This post goes out to all the new and expecting moms out there! If you’re like me, you’ve been texting every mom-friend you know to get the scoop on their parenting experience. This series, in which I’ve teamed up with a handful of other blogging mamas, is meant to be the design bloggers’ version of that. You’ll find my list of fellow participants at the bottom of this post.
And if mom posts aren’t your thing, come back next week for more of my regular design and style content.
So, here we are… a new installment of our Real Talk with Real Moms series.
Today’s topic is “Working and Childcare”, another hot topic of parenthood. As always, it’s worth mentioning that each person’s situation merits a different set of choices. But to give you a point of reference, here’s what David and I have done with our son Gabriel. If nothing else, I hope this will help you realize that there’s no perfect scenario and being a working mom, whether you work full-time, part-time, fully at home or somewhere in between, is a unique challenge. Just as soon as you think you have it figured out, things change and it’s back to the drawing board. But the good news is, we’re all in the same boat! And we’re all going to make it together.
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Because my work as a freelance photo stylist is irregular and because I wasn’t obligated to return to the job by any given date, I took my time going back to work. Gabriel was six weeks early and had a lot of catching up to do. Leaving him during the day and putting him in daycare at the typical three month marker felt entirely too early for us. For this reason, I waited until four months to take any work and six months before utilizing day care. And even then, the work I took was minimal at first and only increased once I had found a childcare arrangement that I felt comfortable with.
My husband and I don’t have a lavish lifestyle or income but we were able to make things work financially during my extended maternity leave by living frugally (no more date nights!) and with the help of our family. I owe a big debt of gratitude to my mother and mother-in-law who visited from Tennessee several times in those early months to watch Gabriel at home while I went off to work. This put my worried mama’s mind at ease during many a 10 hour work day on set!
When you don’t have a regular work schedule, finding childcare can be really challenging. I called a myriad of daycare facilities and in-home childcare providers before finding the one that would work with our specific needs. The trouble with most daycares is that they’re enrollment requires a rigid schedule of attendance. In my case, some weeks I work all five days, others only a few and still others I may not work at all. What I needed was a facility that could accommodate my unpredictable schedule. And I found one! It’s a Montessori school in The Children’s Courtyard network of franchises situated just minutes from our house. They have an infant room and were able to sell me five days of daycare at a time which could be used whenever I needed them. The cost per day turns out to be more than regular enrollment tuition but not by that much. And the money we keep by only purchasing the days that we know we are going to use is well worth it to us in the end.
Before deciding on this particular school, I schedule a tour with the school’s manager. They were super open about all of their policies and gave me a lovely tour of the facility. I met the ladies in the infant and even came back later to introduce Gabriel to them as well. In the end, my gut told me the time and place were right and I’ve been happy with our decision ever since.
Of course, the one downside to putting Gabriel in daycare is the fact that he’s exposed to more germs and therefore gets sick more often when he’s there. It can be a frustrating catch… We put him in daycare so I can work and then because he’s in daycare, he gets sick and then I can’t work. But that doesn’t happen often and his immune system is probably better off in the end.
It didn’t occur to me that we would need any sort of after care for Gabriel until I started taking regular and more intensive jobs. Many times, photo shoots are scheduled with the expectation that every on set will stay until the work for that day is done, be that 2:00 in the afternoon or 7:00 in the evening. But daycare facilities usually have a late pick up of no later than 6:30pm. Because my husband is a high school band director and often works late into the evening, I had to find a solution for the days that I wasn’t able to pick up Gabriel before 6:30. After soliciting the help of neighbors and family and searching high and low for later childcare options, I put out a frantic plea for help on Facebook. And wouldn’t you know, an old acquaintance, that I didn’t even know lived in the area, messaged back saying she would be happy to help by picking up Gabriel occasionally and taking him home until I was able to get off work. I can’t tell you what a relief this was! No more racing against the clock and traffic at the end of the day. No more worrying that I was taking advantage of friendly neighbors. I knew Gabriel would be picked up on time and would be in the safe hands of a trusted friend until I was able to make it home. I know this isn’t a long term solution, but at least it works for now. So much of the working/childcare puzzle is like that… You do the best you can for the time being and make adjustments as the need arises.
Gabriel is 10 months old and is miraculously still nursing. I’m so glad that our breastfeeding journey has come this far (it almost didn’t!) but there is one little nuisance that I still have to deal with. Pumping. I’ll tell you honestly, it’s a big pain in the butt. Not only is it cumbersome to haul around a pump from job to job and a bother to clean bottles and pump parts each night, not to mention keeping up with a regular pumping schedule, but it’s also supremely awkward to explain my situation (um, yeah… so, I have to take a bathroom break to pump my breasts for my nursing baby ever few hours) to a new cast of characters with the start of each job. But it’s worth it to me, so we keep trucking on.
Balancing it all:
Balance probably isn’t the best word in this case. But the way I’ve been able to keep sanity and happiness while being a working mama is to realize that our daily, weekly, monthly lives operate on a pendulum swing of frenzy and harmony. When I work, things get messy and chaotic at home. The house gets dirty, the dogs are hyper and under-exercised, the fridge is bare and we’re usually racing to keep up with our schedule. But then I have a few days off and we get the chance to hunker down at home and regroup. As long as I can make peace with the ebb and flow of it, I’m good.
One last note I’ll make on the topic of working as a mom is this… I’m never completely satisfied wherever I am. And that’s ok. When I’m working and away from my baby, I miss him terribly and just want to be at home. But then I’m at home and playing the part of mom and I ache for a bit of independence and the creative rush I get from working. Either way, I know this to be part and parcel to living as a working mother in the 21st century . There’s always a bit of yearning wherever you are. Sometimes I get discouraged by the constant racing but, when I’m seeing it positively, I’m aware of the preciousness of each scenario. It’s a beautiful life and we’re never wanting for dynamic.
CHECK OUT the other moms in this SERIES
Jen of The Effortless Chic // Sarah of Smitten Studio // Alex of AVE Styles // Em of The Refined Woman // Amy of Parker Etc. // Caitlin of Sacramento Street // Sam of Could I Have That // Erin of Apartment 34 // Rebecca of A Daily Something