Tag Archives: daycare

Adventures in Babysitting, Part II

If you haven’t already, it’s best to read Part I. But if you don’t like reading my super-long posts (I’m working on it), and just want the net – I’m 7 months pregnant with son #1 and found out from two snarky ladies on their lunch break that daycare is impossible to find and then after a miracle in Starbucks, I find a home daycare, Miss Amalia’s Place, that meets my criteria which is that its near my house and…that it is near my house, but it turns out that she is used to desperate parents. She is going to interview us to see whether we’re the right sort for her daycare.

The flyer from Miss Amalia’s Place didn’t have a ton of information, but it did mention that it was an all organic environment and the kids would be taught yoga and learn to sign when they were babies and no TV (obviously) and I think there was something about earth sounds music too.  From what I could tell, this is what all the good moms were doing, so it seemed like a pretty good plan to me, especially when you consider the alternative: me taking care of the baby in an environment that included a lot of Oprah, Dr. Phil, Sex and the City, McDonalds, The Killers, Eminem and some Baby Mozart once in a while.

But the issue was that Miss Amalia was going to interview us, to see if we were the right sort.  The first interview wasn’t even going to take place at her daycare, because she wasn’t going to bring just anyone there. That was only if you got to the second round. Failure was not an option. Because we had no other viable options. So I spent the two days we had to prepare for the interview Googling “how to be a good mother” and “acing the daycare interview” and drilling BD on his part in the whole thing.  I reminded him that this interview could decide whether our son would be a well-adjusted adult or a circus performer.

Love: “Okay. So whatever she says, nod and smile and agree wholeheartedly with her. Even if you have no idea what she is talking about.”

BD: “I’m not sure we should be pretending –”

Love: (gives husband ‘the hand’) “Listen – I’m not kidding around here. This is our ONLY option.  We will do whatever it takes to get in. Repeat after me…We will do whatever it takes to get in.”

BD: “Do we even know how much she costs?”

Love: “No. And we will nod and smile and agree wholeheartedly with whatever she says it costs. We will have time to panic later, and sell our kidneys when she isn’t around.”

BD: “I don’t know. This isn’t our only option.”

Love: “Oh yeah? What are the other options?”

BD: “Well, I’m sure we could find -”

Love: “By ‘we’ I assume you mean ‘me’ and guess what? There isn’t anything else. But if you want to spend hundreds of fruitless hours looking, be my guest.  In the meantime, you will nod, smile and agree wholeheartedly with everything that is said. Including by me.  I will likely say things you’ve never heard come out of my mouth before. Pretend like it’s totally normal for me to make butternut squash and say ‘namaste’ and stuff.”

BD: “What is ‘namaste’?”

Love: (through gritted teeth) “It’s what I say all. the. time. Get it?”

BD: “Oh my God. This is nuts…”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Miss Amalia turned out to be a Korean woman in her mid-thirties. She was unmarried and her older sister helped her out taking care of the children.  She had very definite ideas about how to run her daycare, although she had only started up 6 months earlier and she’d never had a child of her own.  She announced that the youngest child she would take would be 6 months, since it would be “very bad” for a mother to leave her child before then. She explained also that it would give the baby some time to adjust from the breast to the bottle, but she had a whole page on how breast milk would be handled.  We nodded and smiled and agreed wholeheartedly. The thing was, we needed someone at 10 weeks and there was not going to be any breast milk. We were formula feeding. But neither of us said anything.

She told us about all of the enriching activities she would be providing the children and she told us what our duties as parents were. There was a long list of rules. Schedules were very important. We could drop our child off within a half hour window in the morning and pickup in a certain window.  Any exceptions would have to be logged in advance.  We nodded and smiled and agreed wholeheartedly.  She told us that it would be $350 a week.  It was more than I hoped it would be, but it was doable. Perhaps we could keep our kidneys. We asked her about what she liked and disliked about the other families.  We asked about what she thought about traits of great parents. We asked her about why she started her business and told her how wonderful and genius she was for doing so.  We told her we liked her hair. And her shoes. And could we get her anything else to drink?

I thought we aced the interview.  We did everything we planned to do to make sure we got to the second round.  At the end of the interview, we thanked Miss Amalia and she said she would call to let us know whether we made it to the second round. She also gave us a 10 page contract to look over to make sure we were “comfortable” with all of the terms.  We walked out hand in hand and didn’t speak until we were safely back in our condo.  The minute the door was closed, we looked at each other and simultaneously asked, “What. the. fuck?”

Neither of us could believe that we lived in such a world.  Sign language, and schedules and yoga and dietary restrictions and minimum age 6 months old?!  When we were little we watched TV all day and drank lots of Kool-Aid and got locked out of the house and told to play outside for four hours.  Our moms didn’t breastfeed us and we didn’t know what organic meant until 1998.  We felt totally unprepared to be parents.  Miss Amalia had us scared to death. We needed her to take care of our son because we were going to do it completely wrong if she wasn’t coaching us the whole way.

Now what to do about the fact that we weren’t any of the things she wanted us to be? We couldn’t wait six months. We needed her at 10 weeks. And I wasn’t planning on breastfeeding, because I’m just a bad mom.  This was going to get complicated, but I had to make this happen.

Part III

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Adventures in Babysitting, Part I

I was due with my first baby in mid-June, just about the time I graduated from MBA school and about 10 weeks before I started my PhD program, a time frame which turned out to be perfectly suited for maternity leave.  I planned to find childcare during that time and I figured it would be like finding a doctor – you go on a website somewhere that lists all the doctors within a certain radius, you check their qualifications and then you pick one based on who has the best decorated waiting room and hope like hell they are in-network.

We lived just a mile outside of downtown Chicago, just down the street from Oprah, and I was pretty sure there had to be like 66 million daycares and each of them were pining for the chance to take care of my infant.  So then one day when I’m about 7 months along, I was in a deli minding my own business, eating my farm raised, low mercury salmon and asparagus sandwich and reading a Harvard Business Review case for class and two ladies on their lunch break sat down next to me.  They were talking about office gossip, which was way more interesting than my reading, so I was listening in. And they probably noticed I was pregnant and listening to them so suddenly they began talking about how annoying another woman was at work because all she did was freak out everyday about how there were no slots for infants in any daycare centers anywhere in Chicago and she was only 3 months pregnant and what a dumb ass for not realizing this before she got preggers. Hmmm.  I looked down at my belly and winced as two things happened concurrently: my fetus/son gave me a swift kick to my kidney, and I had an epiphany. I’m fucked.

The search for a daycare commenced immediately.  I went to Google to find the website that listed all of the daycare centers/ family daycares / nannys / nanny-shares within a 1 mile radius of my house.  We only had one car and I would have it most of the time at school.  BD would have to be able to walk from work, to daycare, to home with the baby.  I thought maybe 1 mile might be too large a radius, but we could start there and then figure out how to narrow down our choices.

I opened up Google. Now to find the website…..this nice, informational website….I’m sure it’s here somewhere….Hmm…wait, where is the website?….Nope, not it….Not this…..(My kid kicks my bladder at the same moment as if to say “you’re doing a helluva job so far, Mom) um, no. nonononononononono. NO…..

There. is. no. magical-daycare-finding website.

I am alone in the vast urban and Internet wilderness. Google has forsaken me. I had to sift through a tangle of daycare websites and dead ends and phone numbers. The whole finding-childcare-for-your-perfect-beautiful-newborn-that-you-can-afford-without-selling-your-kidney-and-is-located-somewhere-in-the-state-of-Illinois journey was kind of like the Trail of Tears for new parents.  At least finding the big daycare center chains was easy. They were nowhere near my condo, but I called anyway.  They had nine month waiting lists for infants.  Okay…I’m not great at math, but I think that means that on the day of conception you sure as hell better reserve your spot at Kindercare. Now I finally realized why God sent an angel to tell me of my children’s conceptions – so they could get a spot in daycare on time.  It would have been nice if he had mentioned that as well.

Well, this is bad news. I need infant care starting five and half months from now, and apparently this is really late notice for the whole childcare world.  I mean, I haven’t even met this kid I’m going to have. I know nothing about being a parent or about babies or about my specific baby or what I’m going to feel like in five months and I have to find a perfect childcare situation now, or I can’t go back to school. I’m not going to get my PhD. I’ll have to be a stay at home mother. One thing I knew for sure was that being at stay at home mother was out of the question, because I already loved my unborn child. I would not subject him to the psycho mother he would come to know if he were in my care 24-7.  So I re-doubled my efforts and kept coming up short.

I grew up in a home daycare. And I loved it. It was like having a second family, and we didn’t have any family nearby, so it was awesome. I guess I wanted something similar for my son, so I was partial to the idea of having my baby go to a home daycare nearby. But searching for home daycares on Google is futile and I was really starting to lose hope that the baby I was about to have wouldn’t be some kind of juvenile delinquent due to my poor parenting (non)decisions made while he was still in the womb.  So I went to the Starbucks in the building next door. It was an odd choice because I don’t drink coffee, but I felt like I needed something warm in my belly for the next few hours I planned to spend curled up in bed crying and worrying about what a bad mother I already was. And Starbucks kind of seemed like a church to so many yuppies, I thought maybe they sprinkled you with calming fairy dust when you went in and I might find some peace there.

No visible fairy dust, but as I waited patiently for my Caramel Apple Cider, I wandered over to the little bulletin board they have by where you pick up your drinks.  There was a lime green flyer right in the middle of it. My stomach did a flip and my knees kind of buckled and my brain said, “You are fucking kidding me, GOD!” (Yes, I have ongoing conversations with God in my head like “Oh God! You’re so unpredictable sometimes!”  or “God, why did encourage me to have the third glass of wine? I feel like ass this morning. You should have stopped me!”).

There on the board was a flyer for a new home daycare starting up in the condo building next to mine. I know, right?  Seriously.  I grabbed the flyer and ran home. I forgot my Caramel Apple Cider.  I was panting when I called BD.

Love: “I found a daycare for our baby!”

BD: “Cool.”

Love: “It’s in the building next door! And they do yoga! And its all organic food! Oh my GOD!”

BD: “You don’t even do yoga or know anything about organic food.”

Love: “What? Um. It doesn’t really matter. The point is that my prayers have been answered. I must call her immediately. She is The One.”

BD: “Go for it.”

I got off the phone with my heart beating fast and I immediately dialed Miss Amalia’s Place.  No answer, but the long-winded, rambling, breathless message I left went a little like this:

Hello! My name is Love and I have a baby. No, I mean I’m pregnant with a baby that I will have in a few months and I need a daycare in August and I just love home daycares and I saw your flyer at Starbucks and I took it but I will definitely bring it back but I was wondering whether you had a spot for a newborn and I’m sure he is going to be a really good kid because I didn’t cry a lot when I was a kid, but I guess we won’t know till he gets here  — heh, heh — but anyway I really think we should talk and I just love that I’m in the building next door so we’re neighbors and what great timing that I found your flyer and I will bring it back because I forgot to pick up my caramel apple cider anyway, so I’ll put it back but I really think we should talk and my baby should go to your daycare and please call me back.

I hung up and thought, “Seriously? What was that? You idiot. You sound crazy. Maybe you should call back again and explain that you aren’t crazy. Or would that be crazier? ” I hung my head.  But then I brightened knowing that stalking people who need to be in my life is one of my most valuable talents and Miss Amalia’s Place just moved up to the top spot on that list.

I waited five minutes with my hand clutching the phone receiver. No call back. Ten minutes. No call. Maybe I should call again? Just to say I’m not crazy? Fifteen minutes — the phone rings. It’s her!! The woman sent by God to take care of my unborn child, as soon as he gets born.

Love: “Hello?!”

M.A.: “Hi. This is Miss Amalia. You called about needing daycare in August for an infant?” (slight Korean accent)

Love: “Yes! Yes! Where do I sign up?”

M.A: “Ha ha. You are funny. It’s not that easy.  I will  interview you to see whether you’re the family I want to take.”

Love: “You’re going to interview us?”

M.A: “Yes. There is no other way. Can you and your husband come interview with me in a couple of days at 6pm @ Starbucks? You’ll both need to be present.  I have a long waiting list, but I will choose who gets the spot based on my interviews.”

Love: “Oh. I didn’t know this is how it worked. Here I thought I should interview you.”

M.A: “You should. Part of my decision will be based on the questions you ask me.”

Love: “Um. My son isn’t even born yet, and we’re new parents, so I’m not really sure what we’ll have to say.”

M.A: “I find my relationship with the parents is as important as with the child. This is the way I do things. If you’re uncomfortable with the process —”

Love: “No! No! Heh, heh. No! We’ll definitely be there. With good questions.”

M.A: “Great. Don’t be late.”

Love: “Right.”

Okay, so the world had changed from the time I went to daycare. Up to that point, I had spent my whole life competing to get in the best schools, in the best programs, hired by the best companies for the most exclusive jobs and I always won the things I set out to get. Because I loved those games and I was really good at them. No matter that I usually ended up not really wanting all the things I’d won, but who doesn’t like winning games? I wasn’t going to let a home daycare lady be the first to reject me or my unborn child. I wasn’t losing this game. She was our only hope and clearly God led me to Starbucks and this whole thing was meant to be.

We were going to be the family she chose. Period. Now I just had to figure out how to morph us into the “right” family for our interview.  I quickly opened my browser and searched for “yoga” and “organic food”.

Part II