Good old Timehop reminded me this morning that this time three years ago, I returned to work from maternity leave with my daughter Sophie, and I smiled as I think how far I have come. I know there are people who skip back into the office after having a baby, joyous at the thought of uninterrupted adult conversation, but I was not one of them. I felt utterly bereft for many reasons, but the fact remained I had to return, nonetheless. Sophie is now four years old, happily ensconced in her first term of “big school” and those days of nursery runs are becoming a hazy (but expensive) memory. As I scrolled through my Timehop angst this morning, I couldn’t help thinking of the parents, perhaps like yourself, who are making the same transition from maternity / paternity leave to work, but this time having to figure out how to use childcare in a pandemic. How different the world looks now in just a few short years and how much more there is to consider.
Choosing the right childcare options for you and your child can feel like a complicated minefield but now, with uncertainty and safety at the forefront of all of our minds, it must be harder than ever.
Wild rhetoric or an interest in scaremongering has never been my thing and so to write this post, I have teamed up with PACEY (professional association for childcare and early years) to lend a reassuring hand to those of you embarking on a new (or returning to a) childcare setting.
PACEY are a charity dedicated to supporting everyone working in childcare and early years to provide high quality care and early learning for children and families. They provide training, practical help and expert advice to practitioners working throughout England and Wales. So, in a nutshell, these guys have the knowledge and facts to support you through this transition. I wish I had known about them myself when I was in your shoes, about to go back to work.
Let’s look at some facts, shall we? What does childcare look like mid-pandemic and what do you need to know before waving your little ones off for the day?
- Childcare providers continue to provide services. Childminders and nurseries have been open and available to all children under the age of 5 years old, since 01 June.
- Public Health England states that the risk of transmission of the virus is low if regular hand washing and cleaning measures are in place (which they are) and strict track and trace / self-isolation measures are in place should anyone (staff or other children) display symptoms.
- Thorough and enhanced cleaning measures are in place for shared surfaces and areas your child will come into contact with. Toys are washed more frequently, and more regular hand washing is now a routine part of the day for children in a childcare setting. There is a really helpful video on PACEY’s website showing you exactly what you can expect with regards to the measures being taken.
- Nurseries (and schools) are operating in bubble groups – this minimises the contact your child will have with other children outside of their social bubble during the day and limits the potential spread of infection.
- Social distancing between adult carer and young children is not possible (nor practical). As mentioned above, every other type of enhanced cleaning and safety procedure is in place and I am sure you don’t want a carer for your child that cannot reassure, cuddle, or play properly with them anyway.
There is a wealth of information about how childcare providers are keeping our children safe, happy and healthy on PACEY’s website, which I would encourage you to explore. You can also read the guidelines and advice that childcare providers are given so you can see what is expected of them, which I found very interesting and reassuring.
The facts are clear about using childcare during a pandemic – every effort to provide a safe and welcoming environment for little one’s is being taken. Millions of families are happily using these services with peace of mind.
Facts are all well and good, though aren’t they? Sometimes you just want to hear another mum say it will be ok. So, I will.
I continued to use our nursery for Sophie throughout the summer and was incredibly impressed with how the staff evolved to manage the incredibly tight and reassuring hygiene practices that we now require whilst also managing the warmth and nurturing environment that young children need. I wouldn’t hesitate to use our nursery again if (God forbid) I ever needed to during a pandemic and I never ever dropped her off feeling worried for her safety.
Good luck with the transition and the next chapter.