There may be many factors to consider when picking a preschool, but for Cindy Gan, convenience trumps them all.

“As a mother, we dream to strike a work-life balance ― to have time for our family and other relationships, yet set aside time to nurture ourselves.

As we are on this parenthood journey, we understand the importance of making ideal childcare arrangements. So, if you’re planning to start a family, don’t forget to make childcare plans, too!

I remember when we were pregnant with Vera, learning about our pregnancy was a huge joy! But when reality set in, we had to be pragmatic and think about other factors: One key question surfaced ― who could we entrust our baby with while my husband and I were at work?

Although I craved to spend time with both my children, the stay-at-home mum route is not really for me. Not very motherly, am I?

“Caring for children is no easy feat, so we needed to place our daughter with someone we could trust for our own peace of mind!”

With one option down, we next considered asking healthy and willing family members to care for Vera during the work week. Caring for children is no easy feat, so we needed to place our daughter with someone we could trust for our own peace of mind!

The best person would be my mum, except that she has a job. So, I was really blessed that she agreed to help. It’s not easy to look after a child single-handedly, so thankfully, my mum’s helper did the chores, allowing my mum to bond with Vera or to take a breather. As for us, since we knew our baby was in good hands, we went to work without worrying endlessly. Still, when she started complaining that her aged bones and muscles had aches and pain, we knew mum would probably not be a long-term childcare option.

So, when we were pregnant with Leroy, our hope that she’d be able to help care for both kids flickered. True enough, mum waved the white flag during my third trimester, so we had to work out an alternative plan. As much as it felt like the flame had blown out, I also knew that we had been living on borrowed time ― mum needed her own life back, since she had been helping with Vera for close to two years, something I’m full of gratitude for.

As mum had always worked, her sisters had cared for my sister and me when we were little. So, it must have taken mum a leap of faith and plenty of courage to tackle childcare duties as a grandmother. I knew it was only fair that she should spend her time the way she wanted and that was to return to work.

Find out how Cindy picked a childcare centre for her kids…


Choosing a childcare centre

We started “shopping” around for childcare when we knew baby #2 was on its way although hearing stories of long waiting lists wasn’t encouraging (we are actually pretty late by normal standards!).

When it comes to selecting the childcare centre, there are so many things to think about:

  • Proximity from home/work place/secondary childcare giver’s home.
  • School fees ― any subsidies?
  • Facilities and space ― classrooms or open concept?
  • Teachers and staff ― turnover rates, current teacher-child ratio.
  • Training and credentials.
  • Curriculum and programme.
  • Parent-teacher communication ― cia comms book, app, newsletters, etc?
  • On-site visit ― it’s always a good idea to check out the premises and observe how they handle meltdowns, look out for how clean or cluttered the spaces are.
  • Trusting your gut instincts.

Beyond academics, Vera gets the opportunity to build confidence and learn about social interactions when she’s in a conducive educational environment.

Convenience and proximity are important

Because of convenience, proximity was our top priority. Of course, the fees should not cost an arm and a leg either. Since those childcare centres near our home had long waiting lists and fees beyond our budget, we ended up enrolling Vera in a childcare centre that’s further away. When she was 23 months old, we packed her off to her first ‘real’ school, where she remained for a year.

When a new school opened recently, we went through the process of deciding if we should make the switch for Vera. She had, after all, settled down really well (the initial months were a separate thing altogether ― ha!), except for the inconvenience of shuttling her back and forth during work hours. We finally decided to switch schools, albeit at higher fees, as it is so much closer to home, so we won’t need to rush for school and work in the mornings.

We can take her out of school whenever we need to, and my parent-in-laws can also swing by our place to help with the kids. Allowing the older folks to spend time with their grandchildren, while keeping their minds and bodies active, is definitely a bonus for all!

As she is in a childcare centre, she’ll get to interact with peers as well as adults, develop her communication skills and build her character. Beyond academics (she’s only 3!), Vera gets the opportunity to build confidence and learn about social interactions when she’s in a conducive educational environment. More importantly, she looks forward to school, reminding us every morning, “My friends are waiting for me, mummy! I want to go to school now!”

While it’s tougher on our pockets, at least there’s some financial support as working mums are entitled to $300 subsidy/month for full-day childcare and $150 for half a day.

Singapore Budget 2017: Childcare support for families

With Singapore Budget 2017, we learned that there are plans to increase the total capacity of centre-based infantcare places to 8,000 by the year 2020, up from the current 4,000. The greater childcare support for families is a step towards easing a couple’s decision-making options for their kids’ care.

Perhaps the next step would be to make it more affordable for families, since childcare fees multiply with the number of children (any bulk discount soon? :P). As parents, making arrangements that work well for the family is important, so that life can go on as normal.

Along the way, some of the (many) struggles we’ll have to manage include the emotional bits like trust, having another person care for your child, and the need to do things your way. It’s hard (yes, I admit that!), but at the end of the day, some things just have to be done.

Embracing changes is also part of how things are. For now, we can only strike a balance with our available resources, make the best of things and learn to ‘let go’ or ‘close an eye’, if it’s needed. This would free our minds, make us happier and become better parents, too. This pretty much is the essence of our parenting journey, isn’t it? Be strong, mama hearts! :)”

Useful links for families

Sharing some useful links that might help when it comes to choosing a child care for your children:

Early Childhood Development Agency: Information on childcare services in Singapore, locate childcare centres near you, etc.

Baby Bonus: Government support for families.

Medisave Maternity Package: Medisave claims for gynaecologist visits/hospital fees for pregnant mums.

Cindy Gan is mum to Leroy, 1, and Vera, 3. She blogs at The Hooting Post.

Photos: Cindy Gan (Instagram handle: #deedeedee13)

This article is in collaboration with HeyBaby

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