really get any easier.

I’m so proud of my biggest boy though. There have been a lot of changes in Toby’s life recently and he’s coping with it all so well. I guess he’s not my baby any more, my little boy is proper toddler and he’s a total superstar.

Nursery wobbles

Toby has been going to nursery full time now for almost eight months. He started in August of last year when I went back to work and except for a few holidays and illnesses he has been there every week day since. On the whole it has been a positive experience but like everything when it comes to raising a child we’ve had our ups and downs.

Nursery wobbles

When he first started going to nursery Toby would often cry when I dropped him off but usually I could hear he had stopped before I even got out of the building. For a long time this crying stopped (unless he was ill or had had a particularly bad night the night before) and Toby would literally run, or crawl in the early days, round to his room and happily start playing. Unfortunately, the crying has returned in the last month or so and I’m not entirely sure why but I’ll come back to that in a minute.

He has always eaten well at nursery and rarely refuses anything they give him. The only thing we have found so far that he really doesn’t like is rice pudding but apparently he always tries a spoonful and then refuses the rest. Perhaps he’s just checking to make sure he hasn’t changed his mind!

In the beginning his sleep was a bit of an issue too – even though he was still having two long naps during the day at the weekends they would often struggle to get him to sleep at nursery and some days we would pick him up and he’d be really grumpy because he’d only had one short nap or sometimes not slept at all. It’s better now and he seems to be in more of a routine. He usually has a nap of between one and two hours after lunch, at the same time as a few of the other children.

Nursery has been great for his development too, he gets to do lots of things there that I probably wouldn’t do at home (mostly things that involve making a lot of mess!) and he gets to spend time outside in the garden or going for walks every day. Of course it’s difficult to say what he would have been like had he not gone to nursery because we don’t know any different but he certainly seems to be getting plenty of stimulation every day.

So why the wobbles? Well, there have been a few things lately that have started to make me feel uneasy about our situation. As I mentioned earlier Toby has been crying when I’ve dropped him off for the last month or so. I know he stops crying and settles down when I’ve gone, and he’s usually fine the rest of the day but it doesn’t make it any easier to leave him. And then a few weeks ago it started getting to the point where the crying would start at home as soon as I asked him to get his shoes, or tried to put his coat on. Last week we got to a whole new level of screaming, particularly when trying to get him into the car. The screaming getting into the car then carried on for the rest of the week, even when we weren’t going to nursery. We even had to abandon an afternoon out at the weekend because Toby was still screaming 15 minutes from home.

Now, I don’t know how much of this is purely to do with nursery or whether he is just going through a bit of a phase of separation anxiety. He’s been quite clingy with me generally, often shouting for me if I just leave the room, and refusing to let his dad put him to bed at the moment too. He’s been teething again too and also had really bad nappy rash for the last week or so which can’t have been helping either.

The situation at nursery hasn’t been helped by the fact there have been quite a lot of staff changes recently. This concerns me a bit in itself. High staff turnover is rarely a good sign in any business, and it makes me wonder why people are leaving. Toby has always been a little shy of new people so when there are different staff every day (they seem to rotate new staff round the different rooms in the beginning which doesn’t help) it is very unsettling for him. New staff also means new people changing his nappies and getting used to using cloth, so sometimes they have been put on really badly and must be uncomfortable for him.

So, as you can see there have been quite a lot of things that could be contributing to his unsettled behaviour. I spoke to the owner (who has also recently taken on the role of manager) last week and he did go some way to reassure me. They have put a procedure in place so that Toby’s nappy is changed every two hours and each nappy change is now supervised and signed off by a senior member of staff. This should at least help his nappy rash clear up and make sure his nappies are put on properly. They also told me that although a few people have left recently they are getting a couple of very experienced staff starting in the next week or so and hopefully one of them will become his new keyworker. I’m pleased that they have listened to my concerns and are putting things in place to try and improve things for us.

Actually, as I finish writing this post, things have already started to improve since I started to write it last week. The screaming and fighting about getting in the car seems to have stopped. He has had a bit of a cry as he his dropped off and we have to leave but he’s stopped before we’ve even left the building. I’m really hoping that this was all just a wobble and that things will keep on getting better. In a few months we’ll need to start thinking about him moving to the next room, but also make a decision about what we are going to do after the new baby is here and I’m on maternity leave. At the moment we are hoping to keep Toby at nursery part time, to give him a bit of stability but also so I can have a bit of time alone with the baby. Fingers crossed it just all works itself out one way or another, because for now I think we’re doing all we can.

Have you experienced nursery wobbles with your little one? I don’t know if it’s common to go from being happy and settled one week to really not wanting to be left the next – I’d love to hear if any of you have gone through something similar.

I’m going back to work (and my worries about nursery)

I’ve been on maternity leave for 13 months now – I’m a teacher and a conveniently timed pregnancy meant I started my maternity leave at the beginning of the summer holidays last year. It was always my intention to return to work after a year but I was only on a temporary contract before my maternity leave and unfortunately, although I was successfully interviewed there were no posts available for Modern Languages teachers in the council where I was working previously. In this council everyone has one interview with the council and then they allocate people to the available jobs, rather than the decisions being made by individual schools.

Staffing requirements can often change over the summer holidays which means a job may come up once the schools start back in a few weeks (and this is what has happened to me every other year I’ve been teaching) but this year, with childcare to organise, just hanging around and hoping something came up wasn’t ideal. I can go on the supply register, but again I wouldn’t be able to make myself available at short notice because of having to arrange someone to look after Toby. We don’t have any family nearby so it’s not like I can just ask my mum to pop up the 250 miles to look after Toby so I can go to work for a day!

Anyway, it was starting to look like I might not be going back to work after all. We told the nursery we wouldn’t be able to take up the place we’d reserved for Toby and after doing some sums we worked out that although we wouldn’t have a lot to spare, we could manage on just one wage. But then I saw jobs advertised in two schools in a different council. They were a bit further away than I’d like ideally but I had to take a chance and apply for them. I was selected for interview for both jobs and had the first one today….and they offered me the post!!

I’m very pleased to be going back to work – I love being at home with Toby but I’ve been surprised just how much I’ve missed my job over the last year. But it’s really scary to think that in two and a half weeks I’ll be back at work full time (Scottish schools go back mid-August). And even scarier is that my little baby boy is going to have to go to nursery full time in a couple of weeks too. Luckily the place was still available at the nursery we had chosen so he’ll be going there. He’ll be doing some settling in sessions very soon and I really hope he manages to get used to it quickly. miss him I know, when I think about it logically, that nursery will be really good for Toby. He’ll get to socialise with other children, he’ll get to do so many more activities than he would if he was at home with me all the time…but but but…..I wish he didn’t have to go. Nobody has ever looked after him apart from me and his dad (apart from a couple of times when we’ve had babysitters while he’s been asleep) and I can’t imagine him spending more time with the nursery workers than he does with us. I feel so sad that someone else might witness his first steps, or his first proper words. I’m so worried that he’ll get upset and I won’t be there to comfort him. I feel like he’s too little to understand what’s going on, and I can’t explain to him why I can’t be there.

Toby woke up from his nap just after I got the call this afternoon to say I had got the job and I went upstairs and gave him a cuddle and I cried for all the cuddles I’m going to miss. I know, really, that I’m doing the right thing, and I’m sure Toby will love nursery soon enough. (And if our plans work out the way we hope it will only be for a year and then, hopefully, I’ll be on maternity leave again…and after that, who knows.) For now though I need to start organising and working out how I’m going to fit in all the chores around a full time job. And I’ve got two and half weeks to fit in as many cuddles as I can!

Choosing childcare

Choosing childcare

I’ve mentioned before that my work situation is a bit complicated. This is because I was on a temporary contract before maternity leave so I don’t have a job of my own to go back to. I will be given another post (teaching posts are allocated by the council here rather than schools recruiting their own teachers) but as yet I don’t know where or on what terms. I’m hoping to back to the school I was at before having Toby but that isn’t guaranteed. I am planning on going back to work in August (the start of the school year in Scotland) but I probably won’t find out anything about where I’ll be working until June. There is also a slight possibility that I could go back before the summer holidays and also a chance I might go back part-time instead of full time. Whenever I go back to work it’s getting to the time that we really need to start choosing childcare for Toby.

All this uncertainty makes arranging childcare a little tricky. We have had to make a start though because I don’t want to risk leaving it too late to get a place anywhere. So just before Christmas I started looking at local nurseries. I had considered a childminder but to be honest without any personal recommendations I didn’t really know how to go about finding one. And on reflection I think nursery will be good to help Toby’s social development and give him access to lots of different activities.

I asked some of my friends for recommendations of nurseries (and lots of them have kids who all went to the same one) and also looked at some other local options. Location is important as it need to be somewhere I can drop the hubby off at the train station, drop Toby off at nursery and then make my own way to work. I narrowed it down to a few options and arranged some visits. I liked the fact that most of the nurseries said I could visit without an appointment, that way you know you are seeing a true reflection of the place.

So off we went on our visits. To be honest I didn’t really know what I was looking for. Obviously somewhere, clean, with friendly staff, with plenty of resources, with happy, engaged children. I wanted somewhere where food was provided and cooked on the premises and very importantly, somewhere that would be happy to deal with Toby’s cloth nappies!

The first nursery we visited was the one recommended by lots of my friends. It is in a converted Victorian house so I felt that some of the rooms were quite small, but it was well-equipped and the staff were all very happy and friendly. I liked the fact they had a separate cot room for the younger children to have their naps and it met all my other criteria. My only slight reservation was that I saw two children playing in just their vests and nappies – I don’t know why it bothered me but it just seemed a bit odd that they didn’t have any other clothes on. So far so good, in fact the main drawback with this nursery is that it is very popular and they don’t know their availability for August yet, meaning we would have to go on a waiting list with no guarantee of a place.

The second nursery we went to look at was purpose built so it seemed to have more space. However, we went on Christmas Eve so the hubby could come too and so they only had 18 children in when usually they can have up to 89. I’m sure if we went back when it was full it wouldn’t seem so spacious! Again this one seemed fine but it hasn’t had great inspection reports in the past. Although the most recent report showed they had made improvements it still makes me a bit wary. I also didn’t like the fact that at this one there was no separate area for the children to sleep. If Toby’s current behaviour is anything to go by he needs his naps and I can’t imagine that he would sleep in a room with half the children still playing. So this one was pretty much crossed off the list.

The third and final nursery we visited (there was another one which had been recommended to me but they don’t have any spaces) I think is going to be the one we go for. It’s fairly new, having only been open a year or so and again is in a converted Victorian house. One of our NCT class babies has just started going there one day a week and he seems to be getting on fine so far. Again the staff were very friendly; the manager is a scout leader and as all my family are involved in scouting I always take this as a good sign! Food is prepared on the premises which is great, there is plenty of space (including a garden) and again they are happy to deal with the cloth nappies. I do want to go and have another look round before we commit to anything, this time really just focusing on the room Toby would go into. With all the nursery visits I found that there was a lot to take in, and although it’s important to look at the whole place, I’m not too concerned at the moment with what the older children are doing. The other benefit of this nursery (although not the deciding factor) is that it is £6 a day cheaper than the other one. I know I shouldn’t put a price on my child’s care, but over the year that is an awful lot of money. And it’s money that we can then use for things like days out and family holidays that we may not otherwise be able to afford.

It’s hard to imagine what my six month old baby will be like when he goes to nursery. He’ll have just turned one. Will he be walking by then? Maybe. Actually, that is quite important because it might affect which room he goes into. Most children move from the babies room to the toddlers at somewhere between 12 and 15 months, but it really depends when they are walking confidently. In a way I think it would be easier for Toby to go straight into the toddlers room to avoid to much changing about, but then I don’t want him to be intimidated by all the bigger kids. Anyway, I suppose that’s all stuff we can worry about nearer the time. For now I can’t imagine my little boy going to nursery at all. Let alone to have someone else looking after him for more of the week than I am. I would love to go back to work part time but full time just makes more sense at the moment. For one, it makes it more likely I will get my old job back, and secondly we are planning another baby quite soon (I know!!) so if I go back to work full time I’ll get full maternity pay.

So there we are. I think we’ve made our choice. How did you choose on childcare for your children? Is there anything I should have considered that I’ve forgotten about? Help me out, I’m new at this!