Finding a stranger to whom you're willing to entrust your small children all day while you're at work is not the most fun job that parents who work outside the home face. And part of the issue is the approximately eight trillion day care options available in any given city--how can you possibly interview all of them? The good(-ish) news is that there's really no reason to talk to everyone out there, because there are really only eight types of day care providers that exist.
1. The hippies
The lists of daily activities look good and you can certainly get behind the wholesome, whole food-based menu they have posted. But when you ask about the vaccination rates of the kids they care for, they start gushing about their whole-hearted support for personal exemptions (and the Wakefield study) faster than measles tears through a group of unvaccinated two-year-olds.
2. The overtly religious day care
You walk into the day care to find a three-foot crucifix or possibly a giant shrine to Steve Buscemi, directly adjacent to the kids' play area. The prices are great, the home looks neat and well-appointed, and the very nice care providers very nicely inform you that your preschooler will be obliged to pray to Jesus and/or Mr. Buscemi before every meal and snack. Kind of squidgy, but check their rates before writing them off completely. Steve Buscemi is a pretty cool dude, especially at only $200/month.
3. The stealth-religious people
There's still the possibility your kid will be required to bow at the altar of Buscemi, but it'll be buried in subclause 17, section E, of the day care contract, if it's mentioned at all.
4. The amateurs
They really like the idea of starting a day care and they, like, really love kids. They have one child of their own, and really, how much harder could three more be. How exciting to have the chance for your children to be their guinea pigs on the way to achieving their life dream!
5. The about-to-retire
Try to pick up on any overtures of world-weariness during the first interview. The last thing you want to hear right after handing over the first deposit check is that the care provider plans to retire sometime in the next six or eight months to pursue other interests. Such as not chasing maniacal toddlers for ten hours a day.
6. The posh standalone centers
State-of-the-art classrooms with cool educational technology, a gorgeous kitchen, and teachers who probably have an MFA in a highly prestigious "coloring inside the lines" program. Everything about these places makes you drool ... except the $500/week price tag.
7. The completely-out-of-your-way day care
If you can find a reasonable-looking provider who comes in under your planned budget, you can be pretty sure that their location may as well be on the far side of the moon for how far you'll have to commute out of your way to get your kid there.
8. The wholesome farm family
The care providers seem nice and normal, the day care area is simple but nice, the food is hearty, it's on your way to work, there's a lovely area outdoors to play and interact with the farm's sheep, dogs, and chickens--and the cost isn't much more than the average for the area, either. What's not to like? Nothing ... except the three-year-long waiting list. Maybe your next spawn can get in here, but the current one is going to have to make do with one of the other options.
(Image: omgimages / Getty)