Even though I’d already arranged to work at home rather than go to the office upon my return from maternity leave, I never really even considered not putting my daughter in outside childcare. I’d already spent enough time with her to know that having her around would not be conducive to productivity.
It still sucked. Finding a place to put her was hard. Then actually leaving her there was harder. My anxiety was absolutely through the roof and it was super depressing to be at home surrounded by her stuff but without her actually being there. It was a really tough transition for both of us.
We both adjusted, eventually. But young toddlers are still going through so many changes, you never know when everything will be turned on its head again. For a month or two, Olive was fine. I’d drop her off and she’d immediately start playing with her little friends and all the cool toys that her dayhome had. And then she stopped being ok. She went back to screaming every time I dropped her off. She’d burst into tears when I showed up to pick her up and cling to me desperately, freaking out again once I put her in her carseat and left her sight to go back to the driver’s seat. A few weeks ago, I noticed her hair coming out in clumps when I picked her up. It happened several times, and I realized the only explanation that made sense was she was so stressed she was tugging at her hair (this was confirmed later when, having a particularly rough bed time at home, my husband witnessed her starting to pull at her hair). This, of course, made me absolutely sick to my stomach. My sweet, friendly little girl, so stressed at being separated from me, is just heartbreaking.
So now I’ve decided to pull her from care at the end of the month. I don’t know what to do next. I’m considering keeping her at home with me full time, but realistically, that will result in a reduction of hours worked for me. Maybe there are some women out there working full time while caring for a toddler, and if so, I would love to hear their secrets. Some friends and family members have offered to help out here and there while we find a new solution, which is wonderful of them, but I have no idea if she would be any happier with family than with the dayhome. So I’m hoping that working part time will be enough…for my career, for our finances, for my sanity.
There are a few other women in my circle that work primarily from home and have children. The first of our friends to have a baby (about a year before we had Olive) has owned her own business for as long as I’ve known her, and has a workshop in her home where she manufactures her goods. She told me she initially planned to put her daughter in part-time care after a year (which is what I did) but almost immediately changed it to full-time, as it meant she could work all day in peace. I totally get that and kind of wish I could do the same, if finances and Olive’s temperament would permit. My oldest sister raised a whopping five boys as a stay-at-home mother, while writing and often publishing articles, poems, and short stories. I didn’t realize just how hard she’d been working at home until she announced the publication of her first novel. She’s now released two critically acclaimed novels, and absolutely loves when the first question she gets from a male interviewer is “how did you find the time to write while being a mother?” She told me recently she often wondered if her children would’ve been better off in a daycare than at home with a mother who was often busy and distracted, but decided it was best for them to be with her. As much as I love alone time, I’m inclined to agree; it does seem that, even when I’m just sitting her down in front of a pile of toys while I sit at my laptop, she is happiest to just be with me.
As in most parenting matters, the “right” choice is rarely obvious, or set in stone, for that matter. Every other child at the dayhome Olive attends is perfectly content there; I just got the one kid who can’t hack it, and that’s life. I’m thankful that my life is flexible enough to just keep trying until we get it right. Although at this rate, she might be a teenager before I figure out a decent work/life balance. C’est la vie.