Well, we're about seven weeks out from 'B-day' and one of our major outstanding pre-baby tasks is complete: we have successfully secured daycare for the baby for when we go back to work.

Finding daycare is the part of becoming a parent that we most dreaded, mostly because of testimonials from friends and colleagues. Living near San Francisco is brutally expensive - the median price of a one bedroom apartment in the suburbs is ~$2,200/mo, which still pales in comparison to the city's price tag of ~$3,400/mo. This pretty much guarantees that both parents have to be working full-time to have any reasonable standard of living. Consequently, there's extremely high demand for childcare, and most facilities, whether home daycares or otherwise, have lengthy waiting lists. A common approach seems to be to tour a number of facilities[1] and put yourself on their lists, hoping that at least one of them will come through by the time you need their services. On top of  of the stress of leaving leaving this stuff  to chance, each of these centers charges a minimum $100 'administrative fee' just to be put on their list, with no guarantee that a spot will become available.

This being said, a one-time $1,000 fee to reserve a potential spot at ~10 facilities is small potatoes compared to the actual 'tuition'[2] fees that some of these places charge. One of the nicer centers that we visited costs $2,100 per month to take care of infants, which does not include food or diapers. Most places appeared to be in the ~$1,700/mo range, which, from the state of some of the facilities, made it unclear where that money was going. 

While debating the pros and cons of the locations we visited, a thought crossed my mind: do we really want to 'bargain-hunt' for someone to take care of our baby? Shouldn't we just look for the most highly-regarded spot and eat whatever cost comes our way? After mulling it over, I came to the conclusion that bargain-hunting was exactly what we should do. See, infants don't really need anything other than the bear necessities: as long as the facility has a good record of cleanliness and the people appear caring, that's about it. Paying extra because a particular daycare will start your baby on an intensive multicultural[3], liberal arts-plus-science-based curriculum is a waste of time. Babies will learn all of the skills that they need by sticking their fingers into their noses. In the end, we decided to go with a well-reviewed, lower cost home daycare that's conveniently located near where we work.  

I'll leave you with a quick rule of thumb: if you can't afford to start paying the rent of the tenants next door, don't have a baby in the Bay Area.

[1] Daycare centers generally open quite early to receive children before their parents begin work. However, our experience suggests that they only give tours during the most inconvenient times of the day. Visiting 10 daycares means showing up at 10-11 am on 10 weekdays. Hope you've got a flexible work schedule or a lot of vacation days saved up. 

[2] They're the ones that call it 'tuition'. Is that supposed to make us feel like our baby is going to be a 'genius'. Sounds more like word inflation to me.

[3] It's important to us that our son learns Spanish so that he can communicate with his family in Spain. Thankfully, it's rather trivial to find bilingual daycare in this area.