The Co-Working Parent Childcare Cooperative

Today Avery and I checked out the open house for a brand new childcare option that is starting up literally just down the street from my house. It’s a very cool, community-minded business started by a mom & dad duo who are utilizing the first floor of their home as a blend of rented office space and on-site childcare.

The first thing I noticed as we pulled up in our stroller was the rainbow (inclusive to diverse families) sticker and the “Breastfeeding Welcome Here” sticker in the window. Off to a good start.

The front room of the house is a beautiful, 100 year old living room turned office space. There are three small desks and a large boardroom table. The back room is the play area, where a certified early childhood educator watches the kids. These two areas are separated by a kitchen where the coffee and tea are free and flowing, and snacks can be stored and prepared. The kids are kept out of their working parents’ hair by two baby gates.

Since Avery’s daycare provider only offers Monday – Thursday care, I haven’t been able to work on Fridays (and Avery gets bored at home with me all day on Fridays). This new co-working parent cooperative is totally flexible to one day per week schedules, and actually functions in 3-hour timeslots. Avery and I are going to do a trial day next week, and if it works for us, we might start doing a regular Friday morning timeslot. When she no longer needs an afternoon nap, we could easily do two 3-hour timeslots, walking the 2 minutes home over lunch while they’re closed from 12-1.

I’m hopeful that this arrangement works for us, because I’ve loved co-working arrangements in the past. It helps me to feel motivated when I’m paying to get work done somewhere; I like having a reason to get dressed for a work day instead of lounging in sweats all day; and the company of other parents makes me feel less alone as someone who is balancing work and parenting.

I love my neighbourhood. First a coffee shop/brewery opens up a block and a half away in my little residential neighborhood, and now this, a block and a half in the other direction. We’re never moving.

Daycare decision

When we found our home daycare (that we love), we also got on a waiting list for a daycare centre at the university I’m a student at. My wife really wanted to get our daughter into the centre because a) it’s well known as an amazing centre, and b) she liked the idea of more structure and more kids to prepare Avery for kindergarten. I’m more of the mindset that there’s enough structure in school and early childhood should be reserved for free play.

We got the email yesterday that a spot had opened up at the centre. It was part time like we are now, but instead of 4 half days, it would be two full days. It would cost three times as much money.

My stomach lurched. I thought for a brief second about not showing the email to my wife. I love our daycare situation so much. Avery loves it. We’ve NEVER had to deal with tears over drop off. She has an actual best friend whom she’s learning lots of valuable life lessons with. Our provider truly loves our daughter. The half days work perfectly for us because she gets to come home to nap so I still get 6 hours in a workday but we pay half the cost. It is dirt cheap. We pay $25 a day, and if we give a heads up about days we’ll be away, we only pay half. Avery can go even if she’s sick (unless it’s a fever or vomiting) because it’s such a small group of kids that they will all have been exposed to the same bugs by the time it presents in one sick kid (some parents wouldn’t like this, but Avery has had a snotty nose and congestion literally every day since November, which would have meant a lot of missed daycare).

Our provider also takes them to a large playgroup once or twice a week where they interact with a lot of other kids. They learn songs and dance moves. They get as much outside time as possible. Avery comes home with art or a craft every other day. Our provider and i have become friends and we text about parenting things, she gives us her kids’ hand-me-down clothes, and she loves our daughter. I know I already said that last point, but it’s the most important thing to me in a daycare. It’s a dream daycare as far as I’m concerned.

So I was really nervous showing that email to my wife, knowing that she wants Avery to experience a centre. But thankfully, she sighed a hard sigh, and agreed that she’s probably best where she is.

Daycare countdown: planning sleep strategies

Avery and I start the daycare transition in 7 days. I am equal parts anxious and heartbroken, and excited for her to make friends and gain new experiences. Our daycare provider, whom I will herein refer to as Gwen, asked me to give her a list of Avery’s favourite foods and foods she doesn’t like, as well as tips for making her happy or comforted. Guess I can’t put “me” on the comfort list. 

Although I didn’t plan to be, I have been a bit of an Attachment Parent. I nurse Avery to sleep, and she naps on me for most naps. She has never been laid down in her crib and gone to sleep of her own accord. We have tried, but it’s not in her skill toolbox yet. So this makes me feel anxious as we prepare to put her in daycare. Please excuse my ramblings as I work out my worries in this post. 

Let me back up a bit and give an update about night time sleep and nap transitions. 

Avery has been showing us lately that she can put herself back to sleep when she wakes through the night, but nighttime sleep has still been a bit of a roller-coaster. Some nights she wakes every 20 minutes and bed shares for the second half of the night, and other nights she goes 7 hours alone in her crib. Sleep development is not linear, but big picture I see definite improvements. As for naps, I think she is trying to transition to one nap a day. She will often be chipper and awake until 11am, and then sleep soundly for 2 or 3 hours. With one nap a day, bedtime is a BREEZE. However, some days she is tired and cranky at 8:30am, and on those days we stick to two naps, which makes bedtime tougher because she’s just not quite tired enough. It’s a complicated phase that requires flexibility and being really in tune with her sleep needs on a day-to-day basis. 

So how does this impact our daycare prep? Back when I was interviewing daycares, I was adamant that they offer us two naps a day. I figured that because most babies aren’t ready to go down to one nap until 15-18 months, that my high sleep needs baby definitely wouldn’t be ready for one. Our provider (Gwen) agreed to accommodate, because she will only have two kids in her care for now, and they will both be 12 months. It was really great to ease my mind back when we were searching for a daycare, but now I’m thinking that the nap schedule just won’t work for us. In order to squeeze two naps into the short day before Gwen’s after-school kids arrive (and babies get picked up), naps are scheduled for 10-11, and 1-2:30. There is no way Avery will go to sleep 2 hours after waking. Not a chance.  

So for the past couple of weeks I have been trying to transition Avery to a 10am nap, and I have also been working on getting her to sleep for her nap without nursing. The 10am nap time works well most of the time, but some days she refuses completely and has one afternoon nap instead. I can only hope that Gwen will work with Avery’s day-to-day needs by helping her get to sleep with rocking if she’s emotional from being tired, or by letting her play quietly while the other baby naps if she is just too awake to sleep. 

As for the afternoon nap being too early, we are accommodating this by having me pick her up at 1pm for the first few months, until both babies are ready for one nap. However, I’m sure she will go at least the first month being too stressed to sleep during the morning nap, and will need an earlier afternoon nap. The daycare transition will probably make her tired enough to put a hold on the nap transition. 

Now on to my concern about GETTING AVERY TO SLEEP. Like most daycare providers, Gwen plans to put the babies in cribs, turn off the light, and let them go to sleep. One does not simply let my baby fall asleep. One actively assists my baby in falling asleep. I have been successful in cutting out the nurse to nap (although I passionately believe in continuing to nurse to sleep at night), but I’ve had to replace it with another sleep crutch – walking in the stroller. On the days we have one nap instead of two, it’s remarkably easier to get her to sleep. A few minutes of rocking will get her out cold, and I can even put her down to carry out the rest of her nap alone. I guess all I can do to help her get to sleep at daycare is to ask Gwen to offer her a bit of rocking, to wait until she is truly tired and otherwise let her play quietly, and to cross my fingers and pray and send positive vibes to her throughout the day and really just let it be. I’ve heard that babies will adapt to new routines with new people, and Avery has shown lots of signs that she is adaptable (in new situations, at least, but not really with new people…). 

So there’s my plan for getting through the awkward adjustment phase of Avery’s sleep at daycare. I’m super nervous, but I think/hope that 6 months from now I will look back on this and laugh and say what was I so worried about? 

Prepping for baby’s first flight, first birthday, and first daycare! 

August is a busy month around here. Not only do I have a full garden to harvest and preserve and a half finished dissertation proposal due at the end of the month, but we’re also prepping to go on our first family vacation (with baby’s first flight!), we’re planning Avery’s first birthday party, and I’m trying to prepare her for daycare starting in September. 

Let’s start with the vacation. We’re going to Prince Edward Island, which is my favourite province that I’ve visited so far (granted, I haven’t been to British Columbia). We’re going to eat fresh seafood for days, and lounge on the deck of our rental cottage looking out over the ocean. I’m psyched, but also starting to feel the vacation-prep stress… I’m starting to make lists (oh, the lists I am making… there are scrap pieces of paper everywhere!), I’m cleaning out the tablet with the hopes of using it to distract the baby on the plane, and we just bought a small travel stroller. There is so much to do still… Any tips from seasoned family travelers are welcome  ☺️

In particular we need advice on baby containing devices for out and about. We have a fancy backpack carrier for hiking that is comfortable for us but Avery’s not overly fond of, we have the newly purchased umbrella stroller, we have a ring sling, and a Moby wrap (the latter two we use at home regularly, but she’s getting a little too heavy for). What do we bring? Our baby carrying needs are as follows: We plan to do some hiking, beach walks, and maybe even a whale watching tour on a sail boat, but also maybe a local fishery museum, fish market, and the necessary trips to the grocery store for supplies. 

On to the 1st birthday party. Birthdays are a big deal to me. Not adult birthdays, but definitely kid birthdays. I remember almost every birthday cake I got as a kid, decorated elaborately with my favourite things of the moment. One year my parents put a tiny toy horse farm on the cake, with a tiny plastic fence as the border. It was elaborate. So I want Avery to have equally awesome memories of a big celebration of HER on her birthday every year. We’ve decided on a rainbow theme, and as soon as my damn car stops being broken down (AGAIN), I’ll start shopping for decorations and supplies. Her party is the weekend after we return from our vacation, so I want to have everything purchased before we leave (except the food, obviously). 

Daycare. Yes, we have a whole month before she starts at daycare. But with travelling and birthday and everything else we have going on, I want to make sure it doesn’t sneak up on me. To transition, one thing we can be doing is visiting the provider at the park at couple of times a week when she’s there with her current (“graduating”) group of kids. This is something I need my broken down car for, unfortunately. I also want to work on a nap schedule that will fit with our daycare schedule, but travelling might make that difficult. Also, Avery MIGHT be trying to transition herself to one nap a day… slowly, and very much dependent on how she’s feeling on any given day. So perhaps it’s a bad time to try to forcefully reset her nap schedule. 

Also for daycare, I need to decide if I want her to try goats milk in a cup (she has been allergic to milk and eggs since birth, but we have been successfully building a tolerance since 9 months), or if I want to get serious about pumping so she can have milk while she’s there. She still nurses every 2 or 3 hours (24 hours a day), although at 12 months and with 3 full solid food meals a day +snacks she doesn’t NEED that much milk. Pumping is one of my least favourite aspects of motherhood, and usually only yields 2 or 3 oz at a time. My Midwife suggested to me that I may have low breast storage capacity, which is fine if you’re an on-demand nurser and don’t rely on pumping, but gets annoying when you want to fill a bottle or a belly in one quick go every 4 hours. So I have some contemplating to do. 

Our first daycare interview 

I read some parenting magazine article recently that listed the things you should do to protect your marriage when you’re about to have a baby. One of the things was to get on the same page about major parenting issues. We did that. We talked and talked, and it turned out we felt the same way about pretty much everything parenting related. But when the baby was born, I changed. I thought I’d be an active pusher of independence, and I wouldn’t be a coddler. After Avery was born, my instincts changed my perspective, and I now find myself believing that it is what’s best for Avery for me to tend to her when she cries, cuddle her whenever she wants it, and help her to do tough things – LIKE SLEEP – if she is having trouble doing it on her own. 

The other thing I thought I’d want for our then unborn baby was a serious daycare situation. I wanted a licensed centre with early childhood educators on staff who would push my little one intellectually with select learning activities. Now all I want is a warm and comforting provider with as few other kids as possible who simply lets the kids play as they wish in a safe and supportive environment. 

My wife and I went to see our first potential daycare last night. I was worried that I would automatically hate every provider we would see simply because I’m such a protective mama bear now. But I loved her… My wife, on the other hand, was not so easily convinced. 

This provider is not licensed, which turned out to be an important requirement to my wife and not to me (an added challenge, since there are only licensed daycare spots available for 20% of Canadian children). She is not an ECE. Her experience comes from raising her own two children, and looking after the same 6 kids in her home for the past several years. The toys in her playroom were not necessarily educational, but they looked fun. There was a friendly dog on the premises. She was quiet and calm, and she had a very sensitive daughter to whom she was offering lots of hugs while we were there. 

When we got to the car I was so surprised to see that my wife and I were making such opposite faces – me, an excited smile, and my wife, a grimace. 

We know now that we need to talk about our expectations and hopes for Avery’s childcare provider a lot more. We need to find someone we both love. And although we’re starting this process SO late in the game, the worst case scenario for us is that I keep taking care of Avery full time into the fall and somehow make school work around that. We won’t rush her into care we don’t love.