Sorry for this novel. Hear me out.
DS is about to turn 15 months.
So its a long story, but our childcare arrangement (my mother watching DS at our home) abruptly changed to where I suddenly need a new childcare provider for my son as of January. While I would ideally find a nanny for my son, the chance that I could find someone I trust enough to watch my son in my home and run adequate background checks and interviews on between 2 major holidays is pretty much impossible because everyone I have a personal reference for is booked and I would be starting with strangers on Care.com.
Every center-based daycare I could find on around us has waitlists through 2017 and people pay lots of money to sit on these waitlists while their babies are in utero.
Out of sheer luck (frankly, miraculously) our good friends heard their old in-home daycare provider had an infant slot opening up in December and let us know just because these slots are hard to come by and the owner would hold a slot for a direct referral from a family they know. Our friends are wealthy professionals (meaning cost is not an issue for them with regards to childcare) who are about 10 years older than us and have 2 kids who are school age and they are the friends whom we have the most similarities to with regards to parenting philosophy. We trust them implicitly and they could not recommend their in-home provider enough, who watched their eldest from 6 months until preschool. In fact, they still use them for drop-in and back-up care for school holidays that conflict with their work schedules. Their kids were there this week when we visited.
Its a married couple that run it, along with their 21 year old daughter who is in training to become fully certified, and they have been in business for 15 years. Zero complaints, violations, or any kind of citation in all the years they have been licensed (we checked). The daughter also provides babysitting services on nights and weekends, so it would be an added benefit to find a trusted babysitter too.
Sounds perfect right? Well, we went to go visit the home yesterday and while my husband felt totally fine with the place, I was surprised how I reacted. I realized after we left that my only experience with daycares my whole life had been church-based nurseries and preschools, so I had this very narrow idea of what a daycare should look and feel like. So I was sorta shocked when I walked in and realized - DUH - that it was a daycare set up in someone's house. It wasn't dirty or unsafe or anything and all the kids looked happy and healthy and the yard was big and fenced in and all that. It just didn't look as bright (i.e. fluorescent light filled) and charming like a school. It was a play area (with PLENTY of toys) in an enclosed in a dining room, 6 pack n plays in a small bedroom, and kids playing in the backyard. Obviously because these people had children running through the house all day long, nothing they owned in the house was nice or new, so there was some tinge of the place feeling slightly worn.
I came home and texted my friend who's loved her in-home daycare and talked to another coworker who used an in-home daycare with her kid and they all assured me that's just how an in-home daycare feels. That what you need to focus on is the caretakers and not the LOOKS of the place - and the couple WAS wonderful and loving. Both girls told me they chose in-homes over centers because they would get more loving and personal care and that they were super happy with them.
We DID get our son on the waitlist for a 2's program (he would turn 2 next September and the current list is through June 2016) at a church near us and it very much to a T fits the "idea" of what a daycare/preschool should look/feel like to me. They have a crazy intense infant waitlist through January 2017 so we went ahead and signed up for that waitlist for LO2, who is due next May (I wouldn't return to work until January 2017 anyway) because I guess they try to bend over backwards to help families with siblings already at the school. So basically, if DS gets into that program, he will be in the in-home daycare for a whopping 8 months and we'll have an established relationship with a provider we could use for back-up or drop-off care in the future.
So I guess what I'm trying to say is: Tell me to get over it. Tell me I'm being stupid and paranoid and that this in-home care sounds fine, that they DO look like a slightly rundown house (because it IS a slightly rundown house). The house is located in a small, very bourgie college town filled with highly educated wealthy professional parents who can afford good childcare, the house itself is on a safe, cul-de-sac that backs to a large park, and again, the caretakers are really nice.
On the other hand, are there any tips or red flags I should look for with regards to an in-home daycare? I really don't have any other option at this point, which is probably why I feel so panicked, but I don't want to ignore anything important. The caretakers are fully licensed and certified, know all their first aid stuff, they've modified their home so the living quarters are separated from the rest of the house, there's hard fencing around the property, the house looks decently babyproofed, etc.