Childcare/School Close to Work or Home?
Hi, I'm a new mother of a 7 week old boy and just moved to the Bayarea. Im living in Foster City and need to go to Berkeley for my research work in a month. I cant seem to decide what would be best for both the baby and me- Daycare/Nanny share near Campus or Nanny at home. Seems like such a hard decision to be away from him for 10 hours everyday! Any thoughts/advice?? Also I would really really appreciate any suggestions for a wonderful nanny/infant care either in Foster City or Berkeley? THANKS!!
Are you going to go to Berkeley everyday? If you can do some research from home, then I say find a nanny near home. If you will be in Berkeley majority of the time then find one close to school. Then you and the baby can drive in and out together. Have you checked the child care sites at Berkeley campus? unfortunately i do not have any recommendation. anon
Our kindergarten search has led us to a few elementary schools in San Francisco. The challenge is we live in Oakland and work in San Francisco and wanted to hear how other families handle the commute and challenges of living in Oakland but sending their children to school in SF. Thanks for your comments. Curious Commuter Mom
I have the Oakland-SF commute and my sons are in schools in Oakland. Here'e why and how (and it works for us). I live by the lake in Oakland and work in San Francisco. First, we all love our elementary school, Redwood Day School, which is 2 freeway exits away so that is most important. We figured that the kids' friends would mostly be Oakland based so we'd want play dates and various teams/activities on the East Bay. And our jobs could change, but the school won't for 9 years per child in this case. (The triangle of home-work-school would be a challenge no matter what. In an ideal scenario all of these pieces would be in the same neighborhood near public transit but since it doesn't work quite like that for us, we use a car for the gaps. The great thing is that both home and school are near casual commutes for doing either part (driver or rider) in that and buses go just blocks from each. Parking a non-issue at both. Then there are about 3 BART stations if I left early enough (or after 10am) to use parking at any. So I recommend school on the home side of the bay and getting as strategic about the commute as possible. GOOD LUCK! Heather
We have a 2 year old who goes to daycare in SF (we're in the process of looking for east bay options.) It is A LOT of work to add a drop off in SF (unless the schools you are considering are near the highway exit or close to your office.) It probably means that you have to drive and can't use transit. And your kid might be sitting in the car for up to 2 hours a day instead of doing homework or afterschool activities. And playdates and birthday parties will require driving to SF. On the plus side, if you drive as a family on weekdays you are an instant carpool -- this is a timesaver on the way in but isn't much of a break on the way home. Exhausted commuter
I looked at the old posts on this subject, but couldn't find anything that addressed our specific situation and concerns.
I'm currently on maternity leave, and will be returning to work full time in late July/early August, when our daughter is six months old. My husband and I live in El Cerrito and commute to downtown SF.
Ideally, I'd like to be near our child during the day, so I can visit/nurse her and ease the separation. Plus, bringing her into the city with us means we're all on the same side of the bridge, we don't have to pay to cover commute hours as well, and we qualify for carpool! However, I can't find a quality daycare near downtown with any openings (don't know about hiring/sharing a nanny if there's no place for her to spend the day), and my long-term job situation is uncertain, so I'm reluctant to get her situated somewhere and then have to move her later.
Leaving her on the east side of the bay means a much longer separation (8am-6:30pm or later), the anxiety of being on opposite sides of the bridge, and much higher costs (esp. since we'll probably have to hire/share a nanny, since daycare with such long hours is out of the question, right?) However, having her close to home seems to be a better long-term option.
I can't imagine that we're the first family to face this dilemma, so I'd love to hear from anyone who has found a workable solution that does not involve more job flexibility, which may not be an option for us.
Thanks, stuck between the bridge and a hard place
Hi there, we were in a similar situation as you a month ago (we even live in el cerrito). although we had a great daycare in the City to fall back on, we found a great nanny whom we pay over the table, for less than $12.00/hour, who takes care of our 5 month old in our home. we found the nanny throught BPN. she drives to the City on the days I work there, during lunch, so i can nurse and spend some time with baby. this breaks up my day and i get to see my baby everyday. :-) it's not really much to ask a nanny to do that, since babies at that age are mostly sleeping and playing and being carried; i.e., they are not crawling or running around and nanny doesn't really have to take baby to the playground or park, so driving to the city in the middle of the day (no trafffic, usually) is not too much to ask. we do pay for her r/t gas and bridge toll. check out the nanny pay structure in the archives, because el cerrito/ richmond nannies get paid a bit less than berkeley/oakland. a situation like this may be doable for you. one other thing to consider, the worst your boss can say is ''no''-try to see if you can work from home one or two days a week. you'll still need help since working and caring for a 6 month old is not really doable on your own, but at least you'll get to be home. good luck! found a way!
First I must say that as a working mom who commutes to SF, I do fully understand your concerns about where you should have childcare. I think there are some pros and cons to having your baby on either side of the bridge. My son is at home in Oakland with a nanny share and we have also decided to send him to pre- school in Oakland instead of in the city.
First the pros of keeping your baby at home. As a mother who is away almost 11 hours a day 3 x a week, having a nanny share at our home has been the best situation for us. I never have to worry about getting our son ready to be on time to get him somewhere and if I am sick or need a day off, having someone come to my home is very convenient. Not to mention, I feel very lucky that he is always in his home, with his toys and in a familiar environment. The greatest con is the anxiety of having your child on the other side of the bridge. Anxiety is something I live with everyday as I cross the bridge, however, I feel comforted knowing my son is in excellent hands...part of the success of going back to work is knowing your child is in the best hands (next to your own)in day care or nanny care, whatever care. Also, we have established many contingency plans in case of fire, earthquakes, etc. For example, our nanny knows where to go, how to contact us (through out of state grandparents)in the event of an emergency. I feel some comfort knowing my home is equipped with all the necessary things you might need in a natural disaster- if your child goes to a daycare or nanny share outside your home, you would want to be sure contingencies are also in place. I feel like I have more control over my son's daily activities through the nanny as well.
The pros of bringing your child into the city may give you more comfort knowing he or she is on the same side of the bridge as you. You have more time with your child commuting (although you cannot play) However, this might mean getting up earlier to get the baby ready, if you are sick or need to run errands at home, you are not going to want to bring the baby in the city unless your husband can.
I can tell you all family day cares and nanny shares most likely take place in neighborhoods beyond the Financial District which might not be as convenient as you were planning to see the baby to nurse. There are some excellent day care places like C5(near civic center) and Marin Day School but the waitlists are really long. I think if you want your baby with you then you should consider a nanny share or family day care the city. Keep in mind that that family and nanny will be counting on you to pay regardless if you need care or not.
In terms of the uncertainty of your job and where you will be, the daycare or nanny near your home idea sounds like a better fit in the long term, especially if you are not sure if you will continue working in the city. You can always change your childcare situation but I think in the best interest for yourself and your child, it is better establish a strong long term relationship between your caregiver and child. If you pull the baby out of the childcare in the city, be prepared to have another period of adjustment of looking for new childcare, getting the baby adjusted and getting yourself adjusted to a new caregiver. Unless of course you are the one staying with your baby.
Good luck. Going back to work, finding the best quality childcare AND finding comfort in knowing you and the baby will be ok are among the toughest issues for a working parent. Stephanie
My husband and I also commute long distances and have two small children, so I feel for you! I don't understand why there are no daycares or after-school programs in the Berkeley area that stay open past 5:30 or 6. It is really, really frustrating. When my son was very young, I brought him to the onsite childcare facility at work on the days I came in to work (in Mountain View, a 1.5 hour commute one way), and kept him in a local daycare on the days I telecommuted. That way I could nurse him during the day. However, it was hard because of the rigidity of the childcare program (he could only come on the days he was registered, and they closed at 6pm). So if I had a meeting on one of the days I didn't have him registered, it was always a nightmare. But it was great to be able to see him and nurse him during the day.
Then, as he got older, I started worrying about the effect 3 hours of driving would have on him. Extremely boring! Plus, it's dangerous to drive in the Bay Area. So we put him in a daycare in Berkeley and hired a babysitter to pick him up and stay with him until we got home at 7 or 7:30. Yes, it was terribly expensive and we're still in debt from it. But what can you do? I just wish the City of Berkeley would encourage more business development that wasn't clothing stores.
Wouldn't it be great if they tried to lure software development firms here with tax incentives if they established onsite daycares until 7pm?? Hey, that might even reduce Berkeley's traffic problems if the city created incentives for businesses that would hire all the intellectuals that come out of the university and want to live here, so they could find jobs they could walk to and not have to drive insanely long hours!! But I digress. :-)
I think when you're still nursing, it's better to have your child near you as you work. But as the child gets older, I think it's better for them to avoid the commute nightmare, even if they are with a babysitter for longer hours. I think it's worth finding a loving babysitter or nanny, going into debt to pay them, and giving your children a good foundation. hates the commute
Hi - this is a tough problem, but it seems like maybe finding childcare near your home might be a better option and I can suggest the in-home Montessori daycare I use which is in Richmond (relatively close to El Cerrito). The hours there are long and they are actually very affordable. It's run by a wonderful woman named Denise and her mom helps out too. We've had our 9 month old there for a few months and have been extremely happy. Good luck! Abby
Hi, We also live in El Cerrito and commute to SF, and we went through the exact same dilemma when I went back to work after my leave. I liked the idea of having my daughter nearby, but after much agonizing, we decided to leave her in El Cerrito, with a shared nanny. Now, about 10 months later, we are very happy with this situation. Here's why El Cerrito won out:
1) I'm very happy with a nanny rather than a day care at this young age. It means fewer colds, more personal attention, and that my daughter gets to sleep in her own crib for naps. But of course, there are many reasons for making either decision (nanny or day care).
2) The good day care centers in SF are expensive, so a nanny in the East Bay (if you share) works out to roughly the same amount.
3) The one factor that really made up my mind for me was driving into the city and back a couple times, with her, before I went back to work. On one of these trips, we got stuck in bad traffic on the way home, and my daughter screamed the entire way. It was, of course, very stressful for both of us. The idea of facing that reality twice a day was more than I could take.
4) Someone I know who commutes into the city with a small baby told me that, in the mornings, a rear-facing baby has the sun in his/her eyes all the way into the city. This made her baby cry every morning.
If you do decide to go with the SF option, and the Civic Center isn't too far out of the way for you, you may want to check out C5 children's school. Lee
My husband and I are debating which side of the bridge we want to send our son to pre-school next fall. We both work in the city and for fear of the possibility of ''natural'' disasters, we think it might be a good idea to have our son with us in the city instead of enrolling him in an East Bay pre-school. Currently he is home with a nanny so we figure as long as he is at home he will be ok but we worry about him being in a pre-school should something happen. Unfortunately the pre-school choices are rather limited in the city in terms of close proximity to the Financial District.
I am curious to hear how some working parents face this possiblity. I am interested if anyone had children in pre- school during the 89' earthquakes? What did you do? I realize schools have contingency plans, etc. We have no family nor very close friends who we can rely on to pick up our son in case of such an event in Oakland. We realize that the possibility of earthquakes and getting stuck in the city is just a fact of life living in the Bay Area but we just want to consider our options. Stephanie
When my son was born the year after the quake, both my husband and I had jobs in SF. We were unable to find a pre-school in the financial district that was suitable. It is a good idea to find one close to work as it was very chaotic after the 89 earthquake. The ferries are still operable, however. Be aware that most pre-schools close at 6pm sharp and penalize you if you are late, rightly so. If your schedule is flexible, that is good. The stress to get back to Oakland in time wore me down and after eleven years I finally found a job in downtown Oakland. My life is 100% better and my kids enjoy not being the last to be picked up! Good luck.
We had our daughter in an SF daycare/preschool in the building I work in until about 2 1/2. The positives were: I got to commute with her, thus spending more time with her; I visited at lunch (however this began to cause major tantrums as she got older and I stopped going); I knew she was nearby. However, eventually it was clear to me that the negatives outweighed the positives for her. In retrospect I realize it was highly stressful - everyone in one age group in one room together, no good outside area to play, lots of traffic and fire engines (to this day she is very sensitive to traffic and siren sounds), and the commute. She started biting a lot, and I had a small accident on the way in to SF, and the message finally got through to me. We changed to a small preschool in Oakland in a house with a backyard to play in. It was much better for all of us - she calmed down, we got to know families near where we live (as a second grader, she still plays with some of those children even though she doesn't go to their schools). I knew that the teachers and other parents would take very good care of her if I was stuck in SF for some reason. Maybe for calmer children it works better. Other children stayed until kindergarten and had a good experience. Not everyone feels the same way as I do. Susan
My twin boys are 7 months, and I'm thinking about sending them to daycare soon. The question is, should I try to find daycare near home, or work? Home is Hercules, work is Berkeley.
The advantage of having them near home is that my husband could drop them off, and I could pick them up. We would also be able to meet other families in the area, which we haven't been able to do with our busy schedules.
The advantage of having them near work is that I can visit them during the day, and be close by if there are any emergencies. We'll be a carpool, too, which is not a bad thing!
I don't know anything about daycare availability in either place yet.
For those of you who have made this decision, which way did you go, and why? Wendy
I work in SF and live in Oakland. Our 1 yr. old is in a great day care near our house in Oakland. This has worked out really well for a few reasons:
- I work from home on Fridays so it's easy to drop her off and pick her up.
- If I'm home sick and need the child care it's very convenient.
- My daughter hates being in the car -- so driving with her over the bridge would be no fun.
- While I love the idea of visiting her during the work day, I've almost never done this (I was working from home until a few months ago). It's just too disruptive. On days when I do have more flexibility with work, I often drop her off late or pick her up early to get that extra time together.
- I was able to work out a flexible schedule so that I go into work early and leave by 4:30pm. So my partner drops he! r off in the morning and I'm back in time to pick her up from day care and spend a few hours together before she goes to sleep. Good luck with your decision! anon
I chose daycare near home, for two reasons. One is logistics: my husband can drop off or pick up when necessary. Also, I occasionally work at home, or take a day off to get my life organized, and then I don't have to drive all the way to work to drop my son off. The other, more important for me, is time. The time I spend in the car between finishing work and picking my son up is very important for me to get my head out of work space, and back into parent space. I love my son dearly, but I came rather late to parenting, and I treasure this small amount of private time. Karen
I recommend that they be near home. Why take kids on the freeways every day? That's an added risk to their safety that, if it's not necessary, seems worth avoiding! Another reason is if you're sick sometime and need a day off to recuperate, you will still be able to take your kids to daycare and get the rest you need if they're near home. Good luck, Nancy
I chose daycare closer to home. I didn't want my son falling asleep in the car at the end of the day, which messed up bedtime for us. There were also phases when he wasn't wild about being in the car at the end of the day, so I wanted to minimize the trip. As far as visiting during the day, it probably depends on the child but in my case, it seemed like it would be upsetting (for both of us) to visit for a while and then leave again so there were no advantages in having him close. Working & commuting mom
I live in Crockett and have worked in both Oakland and Walnut Creek. I vote for daycare near home. Your children will spend less time in transit, and more time playing. Both of my kids went through periods when they truly hated being in a car seat, so I was grateful to minimize the time! Plus if you don't have your kids with you, you may (depending on where you work) be able to take advantage of public transportation. Finally, if you change jobs, you don't have to change caregivers. Emma
We have always had our son cared for in or near our home. While the idea of being on the opposite side of a bridge from my child in an emergency is frightening, on a day-to-day basis we have found it much more convenient to have him close to home. Besides the flexi! bility in which parent drops off and which picks up, consider that near-home care gives you the ability to leave your child in care easily while working from home occasionally or staying home sick. Also, a daily commute in a car is risky! Car accidents happen much more often than major earthquakes do. And in our case, my husband's workplace is much closer to home than mine, so in the event of a disaster, it ought to be possible for him to reach our son even if I couldn't. I do know people who've chosen care situations nearer to work, and that can work out well, particularly for nursing mothers who want to be able to feed their baby during the day, where there is good daycare available literally *at* the workplace, or in situations where there are simply more or better or less expensive care options near work than near home. In your case, you might consider both and make your final decision based more on the individual daycare situation rather than narrowing your choices based on geography. anon
I chose to have daycare near home rather than near work because:
- I wanted to minimize the kids' time in the car or on transit;
- I wanted to get to know other families in our neighborhood (this has worked out well as my daughter knows lots of kids in elementary school that she knew in day care and preschool...and we know the parents,too.)!
- day care was cheaper in the east bay than in SF
- My ''alone'' commute time allows for some much-needed transition between work and home;
- on sick days for me, I don't have to travel far to get the kids to day care, and then I can go home and nurse myself.
- my husband or frends or neighbors can pick up the kids if I can't. The challenges are
- My husband and I schedule our commute/work schedules around the daycare/preschool/afterschool care hours (so we need a day care with longer hours and we are more limited with our office hours);
- It takes me a bit of time to get from work to the kids if they get sick, but there has never been a big emergency that needed me to get there faster. So all in all, we are happy to have our kids near home anon
When my baby was an infant I took her to a babysitter near my work and she would nap the 1 hour trip (each way). My husband also worked nearby and we would sometimes go out for dinner together and wait out the traffic before going home. When she stopped napping as much and became more mobile, the 2 hours seemed like too much to have her confined to a car seat. Also, if we did get stuck in traffic it was a nightmare to have a crying baby. Also I would occaisionally work from home and it was great to have her daycare nearby. I don't know your whole situation, but given that your husband doesn't work near you (or at least you don't commute together) and you have 2 babies who are probably just starting to get really active, I would think that on balance if you can find good childcare near your home that would probably work best. Good luck! Frances
In 1994, I had to get back to work when my daughter was 4 months old. I had the same dilemma and initially chose to place her in a highly recommended day care near the office. After one month, I moved her to a day care near my home. I did not see the original posting but the bad thing about having th! e day care near the office is 1) taking the baby on the freeway, for me was exposing my child to greater harm 2) When work was busy and I need more time to finish what I am working on, I had to drop everything because the day care charges $1 per minute after 6 pm. (This is understandable because providers need to rest and prepare for the next day) 3) There were times when I picked her up and then brought her to the office so I can continue my unfinished work. This did not work well either because my train of thought has already been disrupted and I had to start all over again. Plus when she made a fuss, I could not work also. The plus side of day care near home is 1) If you have to stay late at work, you can tag your husband to pick the child up if his work permits. 2) When you are sick and need daycare, your spouse can drop the child off to daycare on his because you do not have to skip you! r office daycare and have to pay a second one near your house. 3) When your baby is sick, daycare cannot take the baby anyway. So if in the middle of the day they call you, you cannot tag with husband (if possible) on picking up the child. ABC
I have to put in a plug for daycare near work! I totally agree with most of the reasons that people said they chose daycare near home, but I've been commuting with my 2 year old since she was 13 months, and here is why I'm happy about it:
(1) I like being on the same side of the bridge with her, in the event of emergency, or even if she just gets sick in the middle of the day, I can be there in 5 minutes to get her.
(2) I can work until 5:55pm if I need to, and know for sure that I'll be able to pick her up before the center closes at 6.
(3) I ride BART with her, and I like it. For the most part it's fun time that we read, chat, snack, and interact and observe other people together. It's probably a total of 1.5 hours per day that I would otherwise not be with her.
(4) Most importantly perhaps, she loves her daycare, and she is thriving in it. I've thought about trying a daycare closer to home for the reasons others have posted, but the bottom line is she's happy where she is. And that's probably the most compelling reason that I'm happy with the set-up.
SF working mom
I'm interested in hearing others' experiences with commuting from the East Bay to downtown SF with a child in tow. My son's father wants me to consider bringing our 2.5 year old into SF for preschool so he can minimize the driving that he does to see him during the week. My son's father lives in SF and works in the South Bay and I live in Oakland and work in downtown SF. Also, I'd appreciate recommendations for downtown SF preschools. Thanks, L.
I commute everyday with my little one and have since he was 2 months old. We take the bus- which I prefer because I can deal with any issues that arise whereas if I was in the car I would not be able to do this. He loves the sounds, sights and smells of the bus. He has a group of admirers who play, talk and generally entertain him everyday. They have watched his growth since I was pregnant so it's quite fun for everyone to watch him grow. I really like the bus- it's cheap, easy and they always seem to get us to our destination with little hastle or waist of time. Als I get to spend the commute time with him and I am not stressing about making it back by the day cares pre-prescribed times. The only problem I occassionally have is when I have night time meetings- what to do with the baby since he is already with me- this can be tricky but so far is th only issue. I think it's been good for my son- he gets lots of interaction with other people and is more adaptable I belive because of his daily exposure to the ''outside'' world. I have a nanny that comes to my office and takes him for walks and brings him back for feedings. This works in my two person office but I realize would not work for everyone. Juliette
I commuted from Crockett to SF with my son for about 3 years and a bit of advice I would give would to be to use a sling, not stroller when using bus and BART. (I kept a stroller at the office) My son never got so heavy I couldn't stand to sling him for the entire commute. If it is crowded and you must stand, it is so much better to not have to wrestle with a stroller. You can also easily and discreetly nurse when necessary, saving your fellow passengers' ears. I found other passengers would usually offer their seats to us when the bus was crowded. Getting an offer of a seat on the BART was rare. I loved having my baby near me in SF and I'm really glad we had that opportunity! J12
There is a preschool in my building at 75 (and 95) Hawthorne, between Howard and Folsom. It is called Healthy Environments Day Care, I think. A lot of folks from the Environmental Protection Agency use the facility, but anyone can apply for a spot. I believe they go from infants through preschoolers still. They just added a new play ground in the middle of the block in a private courtyard. You should give them a call and make an appointment for you and your child's father to visit some time. Sorry I don't have the phone number. Suzanne
You don't say whether you drive to work or take transit into SF. I commuted with my son from 6 months to 2 yo, taking the bus at first and then switching to driving, which became easier for me. If you are carpooling, it is okay. If not- it can, and often is, a total nightmare. Traffic home in the evenings is often even worse, and my tot didn't like it when the car wasn't moving. I can recommend a great preschool downtown, though. It's called Healthy Environments Child Development Center, and it's run by Easter Seals (nr Second and Howard). Very expensive, but a newer facility - the most spacious (and clean) daycare facility I've ever seen, with lots of toys, well trained staff, and age-appropriate activities. They also now have a secure outdoor play area. They have long hours, and also provide hot breakfast, hot lunch and snacks. (Our child was very happy there, but ultimately we decided we'd rather he have more play time and less car time, so we switched him to a center close to home). Good luck with your decision. anon.
I would like opinion on sending the kid to preschool close to work or close to home. I live in Alameda and work in Richmond. I have applied the university preschool in Child Study Center for next year but i turned in the application late, so i don't know if my son can get into it. Also, my workplace may not be moved back to campus in 2 years. I heard that the Child Study Center is great, but I just wonder whether parents prefer sending their kids to place close to their home or workplace? In addition, any recommendation of the preschools in Alameda? Thanks! Julia
I live in Alameda and work in Berkeley. I decided to send both of my girls (ages 6 and 3) to daycare and preschool in Berkeley--near work. Initially the decision was made in order to make it easier to pick them up in the case of an emergency. There are other advantages. My oldest attended the Child Study Center for preschool and working close to the preschool made it easier to participate in activities (visiting for lunch, helping on field trips, having conferences, etc.) so that I didn't have to take a whole day off of work. I also treasure the conversations that occurred during the 45 minute commute to and from school/work each day. Whether it was singing songs together or talking to her about her day at school or whatever, the commute time was at least time together. Now that my oldest attends the public school in Alameda, it's much more difficult to attend her midday school activities, and I really miss the commute time together. I often feel guilty about the length of time we're not together now that her time at school (and before school and after school care) is now an hour and a half longer.
Of course, there are advantages to sending your child to preschool near home. This can be great if you are ever sick and need to drop your child off at school and go back home to recuperate. It can also work for midday activities if you have flexibility in your job so that you can work from home on occasion. If you are planning to send your child to elementary school in Alameda, the other advantage is that there is a better chance that your child may know some of his classmates if he attends preschool in Alameda, too. When my oldest started kindergarten, she needed to make all new friends as none of her CSC classmates lived in Alameda. This wasn't a problem for her as she makes friends easily. But there are a lot of kids who became friends in an Alameda preschool (primarily Gardner), which made it easier for them when they started kindergarten. As always, it depends on you and your child. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions. Holly
I can't answer your close to work vs. home question (since my preschool/daycare is both; I'm very lucky), but I can recommend Peter Pan School on Mariner Square Drive in Alameda. It is the bigger of the two preschools (the other is on Santa Clara, I believe), but it just seems happily busy to me. My son has been going there since he was 4.5 months old and I think neither of us can wait until he joins the 2-year-old class there (in just 2 months). The teachers are loving and straightforward and there is very little turnover. My one complaint is that I wish the food were a little healthier; but as a friend says, her two girls, who attended Peter Pan, grow wistful years later about the food. They do enjoy it. :) Good luck with your query/search. Jennie
My daughter is 12 months old and started daycare three days a week in mid-August (when she was 9 months old). My husband and I live in Marin - I commute to Berkeley and he commutes to the City. Our first choice for childcare was a center in Berkeley two blocks from my lab, but it had a six-month waiting list so we found a place in San Rafael about 15 minutes from our home. It has been a rocky transition for her in daycare (after being with either me or my husband full time). For the first 2.5 months she cried miserably when we dropped her off which, even though we knew that this response was generally normal, made us really uncomfortable. We also have some small ambivalences about the director of our current center and there is one care-giver that we don't especially like that much, so the combination of the guilt/fear/pain her crying caused us with the concerns about the center made for a bad situation. However, in the last two weeks she has completely turned around: we drop her off, she begins playing and seems completely unphased by our departure; plus the staff says that she has been playing well all day, that she naps better now and is generally having a good time. Our relief has actually softened our opinion about the center - still some hesitations, but now that she is getting along so well we feel like we can deal with our concerns more in the background. My question to all of you relates to this: the Berkeley center has informed us that there is space available beginning in December. It has an excellent reputation, two of my colleagues have their children there and rave about it, and it's about the same price as our current center. What is more important? Having my daughter close to me during the day (rather than 45 minutes away) but having to ride in the car for so long each day? Getting to know families closer to our home, plus having the opportunity to use childcare even if I'm not going in to Berkeley? We are visiting the Berkeley center this week to see how our daughter likes it, but unless it's obvious that the center is significantly better than our current place I fear that another transition would push her too far and we'd go through another terrible few months. Sorry this became so long! If you got to the end of this and have any thoughts and advice we'd love to hear it! Thanks.
I decided to go with a preschool close to home when I had to make a similar quick decision. It has proven to be the best decision for us and we have gotten to know families who live in our immediate neighborhood; families we see frequently at the local park and whose houses we can stop by on Halloween. One family lives on our way to the park, so we frequently have helped each other out with play dates at either house as well as at the park. I originally made the decision because of the convenience if I ever want to work at home and therefore didn't have to drive into Berkeley to drop her off at preschool.
When my child was younger (up to 12 months), having him near my work was essential because I was breastfeeding and liked to drop by and see him every day. When he turned 12 months, he began having separation anxiety such that I stopped visiting him because it made him too miserable to say good-bye to me twice each day. Last month I moved. My commute with my now 21-month-old doubled to 40 minutes and became unbearable for both of us. He was bored and whiny, I was distracted and becoming an unsafe driver. Hence, last week I moved him to a daycare near my home. Our commute is now only 15 minutes, and since I no longer visit him during the day, it doesn't matter that he's not near my work. Plus, if I get sick, it will be much easier to drop him off at daycare and return home to recuperate. My advice is to keep your child at the daycare near her home. Transitioning to a new daycare center is extremely anxiety-provoking for both the child and the parents!
You might want to start looking for a good preschool in Berkeley ahead of time and hold a spot early. Transition in the summer is always easier than the winter. For a 2.5 - three year old, you can sing together, or carry on a good conversation in the car.
I can see the reasons to have your child close to your work, you can participate some school activities for a few hours, classroom visits, have lunch with your child at school once in a while, and you can get to the school sooner in case of emergency. You might want to consider to have your child to go to schools near your home once he/she is school age.
In response to Rachel, moving from Minnesota, who wonders whether to look for childcare close to her home in Orinda or close to work on campus. For me, it made sense to have my daycare close to my home so I could sometimes leave the child when I was sick or needed to do other things besides work. The only down side is that I was separated by about half an hour in case of emergency but, fortunately, my provider was very competent and it never turned out to be a problem. Barbara