Last week, for reasons out of anyone’s control, our childcare fell through, sending us into a bit of a tailspin. I was facing a pile of reports to write and a quickly looming deadline, so I had no choice but to work nights after my kids went to sleep and on the weekend. I was exhausted. Even though this is a seemingly normal challenge facing working families everyday, it really was a wake-up call for me that has caused me to do a lot of soul searching. It made me realize that perhaps my childcare situation is no longer working as well as I need it to. Since we do not have family that live close by, or any back-up people in place when our childcare falls through, either my husband or I need to stay home from work, or change our work schedule around, or ask a colleague to cover for us. And now it is just getting too tiring for us to do that, not to mention it disrupts everyone’s schedules.
So, when we realized we were SOL…surely out of luck…with a sitter last week, my husband immediately called the big chain daycare center I had been contemplating sending our kids to for camp. I was dragging my feet on enrolling them, but nothing like desperation to get the ball rolling. Fortunately, they had a spot so we threw the kids in the car and did what felt like a quick “daycare dump.” Thankfully, I had fully vetted the place beforehand, I was just hoping to prepare the kids a little more in advance. As we drove to the center, I thought about all the many forms of daycare we have had over the past five years and two kids:
*Three large daycare centers
*One small home-based daycare center
*Two part-time nannies
*One full time nanny
*One pre-school with before and aftercare
*And many relatives and friends that have pitched in to help in emergency situations
It sounds crazy when I write it out like that, and I must admit I feel a tinge of guilt for putting them through all those series of changes. My kids are the best, though. They are real troopers. It made me realize that: 1. I can’t believe they still know who their mother is, 2. I am amazed at how well adjusted they have turned out to be, and 3. It may explain why my kids have no sense of “stranger danger.” They have embraced these various people, places and changes with open minds and hearts.
The reason behind all of this is because my job affords me the ability to be home with my kids in the summer and then I have a relatively flexible schedule in the Fall. But staying home with them during that time has forced me to give up many coveted daycare slots which has resulted in us starting from scratch when work got busier or when my kids’ needs have changed. When they were babies, I was more comfortable having them at home or in a smaller setting, and when they hit Toddlerdom, I value the larger daycare setting, exposing them to more kids of different ages and backgrounds; and allowing them to participate in more activities. Also affordability has always been a huge factor. We have done a mix of part-time nannies a couple days a week with daycare centers to fill in on the other days, to find the right balance for our family. After all these years we still have not figured out the magic daycare formula, but we feel so incredibly lucky to have had (many) amazing people take care of our children. But I think the time has come for us to simplify life and put each of my kids in one place five days a week. My daughter will begin Kindergarten in the Fall, and I really want my son to have some sort of consistency in his life. I have come to the realization that I want to invest more time and energy into my career now that my children are getting older (and apparently do so well with strangers). Which is another big step in this parenting journey.
And as it turned out, my kids had a great day at camp. My daughter got to swim the day away in the pool and had what she described as “The best lunch she has eaten in her whole life,” and the baby did not cry at all (What happened to my mama’s boy? Sigh.) I am so glad they can be in one place together, too. Now excuse me while I go take out a second mortgage on our home because it is so freaking expensive. It is also temporary because we will start from scratch again in the Fall when Mia goes to school and I am not sure we will keep our son where he is. We will again start doing the calculations to figure out the correct work vs. cost of childcare vs. quality of life formula for our family, but right now I take comfort in the fact that they are happy where they are and that they are together. Because really, as long as they have each other, they will do just fine.