I never, not in a million years, thought I’d have a child who went to daycare. Let me be clear: I have nothing against daycare. I worked at a daycare, for five years. I love daycare. After I worked at a daycare, I worked at a preschool, and then I was a full time nanny, for six years.
For six years I spent my days changing diapers, feeding babies, and going to Gymboree and swimming lessons and Music Together. I cooked meals and tidied playrooms and potty trained small children. I grocery shopped, emptied dishwashers and washed and folded stacks of tiny onesies. I thought I knew how to stay home all day, manage a household and be with young children. But, (ah-ha) I had always taken care of someone else’s small children. I hugely underestimated how different it would be to take care of my very own child. I certainly knew it would be different, I just didn’t know how different.
First MAJOR difference: inability to leave the child(ren) at the end of the day. You know: go home, relax, maybe catch a sitcom on T.V. and GET SOME FRICKING SLEEP! I know I started to cover this topic, but that first post about sleep was truly the tip of the iceberg; more on that later! So, 35 to 45 hour/five day a week job (manageable) turned into 24/7 job (not so much). Increased hours+lack of sleep=barely functioning human being.
Secondly, the physical and emotional requirements for parenting are essentially unrelated to my previous positions:
- Nanny: Please be caring, attentive, energetic and have a positive outlook on life.
- Mother: Please carry an extra 25 pounds around with you for nine months before spending an entire day and night in hard labor with almost four hours of pushing before ripping the hell out of your vagina to bring new child into the world. Note that it will take approximately thirty days for the injuries to your nether region to heal. Additionally, endure painful bleeding and cracked nipples for several days before learning to use weird piece of silicone to help child nurse. Take child to specialist and freak out when tongue tie is sliced. Hold child constantly and comfort him endlessly, be aware of the fact that he will only fall asleep while being bounced vigorously on a giant yoga ball. Please cover him in a river of postpartum tears. Don’t forget to contemplate his fragility on an hourly basis; cry more every time you do this. Wish that you could just die after developing a severe case of mastitis that requires antibiotics and makes the skin on the side of your left breast peel off as if sunburned. Cry additional torrents of tears. And that was just the first week.
Also, when I was a nanny, I was spending someone else’s money on classes and toys and trips to the children’s museum. And I worked in a clean house that I didn’t have to clean. The lovely folks that I worked for had nannies and housekeepers, vastly reducing my load. The chores I did do in other people’s homes were just easier to do there. You know how it’s always easier to clean up another person’s mess? You can be detached from it in a way that’s just impossible at home. For me, picking up and cleaning my own home just feels hopeless. I abhor it.
And the last teeny, tiny difference is that taking care of your own child is just plainly and simply NOT THE SAME AT ALL as taking care of someone else’s child. Enough said.
I like my job. And wanted to keep it. So Joshua started attending daycare two days a week when he was ten months old. I was very hesitant about doing this. I asked for recommendations and feedback from other parents and decided on a large corporate center run by the same organization I used to work for. I felt anxious to leave him and worried about how he would adjust to the new routine. And…..he was completely fine. He really was, and the older he gets, the more he loves his little friends.
He’s been going three days a week since he was fourteen months old and he’s usually there for little over eight hours a day, even though we pay a flat rate for nine. I just found out that his daycare is super expensive. Well, I knew it was expensive, but apparently it’s more expensive than other options. Which I kind of knew, but didn’t really think about and I don’t ever want to do the math on what we pay per hour. Especially if I factor in that we pay a flat monthly rate whether or not there’s a holiday, or he’s sick….
Instead of facing the reality that we probably spend $30 an hour for child care, Rich has started analyzing the little daily report that gets sent home each day. “What!?! No poop at school? What a rip off!” or “Two-and-a-half hour nap? What are we paying them to watch him sleep for?” Conversely, he cheers Josh on if he feels he’s getting his money’s worth, “Three poops….way to go son.” I suppose having a sense of humor helps take the edge off.
But really, I don’t think I could just be home….all day….everyday….with Josh. I could feel bad about this. But for so many reasons, this is what seems to be best for our family. We still get to go to Music Together and playgroups, we do art projects and read stories. And I get a break. I know it seems absurd, but I get a break when I’m at work. I get to think and do and reach and try and accomplish in a COMPLETELY different way than when I’m parenting. I get to (usually) not have snot on my shoulder, or trip over small toys, or constantly sweep up muffin crumbs and Cherrios. I know deep in my soul that this is good for me. And this means that it’s good for Josh too. Having an emotionally wiped out and physically drained mother is not good for anyone.
And sometimes, like yesterday, I take Joshua to daycare and then go have lunch and see a movie with a friend.
I don’t even feel a little bit bad about that.