As soon as I found out I was pregnant, my thoughts almost immediately turned to childcare and how on earth this little babe of ours would get fed and diapered during the day while we were working. Almost as quickly, I knew that at least for the first year I wanted to try really hard to make it work without any kind of full time childcare. Call me crazy, but knowing she would be my first and my last all at the same time, I wanted to have that time with her and I thought I’d regret shipping her right off to daycare. Also, I was really really worried about the finances behind paying for childcare, which is where the “real talk” part of this conversation is about to come into play. Today, I’m dishing on our decisions and endless, ongoing discussions about childcare. The other awesome moms in our Real Talk with Real Moms conglomerate are also sharing their personal experiences, motivations and realities when it comes to making decisions surrounding childcare. I’m personally excited to read each and everyone of their posts so be sure to pop over and give them all a read!
[Check in with the other moms! | Jen of The Effortless Chic | Alexandra of AVE Styles | Leah of Freutcake | Caitlin of Sacramento Street | Catherine of The Life Styled | Hey Mama | Rebecca of A Daily Something | Natalie of Thoughts By Natalie | Sarah Sherman Samuel | Erin of Apartment 34]
Emerson is approaching sixteen months, and to date we have yet to employ any kind of full time care. As I mentioned, the motivations here were both a personal desire to spend the time with her, but frankly this decision was also financially motivated. Bob and I both have jobs where our income fluctuates throughout the year and sometimes even somewhat randomly, and it can swing pretty dramatically. Over the last year that’s leveled out some, but it’s still a reality that neither of us has a “normal” salaried job where paychecks are super predictable. While we probably could have swung childcare, it felt like extra pressure that I didn’t want to take on at the time she was born. So, we didn’t. And we still haven’t, although that may change soon. More on that in a minute though.
So, how does it work? Sometimes, not very well if I’m honest! Many days lately I feel like I spend more time chasing a tiny toddler around while trying desperately to keep her and the puppy from destroying the house instead of actually focusing on work. It can be a serious struggle. In general, I try to wake up an hour to two before her so I can at least grab a cup of coffee and get through some email in the morning. During her morning nap I try to get an hour or two of uninterrupted work in. Afternoon nap time is when I try to schedule phone calls, work on prep for upcoming shoots, and that kind of thing. When she’s awake, it’s usually a combination of making her meals, reading her books, going for little walks, running work-related errands and trying to squeeze in some time on my laptop here and there when feasible. After she’s in bed, I work again for another two to three hours. Lately I’ve been trying to work for three or four hours over the weekend, even if it’s an hour here and another hour there. It’s not ideal, but generally it takes some pressure off of my week.
On shoot days, I try to have a sitter for the day whenever possible. Sometimes it’s not, and we just make it happen, which is why I always have so many great candid shots of my kid as evidenced throughout this post. Basically all of this translates to Em playing and demanding snacks and trying to run away with props while Alice and I try to maintain some semblance of order amidst the chaos. Again, it’s not ideal and it can be a serious struggle, but I’m lucky that Alice really, truly loves her dearly and is always willing to help keep her entertained while I’m styling and then we switch off so she can get the shot. Anytime we’re on a tight deadline or dealing with a more complex shoot, I try to move heaven and earth to have a sitter lined up for the day. Generally that’s one of my best friends who also juggles tiny ones and work, and we try to help each other out whenever possible. We live two blocks from each other and it really works out well for the most part when our schedules align and allow it to happen that way.
All of this said, there’s one thing I did start doing right at the time I had the baby that has been a lifesaver. The day we left the house for our c-section, a housecleaner showed up for the first time shortly behind us. We’ve since changed cleaners, but have effectively had a housecleaner who comes over once a week (on Friday) for a few hours ever since the very day Emerson was born. At the time I did it thinking that as I recovered from a c-section, and juggled a newborn and work without a maternity leave that it would be really helpful. Since then, it has become a non-negotiable for me. We pay our cleaner $20 an hour and she helps with all the heavy lifting each week. She takes care of scrubbing the bathrooms, sweeping and mopping floors, dusting, and all the things I wouldn’t reasonably be able to find time to do each week. I often credit that $20 an hour for a few hours a week with being the investment that allows me to keep the baby out of childcare. At the end of the week, the house is clean, I’m not stressed about trying to find time to do it myself, and we’re ready for a weekend of relaxing and impromptu dinner parties or get togethers without ever having to wonder if the toilet is clean. Life altering, seriously.
As we move into this upcoming summer and fall, I’m thinking I’d like to find a part-time sitter who comes here to our house a few days a week. I’m not quite sure what that will look like financially or how feasible it is, but I’m starting to ask around to determine what’s doable. I know I have a lot of things I want to do professionally that I haven’t been able to tackle over the last sixteen months, because right now they feel like too much to handle while also caring for Em every day all day long, too. I wouldn’t trade this time with her for all the stars in the sky, but I also know that longterm both she and I will both benefit greatly from mommy pursuing her larger career goals and dreams, too. So for now, we take it day by day. Some days I get more work done than others. Some days I’m convinced I’m crazy to have this many pots on the stove at once. But all in all, it’s the greatest decision I’ve ever made and I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Anyone else feeling the childcare struggle? What works for you? Any other work from home moms who occasionally feel like a wild woman? Fill me in! And don’t forget to check in on all the other moms, too: Jen of The Effortless Chic | Alexandra of AVE Styles | Leah of Freutcake | Caitlin of Sacramento Street | Catherine of The Life Styled | Hey Mama | Rebecca of A Daily Something | Natalie of Thoughts By Natalie | Sarah Sherman Samuel | Erin of Apartment 34
[Photos by Alice G. Patterson.]