Yep, Childcare! Why? What did you think I was going to say?! It's a bit like money - it's one of those subjects not often talked about right?!
Maybe there are some parents out there that have cracked productive working in the presence of their offspring. I for one, unfortunately am not one of them! Saying that, there are some Muklet related matters I have achieved with one or both of the lads in tow. Photography is one. As long as it's of the 'kids leaping about' genre, and not of the 'intricately styled still life' kind. That type normally guarantees it being dismantled (read: trashed) by inquisitive little sticky fingers.
I have also managed meet ups with fellow kid friendly entrepreneurs or business advisers 'avec les enfants'. I've had a couple of meetings with the lovely folk at Business Clan when my childcare arrangements fell through. I confess I had to break out the cookie(s) bribe to get me through a couple of hours of business planning and grown up talk, but we managed it!
The kinda work I'm talking about is the kind you need some proper uninterrupted P&Q time. Time to plan, create, design and sometimes sew (tried that in company of kids and they basically made a bee line for anything sharp and dangerous and attempted to grab the Muklet merch' with sticky hands!).
It's been really tough finding quality time to get Muklet work done since we moved over to California. I've been grabbing 10 minutes here and there, or burning the midnight oil once the boys have gone to bed. It's pretty much guaranteed the minute I attempt a simple task I will suddenly hear that little voice requesting food/ TV/ bottom wiping. It's also not really fair on the boys fobbing them off with tv shows and computer games every time I need to try and get something done...ok, maybe occasionally, everything in moderation right?!
One of my goals with this business is to build a sustainable income and create flexible working for myself that works within school hours. That means I can be there at the school gates to pick the lads up, I can do homework with them (yaaay!??), I can take time out when they're off school sick. We're actually not quite there yet as our youngest is 3... and we just moved to America, which means he won't start Pre-K (equivalent of School nursery) until next August. That means that we've another year of (2nd mortgage) childcare costs to cover before the State starts taking a financial bite out of it!
We've debated whether forking out so much money for childcare is even worth it. Right now, me and my American boy are Self Employed. We both have no guaranteed income, potential to make some, but nothing concrete. We're both using this opportunity to pursue what floats our boat creatively. Using this time to develop ourselves and see if we can carve our career paths to a more creative, balanced and flexible working week. Childcare costs in our area have actually turned out to be more expensive than we were paying in London. It works out at just over $1400 a month for 3 days for nursery for the youngest and after school care for the eldest. Thankfully I will FINALLY be able to claim some of this back against my US tax bill, which will make a dent in it. It was one of my big frustrations in England. I was operating as a sole trader, and frustratingly a change in legislation to enable self employed people like me to get tax relief on childcare expenses kept getting pushed back. It's kind of a crazy amount of money to pay out without any money coming in right now, but we've realised if either of us is really going to make a go of the opportunities we both have right now, we're going to have to view this as investing time in ourselves.
Back where we lived in London nurseries were crazyily over-subscribed. Some required you pretty much put your name on the list before your child had been conceived! Our options were fairly limited; private nursery, nanny or child minder. We dipped in and out of the first 2 for the past few years as we navigated changing work schedules. We also had the huge benefit of Granny Nanny (my Mum) for those emergency (bugger all our childcare plans have gone to pot) days.
Over here I've been pleasantly surprised to find many red dots when Ive searched for childcare on Google Maps. I've discovered there's lots of different kinds of nurseries to pick from. So far I've checked out curriculum ones, Montessori ones and even a Reggio one. Montessori I was kinda familiar with, but Reggio was new to me, and one I was really interested to hear more about. I've added in some links if you want a bit more info about these teaching philosophies.
So, these past couple of weeks me and the littlest Muklet have been touring what our area has to offer. Childcare really is such a personal choice. It's definitely not one style fits all, or even not at all if full time parenting is your thing. For me, I'm not hugely bothered what or how our wee man will be learning - I trust State guidelines will ensure he's on the right-ish path. He's still little, and what I want most is for him to have fun! I want him to be looked after by people that genuinely love hanging out with kids, and I want him to make some little buddies. I want him to have space to run around and be silly, I want him to be free to experiment and explore.
Like in the work place I think the culture and vibe of somewhere can be influenced by the people at the top, and that tone then trickles down to the people that work for them. They then influence the atmosphere for the people working with them - or the kids they're looking after if you put that theory into a nursery setting. When I was at Ralph Lauren I was fortunate to work with some really inspiring and genuinely talented people. Of course there was the main man himself, who was mesmerising to listen to, observe and be inspired by. I was also fortunate to observe the creative direction from people like Buffy Birrittella. I'd quietly (unusual for me!) watch her guide and advise our design team, taking time to explain her choices, and also listen to others input and opinion. The VP of design, my Design Director, in fact the entire team were a joy to work with. Being a part of that creative team, observing the way we worked together, experiencing that positive and supportive vibe has stayed with me ever since I left in 2007.
So, back to our childcare mission, and finding the right positive, supportive and Play dough infused vibe for our little man. After 2 weeks of searching we settled on a place that he starts next week. It was actually my eldest that kinda swung it for me, a conversation he had with the Assistant Director. You see, a manager that can humour and converse with our eldest on his chosen topic of 'Poopy' is probably the kinda person I want setting the happy vibe for the people looking after our guys. Fortunately they offer after school care too, so with 2 pairs of sticky Muklet paws off site for a few hours, I've got no excuses, it's time to get cracking!