Before my first son was born, I obsessed about who would take care of him when I returned to work. I vividly recall standing in my kitchen about 7 months pregnant when the wife of one of husband’s colleagues called. She had a young son and was pregnant again. She wanted to let me know she decided to stay home and start an in-house day care. I was thrilled. I felt the relief flow over my swollen body.
However, as with many firsts in motherhood, there were complexities I didn’t appreciate. She had never run an in-home day care. She got sick; her child got sick. And she took vacations and other time off. Whenever she could not be there, I needed to find a back up. I was an associate at a large law firm. I negotiated a work-from-home arrangement a couple days a week but the remaining days were by necessity long to compensate.
Even so, we managed with only the occasional difficult patch of a late pick up or last-minute scramble for coverage -- until I got a new job in the far suburbs. With a longer commute and no more telecommuting for at least 6 months, I needed to get close to the original hours she said she would be available. Her response to my request was, “When he is here longer than 8-9 hours, I start to resent him.” I felt like someone put a dagger through my heart. Unwelcome tears welled in my eyes at her words.
I felt torn in half. I didn’t want someone with those feelings to continue caring for my child. I also did not want to disrupt my son’s early life as he seemed generally happy. I decided try to make it work with her. But she was unwilling to accommodate the hours I needed even for a defined period.
Although part of me was devastated that my son’s well being did not mean more to her, I also felt a bit of relief. .. since deep down I didn’t trust her anymore. We ended up in another in-home day care. This mom had 5 kids, mostly older. My son was enthralled with the bustle of a full house as well as being the center of attention of many. This situation worked much smoother. She had done this for years and was much more comfortable with the routine. I realized I was naïve thinking because someone wanted to they would necessarily embrace the role and be excellent at it -- it is truly a extremely challenging one.
Once we moved to be closer to my job, we decided to move him to a true day care. I wanted the stability of set hours and a curriculum that would prepare my child for school. My son started at eighteen months and immediately took to it. He particularly enjoyed the variety of activities including channeling his inner karate kid. With my second son born on his brother’s birthday four years later, I completely avoided the child care angst. I happily put him into the same daycare. He was a favorite. I recall one young woman was moved from his room because she spent too much time with him and not enough with the other children.
When we adopted our daughter seven years later, the angst came back with a vengeance. I had to ask myself what child care option was right for her. I found I was taken back to those waning moments of my first pregnancy and when I needed to find another caregiver after the first one didn’t work out. I faced a similar but even deeper uncertainty. Since I knew little about her early life, I felt less equipped to make the decision and forced myself to be open.
I was talking about it with her 11-year-old brother. I said, “We might need to get a nanny for Leyla. She might not be ready for day care.” His reaction was quick and emphatic, “I don’t like that idea.” He is known for sharing his opinion irrespective of whether you asked for it.
I asked, “Why not?” unsure of what his answer might be but curious nonetheless. He said, “Well, the way I see it, she will be doing your job.” Ouch! That is exactly how I felt about it when I first considered a nanny for him a decade earlier. I wanted it to be about my new daughter, not my preference and insecurity. I wondered if his answer reflected the later . . .
As it turns out, she was a lot like her brothers. She loved her day care and was quite a favorite there herself. She, now three, sees herself as an honorary member of the staff. She likes to play pretend where she is a teacher and her brothers are the preschoolers. One day she too might have to face the decision of what child care option is best for her baby. She is pictured here giving instructions. When she pretends she is the “mommy” and tells me, “Give a kiss, mommy’s gotta go to work now,” it makes me smile and think she will figure it out just fine for herself.