Monday, August 21, 2006

Baby Barracks, Part One: Waterworks

I’ve decided to break up my experience (and Daniel’s!) with the whole daycare thing into three parts. I figure that a before, during, and after trifecta will be amusing for me to look back on and laugh at one day (right?!). Although I’m crying on the inside (and outside!) right now, I’m sure (um, really, I’m sure) that one day it will all seem like amusing ancient history to me. So, this posting will cover what’s going on before the dreaded “first day of daycare.” I hope to also post a second portion sometime during the first day of daycare. And finally, in a few weeks I’ll post something about “after the fact,” although I’m sure there’ll be some more stuff before then, too!

Flashback! Daniel was about a month old. Dustin and I had just returned form bringing him to some kind of medical appointment. I was severely sleep-deprived and still physically recovering from childbirth, although at that point it was mostly all “hormonal” stuff. I definitely had the baby blues and then some. Anyway, I was lamenting something about being home and going crazy and Dustin said something to the effect that I should try to think of my maternity leave as a “one year vacation.” Well, I started crying right there in the car . . . and didn’t stop for about 3 days. In D’s defence, I think it really was a poor word choice and not that he actually thought I was “vacationing” with my four week old. What I really remember, though, was that at that time I felt like maternity leave would never, ever end.

Well, my one-year vacation is over in 20 days!

In 20 days, I’m back at work for approx. 24 hours/week (most weeks that means 3 full days a week, but sometimes more or less). While I’m at work, D. Jr. needs to be in daycare. This has caused no ends of anxiety, regret and conflicted feelings for me, but the long and the short of it is that there is no other childcare option for us. So, in order to avoid a massive meltdown in my boss’s office on my first day back (which is September 11th, ironically), we are starting Daniel in daycare for 1 day/week for the next 3 weeks. His first day is Thursday! I truly cannot believe it.

There are several problems/issues that I have with putting Daniel in daycare. I’d like to be able to say that “we have,” but D. Sr. is fine with our choice and we have no idea how D. Jr. will or will not be with it at this time. So right now, the only person in the Fringer household with issues about daycare is Momily. My issues/paranoias/problems are as follows:

  • For sure, the BIGGEST one is that I simply don’t want someone else looking after my baby for extended periods of time. It’s a trust and fear issue. I know nobody can do the same job that I do with him. I’m concerned because I wish so badly that he could be looked after by someone who LOVES him and has a vested interest in him other than business. I feel that as a baby he still really needs me all the time. I wonder how he will cope with me not being there for him when he needs me; I wonder how he will feel making a transition from always having me available to simply not for almost half his week.

  • Two, I am fearful that the baby barracks staff are not up to snuff re: the hygiene, safety, mental stimulation and emotional support of D Jr. This is connected to the above, because to be frank, I am fearful that no one is as good at tending to the hygiene, safety, mental stimulation and emotional support of D Jr. as I am. A girl I used to work with who has little kids in daycare told me, “once you get over the fact that no one takes care of your kids as good as you do, it gets easier.” I wonder how I’ll get over this.

  • The next biggest issue is guilt. It is closely intertwined with the above, but the main facet here is that I feel guilty about going back to work. Going back to work feels very selfish. I am doing it entirely for me and my mental health, as we could make a go of things on one salary and be fine. We are very fortunate that way. So, me going back to work is a statement saying that I’m not really the stay at home type, although I think that I could do it. Yes, I could do the stay at home mom thing, but I just don’t think I would enjoy it and therefore be much good at it. I want to emphasize that I have a lot of respect for women that do it and I’m in no way criticizing that choice (see next paragraph). I just think that I’m not cut out for it. I am really hoping that 3 or so days at work and 4 or so days at home will be a good balance for all of us. Part of going back to work also has to do with my concern that if I quit my job and stay home for x years, I would then have difficulty returning to the work force. Therefore, I feel guilty about making a choice for the present, the benefits of which I may not see for quite some time and the effects of which might be negative in the immediate future.

  • Issue four, more guilt – in my heart I think that “stay at home” is really what is best for babies, specifically my baby! I think at some later point D. Jr. would be fine in daycare and enjoy being with other kids. But as a wee baby, I just don’t think it’s ideal. I guess I’m not making friends with Germaine Greer anytime soon.

  • Lastly, I’m not madly in love with our daycare. I’m more like moderately in like with it. However, we looked at five or so others and I liked them much less. The waiting lists for some of the supposedly “really good” ones were 8-12 months long when we started doing this in May, so I didn’t even bother with those because I think that switching him after a few months is a bad idea. I don’t want to change things on him after he’s just gotten used to somewhere.

So, why did we choose our daycare/what’s good about it? Well . . .

  • Our niece attends it and really likes it, but she is only 14 months old and also really likes dirt, rocks and the musical stylings of Raffi. So, more importantly, her parents really like it.

  • Our niece is there and her parents are around so there will be some familiar faces for D. Jr. Also, Aunt and Uncle get off work before us and might pick up D. Jr. early, too, once in awhile.

  • The daycare is 2 blocks from our house. We will not be wasting any time shuttling D. Jr. to and from barracks. No travel time means that on the days we both work we will maximize our time with D. Jr. and minimize our time going nuts in the morning.

  • The daycare is located in a school (I feel this lends some credibility, but who knows?!)

  • The people who own and operate it are nice and friendly and seem to genuinely be good with and enjoy kids. They are kind, but also no-nonsense.

  • Their rates are reasonable and they are one of the only places that was happy to accommodate my insane, inconsistent part-time shift schedules.

  • It’s not a structured, hippy, nouveau parenting kind of place. Kids are allowed to be kids. The daycare is ethnically diverse and I think that the cultural diversity of the kids, parents, owners and staff gives the daycare a bit of an anything goes atmosphere, which I like. No one seems uptight. The kids don’t look like fashion plates at 10 months of age. No one seems to be overscheduled and rigid. For example, one little girl in the baby room has parents who let her wear her ballerina tutu everyday! She wears her tutu on top of her other clothes even if it’s 100 degrees outside. I just love this. One of the baby boys has the best baby mullet I have ever seen. Whereas some of the other daycares we saw looked like a commercial for Baby Gap, this one really does not. I’m happy that I’m not going to be judged about what my kid wears or eats! I may try out the baby mullet, too.

What I don’t like about it:

  • It’s in the basement of the school. It’s a bit dark even with its windows. It has a bit of a depressing look to it, but maybe I’m projecting.

  • The owners seem to have a liberal interpretation of the adult-child ratios . . . Sometimes they do things like call in a relative of unknown training and qualifications if they REALLY need an extra adult. It’s a family affair, but when it’s not my family I have a bit of reservation!

  • There’s a bit of a language barrier between the owners and us, but so far we’ve managed to get through forms, schedules, rules etc. with minimal problems.

  • The owners seem to be quite worry-free when it comes to letting kids that are sick attend anyway and potentially get the other kids sick.

  • Although for the most part I like the unstructured state of things and the spontaneity of things, I do worry that somehow D. Jr. will be missing out on the fact that there’s not organized, educational fun. I’m not sure how things are in the toddler room (maybe those things happen there), but they don’t seem to do much by way of books, music, etc. in the baby room. They do things like “let’s all play in the wading pool” though.

  • They are currently dealing with plumbing problems that actually has shut them down for a couple of days. I have visions of e coli and spongiform on the ground wherever my kid will be playing. I am obsessing about the fecal-oral route of disease transmission. This backed up pipes issue has me really worried, to be honest. Although no one’s actually said the words “raw sewage,” worrywart Momily is suspicious.
So there you have it – my pre-daycare tension in all its splendour and gory details. I’m looking forward to getting back to wok and actually miss the mental stimulation of my job – but I just feel so bad right now. Worried, nervous, sad, guilty, anxious, and the list could go on. I am on the verge of tears all the time and I’m not even PMSing. I hope the baby barracks/Momily at work combo for three will work out and be good, or at the very lest doable, for everyone. If not, my one year vacation may soon be replaced by a permanent one.


At 4:57 PM , Blogger Luke said...

Hey Emily:

It's hard to believe that Carla is now 1/3 of the way through her maternity leave, and that in another eight months Quinn might be in clutches of some other person.

Did you ever think of going the nanny route? I don't know if you guys have room under your roof or if you have enough money, but my sister in Vancouver has a nanny for her three boys and it seems to work really well. I have no idea what a nanny costs, and it can be a little hit and miss but might be an easier to live with alternative if the whole daycare thing doesn't work out.

That said, Daniel's daycare sounds wonderful. If nothing else the old adage that "everybody needs to eat a pound of dirt in their life" comes into play.

At 7:26 AM , Blogger AEG said...

Just want to wish you luck today . . . hope the waterworks are minimal. Remember that this is hard because you are such a great mom, and that although no one can take care of him as well as you can, it doesn't mean no one else can do a good job either. I am thinking of you today. Good luck!

At 7:32 AM , Blogger Momily said...

We considered a nanny, even though I was more than a bit uneasy about the thouight of leaving D. Jr. in the care of just one adult who could basically do whatever they want all day and tell us whatever we wanted to hear. I feel at daycare that the constant parade of parents and staff coming and going is a benefit.

We looked into a nanny anyway, because there a lot of advantages to that route - not the least of which is that your baby gets to be in their own familiar environment. We were looking at the "live-out" option as opposed to the "live-in." However, either way, a nanny is CONSIDERABLY more expensive than daycare. Also, it appeared that it would be pretty much impossible to find a nanny that would be willing to work just 2-3 days per week and never the same days each week.

From our basic research, a nanny is worth it and financially feasible if you require care for full-time hours (and make a prettty decent living yourself!) and/or have more than one child.


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