I finally had to admit I had a problem.
Hi, I’m Erin, and I am a do-everything addict.
It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but it’s true. I’ve been trying to do it all, and it’s just not working. Turns out you can’t be a stay-at-home mom and a working mom at the same time. Not really; not if you want to do it, do it well, and hold onto a shred of sanity.
When my daughter was born, I planned to juggle staying at home with her with my work on the Fit Bottomed sites. It was a little crazy — working during naps and at night — but I was managing it. Kind of. Then when my son was born, it got a little more crazy. I’d juggle both kids and their different schedules and with any free time I had, I’d work. Then, exhausted, I’d work at night. Forget about having any free time or down time — if there was a moment of peace in the house, I’d sprint to the office to make a tiny dent in a mountain of work.
Needless to say, a couple of years of living like that will make you feel like a crazed beast, which is why last year, when Jenn and I were cranking out our anti-diet book of wisdom and delight, I had to put the kids in daycare for a couple of days. And as crazy as I was, I didn’t even put them in daycare for two full days — I did two half-days. How I wrote half a book with that amount of time in a week is beyond me; looking back, I still don’t know how I survived.
And as you know, daycare turned out to be a horrendous experience. My son sobbed at drop off every single time, which just ripped my heart out. Both kids were sick constantly from January until I pulled them out in May. Packing breakfasts and lunches was a major pain in the butt. I shudder just thinking about it.
My daughter has been in preschool all year this year — three days for a couple of hours each time. Her afternoon session overlapped perfectly with Owen’s nap, so I’d get a little time to work. But when enrollment paperwork came out for next fall, I started looking at the logistics. How could I best work the schedule to get my son’s two-day morning session to overlap with my daughter’s class options? And I discovered that it would mean being in the car every day of the week; sometimes having to kill half an hour while picking up one before being able to drop off the other. All for very little payoff in terms of time for myself to work. It all started to seem like too much insanity and very much not worth it. So I started looking at other options. Two full days of daycare would mean less time commuting and more relaxed time with the kids when I got it. So as hesitant as I was to be away from my kids for entire days at a time, it just started to make so much more sense than the alternatives.
Knowing you couldn’t pay me to go back to our first daycare, I started with a daycare a couple of blocks over that I can see from my front yard. We toured; it was fine. Some of the rooms seemed cramped, and in need of a fresh coat of paint, but it was fine. Not something I was excited about, but it was fine. The biggest benefit was that we’d be able to walk there.
Then I decided to bite the bullet and tour the daycare at my husband’s work. It’s significantly farther away, but that also meant that my husband would be doing the drop-0ffs and pick-ups most of the time — and all of a sudden, that started sounding pretty appealing. Plus, this center provided breakfast and lunch, and even though it was more expensive, that seemed like a huge benefit.
So I went to tour. And it was like the heavens opened and the daycare angels sang. I couldn’t believe that the daycare I’d had envisioned in my mind — this impossible standard of the only daycare I’d be willing to let my kids attend — actually existed. It’s a school — this huge school on a corporate campus. It’s got spacious rooms that are bright and cheery. The teachers and staff seemed truly happy to be there, not exhausted and worn out like some of the staff I’ve met before. Many of them have been there for 10 or 20 years or more. There is outdoor space connected to every classroom, with fun equipment and toys to play with. They do music class and exercise classes. They take them to swimming lessons in the spring. The student-to-staff ratio kicks the mandatory ratios’ butts. I was practically in tears when I left the place; we met my husband for lunch and I nearly wept with relief. I had found it; I was done with the search.
They started the first week of February. My daughter came home with a beaded necklace she’d made the first day. That was all it took to win her heart! My son had cried some — but not so much that they didn’t mark that he wasn’t cheerful on his daily tracking sheet. They’d both slept; they’d both eaten. They’d both survived without me, and I without them.
Now, I feel silly for delaying something our entire family needed for so long. For assuming that one crappy daycare meant they were all that way. For not trusting my husband and his co-workers when I’d hear how fabulous this daycare was. (My husband said that his colleague told him that his college-aged son drove by the daycare recently and said, “Those were the best years of my life!”) But now we’re turning over a new leaf. A leaf that should, hopefully, restore some sort of balance in my life and make me a better mom.
And P.S. It’s kind of nice to be able to go to the bathroom on Wednesdays and Thursdays without being pestered!
Did you have that aha moment when you found a daycare that was The One? —Erin