Friday, October 12, 2012

Childcare: yep, we've done it pretty much every way there is

@Nicoleandmaggie had a good post recently on mother's helpers, where folks shared their various and sundry childcare arrangements. This topic always makes for fascinating reading for me - what is it about hearing how others do it that I find so interesting?
Here's my comment on how we've done the childcare thing - 
In the last 5 years, we’ve used nearly every child care arrangement under the sun: postpartum doula (aka baby nurse, or night nurse), daycare center in a large city, emergency back-up childcare paid for by my former employer, evening (high school/college age) sitters, daytime mother’s helpers, regular babysitter (aka nanny… where I’m from the term “nanny” is reserved for women who live in their employers’ homes and/or folks for whom “nanny” is their preferred job title), preschool, and full-day childcare swaps with another family.
In a perfect world (which by the way, I’ve never lived in), I would prefer postpartum doulas and mother’s helpers from birth to 6-months-ish, a nanny when the child is 6-9-months-ish to 2.5 years, then daycare/preschool from 2.5 years on. Actually, “in a perfect world” we’d live near family and they’d be super helpful, but I digress.
We’ve found Bright Horizons daycare centers in large cities to be excellent, but often oversubscribed for regular use – great if you can be flexible as to the days. Like someone else here said, BH was also my former company’s back-up childcare provider.
Now we live in a small town, and we appreciate the convenience of having the same loving, trusted, wonderful babysitter/nanny come to our home 3 days a week for the last 2+ years, sometimes with her daughter when she’s not in school. She taught the kids Spanish, keeps the house tidy, and is a great resource person to have in the event of an emergency, as we live 2 time zones away from our nearest family.
Re: how do I trust a nanny? See “Protecting the Gift” by Gavin de Becker. Intuition + references + hard-hitting interview questions + coming home early unannounced + time = trust. In our experience, the best nannies are women over 30 who have raised children of their own, and who want to be paid legitimately (and really, you’d be out of your mind not to follow the letter of the law on this issue).
As for evening sitters (for date night), we’ve generally found that childless women between the ages of 15 and 25 are a real mixed bag – not always the most reliable, punctual, detail-oriented sitters, to say the least. We have had a lot of flaky, “I forgot I had prom” crap, and people who don’t want to do things our way, etc. But ever since we’ve learned to give a lot of instructions, repeatedly, and write everything down for them – even the painfully obvious things (to us), and oh, this is a big one – pay them in cash so they don’t lose our check and require us to close our bank account and go through all the hassles that entails, and text and double text them to make sure they’re actually coming on time… yes, it’s a chore. At the moment, we have an awesome regular date night sitter (age 18) who has been with us for awhile, and we are paying her handsomely and worshipping the ground she walks on.

I suppose this is why I am incapable, not to mention, unwilling, to judge anyone else's childcare decisions. Nor will I ever be One True Way about it. That is all.

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