Not long ago, I had a sobering realization. It has been three or four months since I’ve had more than a couple hours away from Baby Y. In fact, I’ve never been away from him for more than six hours in his entire life. And lately, any kind of “me time” beyond nap time and after bedtime has gotten pretty rare.
Papa Y has worked his tail off this summer at what amounts to three jobs, so he hasn’t been able to help out as much as normal. We have no family to fall back on here, and since we’re relatively new to town, the same goes for friends.
Something needs to give, though, because this momma is often completely sapped – emotionally, physically, mentally. And it’s not only for my benefit. At 13 months, Baby Y can benefit from being around other kids and/or caregivers. While part of me loves how fiercely attached he is to me, my little birdie needs to start stretching his wings a bit.
So, why wait this long to consider my options?
Well, for one, breastfeeding held me back for a while, and I lost what was left of my pumped stash when we moved. But we’re down to morning and night sessions, and sometimes an early-afternoon snack that we’re slowly dropping. Another concern has been sleep. While Baby Y can occasionally get away with one nap, for the most part, he still needs two: a short one in the morning, and a longer one in the afternoon. This makes some care options tricky, and I hesitate to rely on someone else to keep him on schedule (I know, I know, control-freak mommy here). Especially because he is finally sleeping through the night – and I’m afraid to tinker with the routine that has helped that happen!
Finally, there’s the guilt. Aside from the normal mommy guilt of admitting I need a little breathing room, I’m not working right now, so I feel like the least I can do is keep us from incurring child-care costs. Alas, this policy also sometimes costs me my sanity, which is invaluable.
These are our options, all with plusses and minuses:
- Occasional babysitter. We don’t have a go-to babysitter right now, and it sure would be nice to have a date night with Papa Y here or there. An occasional babysitter wouldn’t break the bank, and we could probably even have someone come after Baby Y is in bed, keeping his routine the same as always. However, this wouldn’t get the kiddo used to being around other kids, and unless we used the same sitter frequently, he might not build trust with another caregiver.
- Part-time nanny. I wouldn’t need help more than a couple days a week, and even then not all day, but a part-time nanny could give me a little time to reclaim some adult pursuits on a more regular basis. I would also trust a nanny to get out of the house to kid-friendly activities with Baby Y, helping a bit with the socialization aspect, but he would still get to stick to his schedule. Downside? A nanny would be pricier, and I don’t know that I would need one for as many hours as the nanny might want.
- A Mother’s Day Out program. These are very popular in our area. Generally, sessions for young toddlers are scheduled twice a week from roughly 9 a.m. to 1 or 2 p.m. Pros? MDO is relatively inexpensive for the amount of care provided. Baby Y would get to be around other kids his age in a more structured environment. Cons? This would require getting him off his schedule and dropping to one nap, possibly before he’s ready. And every program I’ve found is church-based, which makes me feel a bit weird since we’re not particularly religious.
- Part-time daycare. Again, Baby Y would get to be around other kids his age, and this time we wouldn’t be dealing with the sticky religious angle. I also think daycare would probably be a more structured environment than an MDO program. On the downside, daycare is expensive, even part-time. Then there’s the messing-with-his-schedule thing. And I’ve also read some troubling things about how part-time children have a harder time adjusting than their full-time peers, who are with each other most days and have their daycare routine down to a science.
Right now, I think I’m leaning toward the “baby steps” method – finding a reliable babysitter and getting used to leaving him with someone who isn’t my husband. As far as socialization goes, I’m also always on the lookout for activities that let him be around other kids his age (we found a fantastic program at the library – free! – but it often conflicts with naps). Assuming that goes well, I think I’ll think more seriously about the MDO programs in the fall.
How did you decide on part-time childcare? If you didn’t have a personal referral, how did you find a reliable provider? How has your little one adjusted?