THE CHILDCARE CONUNDRUM
I was about 5 or 6 months pregnant when a friend stopped by my office and asked if I had lined up childcare yet. I was totally thrown for a loop. It would be 6 months until I needed childcare! Why in the world would I start stressing about it now?I knew that people in cities like New York needed to start applying for preschool when they were pregnant, but I didn't think that would apply to the suburbs of New Jersey. As it turns out, I was totally wrong, and that friend did me a real favor by getting this on my radar.
I spend a lot of time talking to mothers -new moms and veterans - and the issue of childcare for working moms comes up constantly. Whether you go with a nanny, a family member, or day care (or a combination) they each come with their own opportunities and challenges. And for a working mom, the stress of it all can be overwhelming. It definitely was for me. Jared and I went back and forth between our two options - nanny or daycare - for a months. A nanny would be one-on-one care. She would follow our rules and our desires completely. Avi would have her full and total attention. He *hopefully* would get sick. I wouldn't have to drop him off or pick him up anywhere. The nanny would clean all of the bottles and breast pump parts. But a nannies are expensive. Personalized care like that comes with a price tag and we would need coverage for 50 hours a week. Not to mention the reliability factor. If your nanny is sick or has a family emergency or her car breaks down, you're just out of luck. A daycare would be a lot cheaper, more reliable, and an opportunity to for baby socializing. And maybe those germs are actually a good thing. We agonized over the decision and ultimately decided on day care. We took a breath, feeling good about crossing this important item off our to-do list.
Then Avi was born and everything changed. I hadn't realized how young a 12-week old baby was. On top of that, we learned that Avi was having weight-gain issues. As the date of my return to work approached, I started to get anxious. I began having doubts about our decision. And that's how at the last minute, 2 weeks before going back to work, we delayed daycare and hired a nanny. The initial plan was to have our nanny for 3 months - until Avi was 6 months old. I was sure by then I'd be ready to send him to day care. But as 6 months edged closer, I just couldn't do it. Jared and I looked at our finances and found a way to keep our nanny for another few months. We delayed day care again. Surely by the time Avi was 8 or 9 months old, we would all be ready. Well...Avi is 8 months old now and we still have our beloved nanny. We've committed to her until Avi's first birthday in July and we've delayed daycare once again.
Despite the back and forth and the constant changing of plans, I don't regret our decision at all. Because childcare is so much more than the logistics of where your baby will be during the day. It's a deep, emotional, and sometimes gut-wrenching reality that most working moms have to face. We spend 3,5,or sometimes 6 months with our babies (if we're lucky!). We share almost every single moment with them, 24 hours a day. We ensure that their every need is taken care of. That no cry goes unanswered. We even learn to speak their language. Then all of a sudden, we go from spending all day together to relying on a few precious hours. On a good weekday, I get to spend 2 hours with Avi. Sometimes, I get 15 minutes. In the best circumstances, my nanny spends 4 times as much time with Avi than I do each and every week. When I look at the numbers like that, it's astonishing. She will never replace me as the mommy but in so many ways, she is raising my baby.
It's such an important, personal and emotional decision and there is no right or wrong answer. For some, daycare is the perfect solution. And still others choose the selfless role of stay-at-home mom. And that's great for them! I truly love being a working mom and feel blessed that through a variety of factors, we are able to afford a nanny.
And so, I'm grateful for all the caregivers out there who love our babies - whether nanny, daycare or anywhere else. Those who spend hours with them each week, taking care of their needs and making sure no cry goes unanswered. The caregivers who keep us posted on bottles drunk and dirty diapers. Those who are the first to notice when something is a little off and who try their best to take care of our babies exactly how we ask them to. Thank you for making it just a little easier.