Working moms, Choose the right creche

Almost every working mother is faced with a dilemma -- that of leaving her young child in someone else's care. With the rise of nuclear families, the creche seems like a good option for many.

"Depending on the urgency with which the mother has to get back to work, and the health and habits of the child, one can decide to start leaving the baby in a crèche as early as four months," says school and family counsellor Gauri Tatke. She warns working women about the 'too young' syndrome though. "I have seen mothers give up lucrative jobs because they thought their children were not old enough to be in a crèche, " she says, adding that the decision has to be taken some day.

Advantages of a crèche

Although a child needs to have the mother around until the age of 2, it actually helps if the child is in a crèche for a short time. For one, it gives the mother some time to recharge energy, even if she is not a 'working' mother. Gauri also believes that children who spend some time in a crèche learn to be independent. They also learn how to interact with children of a varied age group.

Personally, Gauri prefers the crèche to say a domestic maid or nanny, because children tend to enjoy being around other kids. Also, nannies are often lenient as they are not given the authority by the parents to shout or correct the child. Even those who have grandparents at home could send children to crèches, to improve their social skills.

Snehal Avchat, a laboratory technician with Joshi Hospital in Pune, had to work for financial reasons. Her daughters Shriya, now 11, and Shweta, 7, started going to a crèche, when they were three months old. "We wanted to give our children a certain lifestyle. I had to step out of the house to support my husband," says Snehal. "For me, the crèche was the only alternative at the time. But it was the right decision. As compared to others, I have seen that my girls are more independent, very social and sharing. They have become confident. My career rise has also been consistent, all because of the crèche."

Choosing the right crèche

This is of utmost importance. The standard of the crèche MUST be assessed before admitting your child, stresses Gauri. She prefers professional crèches, with well-trained staff. The most crucial part is finding a crèche you can completely trust.

The crèche must, of course, be in the vicinity of your workplace so you can rush back in case of an emergency. Apart from the minimum safety, health and hygiene requirements, one of the most important things for parents to examine is the interaction between staff and children. Activities are also important. Gauri says that a poor crèche would do the same thing everyday. To keep the child entertained, a crèche needs to schedule activities for children of varied age groups. At the same time, a tight, strict routine is very stressful for children. Ask about their recreational ideas, toys, picture books and kinds of outings they arrange.

Ensure that there aren't too many children in a cramped space. It is your right to know what food is given to the children and what you will need to provide for the baby. Check safety precautions taken to prevent falls, keep children from wandering out, and keep medicines and other poisonous liquids or things out of reach.

The quality of crèche, most times, is reflected in the child's behaviour. The development of the child is a good reflection of how the crèche is. Take the child into confidence and encourage him to talk about it. After choosing a crèche, make sure you leave your contact numbers with them. Also, keep their contact information with you.

The first few days

These are traumatic for the child and mother, but mothers believe it is just a matter of time until the child adjusts. Mayuri Joshi, a software engineer with an IT firm, recalls leaving daughter Aditi in a crèche when she was four months old. " She cried incessantly, and I had to ask myself if it was really worth it," says Mayuri. "However, once you believe in the lady who takes care of your child, you are at ease."

In-house crèches

If you are lucky enough, your office may have one. Santosh Madbhavi is Pune Centre Head at Xansa, which does. "Women now form a substantial part of the IT industry workforce," she says. "It has become necessary for companies to accommodate the needs of female employees if they wish to retain talent. We have a flexible system where parents have access to their children at all times. It has had the most positive impact on productivity levels, and our employees have been able to balance their responsibilities admirably. It ensures that our female employees are stress-free and focused on work, leading to greater efficiency."

Stop feeling guilty

Many a time, out of guilt that they cannot spend much time with their children, parents tend to pamper them. If you think you need to give in to their demands simply because you don't see them all day, stop thinking this way immediately. Such treatment will lead to tantrums and spoiling the kids. Remind yourself that no injustice is meted out to the child because he or she is in a crèche. In fact, if you choose a good crèche, the experience may groom your children into more social, confident adults.

"It is a fact that teachers are facing a dilemma while dealing with aggressive and undesirable behaviour of children because punishment is no more seen as a remedy. A counsellor can help the teacher regain his confidence while handling such tricky situations."

But there is a rub. One of the main reasons for not having sufficient number of counselors in schools in the state and making their appointment mandatory is that the government grants do not cover salaries of counselors, reveals Desai.

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