Before Milin was born, I started looking at daycare centres. Tony and I were living in Newtown, we hadn't even considered moving back to London at that stage, and we knew that I would need to go back to work sooner rather than later.
But now that we've left Wellington and are trying to make a new life for our little family here in England, the search has shifted. And I've realised I had no idea how good the options really were in New Zealand.
By the time Milin was a few months old, I had chosen a little nursery around the corner from our house. We didn't need a place immediately, but with many centres having a waiting list of a year or more, we needed to be organised. Of course, we didn't know that we'd end up moving before our place on the list came up.
The places I saw were generally light and spacious, most had separate sleeping rooms for the babies, and the outdoor areas were big. Very big. My greatest worry had been about leaving Milin. I didn't want him to go to nursery, I thought, but we weren't going to have a choice. I occassionally saw a place I didn't like the feel of, but generally the nurseries themselves were not the problem - it was more my attitude towards putting Milin into the care of other people that was the only obstacle.
We left Wellington before putting Milin into daycare, but now that we're settled here in London, I've decided it is time to start looking again.
I'm currently fortunate enough to be staying at home looking after 14-month-old Milin, but we've still decided that in a few months time, we would like him to go to a nursery, starting with about two mornings a week.
There's a few reasons why. Firstly, I think Milin is nearly ready, and, most importantly, I think he would love it. I love our days together, and I think he does too. But I've started wondering how long it will be before he tires of his toys and my games, and of our routines of going to the local park and cafe and library. He loves getting out and about and making new adventures for himself, and surely a nursery would give him so many more opportunities than I could? I also feel like he'd learn so much from other children, and that he would love their company.
Secondly, as you readers know, Tony and I are having another baby. Right now the thought of having two little ones at home is terrifying - how on earth do people do it? But logistics aside, I'd love to be able to have the same one-on-one time with my newborn that I had with Milin, at least for a couple of mornings a week.
So, I've started looking around, and this time it feels less scary. I'm more confident about leaving Milin. I feel like he's older, more secure, ready for adventures, and ready to spread his wings. Well, that's what I think now - I might feel differently when the first morning of saying goodbye comes around.
The first major difference that has struck me on my search in London is that there really aren't many nurseries. Given that London seems to have so much of everything - people, traffic, shops, etc - it's taken me by surprise. I've tried to work out why, for the under threes, the choices are limited, and I think it comes down to major differences in maternity pay.
There is no doubting that maternity pay in England is better than New Zealand. For the first six weeks here employees are paid 90 per cent of their average weekly earnings. (Although many employers top that up to 100 per cent.) Then, for the next 33 weeks, they are paid whichever is lower - either 90 per cent of their average weekly earnings, or about $230 per week. That might not sound like much per week, but again, most employers top it up significantly. Asking around new mums here, it definitely seems like they can stay at home for longer than many new mums in NZ, because of the help they get from employers.
So, there are three nurseries just within walking distance from our home - less than in child-friendly Newtown - but I've looked at all three. I couldn't help but feel claustrophobic in the first two. It's true that London is jam-packed and bursting at the sides, but in our leafy north London suburb, I was still surprised at how cramped the buildings felt.
I left the first, despondent, and not wanting to leave Milin in that one little room all day to eat, to sleep, to play, and to grow.
At the second, there was more space, but I came away fretting about the outdoor area. There was no grass. Was this crazy of me? Was I looking for excuses? What's wrong with playing on concrete and decking? But Milin loves being outside, and he loves being on the grass - why shouldn't I want this for him?
The third nursery, I think, is for us. Milin loved it when we went to visit, I've had two friends recommend it, and I liked that there is very little turnover of staff. It's bright, light, spacious, and the garden is a dream come true for my little boy. It's like the places I saw in Wellington, I've realised. New Zealand, you've spoiled me. But as a result, Milin's probably going to go to a nursery where they have a "sensory room", they teach the kids yoga, Spanish, Japanese and dance once a week, all meals are home-cooked and organic, and the staff list includes a head of music, a head of sport, and a head of art. Over the top for a toddler? I think so too - but the space, oh the space...
What have you looked for in a nursery? And how was it leaving your little ones there at first? I'm hoping to hear some positive stories here guys - please tell me that saying goodbye wasn't too hard!
- Essential Mums