I am writing this on the last year of 2010, reflecting a little on all that's happened. One of the greatests successes has been sending our toddler to occasional care, run by our local council. I am happy to highly recommend Knox City Council, Tyner Road Occasional Care. We have sent our toddler there for a few hours every week for most of the year. It has provided much respite for myself during the week - I have to admit I have never come home to catch up on housework during these times. The hours have been spent, happily fulfilling my desires for window shopping, which inevitably lead to my desire to shop and find a bargain. I am a much happier mum after these little times to myself, so worth every penny. Our son, although struggled with separation initially, also loves going there.
In terms of his food allergies, I have always supplied all the food for our son while at childcare. Although they provide fruit, it was safer for me to prepare all his food for fear of cross-contamination, even with fruits that he simply had not tried yet. Now, he can probably eat all the fruits they supply, but the year is over, and we will be heading to a new childcare centre once I return to work part-time.
The nature of occasional care is that different kids will come and go throughout the day. They will bring lunches of any kind from home. Typical foods are sandwiches, yoghurt and other snacks. All of this our son would have been anaphylactic to to begin with. The carers took extra care with our son, placing him in a high chair whenever kids were eating. They were very careful when cleaning up afterwards, either carrying our son around, or sending him to another room where there was no food at the time (sometimes this was the office, but at least he got a lot of attention!)
They always gave me a quick call when they were not sure - they asked me before they blew bubbles, before they did finger painting, before they applied sunscreen. All this reflects that they did understand how serious his allergies are and that his sensitivities extend beyond what has been tested for. Contrast this to another centre I visited that asked me to list all the foods he had sensitivities to... that would be a VERY LONG list... and reflects very little understanding. Needless to say, we won't be going back to that other centre.
There is liberty in knowing that someone apart from yourself and your husband is able to look after your children. Of course the next step is being able to trust another person to prepare our son's food. We'll face this step next year as our son enters childcare for a full day and where his food will be prepared by the centre. Look out for future posts on our upcoming experiences. I'm hoping to be able to put another positive post on future childcare.