This last week, on the blogs I like including my friend Catherine’s and at a woman I don’t know except through the internet‘s and on Facebook my friend Steph were all talking about how to figure out childcare for their babies, either ones already here or ones to come. I decided to write about it today, because I think (aside from the first three weeks of breastfeeding) it was the single most stressful aspect of becoming a parent. For the record, we’re extremely happy with our childcare situation at the moment, but it took us a while to get there.
Seamus was about 2 1/2 months old when we started actively looking for someone to care for him when he turned four months, and I had to go back to school–writing and teaching. He was on the waitlist for University daycare and I had filled out the paperwork for “drop-in” care (which actually turned out to be the way we got in to the University daycare system). I’d been looking on Craigslist, and asking around, but it wasn’t until my friend Cabel suggested his sister Sarah that I started to hope for good things. We met Sarah, and she was great with Seamus right from the start, agreed to wash the diapers on her days here, and had plenty of experience caring for little ones. The only hitch? Her classes were all on T/R and…so were mine. We talked about it and decided that because I would need time to write, we would ask her to work MWF 8-12 (later this schedule changed to MW 8-2 so I would have more productive time at school and because I missed spending a full day with Seamus).
But we still needed care on T/R. University “drop-in” care would be available on Thursday mornings, but not Tuesdays. At this point we were just looking for someone on Tuesday mornings, from about 8-11:30. I called someone from Craigslist who sounded good, and we went to meet her. She was nice, agreeable to cloth diapers, her own kids were well-behaved, and she seemed like an active person who would take him for walks and let him experience new things. BUT she had a dog that kept nipping at Patrick. We agonized (because school was about to start), and finally decided that there was no way we could leave Seamus with that dog. (He loves dogs now, but he’s still a little afraid of them. One of his favorite words is Dog-gee!) Luckily my friend was in the midst of a job search and could watch Seamus on Tuesdays for a while. This was good, but short lived.
In another stroke of luck, our friends, J, G, & X offered up their home and nanny to us on Tuesdays, so I could park at school, run over, teach, and run back. It was convenient, and so kind. We’re still grateful, especially because L was so cool and Seamus seemed to enjoy his mornings with X and all of his toys.
Thursday mornings were good with daycare, but it constantly stressed me out because they just wasted breastmilk like it was water. And of course, you can’t take a sick baby to daycare, so my friend Jeremy stepped in a few times because his office hours were when I was teaching. Oh, just talking about that patchwork childcare makes me sick to my stomach all over again.
For the spring, I got my teaching schedule to work with Sarah’s schedule and then in December we got a call from University daycare offering us a spot. We decided to opt for part time care in the afternoons, since we still had Sarah in the mornings. I also quit pumping at work, but Seamus at 9 months was eating a lot more solids and didn’t need to nurse or take a bottle at daycare. Now, he loves Sarah and daycare so much that I don’t feel guilty or stressed at all about leaving him either place. In fact, one day Patrick, Sarah, and I were in the kitchen and Seamus looked up to see his three favorite people and spontaneously started dancing.
Daycare is fun for him because he likes the other kids, loves the caretakers, and enjoys a variety of toys we don’t have and activities we haven’t done. For instance, they make popsicles out of fruit purees and serve them as a snack. He loves them. Also they play with water in the backyard. We do this too, but we don’t have any grass, so that’s a novelty.
This is a really long post, but let me ask those of you with kids: Was finding quality, affordable childcare stressful? What might make it easier? Are you happy with your situation now?