And then there was one (maybe)… A tale of six sitters and a SAHM.

So, I had hired three babysitters to help me care for Joel this fall, but it seems, in a bit of a plot twist, I’m charging about 100 miles per hour towards stay at home mom (SAHM), and still also working mom, status.

Childcare decisions are tough stuff, and our journey has been rocky, though there have been good parts too… To quickly recap our history. We planned to put Matthew in our church’s affiliated daycare, and I felt great about it – we secured a highly-coveted spot, and I was going to work a reduced schedule, and Matthew would have the perfect combination of mommy time/social time, and I would feel SO balanced, and everything was going to be sunshine and rainbows.

But then Matthew died, at which time said daycare promised us an automatic spot for any future living child so long as we gave them a few month’s advance notice. So Mark informed them we were cautiously expecting Joel in January 2016 and would need a spot come January 2017, and they were like, “Fabulous, awesome, great.”

But then when Mark called to tell them Joel had safely arrived at the end of July 2016, they were like, “Ohhhhhh sorry – we gave up your spot to a family with an older sibling already enrolled in our daycare. They get first priority!” And I was like, “OMFG is this a joke? How the eff can this be happening?” And this also stung A LOT for obvious reasons. (Like, we gave your spot up to a family who looks just the way yours should look! Hilarious, right?!)

But then, by October, they’d righted their wrong and offered us our spot back, but, by this time, I was over the thought of daycare. Though I know it works for some families, I just couldn’t see it working for us for a myriad of reasons I won’t get into here, so we pursued a nanny, and in my mind I pictured having a years-long relationship with said nanny.

We found a nanny with great qualifications and references and employed her for two weeks in late October 2016 before letting her go. Suffice it to say, I just never felt comfortable enough with her for my anxiety to ease up even the tiniest morsel.

By that point I was ready to quit my job, but Mark convinced me to hire someone of the millennial variety (more energy, perhaps?), and that’s when we found Emily, who was taking a semester off before law school. We hired her in November, though it took me a while to fully trust her, so this is when I told my boss, “I will work mostly from home, or I’m out.” But slowly I learned to trust Emily, and Joel loved her, and she pretty much became part of our family.

In late May 2017, we transitioned to Holly, a sophomore nursing student from Emily’s sorority, as Emily took a two month vacation to Europe. And Holly was kind of just as amazing as Emily, so the transition was fairly seamless, so I (apparently wrongly) thought, “These millennial childcare unicorns are so easy to find!”

So come this August, when Emily started law school and Holly started nursing school, I planned to employ three more millennials. Three because it’s very hard to find “an Emily” taking a semester off, so there are class schedules to be worked around. Millennials because, as my therapist would say, I’ve formed an incorrect opinion, giving them unearned trust based on one or two good experiences with them and a (false) blanket assumption that the ones with impressive majors are going places and have so much life in front of them and so much to lose if they screw up with my kid, and they also haven’t had as much time to be jaded by disappointment, tragedy, and severe mental illness.

So anyway, a couple of weeks ago, these three wonderful people started working various days, and it just didn’t click in the same way as it did with Emily and Holly, and I think this is for a variety of reasons. First, Joel’s going through a period of intense separation anxiety, and this isn’t helped by the fact that none of these people work consistently each day.

Second, I’m feeling increasingly anxious accepting outside help… While in the beginning safety was my biggest concern, I’m finding I’m thinking more and more about whether these people are doing enough to foster Joel’s development (i.e. taking him places, doing fun activities, teaching him enough via talking to him, etc.), and I’m worried the answer is that, in my opinion, they aren’t. Not that these people are bad, or that I would be much better, but I’m feeling compelled to have this sense of control over the situation. Like I want to be the one to screw up my own kid… (#kidding #butsortofnotkidding) But I do know that I am trying my hardest, and while I think these people are too, at the end of the day, helping to care for Joel is just a part-time job to them, and I’m not sure they’ll put forth the same level of effort that I will.

Third, I hate schedules. Joel’s on a loose schedule, of course, but I don’t like thinking that, for example, I have to have Joel up and fed breakfast by 8:30am if we’re both fine cuddling in bed until 9:00am… (We aren’t co-sleeping, but sometimes he moves to our bed in the morning.)

Finally, my anxiety is heightened by Joel’s separation anxiety, and my heart can’t take seeing his face fall when any of these people show up to care for him. I think it’s crucial that he bonds with others, and he definitely has shown he can (i.e. Emily, Holly, grandparents, others…), but he’s been struggling with these individuals due to probably the aforementioned lack of consistency, his stage, and perhaps their personalities just don’t click as well, etc.

So I’ve let two of the three go, sending them each a text like, “Sorry it’s me, not you.” And I’m debating about what to do re: the third, but given that Mark’s mom has offered to help more than I initially thought possible, it’s looking like I might do the same here…

So if this plays out like I think it will, it means I’ll be a full-time SAHM like 80-90% of the time, which, even though I’ve been working from home,  this is a much higher percentage than ever before.

Although this decision is partially anxiety driven (and I hate this!), I feel more comfortable with this arrangement than I have with any one prior. I feel like I could have arrived here had Matthew survived which feels important given that, in addition to grieving Matthew, I’m constantly grappling with the whole issue of never, ever knowing the mom I would have/could have been in a tragedy-free existence.

I’ve caught some flack for my decisions, and I’d be curious to know whether other SAHM’s have heard similar sentiments… I think the most frequent thing I hear is, “You can’t just always do things to ‘make him (Joel) happy.’ Like what are you going to do someday when you catch him smoking marijuana in the creek or he begs you for a brand new Range Rover when he’s 16? Cave in to his every desire to ‘make him happy?’” Ummmmmm, no? He’s only 13 months old, and I have YEARS to process all these things, and SAH parenting isn’t new so, historically, hardly is it synonymous with future-spoiled-brat-smoking-weed-in-a-fancy-car. (I mean, maybe on occasion. But this hardly proves causation.)

Also there’s, “How do you expect him to develop social skills if he’s around only you all of the time?” Well, children don’t technically develop social skills by interacting with other children until they’re like three, sooooo…

Also another fave of mine, “If you can’t part with him now, how on earth do you expect to be able to send him to kindergarten, high school, college?” Again, we’re talking YEARS and lots of development still to take place here, people.

Oh and, “You’re putting your career at risk.” (Ummmm… It isn’t glamorous?)

So I guess to sum it all up, there are a million and one ways to do this whole childcare thing, but, at the moment, this is what works for us, and in a few months, who knows, something different may be what works for us.

I must say, the adjustment isn’t totally easy… Although it’s true I hate structure, I struggle with how to fill a day that has absolutely no structure to it at all. I also question whether I’m “good enough at this” like 400 times per day, and I cry at least seven times per day about it (or maybe just three). Additionally, sometimes I feel lonely and isolated with my near zero adult interaction, which might change if I get involved in a group or two, though the thought of this currently makes me want to die, soooo…

I’ve totally come to appreciate that SAH parenting is HARD AF. Like my former idiot self might have said in her early 20s about someone, “Oh she’s just a mom!” And now I am eating my words something fierce. I think my friend Randi (a fellow SAHM who’s been an amazing support to me) said something profound when she said about SAH parenting, “It sucks, and it’s amazing, all at the same time.” #yep

Though even with all my woes about it, I realize how fortunate I am to have all of these choices, and I’m very thankful for this opportunity every single day.

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15 thoughts on “And then there was one (maybe)… A tale of six sitters and a SAHM.

  1. “I’m constantly grappling with the whole issue of never, ever knowing the mom I would have/could have been in a tragedy-free existence.” This is me regarding almost any decision I have to make about parenting Albert… I just wonder how and what I would have done if Freddie hadn’t had a stupid true knot and died.. I think being a SAHM is the best but also the hardest thing I’ve ever done.. sometimes I feel like a prisoner and other times I feel like the luckiest woman to get to be at home as much as I want with Albert. Are SAHM in America also working from home though? I’m confused! Does that mean you’re leaving being an accountant or that you’re going to be WFH 90% so you’ll be around to see Joel as and when you want but you’ll also have another carer watching him? 🙂 xxx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Good question! No, no different in America! I plan to work during Joel’s naps (he’s taking long ones currently) and then catch up on evenings and weekends when Mark’s here. If my MIL’s here, I can work then too, which is why I’m calling it 80-90%😉. Now how long this lasts, I’m not sure, but currently it’s working (though it isn’t easy)… I wish we both could have known parenting outside of tragedy 💔

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  2. Honestly, do whatever works for you. After my first daughter was born (alive) I took the full 12 weeks off and returned to work full time. She went to daycare (a center) and I was entirely stressed with pumping and trying to find my way and new identity. When I became pregnant with my 2nd, I initially planned to quit my job altogether, remembering the stress I endured the first time. Toward the end of my pregnancy, I thought maybe I’d return part-time. But then she died and I returned full time, then accepted an in-house position transfer. That said, my 4 year old has flourished at the daycare she’s been at since she was 3 months old. There isn’t a ‘right’ way to do this, Christine. Do what feels right. Sending lots of hugs. 💕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the encouragement and for sharing your experience. I agree that there’s no right way and that we should all do what feels right. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard – because what I feel is right changes with the afternoon breeze…

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  3. I stayed home (worked out of the home a little) until Sawyer was a senior in high school.
    I don’t regret one moment of it and that would be true even if she had not died. Do what is right
    for you Christine, and what is right for Joel and Mark. Kids flourish and end up smoking weed in both scenarios. Those reason for not staying home are…..well, just say WOW! Yes, you can’t always do things to make him happy but you definitely can’t always do things that make him unhappy. He is precious as we know in an all too painful way.
    I never discussed my decision to stay home with others….none of their business just like its none of my business to comment on another’s decision in a negative way.
    Sending love and friendship and support of your decision and the freedom to change your mind!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for this comment. It means the world to me. I’m so glad you got these precious years with Sawyer and that you have no regrets. Sending you all the love and hugs. xoxo

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  4. It’s so hard and there are no right answers. I feel like feminism failed me in that I never had anyone discuss these things with me at all. It was just go to school, do well, get a job, have kids, *magic* live happily ever after.

    So all I have to offer to the conversation is my own personal anecdotes. When my oldest was a baby I went back to work when he was 2 months old but only 2 days a week and my parents watched him while I worked. It was exhausting and I worked Thurs-Fri with practically zero pump breaks. We moved cross country a few days after I found out I was pregnant again so rather than try to find work while pregnant and worry about maternity leave I opted to stay home. I ended up staying home until my second was 9 months.

    I started out doing three half days a week and scaled up until I was doing three full days a week by the time my second was 2.5. I work M-W-F which is awesome because most preschools have class these days, plus I never feel burnt out by either work or kids.

    Unlike most moms, I really don’t have any nagging doubts about my work/life balance and the effect on my kids. I know, I’m a fucking unicorn who somehow has it all figured out. I’m a much better mom when I work part time. I feel like I can regroup, have some adult time, get a little validation and come back to my kids refreshed. I was an exhausted, frazzled, unhappy mess when I was a full time SAHM. Working even 12 hrs a week made a huge difference for my psychological well-being.

    As for childcare while I work, I’m fortunate that my parents do half the time and I use part-time childcare the other half.

    I cannot say enough good things about the part-time childcare. My sons got to play with other kids in a kid-friendly environment. The teachers planned all sorts of crafts, story time, gross motor, etc. I like that the teachers are two deep at all times, so I don’t worry about shenanigans from the teachers (no need for a nanny cam).

    As for separation anxiety, it tends to accompany the milestone of figuring out object permanence and is worst between 10 and 18 months. Before you know it, he will chill out about it. I would be careful about making long-term plans that take it into consideration.

    As I said, it’s so hard and so personal. When you add PTSD and general uneasiness regarding making future plans, it’s all the more fraught. Who knows, should my rainbow be born alive I may decide to be a SAHM again due to anxiety that she could die while in someone else’s care. We will hopefully see come January.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I agree that it is so hard and so personal! I also think I need to maintain my career somehow for my own mental health and sanity, so I’m trying to do this while Joel naps and with some limited help from my mother in law… It’s so hard though! Your sentence struck me – “Should my rainbow be born alive, I may decide to be a SAHM again due to anxiety that she could die while in someone else’s care.” This is my big fear above other fears, and perhaps instead of this post I should have written, “I’m scared of Joel dying in someone else’s care thus I might stay at home with him forever.” It’s so unfair that we have to grapple with this beyond what other parents do – we have to actually consider this to be a real possibility, though granted it’s small, but having already experienced a low-probability tragedy, it’s difficult to let the fear go. Hoping for your rainbow’s safe arrival soon and that you’re able to effectively manage the anxiety once she’s here. xoxo

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  5. Also I just wanted to add that I was able to take 1.5 years out of the work force to stay home and I was able to find work again so being a SAHM mom for a time doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to work again, your career is over, the sky is falling, ahhh! Don’t let that get in your way of staying home if that’s what you want.

    I also forgot to say that a potential source of millennial nannies with a semester off is BYU-Idaho. A friend of mine has a sister who goes there. The school splits the year into three trimesters but you are assigned one trimester when you are off-track and cannot take classes. The sister was assigned Fall-Spring for class and therefore had the winter trimester off. We had her come live with us for the winter as our live-in nanny. I know live-in isn’t for everyone but I’d consider having another BYU Idaho nanny again.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. My nanny was from my state but not anywhere close (like a three hour drive). We have a spare room so she lived with us during her off semester. The school is in Idaho so if you were to find an interested student they would likely need a place to stay while they nanny. If this seems up your alley I could ask my nanny if she knows anyone with next semester off who would be interested.

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