Friday, July 20, 2007

at what cost is this

We made the decision to add one more day to M's daycare yesterday, moving from four to five. Which had moved from three to four earlier this year. Coincidentally there have been discussions swirling around about daycare this week and reading those has made me think. See, I've gotten a promotion, one that entails more responsibility and being available at different times. We'd managed to cheat the system for awhile, juggling days and shifting schedules but it's simply not workable if I am to do this, and this will be what gets us to our sabbatical next year.

But it makes me feel like an asshole. Because it still feels fundamentally wrong to pay someone to care for my child. And please know that I am absolutely not judging anyone who does or doesn't use daycare. I am talking about my situation, my heart, and how it breaks in two at the irony of this. And I use this daycare I am speaking against, so I know the hypocrisy of my words.

But I still do it. I allow her to go to a place, a very nice place, where she has learned the alphabet and how to draw a circle and make sandcastles. Where she has friends and nutritional food and seems to have a very good time. But I can't get around it - the feeling that I am doing something so against what I believe is right. Socially right. And then not (perhaps if I am being very honest), right for me. I enjoy working and I enjoy the work I do. I am not sure I am the stay at home mom I fantasize about. But that makes me feel like more of an asshole instead of less.

We rationalize that this is only for a year, and that the year to follow will be 365 days of travel and family and little to no time apart. But it's this year that wears on me. I suppose I will never feel unconflicted again. Balance is elusive, the scales never rest gently in the middle instead of one side clanging down from the weight.

It's one of many aches of mothering. Missing the moments you will never get back. Hearing M say something I did not teach her. Seeing a behavioral issue that I do not think would exist if she wasn't in daycare having to fend for herself. I just don't know how one reconciles that in their heart and mind and rationalizes it away. So instead I think I will live with this punishment of sorts for compromising based on financial necessity and also because I lack the courage. And what does that say about me, does that make me less of a mother? If one of you were to pose that question I would respond with a rousing NO WAY! YOU ARE DOING YOUR BEST! And I would mean it. So why can't I say that to myself I wonder, and I wonder that quite a bit.

Because whether it's the little girl or our developing motherness, we hear others better than we do to ourselves. Or at least with more compassion. And we are going to do this, this fiveness instead of four, and I will regret it and maybe cry as I drive away and rush to pick her up and will overcompensate and beat myself up. And I will count backwards from 365 and hope I can continue the journey more fully into motherhood along the way.


thailandchani said...

Oh, wow. This is definitely a hot-button issue and so many people have different views, all of them equally valid.

I can't say for certain how I would feel in that given situation or what I would do. Theoretically, I am all about SAHMs when, how and where it's possible.

I believe it for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is values education.

But for those who see it differently, it's not a question of judgment or "should". Judgment is useless. (And that is what you are doing when you call yourself "asshole" :) Things are what they are. It's just a question of how to frame it, how to make sure your child is being raised and influenced by you and your values, your way of life, instead of being blindly acculturated in an impersonal setting.

So.. it sounds almost like that is the greatest challenge. Not whether to use daycare.. but what daycare to use.. and how to make sure you have as much influence as possible.

Does that make even a bit of sense?

In this case, I can only speak to the theoretical... having not been a mother.



Christine said...

hear this, friend: you ARE a wonderful mother, and it really is ok. everyone here knows how much you love that child. you really are doing the right thing.

they are so hard, these daycare/work/home/decisions? and there are moments (like right now when my kids are acting like monsters) i think the best thing would be for them to be at day care or the very least summer camp. but int he end i know this is right for us, at least right now.

mitzh said...

First, I want to give you a HUG and say "You're a wonderful mother."

I feel you, but, we're just human and no matter how hard we try we can't seem to measure up in what we expect from ourselves.

I hate judging people. I actually admire those woman who both works and still be able to be a mom and a wife.

Being a mother is one of the most beautiful gift this life has to offer and I'm sure than when M is all grown up, she'll be so proud and thankful that she has YOU for a mom.

--oh, I don't know if I am making any sense here.. sorry :(

Anonymous said...

It doesn't really matter what you do, as a mother you'll look back and say "I wish I'd done this or that differently".

I hated staying home full time, I love my kids but caring for small ones left me bored out of my mind. I hated working full time because I was too tired to do anything with my kids. See what I mean?

You'll find the balance that works for your family, I did.

Jenn said...

I'm counting backwards with you, each morning as I pull out of a driveway where she sits in a house with someone else, I am counting with you.

slouching mom said...

I agree with deb -- sadly, we will always find a way to second-guess ourselves, no matter what our choices.

Deezee said...

I think we will always question our choices. I hope it helps that you have a concrete goal in your sabbatical, which you just know will enrich all of you.

I hit a point a couple years ago where my endless hours at work and not seeing my son before he went to sleep during my projects just killed me. I've walked away to be there for my teen, and now my ego and identity (and bank account!) struggle to feel whole. But, at this point, it is right (yet can't last forever).

It may seem brutal now, but one year is a minute fraction of your kid's life, You're planting seeds for a lot to come, and from the way you write here of your family life, it doesn't sound as if M is short changed at all! (quite the opposite.)

When I feel as if I should be all wise and in control, I remind myself that my child has his own karmic path, and I'm just a fraction of it.

Joker The Lurcher said...

i hope you feel more settled about it soon. i went back to work when my son was 10 weeks old and only weighted 8lbs and it killed me. i used to sit and cry at lunchtime. when he was a year old i jacked in my job and set up my own practice and worked from home. that was hellish but at least i saw him. when he was two i worked for someone else and missed my son like hell. i was full time when he was 3 and still am now he is 12. i daydream about what i would do with him if i could but i know in reality if i was at home all day i would be saying "hand me that drill," or "i'll just finish this..."

i think it is good for kids to see mothers who are doing stuff, whether in paid work or doing other things. in my view it isn't good for kids to think they are the centre of the universe, because if that stops, as it must sometimes, they feel insecure.

i try to focus on how much better it is now - a couple of hundred years ago in the uk my son would have been sent up chimneys to clean them by the time he was 12 (especially as he is so skinny!)

take care

flutter said...

I'm going to need to take this to email. I love you.

liv said...

People wonder why I am wishy washy about the speed of my own career. And the truth is that I could be more, make more and do more, but I don't want to. I don't want to leave my kids. Granted, I don't have this exciting year of travel coming like you have planned for, but every time I get a new job offer, a plan to further develop my professional life I cringe a little. I want afternoons with Peep in between leaving them with sitters. I want some lazy time. They'll be big soon enough.

Quirky said...

I'm not a mom, but both my parents worked while my sister and I were growing up. And while our family wasn't perfect (whose is?), and none of us individually are perfect (again, who is?), I always always always felt loved. And I loved that my parents did things that were important to them. When I was little, I remember going to work with my mom or my dad sometimes when I was sick or something and thinking it was the coolest place ever. And I also have happy memories from day care - of standing outside eating pudding pops, of having a who-can-spin-around-the-longest-without-falling-down contest. I don't know what it would have been like had my mom or my dad stayed home, but I cannot imagine having had a better growing up.

jen said...

Liv, see, that is the other side that cuts like a knife!\

Quirky, that was lovely. thank you. And come to think of it, my mom stayed home and it was a tough upbringing much of the time emotionally.

De - You Yoda woman, you.

Joker - i know. it's universal, isn't it?

Chani- it DOES make sense. thank you.

and thank you all for the lovely support.

J Fife said...

I love your honesty. Balancing work, motherhood and life is amazingly exhausting. The choices come with prices - high and low. Or are they? Sometimes, I just don't know. I lose perspective and beat myself up over everything.

Be gentle with yourself.

Binky said...

Okay, let me be the one to say it, then: "NO WAY! YOU ARE DOING YOUR BEST!"

Beck said...

It's hard. It really, really is. There have been way too many times that I've felt like the biggest jerk in the world as a mother, but at the end of the day you know that you're trying as hard as you possibly can right now, and that your child doesn't need a perfect mother - she needs YOU.

Mocha said...

I recall a time when I cried when leaving that last baby at a sitter's house every day for a year.

Then realizing I was working to pay the sitter so I could work to pay the sitter so I could work...see the cyclical stupidity of it all?

So I quit for 2 years and by that time the children were all much older and I felt weird but got the question all the time, "Why are you doing this NOW?" but honestly it was the best time for our family. That "now" was when my daughter could have gotten heavily into drugs and my sons had difficulty with homework and that was the season of their lives I wasn't going to miss.

Take it easy on yourself. Know that some decisions are just hard and that you can change them if you want to, but that always comes with a sacrificial price. Whatca willin' to pay?

Your writing struck me at the heart today. Right in the center where some old hurts about sacrifices and children were and I honestly say to you: Thank you.

Z said...

She must be happy at her daycare, or you wouldn't have decided to do it. I cannot see you doing anything that would put her anywhere but first in your life. If she is happy and secure, this is actually quite a good age for you to make this choice for her, as she will completely accept it. I do sympathise though, it's a hard decision - and you will try to fit all you now do in three days into two. Do take care of yourself and remember to keep some time for you.

crazymumma said...


balance is an elusive mistress. I have come to believe that for most parents, whatever path they choose to take it is near impossible (balance that is).

Being stay at home is not for the faint of heart. Nor is being a working parent.

Congratulations on your promotion. I know it is well deserved.


Dawn said...

I have no magical words - but as a Mom who used child care, as a woman who provided child care for others babies.... I can say this.

None of my babies who are now 13, 14, 15 years old, none of those moms who handed me their babies and walked away crying - No bad things happened.

They are all OK. Babies Grow. Parents Grow.

All you can do is be the best mom you can - and that isn't a cookie cutter image of what other moms are like. I knew that I could never be a stay at home mom, even if I wanted to do so. So I bought the best child care available and knew that Emily was happy, healthy and had a mom who was also happy in her professional identity.

As a woman, I know her road will be hard enough - I don't need to show her a false image of a "right" way to be a mother. And neither do you

QT said...

Congrats on your promotion! I have nothing concrete to offer, as I am not a parent.

But I see plenty of the struggle of which you speak all around me, every day,and the guilt of leaving your baby with someone else - no matter who it is, jen, it is always someone else. Even people who have their parents watching their kids are torn just like you.

Ultimately, I think the year away will make up for it in ways that you can't even fathom right now. Be kind to yourself, woman.

bubandpie said...

I am not sure I am the stay at home mom I fantasize about. But that makes me feel like more of an asshole instead of yes.

Sigh. Oh, yes. That's it exactly.

Her Grace said...

I think we're always hardest on ourselves. We can accept other people's choices, but when it comes to our own, we're always wondering what's happening up on that path we didn't take.

For what it's worth, your sabbatical next year is going to be something she'll never, EVER forget. What a gift to your daughter.

urban-urchin said...

I am right there with you. Hearing about the kids day from the nanny. This morning, daughter and son on the deck wailing that I was backing out the driveway. I felt like I ran over my own heart. On that note I am going to give my telecomuting proposal to the boss who has been avoiding me because she knows I want this and mean it.... wish me luck.,.

Anonymous said...

hey! i'm going to cali this weekend and won't be back until is the website i was talking about where i made extra summer cash. Later! the website is here

cinnamon gurl said...

I could have written a lot of this post (not the lovely style and minus the promotion of course -- Congraulations!), especially:

Balance is elusive, the scales never rest gently in the middle instead of one side clanging down from the weight.

It's one of many aches of mothering. Missing the moments you will never get back. Hearing M say something I did not teach her.

NotSoSage said...

jen, I have been aching all over about this issue for months now. It got so bad yesterday that I spent a good part of my day drawing up a budget for how it would be possible...and then I put it aside and ached about it some more.

I agree that we would second-guess ourselves no matter what path we took. I think that's part of why it's such a contentious issue. We all get defensive because we're all worried that we made the wrong decision.

In the end, I question whether it's what we think of as the BIG decisions that matter, or what seem like small decisions or happenstance that really has a profound effect on our children.

I may have said this before, but my response for when friends talk to me about kids and say, "I'm worried about screwing them up" is, "You will screw them up. Accept that. Just make sure that you give them the tools to get over how you've screwed them up, and call it even."

But that's probably just me being defensive. ;)

kristen said...

It's a really hard decision. Without family nearby, it's a decision I made when our girl was just 3 months. The SAHM gig isn't for me and this was our best option.

I don't think your girl is going to remember these years at daycare. It sounds like she's happy and well cared for and dude, what she WILL remember is this sabbatical that you're working towards. You and J are good, thoughtful parents and look it's now 364 1/2 days. It will blaze by, I promise.

And congratulations on the promotion. xo

Kyla said...

Dude. You are amazing. And M? She knows that. That is what matters, right?

We need to extend to ourselves the same kindnesses we would extend to others. I know you would never call someone an asshole for having their child in daycare, so give yourself the same respect.

Next year, when you are with her all day every day, living life to the fullest, making memories that will last a lifetime; one extra day of daycare won't be a blip on the radar.

Wayfarer Scientista said...

First off, congratulations on your promotion. Second off, I'm not a parent but there are lots of parents around me who make different choices in the difficult balancing act. I'm always amazed at how many different ways there are of bringing up a child but all the ones that work have one thing in common - they really care about the child which means these decisions are always hard for them. And you care so much. M will be fine because she nows that.

jessamyn said...

be good to yourself.
i think your daughter is learning amazing ways to be a kind human through your work. there is great lessons to be learned from your life...there are also myriad ways in which to parent a child. i am currently staying at home with my littles, and there are frequent moments where i think of the benefits of working outside the home,and i wonder if i am pretending to be something i am not...and long for that some different kind of fulfillment. point is...the grass is always greener.
take heart that your daughter knows your matter what.

painted maypole said...

Dude. You are a wonderful mother, and a wonderful citizen, and the work you do is worthy of your attention. And the goal you are reaching for is one of family togetherness, of intentional relationship building and world exploring. And you will all be fine. M included. There are, as you know, pluses and minuses for any choice you make. Now that you've made it, you have to make it the right choice for you.

The Expatriate Chef said...

I hate leaving her every day. I wish we would have had options for only part time, and I could be at home more. I also know I need to keep my foot in the work world to stay sharp and to have that mental challenge. But, not a moment goes by that I don't wish I could just be with my little one. It's way hard. I hear you.

Mrs. Chicky said...

As a SAHM who is involved in EVERY aspect of my kid's life I occasionally envy those of you who use daycare. I can't explain it in a comment, but know that the envy is there. As they say, the grass is always greener.

meno said...

No matter which way you go, she will grow up strong and healthy because she has you for a mom.

Ally said...

"I suppose I will never feel unconflicted again. Balance is elusive, the scales never rest gently in the middle instead of one side clanging down..." This captures motherhood perfectly. The constant second-guessing just about drives us mad! Hang in there, Jen. You've made a courageous commitment to the sabbatical year, and once you're on it, you won't regret this sacrifice that you're making now.

carrie said...

Finding balance in motherhood is such a tricky thing, whether you work, stay at home or whatever. All we can hope is that our best is good enough (and I have a sneaking suspicion that yours IS) and the decisions we make are right (again, yours ARE) for our families, our children.

It doesn't seem to matter whether I'm working part-time (which I've done seldom of) or staying home, there is always a feeling that I'm not doing enough. I think it just goes with the territory of being responsible for another being and fortuately that feeling becomes a little more like a comfy pair of old shoes as time wears on. It isn't so bad.

Trust yourself and your goals.


blooming desertpea said...

This beating up you're doing to yourself (oh yes, been there before) is just the social pressure of all those people you think could be judging you and the "what-one-should-do" part. On the other hand, you could be judged for exactly the opposite, namely being a stay-home-mom.

My kids are now 14 and nearly 10 and they think it's great that they have a working mom. A few weeks ago I told my daughter that my colleagues want me as head of department and I wasn't sure I wanted the job. She then told me - yes, go for it, you can show those guys what a power woman you are. I went "huh?" and I told her that the job of head-of-department meant more work. Her reply was (jokingly): Take the job and leave the work! Well, just an idea of how your daughter might think in a few years time ... :)

No, seriously, if your daughter is happy at day-care, I don't see a problem. It's like you said, her social profit is great there. What matters is not the quantity of time you spend with her but the quality and the quality can increase by you loving your job and the balance you get out of it for the time you will spend with your little daughter.

You are allowed to enjoy both!

Aliki2006 said...

Yes, balance is elusive and we always second-guess ourselves. I think the second-guessing is what makes us the mothers we are--we have to second-guess so we can constantly adapt and meet the needs of our kids.

Julie Pippert said...

The ideal is dangled in front of us like a carrot, as if it is possible or even feasible. And yet, it never is. We do our best.

I bet, in the end, when M is grown and a lovely person, you will find the peace.

I think it's like formula feeding versus breastfeeding. You know, I absolutely can't tell which kids had which. ;)

But you know, I totally understand...I do, and I know what you mean. So (HUGS)

Hel said...

My heart aches for you and is proud of you.

If only we lived in a society where me could take our children with us and when not appropriate leave them with our sisters in a community made out of women close to our hearts and all their children.

I wish I could say more but this is not yet a battle I know.

But big hug and lots of love and hold thumbs for me. I am getting ready to jump out of the corporate nest.

Maybe one day we will be part of such a community

Daisy said...

"Balance is elusive." Yes. Exactly. We can only wish it were otherwise.

Momish said...

"I just don't know how one reconciles that in their heart and mind and rationalizes it away"

Jen, that sentence hit home. I sit and I wonder and I rationalize and I doubt and I feel guilt and then I am thankful.

In the end, I don't feel I am rationalizing because rationalizing would come from the head, not the heart. I do reconcile, however and I think that (for me at least) is the key. I value my five day a week day care. I know in my heart of hearts that I need to work, I need to continue myself and I need to contribute to this family financially.

I know it sounds so superficial on the outside, summed up so simply when it is anything but that. And I too feel the pangs of pain when I see the influence of others sometimes outshine my own. Yet, when I go to bed at night and know my child and I are both whole and healthy and happy, it seems ok. For now.

It's not easy and both sides of the coin are tarnished with their own guilt. I wish you only the best and hope you and M will look back one day and see your decisions and courses in life were made out of what was love and only love for everyone involved. Who could expect anything more than that?

Jocelyn said...

It takes a certain kind of courage to let your daughter be in a safe place where she learns things so that you can fulfill a larger plan that will make her into a unique and fully-formed citizen of the world.

Also, try casting this issue into a tribal community that existed hundreds of years ago--where some women would stay and watch the children while the others went to the fields. There are situations where a larger community can pull together--pooling its resources--so that the community as a whole can function better. Essentially, this is what daycare does for us now. We've just been conditioned to feel guilt about it.

karrie said...

I had such a hard time admitting I needed help caring for my son while taking classes, but I was so grateful for the occasional moments of peace during my day, and the ability to actually do both things well, for a while.

Pgoodness said...

You ARE doing your best and M knows that; she must be happy there or you wouldn't have added another day. I had the opposite issue - my son wasn't happy at daycare after a year there so I pulled him out and worked around it another way. Now I have a babysitter who is loved by both boys and us. The guilt goes both ways - I feel guilty about not working when I'm with the boys all day and guilty about not being with the boys when I'm working all day.
BUT, I am learning to be present where I am. I KNOW the boys are well taken care of and happy when I'm not there; I KNOW my office is running somewhat smoothly when I'm not there. So I'm trying to BE at work when I'm at work, and be fully present at home when I'm SAHMing. It's not easy, but then again, is anything worth doing? You're doing great!!

Anonymous said...

Honest & real & very much one of the big questions for us parents. Both my husband & I have done the full-time at home gig, working outside the home for $$ thing, part-time outside work, full-time caregiving, etc. etc. The bottom line, it is difficult.

I am most impressed by the blog commenters here. I am so tired of women bashing each other for the difficult choices we must continually face. Here I am hearing support, even by those who may make different choices. Ultimately are we 'lucky' that we can choose at all?

One question: Are the men who have children also agonozing over these four vs. five-day-a-week daycare decisions? If not, then we have much work to do. Why should these things be left to only women to stress out about, feel 'guilty' about, even celebrate. Fathers should also be figuring out how to be men & fathers & workers, etc. etc.

KC said...

I truly think M will develop into a beautiful, strong woman for having you and what you do to look up to.

But I do too feel like an asshole sometimes for not wanting an alternative life. I feel guilty for the relief I feel when I've dropped her off for the morning, knowing the day is mine. My work, like yours, is a big part of who I am as a person and as a mother.

I'm trying to accept this. This makes me happy and more able to love her with all of my heart and soul, much more so than if I gave up a part of me to be with her all day.

Finding the choice that is right for us, for our families and being able to accept that --that is the challenge. Ultimately, wonderful mothers, I think, come in many different shapes, sizes, and ways.

Denguy said...

I think paying some one else to care for your children is fundamentally wrong, too, but daycares fill an important void that has disappeared from our society: A community. I think--maybe--children were meant to be raised in groups.
My children always ask to play with other kids. I'm home ALL THE TIME and they need to be with other people. That's where raising your own children today falls short, you are generally doing it on your own. Granted drop-ins and play centres are great for temporary reliefs, but they really miss that sense of community that was once commonplace.

radioactive girl said...

I stay home with my kids and do home daycare for other peoples. I think it is awesome that people like you trust people like me to help raise your children. I am sure you have heard the saying that it "takes a village" to raise a child. We are all part of that village. As long as you have found a safe place, your child will do awesome and will always know you love her the best. I do understand what you are saying and how you feel, but I think it is awesome that you are teaching her that it is good to follow your dreams. She will be better for it, don't you think?

Penny. said...

I regret almost every day I sent Oee to daycare. I regret more that because I was subsidized, I HAD to sent her there for a minimum number of hours, even if/when my schedule allowed me to pick her up early or keep her home a day. I did pick her up early when I could and I kept her home when I could, juggling subsidy requirements and my schooling.. but, those three years spent in daycare, I'll never have back. It's a trade. It's a sacrifice. I could not have done it any other way. Therefore, my advice to you is this: If you can do it any other way: do. If not ~ come to terms with that and make your time together great. :)

It's hard to be a Mommy, Jen. Go easy on yourself.

Lots of Love.

Danni said...

I agree with Thailandchani. People have different views about this kind of situation. I think it's the same with the children going to school which parents will mostly miss their activities.

Lillithmother said...

i have to say, after being the non and stay at home mom that both have their pros and cons. such is parenthood though...

know that i am another mother who also feels like an asswhole...


Carrie said...

True. It's really tough for mothers to be away. But I think there are lots of precious moments for us to witness and neither school nor daycare will be in the way.

Susanne said...

What carrie said. And then I know that apart from the personal and from the fact that you miss your child when you're working and the other fact that, I for example would go crazy without outside work, this whole "mothers need to stay home with their children"-guilt-trip is also something social that has been on the rise again.

I read a book called "The Mommy Myth" about it. And I know that when I was a child I would have preferred to go to daycare and have a happy mother instead of one that was with me but distant and unhappy and isolated.

bgirl said...

"missing the moments you will never get back" ouch, i feel you.
"balance is elusive" well said.

your journey continues with M this year as you build toward the amazing one that will follow. be assured in yourself and the decision you've made, which is never easy or without reservations when it comes to our little ones.