Childminder or Nursery - How I Choseby Gemma Campbell
With my first baby, I trained to be a childminder, having every intention of setting up and keeping my daughter with me. Just as I finished my assessment I was offered a part-time job which was term time only and much better paid than the projected earnings of being a new startup childminder. This meant that I needed to find my daughter suitable childcare for the 3 days a week I’d be working. I visited 2 childminders in their homes and 3 nurseries and in all honesty, the statement that you instinctively know, is very true. The childminders were lovely ladies but my little girl stuck to me as we wandered through their play areas/living room and she was quite a sociable little character by this point so I knew they weren’t going to be an option. The first nursery I visited were far too lax on their shoe cover policy in the baby room (which reviews had alerted me to) and the third nursery was so sterile an environment and so ominously quiet I just couldn’t imagine any fun occurring beyond the allocated times on the laminated timetable on every door. The second nursery had mixed reviews but both me and my little girl loved it- friendly, full of children laughing and gabbling, with large bright rooms and a lovely safe outside garden for babies and a separate area for the older children. I didn’t mind the slight odour of wee as we entered (which reviewers complained about) as, after all, it is a place full of nappies, toddlers and almost toilet trained little ones. And it didn’t have that overly bleached odour of the other nursery, which I found more concerning than the natural wee smell. Over the years I’ve heard terrible things about that lovely little nursery that my little girl spent many a happy day at and when I had my son, I bumped into one of the ‘aunties’ who had looked after my daughter. She told me not to send my son there as it was a very different place. And mindful that she probably was both best placed to know but maybe also an ex-employee I decided to look around again, just to 'see’.
I only visited 2 nurseries this time – both completely different ones and I loved the second one immediately. Unfortunately, they couldn’t offer all of the days I needed. In fact, they could only offer 2 of the 4 days. I loved it so much, I still signed him up and hoped that I could find an alternative for the other two days as I hadn’t been overly enamoured with the parking and access facilities of the first. And then we met our Childminder. She also couldn’t offer all of the days BUT thankfully could do the other 2 I needed. Both are the wrong way for work and mornings, pre-COVID, saw me doing a ridiculous out-of-the-way journey as I did school drop off and nursery/childminders before an hour later finally arriving at work. But my son LOVED his childcare.
Along came COVID and poor Harry had to spend months naked, playing at home in the garden for 10 whole weeks of non-stop sunshine with his Mummy and big sister. The first day back at Nursery after lockdown 1, I apologised to them explaining that he may just remove all of his clothes as he was practically feral. They took it in their stride and whenever we arrive late, we often see a note taped to the door for Harry, saying they are in the garden and clothing is optional. As for his Childminder, she is now one of our friends. And again, she too embraces Harry’s feral nature without blinking.
There is no better option between the two and even though both now have all of his available days, we (and he) love the fact we have both in place.
The only difference is for the government benefits with the Childcare options for both the 30 hours free (we are in Wales) as well as the replacement Childcare Voucher scheme. Nursery offers both of these whereas our Childminder doesn’t offer any of them. This does mean that next year, when the 30 hours is viable, Harry will probably drop a day at his Childminders simply so I can take advantage of a little more money staying in my bank account rather than me spending more than my mortgage on monthly childcare bills. We will always keep at least 1 day with her, however, as she’s now part of our family circle.