As an expecting mom, you see a lot of your OB/GYN during the months leading up to the big delivery date. The amount of information you take in during that time is astounding. Between the beginning phases of the dos/donts, ultrasounds, blood work galore, what to worry, and not worry about, tracking movements, potential signs of labor, when to call, when not call… the list is lengthy! I can’t say I remember everything that my doctor — who I (and ALL my of friends who also see her, literally 7 of us) am obsessed with (Dr. Hunter at GBMC 😍) — told me throughout my pregnancies, but one conversation that we had when I was pregnant with Nolan truly sticks out. I was asking her what she thought was the hardest part about being a mom (of 3), and without hesitating she said, “Childcare.” I nodded my head and gave her a confident “OH. I KNOW!!” when in reality I. HAD. NO. IDEA.
I THOUGHT I had a pretty good grasp on the whole childcare concept as my only job before the age of 22 was babysitter/nanny and my family and friends who had kids before me briefed me a good bit about the complexities of leaving your children in the hands of other human beings for periods of time. Looking back all I can say is: L. O. L. You think you know, but until you experience the thick, never ending layers of emotion surrounding the care of your child by someone other than you/your partner, you have no idea. GRANTED, I am not the most relaxed person in the world/have high expectations/want my children to be as happy and safe as possible, but I think a universal mom truth is that childcare is an emotional process for all parties involved.
SO, a brief little overview of our childcare situation (for anyone interested) followed by the things I tell myself and my friends when they begin to venture down the black hole of “I CAN’T LEAVE MY BABIES!!!”
OUR CHILDCARE BREAKDOWN
- Monday-Friday 7:30 am – 5:30 pm THE BALL FAMILY DAYCARE aka an “in-home daycare”. From what I can gather in talking to friends who live all over the country, in-home daycares are more common to our region than other areas. An in-home daycare is when a licensed daycare provider watches a certain number of children of various ages (regulated by law as to how many and of which ages) in their own home. The daycare must follow certain rules and regulations and is subject to regular visits and coursework to keep the license intact. SO… Follow me on this one… its the year 2013 and my sister Anne is pregnant with her first child. She asks her sister-in-law Julia if the woman, Ann, who watches Brennan, Julia’s son, would potentially be interested in watching her soon-to-be born son too! Ann does not have a spot for Jackson, but has a close friend who lives around the corner, Jill aka Momo, who has been running a daycare for over 30 years. Anne meets Momo, they hit it off, and Jackson starts at Momo’s as a 3-month-old! Aunt Kiki (ME!!!) stalks Jackson and regularly picks up at Momo’s and develops a relationship with the baby whisperer/shining soul/incredible human being. 2015 rolls around and I am pregnant myself and share the news with Momo who reminds me there is one place and one place only where Baby Miller will be spending his days while I was teaching – MOMO’S!!! Nolan starts at 3-months with his big cousin Jackson and a few other kids and we realize that we are the luckiest parents in the world to have found someone who loves our son like her own, provides us with advice and guidance and comfort, and keeps us laughing. Momo was literally the best. She was another mother figure to us and more of a grandmother to our kids than a childcare provider. Imagine overnight date nights and spoiling them rotten all while teaching them how to be kind, happy little humans. It was so much fun telling our friends and family that we were not only pregnant with one baby the second time around but TWO #twins, but Momo was one of the first people we told and her reaction was THE. BEST. She cried and told me that in her 30+ years of watching children, she NEVER had twins in her care and she has ALWAYS wanted them. She was OVER THE MOON and her excitement became contagious and helped put some of our nerves at ease. In September 2017, Miller had to go to Florida for work with 8+ suitcases of parts for Costco’s in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island and I decided to go with him to help. Momo kept Nolan overnight that week because her house was home to him and she of course offered immediaelty. In retrospect, I am always so thankful for that special time they had and the stories she told me the next day about their one-on-one time because just two days later Momo had a massive brain aneurysm and died. It was truly one of the most shocking, devastating losses of my life, and I have lived through some pretty horrific tragedies. We were picking up the pieces after this loss and also trying to figure out what our day-to-day childcare plan would look like now that our rock was no longer with us. Enter Colleen – Momo’s daughter-in-law who is married to Momo’s only son and was a full time EMT at the time of her death. Colleen’s longer shifts allowed for longer stretches off and she was around the house helping Momo during many of those days so the kids knew and loved her. Colleen decided that she would quit her job to take over the daycare so that all of “Momo’s kids” could stay at the house that was more like a home away from home to them. The other kids are all school-aged now and the squad is comprised of only my kids and my sister’s kids. We feel SO LUCKY that these cousins get to spend each day together in their happy place. Its incredible knowing that they are loved beyond measure and enjoying being babies/kids before the structure and demands of school really pick up. They also ADORE Momo’s husband, “Pop” and her son, Brian. I could not imagine our full-time childcare scenario any other way, but of course I have friends who have nannies or use a formal daycare center who are equally as happy. The key is exploring all options and figuring out what feels like the best fit for you!
- NIGHTS & WEEKENDS. As you likely know, I left teaching in 2017 and I am a full-time realtor 🙂 which means that nights and weekends are fair game in terms of work hours. Miller is a rockstar and true partner in parenting and handles our babes the majority of the time that I have to work outside of standard business hours. **HOWEVER** he travels 1-2 nights a week and happens to have a deep rooted passion for coaching Varsity Basketball 4+ months of the year, so things can get a little sticky for us! If Colleen can’t keep them for us, we explore the following options…
–OUR MOMS step in as often as we ask them to but full disclosure, with 3 kids ages 3 and under, ITS A TALL ORDER FOR OURSELVES, let alone an outsider. They are fully willing and capable but during this current season of life, it feels like a big ask to have one of our moms do dinner/bath/bedtime with all three, so we try not to ask for that most of the time.
–NAPP APP. If you live in Baltimore and are still reading my saga and have not heard of NAPP… stop. Go to the App Store. Download NAPP. And join the NAPP network. NAPP is a network of vetted sitters (think a local, higher quality version of Care.com) who can either be booked On-Demand through the app (you can see which sitters are available NOW or that same day) or at a later date/time by posting a “gig” that sitters can respond to as interested in and you can select the sitter of your choice. All sitter selections have pictures and profiles that provide experience/passion/reviews. It is seriously a god send and one of my favorite features is the fact that they have sitters at THE BEACH (Ocean City, MD/Fenwick/Dewey/Rehoboth). I know the founders (two boss babes) personally and I could not be more impressed by the community they are building. THANK YOU Katie and Claire!!!
–OUR NETWORK. OMG we have the best friends/family/friends of friends/kids of friends who have taken amazing care of our babies while we are doing our thing outside of being Mom and Dad.
NOW, HOW TO HANDLE the feelings and emotions associated with leaving your child with someone other than yourself… start with a DEEP BREATH. I feel you. The anxiety I felt as my maternity leave quickly came to a close in March 2016 was SO REAL and I was already extremely close and familiar with the person I was leaving Nolan with once I went back to work… SO if you are feeling those things, I SEE YOU!!! OR if you have decided not to go back and will be staying at home with your baby, those emotions and feelings are pretty damn real too. The funny thing about Mom DNA is that NO MATTER WHAT PATH YOU CHOOSE, you feel a degree of guilt/regret/curiosity as a result. Is this the right choice? Am I being selfish? Selfless? What do other people think? Is my child happy? Is this worth it? The list of questions go on and on and on and circulate around your head like a ferris wheel. And I am strictly talking about childcare for the purpose of going to WORK.
SO let’s venture down the path of childcare for PLEASURE – date nights, weddings, bachelorettes, self-care, working out, traveling… the emotions are NEXT. LEVEL. I’ll start by recognizing the prep work that goes into leaving… my 3 page note including diagrams of the pantry/dressers/sound machine controls/monitor directions etc. Laying out the correct diaper/PJs/pacis/lovies for bed time. Food. Drinks. Bottles. By the time I have completed the “pre-work” I am truly questioning whether its worth me even leaving to go to ___________. Thats where Miller comes in with the tough love and realistic reminder that its not rocket science, I am over reacting and over thinking things, and our kids are more than likely in better hands with the childcare provider than if they were with us.
One of my BFFs was texting me in the air on her way to California for her best friend’s wedding and was feeling ALL OF THE THINGS about leaving her kids for close to a week. My responses:
This is so good for everyone involved – you will get to spend some time nourishing your other roles like wife, friend, daughter etc!!!! Which are just as fulfilling and important as being a MOM! AND your boys will build that emotional intelligence and flexibility in a varied setting.
The boys will definitely be getting more love and attention than if you were at home juggling all of your usual tasks. Truly. I know we want to keep them as comfortable as possible and avoid shaking it up at all for fear of rocking the boat BUT that actually is not good for them or for us! Like it truly is great for them to see that they are flexible and can hang in various scenarios!!! They are safe and loved and they’ll be GREAT!!
For some reason what Sam Ponder said when she was talking about balancing a wildly successful and demanding career and being a mom to three tiny humans and a wife and a daughter and a friend… she said I commit to being 100% of whatever role I’m playing at that moment. So… when I’m home and I am MOM. When I’m at work I am an ESPN anchor/analyst/host. When I’m with girlfriends, I’m there. When I’m with my just my husband, I am present as a wife. ETC!!! Your identity is not limited to one role.
You work your ass off as mom and at work and now you’re gonna have some solid fun and laugh/dance/drink/eat because that’s what life is about. BALANCE!!!!!!! And we have these babes FOREVER. EVERYDAY. FOREVER. Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint!! Getting away for 5 minutes or 5 days is totally allowed. Leaving doesn’t mean you love you kids any less but it’s so good for us as parents and people and it is great for our kids as well.
**This is one still very amateur mom’s take on childcare. As it is with everything, you have to do what makes you feel good at the end of the day, but just know that this mom feels the guilt/anxiety/satisfaction/fulfillment side effect of letting other people help me with my kids. YOU GOT THIS! XO!