How to Stop Worrying about Childcare
The I-can't-let-go problem
Kristen Wilson, a mom in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, got lucky, finding a sitter recommended by her friend and next-door neighbor. Plus, since Wilson works at home, she figured she'd have the best of both worlds. "The nanny would care for my daughter upstairs while I worked downstairs," she says.
Sounds ideal, right? But Wilson, whose daughter, Mackenzie, is 5 months old, still struggles. "I hear Mackenzie crying, and I never know: Should I go soothe her or leave the two of them to work it out?" She has difficulty accepting that even though they're in the same house, she has no idea what's going on with her child all day.
"The reality is that infants and toddlers, especially, don't have the language needed to tell you much of anything about their day," says Stein. "That can amplify a parent's sense of being out of touch with her child's experience."
While jealousy may play a role here (the sitter has all the good moments; you get the cranky, end-of-day moments), so may guilt. "Parents may think, 'Shouldn't I be the one who's home all day?'" says Barbara Marcus, CEO of Parents in a Pinch, Inc., a nanny and temporary childcare placement agency in Brookline, Massachusetts.
The real kicker is that these feelings arise even when you're happy with your childcare choice. Knowing that your child is content at daycare only serves to remind you she's leading a life -- albeit just a small part of one -- that you're not privy to. And if you have a nanny you love, chances are that's because she and your child have a bond -- games, hugs, and songs that don't include you.
Remember that you're not a busybody if you sometimes request more info about your child's day. "If you have a sitter, just call and say, 'I'm sitting here wondering what Kim's doing. Can you give me a sketch?'" says Stein. Same with a daycare center: "Ask the director when would be a good time to call and get a mini-message about what your child is doing -- the occasional request shouldn't be a problem," she says.
Once Daniel gets old enough for school, my childcare needs will shift again. I've learned a few lessons: to trust my judgment, follow my instincts, and not fall prey to childcare envy.
Now if only our first nanny would move close enough to babysit on Saturday nights....