As I was approaching my return to work, I had an ongoing battle in my mind over what I was going to do for child care. In regards to nursery vs childminder, I had lots of people trying to put me off either option.
Everyone I knew had an opinion on what I should do, which nurseries were the best, which were the worst. The benefits and negatives of child minders. Who would take Oscar out more, be more loving and who would leave him to fend for himself.
Either way, I knew I would be investing my earnings into someone looking after my child, and leaving him with someone I didn’t know terrified me.
I wanted to really trust someone, and for example, with child minders I worried he would have more chance of wandering off because there was only one person and multiple children. Oscar isn’t the easiest of children to control, and I thought he’d walk all over a child minder.
I liked the idea of him essentially being locked in a nursery. In four walls. Where he couldn’t escape. I thought he would receive more attention, benefit from being in a “school” setting, with a stricter routine and more chance of socialising and learning from other children
Of course, this was not the case… buckle up, it’s a long one.
Our nursery experience is a complete disaster, and one I completely hate to recall, if I am honest.
When he first started, they handed me a form that they demanded I had to fill in before he could start. It was clearly for OFSTED purposes. It asked things like “What is their usual daily routine?”, “What does your child like to drink?”, “What is their favourite food”. I filled it out in as much detail as possible to ensure they knew the ins and outs of Oscar, and yet, it was evident once I handed it in they never looked at it ever again.
In fact, when we dropped him off the second week he was there, one of the staff came over and said “Does Oscar drink water?” and I said “Yes, that’s all he drinks. I wrote it on his form”. She said “Oh, I must have you confused with another parent”. About three weeks after that, a different member of staff handed him over on collection and said “he’s been drinking water you know”, I said “Water is all he drinks”, she was like “Oh for the last three weeks we have only given him juice or milk, I thought that’s what you said?”. At that point I was furious. He’d been there for 10 hours a day, three days a week for 3 weeks, and they hadn’t read his form and given him water?
Most of the staff were completely lackadaisical and I questioned why most of them even chose that career as it was obvious they didn’t care too. They once uploaded a photo of my son to their public facebook page, who was full of cold (we shall get onto that later) with beads of snot running down his face. He was playing with other children in a tuff tray. Every day we’d pick him up and he’d have snot all over his face. I actually pulled them aside once and said “you can wipe his face you know”, as I didn’t know if they needed my permission. She just said “we do after meals”. That’s it? Okay then.
He cried continuously when we dropped him off, even though he had been going for months.
If that isn’t a warning sign, I don’t know what is.
There was once a time when Oscar couldn’t stomach dairy. He’d been vomiting for weeks, and he couldn’t keep any of his food down. We figured out pretty quickly it was dairy causing the problem, we switched him to Oatly milk and cut out yoghurts, etc. This lasted a few months, and I alerted the nursery as he had vomited there a few times after he had been fed. I told them to stop giving him dairy and to alert the other members of staff, and of course this went in one ear and out the other.
They sent him home one day with “angel delight” written on his card, which of course, is made with cows milk. He was awake crying all night. They also didn’t cater at all to children with allergies which I thought was very unfair, especially with how many children are allergic to dairy nowadays.
For example, he sat and watched everyone eating ice cream, while he had a dry, tasteless cone.
He was ill at some point every single week.
Now I know this is common in nursery settings, because there are so many children and it’s almost impossible to avoid completely, however I think the overall cleanliness of the place was probably one of the main factors. He caught hand, foot and mouth disease after it was doing the rounds, and one of the staff members told me that some children were catching it over and over again and depending on the severity, they were letting some of them stay. To me, there has to be something wrong there. They either weren’t being super vigilant on the children who were ill, or they weren’t cleaning the place properly and, as it is extremely contagious, it was just re-spreading. It was horrific and I felt so sorry for Oscar. That was only one of many issues though.
When he wasn’t vomiting, he had a barking cough and a runny nose. Almost every single week me and Anthony had to take time off work and drive back to our home town to collect him because he was ill, yet again. It meant we were losing money because we had to still pay, but he was almost never even there. Work was starting to get mildly irritated, unsurprisingly, and we were left in such a difficult situation financially.
Not only that, he always had nappy rash because they were only changing him twice in ten hours. He was blistered almost every other week from the urine sitting on his skin, and regardless of how many times I told them, it never changed.
And then, the most bizarre thing happened…
I tried to access the Facebook page one day to send a message, and it had vanished. I rang the number and it rang out. We had just paid for the month, so I started panicking. I was terrified we wouldn’t have a place to take him the next week, and I was unable to get in touch with anyone. I messaged somebody else I knew who had a child in the setting, and they didn’t know what was going on either.
We arrived the following week, and they had completely re-branded without letting anyone know. The staff didn’t even know. Half of the staff had lost their jobs (sadly, most of the ones who actually gave a shit) and there were a complete new team of people. Oscar was moved from the big room he enjoyed, to a tiny room filled with sensory baby toys, rattles and pillows. He was almost 2, and this filled him with toddler rage.
He had lost all of his friends, and he had absolutely nothing to do. From that moment, he hated every second, and I hated that we had no other option but to take him back there because no other nurseries had space for him. Neither me or Anthony were in a position to leave our jobs, so we were stuck as to what to do. I asked multiple times when they were going to put age appropriate things in this tiny box you couldn’t even call a room, and they just didn’t have an answer. They didn’t even know what was going on themselves.
As if it couldn’t get any worse, they stopped giving him cooked meals (which they prided themselves on when I first put him in) and instead were giving him things like dry crackers or a scone for his dinner, with again, no notice at all. They knew we were picking him up late and he went to bed shortly after, so this had thrown our routine to pot because we had to keep him awake to feed him his proper dinner when we got home from work.
The Final Straw
Given all that had happened already, the lack of care from staff and the overall disappointment, I was at breaking point with the lot of them.
Every single time he came home, I was filled with rage. They hadn’t written down when his nappy had been changed, or what he’d ate, or what he had done that day. Just general things parents would love to know when they haven’t seen their children all day. Basically, any effort required from them seemed like a huge ask. I once finished work early to attend a parents evening, and the woman had gone home and forgot about us.
We collected his EYFS “progress report”, which was supposed to be updated daily, and it hadn’t been filled in at all. It was a fucking shambles.
And then, one day, we collected him, brought him home and he had this stick down the back of his vest. You probably think “a twig, get over yourself” but if it was your child and you felt how sharp it actually was, you’d be horrified. The garden of the nursery is adjacent to a main road, and it looked as though someone had purposely sharpened it and thrown it in. Clearly nobody had noticed Oscar or another child had put this down his vest, and I was so upset I burst into tears. If he’d have bent over quickly, I have no doubt it would have pierced his skin, and then what? He’d even been sat in his car seat with this pressing against his skin the whole way home. I dread to think what could’ve happened if it was positioned in the wrong place.
Who do I blame for essentially putting my child at risk of being injured? I even kept it to prove how sharp it actually was, before I sent the nursery an email to tell them that Oscar would never be returning to that shit hole ever again.
I think at that point I was just so done that anything would have tipped me over the edge. Even if it was just a stick.
After I removed him from the setting, I noticed that somebody else had filed an OFSTED complaint against them a few months before this whole fiasco. There was also a few filed in their old name, so that’s probably why they re-branded overnight. Apparently they had no safe guarding team whatsoever, the setting wasn’t secure so people could freely walk in and out, and some kids were being sent home with bruises and injuries that were completely unexplained. Horrific.
I’m not sure if I just so happened to choose the worst nursery in the world, but it has completely put me off private nurseries for life.
Overall, he attended the nursery for 6 months. I do wish I had spoken up and taken him out sooner. At the time, I just thought most of the issues would resolve themselves eventually. I repeatedly tried to solve the issues with the staff who clearly didn’t communicate with each other, and I had so much hope that it would turn itself around, especially when the new members of staff came in.
I’m not sure who was to blame, but I can sit here and say now that I wish I had looked more into child minders from the beginning.
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