Tag Archives: maternity leave

Child Care IRL

There has been a lot of recent coverage and debate about child care in the U.S. — issues ranging from access and affordability to timing (in California we have paid family leave for a total of three paid months of baby bonding… in most other states families are forced to choose between a paycheck or spending time with their barely month old child after just six weeks).

I’ve been following a lot of these discussions because a. child care is a necessity and soon-to-be reality for my family and b. it’s been in the news a lot with the 2016 presidential election ramping up.

Anyway, all along I had been thinking about child care from a purely financial perspective (I was less concerned with finding the right person to watch Ellie since there are far more options in our price range here than in San Francisco). 

Would we be able to afford it or, like many people, would the cost of child care match or even exceed my or my husband’s income? Turns out, we’re fortunate enough to afford child care so long as we do what’s known as a nanny share: usually two children from different families who share the time of one nanny at a reduced rate. Fine. Great. A playmate and a discount, score!

With the financial aspect squared away, I thought I was clear to avoid any emotional breakdown about this particular topic. Spoiler alert, I was wrong.

With my return date to work less than a week away I’ve realized that the real cost of child care is the time that you lose, not the money. At less than four months old, my child will spend more of her waking hours with someone other than her mom or dad. There might be days when I get home and she’s already down for the night. It happens to my husband at least once a week. I can’t even wrap my head around that! 

How is this ok? How is this the norm? Three months of bonding time and then you become ancillary to your child’s everyday experience and development?  The second-most important influence? 

I understand that this is why it’s so important to know and trust the person you choose to watch your child — but we’re lucky enough to have several candidates to choose from and it still feels impossibly hard to relinquish that kind of time and responsibility to another person. Those with less to spend have far fewer options and it’s unconscionable, not to mention heartbreaking, that income is a determining factor in a family’s ability to place their child in a safe and nurturing environment.

On a somewhat related note, I wonder if there will be a different breakdown for every day of the week leading to my first day back at work… that could be interesting…

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Staying is Hard Until You Have to Leave

Motherhood is something I still haven’t come even close to wrapping my head around. This is ok since I’m pretty sure it’s one of those things that never stays the same long enough for you to really ‘get’. 

Still, three months in and I continue to be surprised by my inability to predict things… Ellie’s next feeding, how long she’ll be down for a nap, if that’s a diaper cry or a tired cry. And my emotions, those things I’ve been feeling for years, are even more unpredictable.

Three weeks ago I was so excited to get back to work that I spent a whole night cleaning out and updating my task management system. Night hours are like gold, precious and in short supply (at least in my world). I get maybe two or three full hours each night when I have enough energy to keep my eyes open and Eleanor is sleeping, and I chose to spend this time updating a to-do list? 

It seems crazy to me now as I stare down the barrel of a Friday return date at work, but at the time all I could do was daydream about leaving. In between deciphering crying fits and feeling like I always had my boob hanging out, all I wanted was the predictable monotony of my old work schedule. And then it changed.

We started to get a real routine down. Up between 6 and 7, out the door with papa to walk him to BART and then on to a coffee shop for breakfast. Nap time while I ate and read my book. Another walk home for a feeding, quick change, and then out the door again for grocery shopping and errands. Another nap and a late lunch  then some reading and time at her baby gym. Maybe a visit from a grandma or friends. Instead of feeling hostage to a barrage of unpredictable whims, I started looking forward to our days together. It was amazing, and unfortunately it was also just weeks before my scheduled return to work.

Now, I find myself approaching these last days like the last four M&Ms in a bag. I want to savor each one. Every second of it. As if there’s some way to bottle up this time we have together and relive it after it’s gone. Instead of putting Ellie down at nap time, I let her sleep in my arm (long after it goes numb), bath time is twice as long and I take a little longer reading to her in the afternoon while we snuggle together on the bed. I’ve even started bogarting burp time during midnight feedings, something I’ve always gladly handed off to papa, because I can’t get enough of the way it feels when she’s passed out on my shoulder.

I know it’s not like I’ll never see her again, but I’m blown away by how much it truly feels like that. At the same time, I also know that I’m not built for staying home to raise her full time — something I’m reminded of at least once a day when my exhaustion reaches epic proportions or she flips out and I can’t for the life of my figure out what’s wrong. 

So, here’s to living for nights and weekends! There’s no real option and deep down I know it will just make me slow down and cherish our limited time that much more.

Also, she’s currently snoring on me. Are babies supposed to snore?? God, I hope so. It’s adorable.

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