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.