I didn’t know what to title this. Alternative choices: Why we chose daycare. Why I needed childcare. Why I opted to not have a nanny. Working from home with a baby is not a sustainable option.
In a dream world, I would be able to work from home seamlessly during baby’s long naps… and then pick up the slack after bedtime and on the weekends, while still finding time to work out, cook healthy meals, run errands, keep our house clean, and maybe read a chapter or two of a book.
This is going to be a bit of a word vomit post, but I just wanted to get it all out here. Frankly, I have major mom brain and I am struggling to get all my thoughts out in a coherent way. (Which is apropos considering this post in general… i.e. I’m drowning and needed help 🤣)
So when I was pregnant, Mike and I both started to consider what our childcare options would be. There was so much uncertainty, between the pandemic and the fact that my work life is fairly flexible. While this is a HUGE benefit in a lot of ways, it was hard to know exactly what I would want and need from a childcare perspective. We had never had a baby before! We had no idea… and so I just decided to have the baby and figure it out once he got here.
In the back of my head, I assumed we would go with a part time nanny/babysitter a couple of times a week for a few hours a day. When Jack was little, it was pretty easy to work from home since he took long naps and spent most of the day sleeping…. but, of course, as he got bigger those wake windows stretched out and I had less time to dedicate to work. Mike is also working from home most of the time, which is amazing as I can leave the house while Jack naps since Mike is home and if he has a break during the day he can tag team in and give me a break from watching Jack.
I had also planned on “coasting” this year... and it’s been anything but. Extremely grateful for all the opportunities, but it’s just way more than I planned for.
In November/December, I started to really look into nannies and/or sitters more seriously. With travel and our crazy schedule, I didn’t think it made sense to hire someone until January, but I was actively searching. I was on the websites and in the Facebook groups and on the neighborhood chats asking around for recommendations. A couple of big things stood out to me though. 1) Our area, like a lot of suburban areas right now, had a huge influx of young families leaving the city. Where most families might stay in Hoboken/Jersey City/NYC until their kids approached grade school, everyone was leaving the city during the pandemic. So the demand for everything went through the roof. And the demand for nannies was no exception! And 2) Every time we found a good lead, something in my gut was causing me to hesitate.
I started to think I was losing my mind honestly. Even when we interviewed the most qualified nannies that I’m sure would have been a good fit, I still didn’t feel 100% on board about the choice. It was baffling. I was getting increasingly desperate for help and I knew I was either going to have to figure out a solution or majorly scale back on my work, which I didn’t want to do.
And then, one day, it dawned on me. I didn’t think a nanny was the best fit for our family… The minute I considered daycare as an option, I felt an immediate sense of ease. It was a lightbulb moment and made me realize why I was so hesitant about nannies. It was such a relief to have this epiphany.
HERE’S WHY DAYCARE FELT RIGHT FOR US
1. It’s less of a personal burden. I run a business and already felt like my bandwidth for managing people was tapped out. As an employer of a nanny, you’re, well, an employer. There’s contracts to worry about, schedules to manage, sick time and vacation time to consider. With daycare, I don’t have to worry about vetting people or managing individuals. It’s all done for me!
2. We both work from home. Mike and I largely work from home and our house, while lovely and perfect for us, isn’t exactly laid out to accommodate three working adults, two dogs, and a baby. Logistically, I couldn’t figure out what it would look like to have another adult in the house and it wouldn’t really be fair to a nanny trying to entertain a baby if I was trying to film/shoot content and/or Mike is on conference calls all day. Being able to drop off Jack at daycare where he’s in an engaging safe place where he can 100% be a baby without concern about noise or a slew of toys would be a huge benefit.
3. It’s consistent. This was another huge thing that we witnessed as an issue with our friends who have had nannies. It seemed too stressful to rely on childcare and to plan to have the day to work, only to have the nanny (for whatever reason) be unable to come in. We saw it happen so frequently with our friends and the stress it put on them to scramble to figure out childcare last minute. Daycare eliminated that as well. Yes, Jack has a main teacher but if she is unable to come in, I can still drop him off knowing he’s going to be well-cared for.
4. There’s socialization and enrichment. Of course, this isn’t a daycare-specific thing, but I knew that by choosing daycare, Jack would 100% get to socialize with kids and have planned activities and other enrichments. We learned that Jack is a very social baby and I know he’ll love getting to make friends in his classroom.
5. It felt like the safest option. This is more subjective, but to me, this particular daycare we chose felt like the safest option. Everyone who works there is more than qualified and vetted and trained. If someone is tired or sick, there is backup person who can step in and another set of eyes and hands to help. You never want to think about “worst case scenarios,” but when I did think about potential issues, I felt like Jack would be in the best care somewhere where I know multiple adults are trained to intervene in emergencies.
As I mentioned, our town and the surrounding towns are swamped with babies! I am in a couple of local Facebook groups and read all the reviews about daycares and pretty much only was willing to consider one daycare– potentially two. Since I figured out that daycare was right for us pretty late in the game, by the time I got Jack on a waiting list for our “top pick” (yes, I know this sounds like college admissions… I swear getting into Georgetown was less work….), he was number 71 on the waiting list. Luckily, I’m flexible with my work schedule so I was able to request any availability and they did tell me that he’d have a better chance of getting in since most families need full time, five days a week. It ended up taking about 12 weeks from the day I put him on the waiting list until his first day. Once a spot opened up, things happened so quickly. Lots of paperwork. Meeting the teachers. Getting all his supplies together.
THE SET UP
We have two days a week right now and I’ll probably add a third if we’re able to. I can drop him off at any point in the day and pick him up at any point, which I love! He is in a small classroom with a primary caregiver and then a handful of other teachers. Because of COVID, I’ve only been able to meet the teachers outside and peek into the classroom through the window, but it has been SUCH a wonderful experience so far. I feel really good about it and Jack adjusted immediately!
HOW DO I FEEL ABOUT IT?
Let me just say that none of these decisions were made lightly. Having to ask for help for myself is not one of my strengths, but to “admit defeat” and say that I need help with childcare brings on alllll the mom guilt.
Having grown up with a stay at home mom and no nannies and no daycare, any kind of childcare feels so foreign to me. (And I did originally feel like a failure, honestly, that I hit a point where I couldn’t do both the mom and the work things anymore.) But I really did hit a point where I needed help. Once I knew daycare was happening, it was about a three week wait between getting off the waitlist and his first day, and I was so relieved. I felt like, “Okay, I can do this. We need this!” And, naturally, Jack’s mobility skyrocketed in those three weeks and I also knew that he’d love going to daycare with other babies and new toys and a ton of safe space to play in.
People had warned me that it would be emotional and I kind of scoffed at that. I was really looking forward to having a couple of days to myself to work. I hadn’t had a break longer than four hours before because of breastfeeding, so I was thinking it was going to feel like a tiny taste of freedom. We dropped him off and I was a little teary, but nothing crazy. I came home, had three major deadlines I needed to finish up, and I thought the long to-do list would be the perfect distraction. For a bit it was and then, out of nowhere, I lost it. It was like someone opened the floodgates and I was a wreck. An absolute wreck. It was a combination of things. Being away from him for the longest stretch. Needing to pump (which makes the DMER 100x more intense). Feeling stressed from the work. Feeling like I was coming out of, like, survival mode for the first time in months. Everything just crashed down on me. I ended up going to the gym to relieve some of my anxiety with a workout, which helped. I just think I was overly ambitious in what I thought I could do on day one and underestimated how emotional the day would really be. Woof.
With that said, it was amazing picking him up from the first day. He was SO HAPPY and excited to see us. And picking him up on day two??? I show up in the middle of snack time and Jack didn’t want to leave. As sad as that was, it also made my mama heart so happy to know he was happy and content. I waited in my car for 15 minutes for him to finish eating his snack and then scooped him back up!
I also went into the weekend for the first time in ages with no work to do and multiple projects completed. I know this is going to ensure that when I am with Jack, I’m well-rested and not stressed and able to fully be present with him.