July 14, 2019

Childcare situation

I’ve been asked for an update on our childcare situation for some time now and had every intention of writing about it, but kept putting it off. Upon reflection, I think it’s for two reasons. 1) As I said in one of the other pieces about childcare, the subject is so controversial. Should it be? Absolutely not. Is it still? Unfortunately, yes. 2) I don’t want to jinx such a good thing…

Last I left you, over a year ago, we were without childcare and struggling. I was on deadline for several projects, Oliver was teething and barely sleeping and I was lucky if I got an email or two answered each day. Plus, I’ll be honest, I was having major PTSD about what went down with our previous situation.

If you haven’t noticed yet (from my Stories), I’m all-heart. I know that sounds like I’m stroking my ego but, I assure you, it’s not meant to be a compliment, just a revelation. In fact, it’s often a detriment. What, I hope, makes me a good mom and friend has some serious side effects. Once I let my guard down and let you in, you have my loyalty for life. Often, I’m blinded by that devotion and don’t see things I normally would or as quickly as I should. I also tend to go out of my way for people, which, in this case, can result in a lack of boundaries. And, my niceness is often misinterpreted for weakness, which means, at times, I’ve been taken advantage of. I end up being disappointed, getting hurt and things become awkward.

Looking back, there were so many signs (aren’t there always?), but I ignored them. I didn’t want to have to find someone new or open up my home- and myself- again. Despite what you see on social, I’m actually a fairly private person (which is why the pieces I write leave me feeling so vulnerable) and having someone in my home on a daily basis and taking care of my children is a huge deal for me, one that took years to be comfortable with, even if the guilt still hasn’t gone away. And going through nannies at the rate we were felt indulgent, irresponsible and embarrassing. What was wrong with us? Or, more accurately, me? Why couldn’t I keep someone? Am I horrible to work with and for? Too difficult? Are my standards too high? And what does it say about my judge of character that I let those two women care for the most precious things in my life?

It shook me. For quite awhile. I wasn’t sure we should be having childcare at all. At the same time, I knew I needed some help both practically and mentally. I told Zach I wanted to look into daycare. And we did… for a minute. I’m actually not quite sure why we stopped or didn’t pursue it further. It’s all a bit of a blur. But, if I’m being honest, I’m sure some of it was guilt-ridden, which, it turns out, is what so much of this (and motherhood as a whole) is about. We don’t have to put our child in daycare as so many do. We have the luxury of me being able to stay at home and/or pay for private childcare. I’m extremely aware that this is a privileged position and I’m very fortunate.

I am the first one to say- and truly believe- that there is no one way to mother. Nanny, sitter, daycare, SAHM, SAHD, WFH, WOH… All are acceptable choices. So why can’t I embody that myself? My particular hangups, I believe, are in response to my job. I’d like to think, if I was still working a corporate “9-5” job, there’d be less guilt about childcare. I’m sure there’d be more about missing out, but I don’t know if I’d feel so funny saying I had a nanny. But because I’m self-employed, work from home and have an unconventional career as a blogger, writer and consultant, that is very much dictated by my own schedule, it feels like I shouldn’t need a nanny. My daughter’s in school, my son naps. Why can’t I get my work done during those hours of the day?

But any mother (and father) knows that’s laughable. Nap time is made up of cleaning up lunch, picking up the house, getting something to eat yourself and then maybe getting one email answered or phone call made before they’re up and needing your full attention. Thirty minutes later, it’s time to get Lilly and play with, feed and keep them alive until bedtime. Mornings are filled with getting them up, dressed, fed, Lilly packed and off to school before errands and classes for Oliver. When am I supposed to get work done? When I just had Lilly, I would work from 7pm-12am or later once Zach got home and could take over. Now, with two kids, as well as more work opportunities and responsibilities, I’m fried come 8pm and lucky if I get one thing done.

I’ve also come to realize in the last six years, that beyond being a necessity for me, I’m a much better mother, wife and overall human and happier, calmer, saner and more productive with some help. So, all that said, I knew I needed to suck it up and get back out there, one more time. But I swore to Zach if this one didn’t work out, I was done.

Like last time, I spoke with several women- and their referrals- on the phone. This time, I was being more cautious. One’s accent was far too thick and I couldn’t understand her which is a problem when you’re trying to communicate about your children and provide direction, not to mention being around a baby who is developing his own language. Another was far too aggressive and combative for my liking and a third proved to be a bit of a flake, so they were all out. I narrowed it down to two qualified, sweet-sounding women who fit all my criteria and scheduled them both for a trial the same week.

One was much more buttoned-up, came with a resume and CPR certification, had no other jobs and was expensive. The other was much more laid back, had an afternoon job (taking care of another child) and her rate was more reasonable. Both were lovely. It came down to the pro’s and con’s list. Did we want the ability to have someone all day, if need be? Were we okay with having someone who had a hard out? Should we go with CPR certified? Could we afford the higher rate? Did that mean she was more experienced?

Zach and I are both over-analyzers and pretty protective when it comes to our kids. We also aren’t farm our kids out types either. While we love a good sitter and break, we want to spend lots of time with Lilly and Oliver and experience the whole ride. For the first two years of Lilly’s life, we had no help. And we chose not to have a night nurse when many of our friends were because we wanted to bond with our babies in the evenings when they needed us and like taking them to classes and volunteering at Lilly’s school. ZERO judgment to any parents out there who made different choices than we did. You probably look more rested and are a little saner than us! To each, their own, truly.

With both women, we needed to give them 5 days. Did we want that? We were used to having half-day childcare and only 2-3 days a week. We went back and forth a lot. So much so that the one texted to ask whether she was still even being considered! We didn’t want to feel like we were going with the one because she was more affordable. This is childcare, not a sofa bed! We had to make sure we weren’t convincing ourselves she was the better choice because of finances. Also, while I liked that we didn’t have to give her as many hours, I wondered about the days I’d have to go into the city for meetings or an event and not be able to do that if I had to be home by noon.

But, ultimately, she was the one who felt the warmest and that’s the most important thing we were looking for- someone loving. I want someone to love on my babies, to give them kisses when she arrives, hold them when they’re scared, hug them when they fall. We wanted a new family member, not an employee.

And, I’m so overjoyed to say, we found that- finally!! I shouldn’t say finally. If you read the previous pieces, you know we found that several times over in the city with both babysitters and a nanny. But, out here in the burbs, we struggled.

I’m not going to use her name or show her photo to protect her privacy, but she has enriched all of our lives. She’s another mother, a second wife. She sees us at our worst, accepts less than our best and takes such good care of all of us. She truly has become family. She’s at every birthday party, we’re texting her while we’re on vacation about missing her and vice versa (She even texts back and forth with my mom!) and she’s saved us more times than we can count. When she’s here, we don’t worry about a thing. She has it handled- sometimes better than us! And Lilly and Oliver both adore her as do Zach and I.

I struggle even using the word nanny. To me, it sounds so pretentious. Again, when I use it, not others. Coming out of my mouth, it feels funny. Much like fiancé. When Zach and I got engaged, I had a hard time calling him my fiancé. I never want to offend anyone who has the nanny role and prefers that tile as they absolutely deserve it. But I also don’t believe babysitter is a pejorative term. In my mind, they’re both godsends taking care of and protecting our most precious gifts. (That and allowing Mama to get out for a drink on occasion!) Ours says she doesn’t care about the title, which is also the way we roll- another reason she’s such a good fit! Lilly calls her babysitter so I tend to go with that. But I’ve also used nanny too. Ultimately, she’s a family member so any other title feels foreign and too formal.

She hasn’t had the easiest of roads either and in each other, we both had little bit of faith restored in humanity. It confirmed the fact that there are good people in this world, that there is someone out there waiting for you. When you least expect it and most need it, the right people come into your lives. To think, we almost didn’t “hire” her. That would’ve been such a loss. Regardless of how our needs change or our children grow over the years, I’m confident she will always be in our lives, long after her sitting days are done.