YOU don’t really want to go back to work - you’d much rather be at home, hanging out with other mums and playing with your baby.
But for the vast majority of us staying at home simply isn’t an option because of bills as big as the mortgage and as essential as being able to afford to put food on the table.
All the research tells us that the first years in a child’s life are absolutely vital and have a big impact on later life.
Some even go as far as saying that how your child is nurtured before school affects their whole future, including their career.
So you want your child to be stimulated, challenged, cared for and kept safe - all at the same time as praying desperately that they’ll be happy.
That creates the mammoth task of deciding whether nursery or a child minder is best and then the even bigger challenge of finding the right one for your family and budget.
Councillor Jackie Drayton, cabinet member for children, young people and families, is well aware of the added strains facing everyone with cuts both national and locally at a time when many families are struggle to make ends meet.
But she is proud of the “cutting edge work and fantastic initiatives” already taking place in Sheffield and confident a new initiative will make things easier for families facing big decisions.
The Charter for Quality is a benchmark set up to help parents and carers when they face big family choices.
Put simply, it gives a seal of approval to child care providers, whether they are child minders, nurseries, play groups, schools or out of school clubs.
It works very much like gas fitters being Corgi-registered - aiming to reassure parents that they are making a good choice for their child.
The scheme is part of the council’s early years strategy which is undertaking a huge review of all services provided by in Sheffield for under fives.
It works alongside all the existing watchdogs such as Ofsted and includes everyone from local authority to private child care providers.
So far 28 settings have achieved the Charter for Quality mark after being assessed by council officers working with other agencies.
One of the big aims is to put parents’ minds at rest so they can head back to work knowing their children are getting the best care.
Jackie said: “When you have children, this is the most precious thing in the world that you are delivering to be looked after by somebody else.
“It is a big step to take and many of us have to take it, not because we want to, but because we have mortgages to pay, so anything that gives parents that reassurance is good.
“I hope the Charter for Quality mark will help parents feel reassured that child care providers have achieved a certain standard.
“The provision of good quality services for young children is a very high priority for us, as these are the years that can be so influential in a child’s development.
“I would recommend parents to look out for the Charter for Quality standard when choosing a setting for their child.”
As both families and businesses face uncertain financial futures, Jackie hopes to be able to bring people together and create a child care culture that fits around the needs of ever-changing families.
That could be anything from mums who need to work in the evenings or families who find themselves living in the wrong side of the city for the kind of child care they need.
“People are living all sorts of lifestyles and we need to be flexible about the different kinds of provisions we provide,” Jackie said.
“We need to work together to ensure that existing providers are sustainable. I don’t want to close any front line services in the city - it is about doing things better.
“What we all want is to provide outstanding services for children in the city and support organisations to do that.”
Darnall Community Nursery, which is Ofsted outstanding rated and sits within Darnall Children’s Centre, is one of the 28 to be awarded the charter for quality mark.
Manager Claire Ward said: “We found the charter process really straightforward, as we already had devised efficient working practices and earned a good reputation amongst our parents and children.
“The Charter for Quality confirmed this and has enhanced our reputation amongst the whole community.
“Completion of the application encouraged us to review our practises and challenged us to think about what else we could do to help our children.”
Charters for Quality have been developed and tailored to different types of providers - private, voluntary and independent.
There are charters for the early years, child minding, play work and inclusion as well as plans for one aimed at Year 1.
Every place and individual that applies for Sheffield’s Charter for Quality are assessed to ensure they meet the criteria before a report is considered by a cross-sector moderation panel for scrutiny.
To find out more about Charter for Quality contact the Early Years team on 0114 250 6852 or email firstname.lastname@example.org