In Praise of Childcare

In Praise of Childcare

I feel like I could write this entire blog post in one sentence, and that sentence goes like this:

I am so effing grateful for childcare.

But since you’ve all come to know me as a bit more, well, verbose, hear me out.

Not many of us are lucky to have a village to help us with our parenting anymore. Why I think paying for childcare is worth it every time.

When L was born, I proudly stayed home from work for almost a year. It was a complicated year, to be sure, mostly because, though we didn’t exactly plan for this, his dad was home too. L was born in Norway at the height of the recession, and when we returned to the States when he was four months old, I had my part-time adjunct teaching gig on hold until I was ready to come back (talk about gratitude! My boss and department, you know who you are), and Ben had…a law degree, a Masters in law, and no promising leads on a job. So that entire first year of L’s life was spent floating between free living arrangements in various places, L’s mom “home” with him and L’s dad depressedly applying for jobs in the attic at my parents’ house (and then less depressedly doing a few consulting gigs and a summer internship).

You know, in life, you look back on times like that and you remember them fondly? But in the moment, it felt really demoralizing.

When Baby S was born, our lives were just different: I had my full-time teaching gig, with a full course load and benefits, so I went back to work at four months, toting my breast pump with me on the train and trying not to cry during my breaks, when I disappeared into a former broom closet to empty my boobs. With Baby S, I started with three days of childcare, then moved to four, and when he went to his current daycare situation, she told me four was no longer possible: full-time or nothing, baby. I remember the promise I made to myself and to her that I’d keep him home on Wednesdays anyway, do my online class work when he napped, make up for it on the weekends.

But, um, well, I mostly haven’t. Mostly, I send him off to childcare every day like he has a job, and pick him up at the end of the day. And probably because of my two X chromosomes, I’ve felt pretty guilty and conflicted about this over the last year.

Yes, I have the kind of job where I could, conceivably, not have five days of childcare. I’m lucky in this regard. I work some weekends no matter how much I work during the week; I work from home a lot. So the standard of 9-5 care out of my house isn’t always what I need, but it’s what I’ve got. Sometimes?gasp!?I drop off the baby and then go to yoga before getting online. I also do a ton of unpaid work (read: marketing a small-press book). And at times, I have felt this guilt about sending S to “Nonny’s” when I have things on my to-do list like self-care and grocery shopping and schlepping my book to bookstores and sending out promo postcards. Why? I guess because much as I would like to pretend I don’t, I fall prey to The Voices as much as any other woman does: you should, you should, you should. And one of The Voices goes, you should be with your child whenever you can be, at the expense of all else.

And another of The Voices goes: you spent a lot more time with L at this age than you do with S now.

Ouch, Voice. True or not, that feels like a low blow.

But here’s the honest, naked truth: I adore Baby S. Like, he is the cutest thing since cute sliced bread these days. His language is exploding; everything is “no mine!” as it’s clutched to his chest. He calls the dudes he sleeps with his “tuffies.” L is “Weo.” Sometimes the first thing he says in the morning, his hot little cheeks scented with delicious baby-drool smell (trust me, it’s the best), is “Wheah Daddy go?” He likes to pick up things like the TV remote, pretend they’re the phone, and say “Nanaaaa?”

He’s a total riot.

And he’s also the most active baby I’ve ever met. In twenty minutes the kid can stop the washing machine right before the spin cycle, call Australia on my phone, screw up the microwave, and tip an entire box of cereal onto the floor. The stroller can’t contain him; he’s learned how to turn on the hose; and when he says “all done” after dinner, we’ve got about thirty seconds to let him out of his high chair (God forbid he sit still for longer than fifteen minutes!) before he starts throwing stuff. I’m telling you, he’s the cutest menace to society you’ve ever seen.

And so oh, how I love bringing him to daycare. At daycare, they play at the park until they’re exhausted. They play at the water table until they’re exhausted. There are eight little terrors for him to compete with. They exhaust each other. He has a great day, every day. It’s so much more than I could give him on my own. And his caregivers? They love him. One day, worried that he was just too much, Nonny told me: “He’s a little ray of sunshine, and I love him.” I nearly cried, she’s so kind. (She even meant it, you guys.)

You know what I love about childcare? It’s having another trusted, loving adult in S’s life. Not so many of us in America are lucky enough to have a true village anymore, extended family and friends all living close by and raising each other’s kids. So I have to pay for mine.

But oh, how worth it it is.

P.S. You might also like:

Reflections on a First Birthday

Feeling Vulnerable and Holding Things Close

P.P.S. I’m in the midst of my mini-book tour! To see dates and locations I’ll be reading from Little Prayers, check out my Little Prayers Book Tour page. Portland, Maine, and Portland, Oregon, here I come. Can’t wait.

Daycation, All I Ever Wanted

Well, first things first: my friend Lisa Rosenman, ne? Hastings, who blogs here, awarded me the Liebster Award a few weeks ago! What’s the Liebster Award? Recognition of a blog you like with fewer than 200 followers. By the rules, you have to pass it on to five other bloggers with fewer than 200 followers. I think I’m also supposed to tell you a couple things about me that you don’t know, but, well, I’ll assume that in today’s blog post you’ll learn a few new things. In any event, thank you, Lisa!

Here are the five blogs to whom I shall in turn bestow the Liebster Award:

An Honest Mom. Straight shooting talk about parenting, pregnancy, and pranks (read about her April Fool’s snafu!).
Cook with What You Have. A dear old friend who may have more than 200 followers because she’s brilliant, but what the heck, I’ll give it to her anyway.
366in2012. A blog about farming by Laal. I love reading her daily updates about shearing sheep and planting bulbs (as you know, I pine for the “simple” life).
Love and Other Delights. Another cool blog about parenting, by a mom in Brooklyn.
The Cheese Press! Makin’ cheese, makin’ love.

Now, second things second: it’s been a while. Before I went on vacation last week things were crazy, and despite trying to carve out the time to write, I just didn’t. I hoped to blog on vacation, but quite frankly, when you’re in Hawaii with your husband and your kid is at home with your parents for six days, you kind of forget you even have a blog. Yes, Hawaii. The so-called Big Island, which, after six days, begins to feel quite quaint and small. At the same time, it’s a huge place: big mountains, powerful surf, big winds, big legacy. I was so excited to have a few days with B that I didn’t even mind the plane ride, which is usually a real killer for me (half a Xanax and a complementary Mai Tai didn’t hurt either). Once we arrived it was six days of doing whatever we felt like: hiking, snorkeling, eating ice cream, drinking rum punch on the lanai, reading, talking, making out, you know.

Pololu Valley, near Hawi

And it only took me two and a half days to relax. The most memorable day for me was Good Friday, when we drove our rental car south, south, south past all the swanky, overpriced resorts and into the real meat of Hawaii: lush foliage, rain clouds, beater cars, and shacks, and out to a black sand beach with wild winds, crashing surf, and sea turtles snacking on seaweed (the one who was hanging around shore we named Frank, in honor of L, who names everything Frank). The reason that day was most memorable was because I had an important revelation about myself: I have a lot of trouble relaxing. Ha! Understatement! Here I was, on vacation, in Hawaii–and I was basically having a panic attack the whole drive south. I couldn’t even tell you, now, what it was really about (drowning, car crash, something). But at one point B said to me, “I think L takes up so much of your brain space at home that when you have a little time away from him, lots of stuff comes crashing in. You’ll feel better.” Smart man. That afternoon, after we’d had a really wonderful hike in the woods, I did feel better. And on the way up north again we crashed a swanky resort, sat on the terrace about twenty yards from the beach, the wind wild in our hair, and had a $16 cocktail at sunset. I felt it all falling off my shoulders, all of it: schoolwork, the stresses of parenting, self-doubt, static, guilt, etc.


Daycation, all I ever wanted.

Funny story: years ago, my boyfriend A and I were in a Target in Portland, Oregon. A little kid picked up these plastic beach chairs and said, “Mom! Mom! We need these for when we go on daycation!” It stuck.

And am I happy to be back? Yes. Happiest to see my sweet boy, of course, whom I swear is taller and talking in more impressive vocabulary than when we left. And happy that L got to spend a week with my mom and dad, who, despite my worrying, were absolute champs. They had a wonderful week together, playing games, eating good food, going to the playground. My parents managed to get L to nap every day and only fed him ice cream once or twice, and we returned to a happy and healthy kid. I wish my parents lived closer, and I know L does too, but times like these are the stuff of bonding and lifetime closeness. Happy, too, to come back to my incredible community here. I was ruminating yesterday on how fortunate I am. I have all these wonderful friends. I love that friends called my parents to check in and offer help while I was away. I love that in turn, I watched a friend’s son for a few hours on Wednesday. I love that yesterday, after a nice morning with my dear C, I picked up another friend’s son from daycare, took him to my house, where he and L both napped (!), then brought him, and dinner, home. It’s a good feeling to have that proverbial village in your life.

Not that I wouldn’t object to a Mai Tai and no responsibilities, but what can you do?