When my daughter was 2, I started looking for daycare options. I began by studying up on all the questions to ask:
• What are your hours?
• Do you provide lunch, nappies etc?
• Do you operate during school holidays?
• How long have the staff been there?
But there was one question I never asked that proved to be a time-consuming, energy-stealing, massive mistake:
• How many children have failed to settle here?
Our daughter had just turned 2, I was heavily pregnant with our son and I was after a couple of mornings a week to have a rest or to run some errands.
The first time I took my daughter they asked me to stay for a couple of sessions to get her used to it. When I left the first time, they phoned and asked me to come back because she wasn't happy. They wanted me to stay with her until she was comfortable with me leaving.
I was quite tired, not really thinking straight and just assumed that was how it was meant to be.
But for a term-and-a-half, I went and sat there for three hours, twice a week, heavily pregnant, then with a newborn, surrounded by toddlers.
One day, one of the teachers even came over to tell me she thought my daughter had a dirty nappy. Well, how about you change it then? I'm paying you to let me come here and read books to 29 other kids. I'm sitting on a ridiculous wooden toddler's chair in 30C heat with a child about to fall out of me, but sure, I don't mind doing your job for you.
I was quite exhausted, becoming more so, and had invested so much time wanting it to work that I couldn't see that, in fact, it was never going to.
It wasn't until a friend, who is a preschool teacher, was made privy to my plight. She was stunned to learn the carers weren't settling my daughter themselves.
"You are teaching her that you are going to be there, but you aren't," she told me. I realised things weren't right.
Another friend, also a preschool teacher said: "We would see that as a massive failing by us, if a child didn't settle here."
I know of other children that have since left that centre, too.
Everyone is looking for different things in a childcare setting. But, if you don't want to be sitting around with 30 kids, including the one you were hoping to get some space from in the first place, then make sure you put that question at the top of your list.