Friday, April 29, 2011

Childcare - need I say more?

So it happened to me again today – actually it happened several times – I ended up talking and thinking about children, and more specifically, childcare. Yep, surpreez, surpreez. Today it started with me reading Lisa Belkin’s “Motherlode” blog in the NYTimes. Many mornings, this is the first thing I do. Okay, well, really it is like the 800th thing that I do, but it is the first thing that I do to start my part of the day.

Belkin’s blog is supposedly about parenting, but really, it is about a lot more than that.

Lisa Belkin is a great bellweather for what is feeding the American media-fed frenzy of parenting, child-rearing, mothering, childcare, and the like, on any given day. And don’t we all know (mothers, especially), that this conception can rapidly change – working mothers can go from being satan to saints, and stay at home moms from being the freakin’ virgin Mary to lord only knows what. Belkin always does a great job of deconstructing these media-driven frenzies about parenting and mothering, and I love her writing for it.

Today’s blog was about nannies and the role of nannies not only in royal families (remember, that royal baby, William, got married today), but also in many families in which both parents work outside the home. In this blog was a link to Amy Poehler’s recent awards speech. Then, I saw a link to Amy Poehler’s speech (see article on AGAIN, this time posted on my friend Elaine’s facebook page. In this speech, Amy Poehler thanked the two other women in her life that were helping her to raise her sons. Amazing.

Then another friend posted on facebook that she was leaving her daughter at day care for the first trial run before returning to work in a few days. In her post she wrote “And who thought this was a good idea?” Yep – I’ve both been there and am still there.

Then, on a morning hike with the boys (Fridays are my day “at home”), we started walking with another mom and her two kids. As the kids ran ahead, she and I immediately started talking about childcare. She works, I work. Where did her kids go/my kids go? Did she/I like the childcare? Both of us jointly complained about the preschool at this nature center where we were hiking – which offers only 2 hour morning or afternoon preschool programming. So basically, unless you stay at home, or you have amazing (-ly expensive) wrap around care that can drop off and pick up your child, you are out of luck. No nature preschool for your kids, you working moms. Try the institutional care down the road.

Then, there has been our own childcare week from hell in which our younger son had surgery (nothing serious, he is doing great) about which we received incorrect “recovery time” information from not one, but three nurses. As such, we did not so much plan for an entire week at home. And yet, here we are – a work week washed away – but a very contented and healthy little boy. C’est la vie.

And all of these little moments have brought me back to pretty much the only eternal truth that I have found about working and mothering, and one, that my own kids have taught me: You can do anything with great childcare.

Amy Poehler knows it, and I do too. After N’s surgery, as soon as he hit the recovery room, I made the following phone calls: 1) Grandma in New England, 2) Grandma in California (who phone tree-d the other west coast grandparents), and 3) the preschool. I knew that they would want to know just as much as anyone else in our family that N had come through just fine.

We have been pretty lucky when it comes to childcare – we have used a large university daycare (sometimes fabulous, sometimes not so much), a nanny at home (peace of mind = piece of wallet), an in-home daycare (my younger son N liked her cooking better than mine), and finally now, I think, we are settling in at our lovely little traditional preschool-meets -daycare where there is so much diversity (of race, of income, of working versus stay at home parents) that I know that my kids aren’t going to be scarred by being the only kids who stay late or come early. Rather, they see that in a lot of families, different strokes work for different folks. And, most importantly, our boys love it. They walk into that school like they own it – like it is an extension of their home and that their family extends beyond the confines of our house.

Now, this all sounds pretty cheery. And mostly it is, but then I come across stuff like this (click on it to see it more clearly):

I found this while reading the reviews of one of Lisa Belkin’s books about work/life balance. Stuff like this just makes my blood boil. Partly this is due to my own unresolved anxieties about not being the one there all the time for my children. But when did people (and by this I mean S. French of Kirkland, WA) decide that the happiness of a parent and a child are mutually exclusive? Mothers (oh, yes, pretty sure it is just mothers) should stay at home out of some kind of guilt? Yep, that is going to work on nicely. Resentment anyone?

And this is the other thing I have learned from children on this one: if you are happy, your children will be happy. If you are not, then I am pretty sure they won’t be either. I know many a stay-at-home mom here in my midwestern suburban existence who stays at home out of guilt and fear that if she does not, her children will not be as happy or healthy as they can or should be. On the other side of that coin, there are many working moms I know that would rather be at home, and simply cannot. So here is my suggestion: let's do what works for each of us and leave the judgment out of it? Ok, S. French?

Of course, none of this makes it any easier to drop off your young child at daycare. But when you get there in the afternoon, and they are not ready to leave, and you can sit down with them right there and give them your undivided time and attention because you have satisfied that other part of your being that wants to have a career or a work life outside of your home – well, that always feel pretty good to me.

And one other thing that I believe to be true. Showing your children that you trust other human beings to care for them teaches them another important lesson: That people outside of your family can love you just as much as the people within. And isn’t that a powerful message of peace?

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