Beating a dead horse.

January 8, 2008 at 2:22 pm | Posted in Pregnancy | 27 Comments

The proverbial one, that is. About daycare choices.

I’m quickly finding that decisions about parenting are very INTENSE. People feel very strongly one way or another, and given that the decision affects the welfare of a child, it’s hard not to get passionate about a particular choice. And honestly? That’s great. I welcome discussions like this.

My reasons for choosing to work full time* once our baby is here are fairly simple. We live in eastern Massachusetts, where living expenses are higher than average. We are paying student loans for my MBA and MS in Accounting, as well as J’s MBA. We did not purchase a starter home – instead we bought a house where we can live for the next 30 years. (Please note that it was a deliberate plan to do this – we bought our house while we were TTC.)

The bottom line is that we can’t afford for me to become a full stay at home mom. And it’s not a question of keeping our lifestyle – J and I live fairly conservatively. It’s the fact that, if I didn’t work, we wouldn’t be able to keep our house. And pay off our loans. And, you know, buy food to eat. And daycare, though expensive, is less than half of of my take home pay each month.

Not to mention that I grew up with a mother who was incredibly unhappy with being a stay at home mom. Most of the time, she was bored. Consequently, she was a control freak about her house. Our behaviors. She was strict, controlling, and generally unhappy with her life. She was nearly impossible to live with – until she started her own dog grooming business when I was in high school.

All of a sudden? She was happy. Fulfilled. The difference, to me, was amazing.

I might not love my job, but I crave its intellectual stimulation. And with a job where I have regular hours (and get to leave work at work)? For ME, I will be a better mother. A happier mother. 

Clearly I cannot work at my firm once Squishy is here. Even a “shorter” 12 hour day is NOT ok when I have a child at home. Add the commute into it, and, well, it’s clear to me that I cannot do my job AND have a family at this firm. So I will look for something else which will allow me to do both.

I do realize that putting your child into daycare is a very tough choice, and it’s not one that J and I took lightly. However. Like everything, there are pros and cons of everything. Enough money to put food on the table and pay our bills, socialization with children early on (as, you know, this baby might be the only one we’re lucky enough to HAVE too), and I believe I’ll be a happier and more patient mother because I have the intellectual stimulation that I need.

And I can only think that my child will benefit from it.

Please do not mistake me when I write this – I feel a little like I am really just drawing lines in the sand.

Because I do realize that my feelings may change when Squishy is born and in the case of when our income/expenses change. I am aware that flexibility is a key ingredient of parenting, and (as Bea said) our particular set of circumstances may change.

But in the meantime, I need to do what J and I have decided is best for US. Whatever we decide on the daycare situation – whether we go with in-home or a center – please do not assume that we’ve not thought about the ramifications of our decision. There is very little in our lives which we just DO without thinking about in depth first.

*I say full time now. However, if I find a position which is part time, which we can afford, etc? I’d take it in a heartbeat. For the time being, however, I am assuming that I will only be able to find full time work for now. Worst case scenario, if you will.

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27 Comments »

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  1. Happy Parents = Happy Baby. Whatever you choose to do, as long as you are happy with your choice Squishy will be happy, too!!! And if s/he is happy, it’s the best choice you can make for your family.

  2. I second Yoka’s comment.
    You know what’s best for you and your family nobody else.

  3. I really get upset when people think that their way is best, and no other options are even acceptable. As parents, we have to make our own choices. And while they may be best for some of us, they really aren’t for others. And some choices, aren’t really even choices. At least for us, as long as we live in the DC area, we both have to work. And part time positions in my field just don’t exist (believe me, I’ve looked!). And sometimes, we make mistakes. But they are our mistakes to make.

    I absolutely hate that my daughter and this baby will have started day care at 12 weeks. It hit me like a ton of bricks about 4 months after I went back to work, just how much I hated it. And it didn’t help that my MIL made me feel like crap for working. Unfortunately in the US, all we’re allowed to take off is 12 weeks and still have a job to come back to. And if you end up on bedrest first, often times that counts as part of the 12 weeks.

    And to add to my comment from last time, which Casey nailed me on, I do have to say that I’ve NEVER sent my daughter to day care/preschool sick. Never. I always stay home with her, and if I absolutely can’t, my husband will. I’ve gotten several phone calls at work saying that she’s had a fever and I need to get her, and I’m there within 20 minutes. I drop everything for my daughter, and I would never send her to daycare sick. Unfortunately not all parents are as good about that as we are (and not all have the luxury to be able to drop things and run the second they hear their kid is sick).

  4. Hey – I’m not even pregnant and I’ve made all the same decisions as you. For the EXACT same reasons. Do whatever you think is best – it’s your life! Assvice not welcome. People totally feel like it’s fine to force their opinions on you (remember back to TTCing when if you would Just Relax everything would work out?)… Squishy is one lucky baby.

  5. Good for you. I’ve known many women who have left the CPA firms to do private accounting/bookkeeping (in my case, i work for an Ad agency and we always need someone responsible and capable to do our books and billing, etc.) so that they could have more “standard” hours. There are always jobs available that can be more flexible for a working mother.

  6. I think everyone makes the decisions that work best for their individual family. People shouldn’t judge those decisions because what works for them isn’t always best for others. When I was first pregnant my husband couldn’t see why I would stay home even just part time (which is my ideal). Lately he has been talking a lot about wanting me to be able to stay home full-time. While I think that would be great for the first year I just don’t think getting back into a career after taking time off is easy. Plus, I couldn’t imagine the lack of adult contact and as you said it “intellectual stimulation.”

    Mothers don’t have it easy when it comes to this topic and I think it is one that weighs heavy on all of our minds.

  7. I completely agree with Yoka—Happy Parents = Happy Baby. Make the decision that is right for your family and your baby and don’t let anyone talk you into doing something that you know, in your heart, isn’t the right thing for YOUR situation! I’m not a mom yet (have not yet beaten the IF monster), but I truly wish that moms would support each other and allow for differences of opinions and circumstances.
    Many congrats on the third trimester!
    Carla

  8. Very eloquent post Serenity. I find a lot of what you said very true in our situation also (I too live in Boston area). While my job is not the most fulfilling, it provides money and happens to be very family friendly with flexibility for me to also be a parent.

    Finding what makes you happy as an adult is really one of the keys to parenting!

  9. As a mom who teaches full time in a college, I have to agree with everything you’ve said. P’s been in daycare since he was 13 weeks old and he’s now 4. I’ve found that over time, I explain less and less of the processes that went into my plan to keep working. I used to feel like you seem to–that you have to justify it–and would explain to everyone all the reasons that I couldn’t be a SAHM. (I did the same thing when we started the adoption process, though I posted recently about stopping that.) But you know what it boils down to? Even if we could afford it, I like my job. I’m challenged by my job. I feel like I do some good for the world at my job. And I’m a better mother because I’m happier when I work. Even P is happier when he’s not with me all day. We enjoy our summers together, but we also enjoy our fall, winter, and spring when I go to work and he goes to school.

    Basically, it’s right for you and that’s the decision you’ve made. The reasons don’t really matter for anyone except your family, because they’re unique to you and your family.

  10. Well said, Serenity. I am a SAHM, (for now! And, I am only 4 mos into it), but really, no judgment here. Everyone has to do what is best for their personal situation.

    I am glad you’ll be looking for a different job though, cuz, man, just reading about your current schedule in that last post made me tired! LOL.

  11. I agree with Shelby, I hate when people think that they way is the only way. There is nothing that I would love more than to stay home with my little one at least for the first year, but i simply CAN”T… I need the work not only for money , but for my visa to stay in the USA and I live continents way form my family (another difficult decision). My SIL keeps making me feel guilty about my decision of sending the baby to day care. She had the luck of having my MIL coming for 2 years for both of her kids and now that she ‘used up” all my MIL’s energy and visa time, my baby cant no longer have this privilege. I am sure that like for me, that is a very hard decision… but I don’t think you need to be justifying yourself. Your life, your decision…You will do whatever is best for your child, I am sure of it!!!! and he/she will love you
    Hugs

  12. You are touching on issues that many people feel strongly about, and like I said yesterday, I really appreciate that, because I know you must feel like you are taking a risk of being reprimanded by some “other” mom/mom-hopefully who “knows better” and wants to let you know. This would probably happen regardless of whether you ended up staying home or went back to work, because women always seem to have the need to justify themselves, because no matter what they feel like they’re going to fail someone, somewhere.

    I think it’s horrible in the U.S. the way that starting a family practically forces many families to have to assume a traditional familial model – the father as breadwinner, the mother as caretaker. We’re hardly even set up as a society to provide leave for parents of new children, let alone provide a systematic flexible work system for people who may not want/be able to work 12 hours a day in the profession of their choice. Instead, the debate gets very personal, and the father is practically just assumed that he’ll have to shoulder the full financial burden of raising a family, and every woman is left to herself to try to juggle the dual desires and needs of having a job/career and being a caregiver. Why shouldn’t choosing to bring money in for your family be considered part of caring for a family? It certainly is for dads! Why does our corporate culture not value people’s personal lives and family situations? Without children, our society would fall flat.

    Anyway,off my soapbox. I wish you luck in finding the daycare situation that will best fit your needs, and look forward to reading about it.

  13. Well said and well put.

    I am also a working mom. I started out going back part time after I had my first. He went to his grandmas house as daycare at that time. It was perfect.

    Until I had my second ( a HUGE surprise after 2 years of fertility treatments for the first). It was too much for my mom to handle with maintiaining the buisness she owns. They boys started daycare at a facility. There are pros and cons to each but I prefer facility care. The webcams that allow me to see into their classrooms really helped me ease the mommy guilt I had.

    I am now up to full time work. And enjoy it. It was neccesary as expenses have gone up. Im a better mom for it tho. I love my children to the ends of the earth, but a break from them is what makes me appreciate them.

    My husband works wonky hours (5am-2pm) and I work your traiditonal 9-5 so it allows us to put the boys in part time care. (9-2) Just something for you and J to think about. Easier on the finances easier on the kids.

    The only smidge of advice I would give is please do go the the centers open house, but make a couple of “unexpected” visits in as well. Everything is perfect and rosy at an open house. Check it out when they arent looking to “impress”.

    Hugs on a tough decision. It will be hard when you send squishy on his/her day as well, but it DOES get easier.

  14. I couldn’t have said it any better than Samantha did.

    D

  15. whether or not you go to work or not, is between you and you. i mean, j has some say…but really, IMO…it’s alll you. because *you* will have to deal with the resentment if you stay home and forgo your professional oppurtunities. and you who will have to deal with the guilt of working. not that you should….but you will.

    this is a weird antedote….but i ahve to tell you. i, at all times, am representing at least two or three middle-aged women, who used to stay at home with their children, who are upper middle class…who got arrested for shoplifting, shortly after their children went away to college. i know, crazy. that is probably because they didn’t get out of the house more, and they lived too much through their children…which you wouldn’t do. (and MOST SAHM wouldn’t do….) but still that just goes to show that there is a price to pay for staying home. And this happens all over the country. there have even been studies of this social occurence. MAybe the price is worth it??

    i LOVE the idea of you owning your own business. i LOVE it. it works awesome with childcare and with being a mom in general. you know what? at 12:00 today, i found myself exhausted, with droopy eyes…so i came home and took a two hour nap. and i am debating on laying out all day. I’ll probably work some tonight. When i feel more awake. And when you own your own business..YOU decide how much you want to work how much $$$ to make. And, acct’ing isn’t much different than a legal practice…it’s all in how much and how well you network. i know of a lot of country-wide networking groups that i could send you the info on.

    and can i just say HOW HAPPY it makes me to know that you are having to contemplate freakin’ childcare. very exciting. oh s, one day pretty soon…you’ll have baby throw up on your shoulder. *sigh*

  16. My mom was pretty miserable until she started working when I was twelve. She had volunteered, but when she started working she just blossomed.

    It makes me wonder about SAHMs vs. WOHMs. I think the emotion in the debate comes from fear and guilt on both sides. Women really need to support each other in their choices, not take sides in this debate.

    Do what you gotta do, and I’ll cheer you on. The ‘own business’ option sounds pretty sweet.

  17. Sounds eminently sensible, serenity, and it sounds as if you are very comfortable with your decision. The sad thing, I think, is not that you will go back to work – that is the right decision for me, too – but that you have to go back so soon. The US is just so crap at maternity leave provision, it really upsets me. There is a big difference leaving a baby at 6 months to leaving them at 3 months – at three months they are just starting to be really fun – although at 6 months they have stranger anxiety so maybe it’s harder? Anyway, you know we’ll support you no matter what.

  18. I didn’t think you had to justify yourself. I mean, fine if you want to, but hopefully you won’t feel that pressure all the time because, man, did we get enough of that during infertility or what?

    I honestly don’t think your child will end up “damaged” if you go with a daycare option. I wonder, in fact, how much of the pronatalist myth (that parents are the biggest martyrs on the planet and we should all bow to their sacrifice) is tied up in this kind of guilt about having a life outside your family – because we could certainly do with less of that (the guilt, and the myth).

    I want to point out (in case it wasn’t clear) that in my last comment I was talking about my own preferences, as they currently stand. I should add that in the past I’ve always assumed I’d go back to part time work as a parent, sometime within the baby’s first year, and that I’d have two healthy and willing sets of grandparents and a husband who’s willing to take “turns” at having a career to back me up, and that a certain amount of “outside” daycare might come into it (say a day a week or whatever).

    As it is, I’m going to need to get my Master’s finished, and I haven’t quite worked that out yet, so my plans are still not set in stone. Anyway, all this is waffle just to clarify what I meant by my “leanings”, in case my original point wasn’t clear.

    In some parenting matters there’s clearly a Right Way and a Wrong Way, but this isn’t one of those times. This is one of those times when you have to be flexible and decide which of many options is best.

    Bea

  19. This is a great post. It’s such a tough and intensely personal decision and it really frustrates me when people pass judgment on others. I come from a family of working women–ALL of the women on my mom’s and dad’s side always worked. Grandmothers, great-grandmothers, etc. They didn’t have a choice. It was that, or no money to pay for bills. My mom was the first who had the choice, and she went back to work when we were young and was a fabulous role model and mother as a result. I can’t imagine it any other way. (And, frankly, I get some judgment from my MIL who was the quintessential SAHM and thinks there is no other choice to make. But that’s a whole different story.)

    But, one of my best friends is a SAHM and it’s so clearly the perfect choice for her and their family. Everytime I see her and her girls I can tell that, because she’s happy and following her heart, her girls are thriving. And I think if we all follow our hearts similarly, our children and our families will similarly thrive.

  20. You’ll make the right choices. You have wisdom and you care deeply and that makes you such a great mom already.

  21. I always thought I would work full-time after I had children. I have a Master’s degree in science and loved working. I never considered for a second that I would be a stay-at-home mom and to be honest I looked down upon stay-at-home moms. However, after I had my daughter everything changed and I stay-at-home for the time being. I know now that if I work again I’d have to use grandma. Daycare scares the crap out of me. Also, it’s enjoyable being at home..more so than I thought.

  22. I too had to make this difficult decision and chose to go back to work full-time. I take solace in the fact that it takes “a villlage to raise a child”. Raising our son is not something my husband and I can or should do on our own and there can be a lot of value in having people outside the parental relationship provide care. I cherish my time with my son but I also truly appreciate all of the time/love/skills his teachers at daycare share with us on a daily basis – I know that my son and I have both learned from them!

    Best wishes to you as you navigate this tough decision!

  23. I’m with Bea, hoping you didn’t feel you need to justify your decision in any way.

    Personally, I’m a WAHM, with 2 kids in daycare because I NEED MY SANITY… and, obviously, a sane mom is a better mom…

  24. I just commented to another friend of mine who is dealing with a lot of guilt over putting her littlest in daycare so she can work from home closer to full time (she had wanted to be a stay at home mom). The thing is, as I see it, you have to do what works best for YOU and your family. Some women are happier working. Some need to work. And I don’t think it’s fair to judge others on their choices. Daycare is not child abuse, especially a good daycare where they are well taken care of and have lots of fun activities. Sometimes I worry that, as a stay-at-home mom, I won’t be able to be as “fun” for my child, that I won’t have access to all sorts of programs that a daycare would.

    Of course it’s good to keep in mind that plans may change when you get there…. but you still always have to do what feels right for you. I wish people wouldn’t judge others.

  25. Hi-I’ve been a lurker-but I just want to say I went thru what you are going thru. Deciding on child care was the most difficult thing we had to do. We tried all 3 options, in-home, big center and a nanny. At the end of the day, it is about you and your family and what works best for you guys. Don’t worry about what other people are saying-it will just drive you crazy and it has no impact on your family. Good luck!

  26. Here’s the irony I’ve found…As we approach our long-awaited due date (!) we’re struggling with this decision as well. Now here’s the ironic part – we’ve got friends who have a 4 month old and although I know for sure that they would encourage me to go back to work (they would lean more towards executing for themselves and recommending for others the “career away from home for mom” option) they don’t seem to support our decision to hold a spot in a fulltime daycare center. They think we should get a nanny of some kind – to avoid illness at daycare, because daycare doesn’t make your kid any smarter than having a nanny, etc. So even though they might agree with some of the choice we’re leaning toward (it’s still way to early at this point for me to commit for sure- we’re just holding a spot) they have very definite ideas about how we should do it- which is the way that THEY have chosen to do things. I just can’t see judging people for making the decisions they want or need to make.

  27. Thank you very nice


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