It’s funny how the mind works. As the due date for baby #4 approaches, I think of juggling the demands of a newborn with the demands of a toddler and plan to spend much of my day at our local Ontario Early Years Centre with both kids in tow, returning home for The Dunk’s afternoon naptime and to start dinner.
It’s a good plan and it means The Dunk will be happy and I’ll have some help with both kids. And it’s pretty much what we do now anyway. The Dunk is a very sociable and outgoing toddler, who spends his days with family and our local Ontario Early Years Centres – a place where parents spend time with playing with their kids and can chat with other parents and staff. In short, it’s parent-nirvana.
In his entire two years, The Dunk has never been in childcare. Hubby took a year off work to be with him and Little Miss A, and I’m now off work and spending my days doing all things toddler. The ‘older kids’, four year old Little Miss Adorable and six year old Mr. Sensitive, spend the day at school, and are enjoying late mornings and early afternoons with a Stay at Home Parent. Life is more relaxing is someone is manning the homefront.
But I’m thinking back to when Little Miss Adorable was born, bringing forth a host of special needs and medical interventions and appointments, and I had to keep then two and a half year old Mr. Sensitive in day care full time.
And looking back, I feel terrible about it. Extreme Mama-guilt about missing part of his childhood because of scheduling demands & (let’s be honest) convenience, compounded with struggling with everyone else’s (including my own) needs. Argh!
Life was a blur of getting everyone ready, dropping Hubby off at work, then Mr. Sensitive at day care, then racing to a hospital appointment with Little Miss Adorable, all while my body struggled to recover from a C-section.
My back and abs hurt just thinking about it. I’d do the pickups in the afternoon, then race home to microwave a frozen dinner. My toddler, barely adjusting to life with a sibling, was spending his entire day away from his parents. He’d come home and tantrum and cry. Most days, I felt like crying along with him.
I know there’s arguments for and against this – some incredibly stupid, like the fact that living in an area with a childcare scarcity meant that if I didn’t keep paying for my son’s childcare spot he’d lose it and we’d have to start the months and years long search for childcare again. And there were no guarantees that we’d actually have childcare for him when I returned to work. We were forced to pay for care whether we needed it or not:S
So we handed over hundreds of dollars a month.
There were some practical reasons for this. Medical appointments are difficult/ impossible with a toddler in tow. I’ve had toddler Mr. Sensitive sit in a stroller, watching a DVD on a portable player while his sister had an EEG, the tech taping electrodes all over infant Little Miss Adorable while her brother was lost in the land of Thomas.
And life with Little Miss Adorable was challenging, the round of nurses and therapists who visited and the doctors and specialists we trekked out to see made for a very full schedule. I recall having over 20 different appointments for her during the month of February alone, and February only had 28 days! We’d have as many as three different appointments as day, often in different cities or hospitals.
We eventually compromised on a part-time childcare schedule. But it was clearly a miserable experience for a toddler. When I dragged him out to appointments, I recall giving him lunch in various hospital food courts or dragging him through huge parking lots, or on days I kept him in care, I’d abruptly leave appointments that ran late because I had to go pick him up. It wasn’t fair to anyone.
It was an expensive and stressful time.
I felt guilty leaving him in child care while I left with his sister, and I felt guilty dragging him through boring appointments. Little Miss Adorable was born in late Fall, and it was late Spring by the time I had any balance to our lives. Some days we’d walk to our local park and picnic, reading stories in the grass while Little Miss Adorable napped in her stroller.
As Little Miss Adorable progressed and grew stronger, the frequency of appointments diminished, and we found time for other things – like playing at a park, or looking at flowers and blowing bubbles outdoors.
We eventually rediscovered life.
An honestly, we learned from it.
Although we tried to do the two-parent-working, two-kid-childcare thing (with each kid in a different childcare location, mind you), we soon gave up. The stress and expense were ridiculous. In fact, when Hubby was at home with the two little kids and Mr. Sensitive was in school, we actually managed to save some money. And we all were happier.
We realised that we needed a total life overhaul, and set our courses for relocating to Smalltown, Ontario.
Now, I’m the Stay at Home Parent, and master of dragging at least two kids through various medical appointments. Secrets: Always pack electronic entertainment – Barney on Youtube makes everyone smile – and be prepared to reward/ bribe kids for good behaviour. Mr. Sensitive is a positively angelic role model and referee for his siblings if he knows he’ll get a special treat afterward. (He was sooo proud of the day he earned TWO chocolate bars!) The subtleties of bribery vs. First-Then remain to be discussed, I say it works. But I digress.
I’m not saying my kids will never go to childcare, far from it. I know I’ll eventually need something for The Dunk and Baby #4 when I return to work. But I’ll be doing it on my own terms, and have the best interests of my kids in mind.