In San Francisco, we had childcare all figured out. For the part-time care we needed, we used a nanny a couple of days a week. And for a future time when we might need full-time care, we had a spot waiting for us at the day care in the spouse’s office building. It really was a very nice day care. It would have cost nearly as much as our rent, but when we visited the kids were making “gluten-free and non-gluten-free pizza.” Their words. It was the only day care we looked at, to be honest, but how could you not want to send your little native San Franciscan there?
Then we decided to move to Scotland.
I was eager to take full advantage of the relatively affordable childcare here.* We looked into day care. Which is called nursery. Then, at the start of the first term after a kid turns three – August 2014, in our case – it becomes preschool. At least for the 12.5 hours a week that the government pays for. I repeat: pays for.
Preschool is usually still in a nursery, although it can also be in a primary school. That part is a bit complicated, but I have a year to figure it out.
We figured we’d have the kid start part-time as soon as possible, while I did my freelancing, job hunting, and napping (because, you know, pregnant). But. But. We also started house-hunting. In neighborhoods other than the one we are currently living in. Which meant we’d eventually need to change nurseries.
In the meantime, the kid’s grandparents started watching him one or two days a week. They need to drive over from Glasgow and sleep on an air mattress in our living room – but hey, it’s worked really well for me. (They tell me not to feel guilty about this arrangement, but I can’t help it.) And it’s obviously fabulous for the kid. And haven’t we put him through enough, tearing him away from the only home – the only country! – he’s ever known? Did we really need to stick him in one nursery, only to wrench him away from all his new friends after only a couple of months?
I know. He’s two. He barely recognizes that other kids exist. Until they want to play with his toys. But there’s a spiral of crazy logic behind any childcare decision.
Oh, and it didn’t really matter anyway, since all the nurseries in our neighborhood have miles-long waiting lists. (We’re perhaps in the Noe Valley of Edinburgh here.) So nursery had to wait.
But pretty much the minute the offer we made on our new flat was accepted, I started calling the local nurseries. And some of them even had spaces available. So the kid and I embarked on a nursery tour.
We found a winner fairly quickly. I liked the staff, the happy kids, and the lush facilities. The kid was sold on the large supply of toy diggers.
I sent in a deposit, and the plan was for the kid to start going in September. We were going to start him there a couple of weeks before the big move – which would be a bit of a pain logistically, since we’re currently living on the other side of the city, but would space out the major transitions in his life a little. (Moving in September, big US trip in October, new baby in December… you get the idea.) We were ready.
Then I got a job. (A job!) I start next week.
Frantic calls to the nursery ensued. Yes, they had a full-time space available, starting as soon as we needed it. But then I was able to compress my full-time position – which is 36 hours a week (I love this country) – into four days. (Hey, I’m American. I’ll gladly take a nine hour workday if it gives me a three day weekend, thank you very much.) And my in-laws offered to continue watching him one of those four days. I guess they kind of like having a grandson or something. So the kid will be at nursery three days a week. And since I’d already been mentally prepared to put him in nursery two days a week, I’m not even freaking out too much at the idea.
(The kid does keep asking me to come to nursery with him, though. Of course, when I showed him a photo of his presumptive future secondary school in the paper the other day, he promptly said, “Mommy come too.” I think I may hold him to that when he’s twelve.)
A side note – one thing that is bizarre about visiting nurseries here is that all the kids are blond. All of them. It’s a bit Village of the Damned.
I KNOW. It’s Scotland. But it’s still going to take some getting used to.
Anyway. We start the three day “settling in” process tomorrow. The kid has a new Thomas the Tank Engine backpack (I am not above bribery), so he’s as ready as can be. Wish us both luck…
* Okay, at least once a week there’s a news story here about how unaffordable child care is (usually accompanied by unfounded speculation about how that might change in an independent Scotland, but I digress). But relative to San Francisco? It’s affordable. Trust me on this one.