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How Do You Really Know Your Child Is Safe in Someone Else's Care?

I had absolutely no idea where to begin when it came to arranging childcare for when I return to work. Besides being a topic I just didn’t want to think about during my leave, for obvious reasons, it became clear upon even cursory investigation that securing a convenient and affordable solution that we really felt good about might be more complicated than I’d initially thought.

For one thing, it’s important when living in the city that your childcare needs be either in-home or very close by (I decided while commuting and pregnant that there was no way I was going to bring a baby on the trains during rush hour). We happen to live in what is arguably the most promiscuous neighborhood in Brooklyn, and yet there is only one daycare here with an infant program. I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of daycare (kid germ central), but since we decided we’ll only need a couple of days weekly—Aaron’s going to do two days with Kaspar, and I’m going to do at least one— it seemed like the simplest option… until we priced it out. That must be one hell of a daycare, as two days a week would end up costing $1500 a month (seriously).

I asked my local mom friends about how they’d found their babysitters and nannies, and they suggested I join the neighborhood list serve for referrals, and initiate an interviewing process. A few of them told me about their own drawn-out searches for the right match, and about all of the wrong-matches along the way (some real horror stories in there). I wondered what kind of selection we’d even get in only looking for someone part time, not to mention how we were going to accommodate another person in our home during the day with Kaspar; Aaron is a freelance illustrator, and frequently works from home. Our place is a four hundred square foot railroad apartment, with the kitchen on one end and bedroom (complete with changing table, crib, and Kaspar-care accoutrements) on the other. The sitter/nanny would have to walk back and forth through Aaron’s office all day in the course of caring for Kaspar (or lock herself in the living room and kitchen space with all of the diapers she might need). It wouldn’t be ideal, but we could make it work.

We began to brace ourselves for the search. Then, at Kaspar’s two-month pediatrician’s appointment, I saw a poster on a bulletin board advertising a family nearby looking to share their nanny, in their home, either full or part time. I wrote down the email address that was given, and sent a note as soon as I got home. There were few, if any, details given on the poster, but I thought it couldn’t hurt to find out if the share were still available, and at least look into it. After exchanging multiple emails with the other mom, speaking with the nanny on the phone, meeting with her in our home, and then meeting the other family in theirs, it appears that a perfect solution has landed in our laps. The other family is a lot like ours. We’re all around the same age (their son is just a month older than Kaspar is), the mom and I work in the same industry, and our apartments even sort of resemble each other in a decided non-generic way. The nanny, a nurse-midwife from the West Indies, is smart, confident, compassionate, eats a lot of raw fruits and vegetables (she mentioned that, I didn’t ask) and has two young children of her own (she’s experienced). She was psyched about the rate we offered, which was good because we offered what we can afford, and we’ve all agreed to move forward with the share.

Perfect, right? So why do I still feel so uneasy? I’ve asked Aaron a few times, about the nanny, “You didn’t get any weird vibes at all?” He’s said, “No, but if you did, you need to say something, now.” I didn’t. At least I don’t think I did—I mean, I think I’d be feeling this way about anyone. Before having a baby, my instincts were important in that they protected me from potentially harmful situations, but I ultimately didn’t have to worry too much about others’ capacities for doing good or harm. But now, I’m putting my child into someone else’s care. He is utterly defenseless. He will be vulnerable for years to come. And how do I know what the signs of a psychopath/pedophile/munchausen-by-proxy person really are? Haven’t we all seen the neighbors on the news who say of the killer next door how sweet and gentle he was? How you’d never guess he had a stash of bodies in the basement? Isn’t it always the scout leader, or, you know, God’s right-hand-man, the priest?

Okay, so I know that’s all getting pretty extreme. The fact is, I do trust my gut, and my gut says we got lucky here and landed on a great thing. Sometimes the universe gives you what you need. I wouldn’t leave Kaspar with anyone I didn’t feel really, really good about, and I feel really, really good about all of these people. But, looking forward, I realize I’m going to have to trust him with all kinds of people in the future; teachers, other kids’ parents, coaches, camp counselors… I want him to have positive role models in adults other than Aaron and myself, of course, but how will I know, really, that all of these adults have positive intentions?

How have you wrapped your head around this? What are your criteria, or strategies, in leaving your kids in the care of other adults?

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