In recent years, women have become empowered to make decisions about the birth of their child. We write birth plans and hire doulas – which of course, I’m more than a little biased in favor of.
As expecting couples, we educate ourselves and prepare for the future as best we can. The lists of recommended strollers and car seats are kept and reviewed. Moms often discuss the six to twelve weeks of maternity leave as if it is a lingering vacation where they can recover and get to know their baby. Spoiler alert: you may be sleep deprived and just recovering and learning how to breastfeed half awake.
And then, the reality of childcare sinks in like a blanket of dread. This particular dread comes with a sticker shock that rivals your wedding venue’s cost.
As women, childcare seems to be the last frontier of taboo topics. The cost, the stress of choosing the perfect place and the realization that you may need to delay having a second child solely based on the financial impact.
Its not “just” financial. The decision is highly emotional and comes with incredible weight. Rarely does a family take dropping a newborn off at a care facility with the levity of dropping off your family pet for the week.
As women, we seem to have put this topic in the same “don’t ask, don’t tell” bin as the feeling of looking down at your sagging belly during the first postpartum shower. Why? Is the conversation taboo because we don’t want to walk the line of the infamous “Mommy Wars?”
Let’s have the discussion.
Childcare is the hardest part of being a parent. Balancing the need to be yourself and have alone time without a baby strapped to you in a trendy carrier, no matter how many good mom points that wins you, is essential to being a happy person. You deserve to be you, solo, alone, with friends, without a baby in your arms and still feel emotionally at peace that your child is safe and content.
This scenario comes at a price. A price of checking your super mom cape at the door and realizing that another human being has the same goal of keeping your child safe and content while you are away being yourself. It also comes with a hefty financial price as well.
Girls Nights Out are not the only emotional mom guilt causing experience regarding childcare. If they were, well, pass the mojito. It’s your career, if you have chosen to return to work, or life has chosen for you to return to work, that can cause this guilt. It hurts. It’s hard. It’s scary, but sometimes your a better mom because of it. Sometimes, we may need Xanax and a hug I get through it.
As women, we seem to talk a lot about whether we went natural in childbirth or whether we breastfed and forget to warn an expecting mom in a gentle way that even though the laws say otherwise, you may not be the same employee after you have had your child as you were before. You definitely won’t be the same six to eight weeks after having your baby, despite what FMLA insists.
Having vacation time for actual vacations may be a thing of the past. That time will be used for ear infections, check ups, broken bones and hand foot and mouth virus (yep, that’s a thing).
You will be a good employee but, your heart may be somewhere else. Your fear will be that you have chosen subpar childcare. If you happen to be on a tight budget and can’t afford the premiere childcare center, your heart will ache with a feeling of”what if”.
I often said, “the worst part of having children was needing childcare.” I wanted Mary Poppins. I wanted to know my childcare provider would love my child the same way I loved him. In retrospect, I realize that this was a tall order.
I had wonderful care for my kids. I owe my care provider so much respect. I also feel we need as women to talk about it more.
Subsidies could help a single mother find better care and be more focused at work. Paid family leave would mean we could spend more time enjoying healthy kids instead of using all of our leave sitting in the doctors office praying the hacking child next to us won’t mean we need to be home sick in a week. At the end of the day, policies and subsidies may not eliminate the guilt and difficulty of removing a clinging two year old from your leg to head into the office.
Women, don’t be afraid to speak up. Tell your expecting friends to look early and hard for childcare. To expect to go through the stages of grief when leaving their babies for the first time. To also realize that in the journey of motherhood, finding out you are happy being a career woman is just as valid and admirable as finding out you want to be home with your children full time.
And as a final note, no one will ever take care of your child like you do. No one. If they are safe and content, they will appreciate the fact that you, alone, are their mom. And a strong, willful mother who loves and cherishes her child can be an example of a hard working woman too.
Talking about the decisions regarding childcare without judgment is an important support for a new family. Birth plans are great – new family plans are almost better..