One of a working mama’s hardest decisions is choosing a childcare provider. Agonizing over it made me break out in hives. How could I stand to leave this precious little face with a stranger?
I know some parents are super proactive and line up daycare before their baby is even born; sadly, I wasn’t one of those parents. We had so many things to think about before the Trikester’s birth that this decision kind of fell through the cracks. It wasn’t until he hit the six week mark that we started to seriously investigate childcare options. During my frantic search, I came up with three choices: home based daycare, a daycare facility, and a nanny.
Home Based Daycare: Most of my fellow teachers use home based daycare – this is a setting where one person watches a number of children in their home. They may or may not be licensed by New York State. If the daycare facility is licensed, then I can use a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) to pay for the first $5000 in childcare expenses with tax-free money. In our area, the going rate for this kind of setting is $30-$45 per day per child. I spoke with three different providers, all recommended by fellow teachers.
My original plan was to use a woman within walking distance of my school – she was super convenient, charged $35 a day, and we didn’t have to pay if the baby wasn’t there – so sick days and snow days wouldn’t cost a thing. When we went to visit her house six weeks after the baby was born I found out she’d taken on another baby – which meant she’d be watching three infants all under five months. I was terrified the Trikester would be lying on a blanket bawling by himself because she was too busy to give him any loving. Even though the setting was a bargain, I couldn’t handle the mental images of a lonely baby. I also spoke with providers at two other in-home options, and felt a little bit better about of them, though I never made a visit.
Daycare Facility: There are some great daycare facilities in my neighborhood, but they are cost prohibitive. They’d be fine if I needed childcare year round, but because of my teaching schedule, I don’t need daycare during July and August. If I choose a facility, I’d have to pay $210 a week to hold my spot during the summer, even when my baby wasn’t there. They just didn’t offer the flexibility we needed.
Nanny: I don’t live in a big city, and nannies are pretty rare. In my circle of acquaintances, I have one friend who uses a nanny (and she’s a college kid paid under the table). I still really liked the idea of one on one care, so I used the website Care.com to search for potential nannies. Sadly, it just wasn’t in our budget. Nannies in our area charge between $10 and $20 an hour. Even at the lowest end, the cheapest nanny would cost around $400 a week – more than double our other two options.
I just wasn’t happy with any of these choices and developed some serious anxiety. Not only did I have to go back to work in a month, but I didn’t have a place I was comfortable leaving my child.
And then Father-In-Law Tricycle came to the rescue.
When we first talked about having children, my FIL mentioned that he’d love to babysit. At the time, I didn’t take him seriously because A) He’s a man, and it didn’t fit the arcane gender roles I had in my head and B) He lives an hour away. Taking care of a baby is so much work – I couldn’t imagine he’d really want to do it full time – he was supposed be enjoying his recent retirement. As my return to work date grew closer, Father-In-Law Tricycle continued to offer his services, and I continued to not take him seriously.
Eventually, after he had several very sincere conversations with Mr. Tricycle, and explained that there was nothing he’d rather do than take care of his grandson, we started to brainstorm ways to make it actually happen.
My FIL would have been quite happy to stay in our guest room during the week, but that wasn’t practical, as the baby and I still end up in that bed most nights. Also, although we love him dearly, it’s nice to have time for just our little family.
So we began to explore the option of renting him an apartment; he’d come to our house during the day, and then head back to his apartment in the evening. He’d stay in the area Sunday evening to Friday afternoon, and return to his own home on the weekends to tend his gardens and see his girlfriend.
Not going to lie – finding an apartment that fit the bill was stressful, but we ended up with the perfect solution. We finally decided on a beautiful basement suite that’s two miles down the road. It’s completely furnished, all utilities are included, and it feels like a fancy hotel (with a gas fireplace, kitchen, king size bed, etc). At $700 a month, it’s a little more expensive than daycare would be, but it’s worth it knowing that the Trikester will have endless one on one attention from his adoring grandpa. As an added bonus, we don’t have to get a baby out of the house in the morning. I’ll gladly pay extra for a less stressful morning routine!
I’ve got the Trikester’s How-To Cheat Sheet all typed up and posted on the fridge. I hope their first week together goes well!
Did you come up with any alternative childcare plans?