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Ask other parents who leave their kids in cr�ches to recommend a good one for you

Look for women who love children and are not into the cr�che business just for the money

Search for the best alternative and pay suitably

Leave food and snacks for the child with the cr�che in-charge

"HOW MANY times do I need to tell you that you should wash your hands before eating anything?" an elderly Indrani ayah reproaches two-year-old Vishnu.

This is not a scene from a typical middle-class home. The setting is a cr�che on Race Course Road, in which Vishnu spends the day with 15 other children of working couples. With more and more women joining the workforce, day-care centres are sharing a mother's responsibility in bringing up children.

"It's a tightrope between career and kids. Both of us work till 6.30 p.m. and when there is no one at home, our only option is a cr�che," says R. Geetha, a Central Government employee.

Her twins, who go to a cr�che in Race Course, spend the weekdays in their second home. For working couples living away from parents, a cr�che is the only option.

More kids, more interaction

Here, ayahs take on the role of surrogate mothers, moulding the pliable minds of little children and turning them from `deprived' kids into bubbly ones, satisfied and full of life and energy. "In most families one child is the norm, so here they get to interact with more children and their communication skills improve," says Chitra Bakthavatsalam, Director of Aparna Play School and Day Care centre. She has 30 kids in the cr�che, all over a year old.

That is because, she feels that "till one year, the warmth of a mother is a must."

Reliability factor

Proper care, a loving environment and good facilities are deciding factors when it comes to selecting a cr�che. Says Pramod, a businessman and resident of Kavundampalayam: "As long as the cr�che is reliable and provides good facilities, we don't have a problem. My son Saswath has been going to the cr�che in Ramnagar for the past three years. It is more like a home for him."

For Shikha, who has recently been transferred to Coimbatore, the cr�che is a godsend.

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"I got a really good offer that entails working in the afternoons only. So I finish my household chores in the morning, ferry Sachin to and from school, feed him and leave him in the cr�che for the afternoon.

This way, I don't feel too guilty and am happy that I get to work outside the home."

Fun time

In play schools, children live it up till their afternoon meal and then nod off to sleep.

In the evenings, they are kept occupied till their parents pick them up.

The children are encouraged to do anything that catches their fancy like play games, sing, have story sessions or even play with puppets.

That makes the entire day interesting for the child.

"Kids become more disciplined, because we stick to a routine here," says Jenifer, Secretary of the Race Course cr�che. Most cr�ches charge around Rs.1, 000 a month and levy additional charges.

Despite this, many people prefer a cr�che to a maid. "At least here, the children are with others their age and do not feel lonely," they say.

The positive aspects apart, most parents feel guilty for not being there for their kids through the day.

But, the best way to cope with such guilt is to focus on the time spent with the child. Remember, a happy mother makes a happy child.

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