How to Stop Worrying about Childcare
The grass-is-greener dilemma
Even before Monique Fields took maternity leave from her job as a newspaper reporter, she figured she'd have to hire a sitter when she returned to work. "I was often at my desk well past when most daycare centers close," says Fields, of St. Petersburg, Florida. But she also knew that a per-hour sitter would add up to big bucks -- and found herself envying friends who could easily afford what she viewed as a luxury. "They didn't have to worry if their schedules were nuts -- they could just arrange hours with their sitter."
Fields ended up switching careers to a journalism teaching job with more normal hours and finding a family daycare for her daughter, Simone, who is 1. "Now I realize that having a nanny isn't perfect either," she says. "One friend's nanny just quit. That wouldn't happen with my daycare."
When you find yourself envying your friends' childcare situations, it can be startling and guilt-inducing. Yet it's common to feel the way Fields did: that everyone's got it figured out -- everyone, that is, except you.
Remember that while the grass over there may look nice and green, chances are there are weeds poking through. You may find that your friend with the "perfect" situation is tearing her hair out, too, whether over a no-show sitter or a daycare facility that lets the other kids show up with runny noses. That gleaming new center down the street may make your family care look shabby -- but you may still prefer your slightly careworn toys and homespun circle-time games to its shiny playground and aggressive fund-raisers.
Face it: No sitter is Mary Poppins, no childcare situation is hassle-free, and all working parents have the same woe-is-me story to tell. "If you're comfortable with the person or place you have selected, trust that she or they have something special to contribute to your child's experience," says Veronika Stein, a parent coach and instructor at Parenting Coach Institute at Seattle Pacific University.