Okay moms, tell me about your experiences with childcare. Did you stay home when your kids were young? Did you use a daycare or family? Were you able to make nursing and working work?
An expecting high school friend of mine emailed me that other day. She’d been daycare hunting and had met the reality that many of us face– that the salary of a working mom can barely cover the cost of childcare for a baby, and sometimes isn’t worth the hassle.
So here are my experiences (you knew I was going to talk about it).
With Azita, I returned to school when she was about 5 weeks old. I pumped bottles of milk, and on a few days, she had formula when I didn’t leave enough. I was gone 3 days a week for 5 or 6 hour blocks, sometimes less, basically until she was 2 years old. I didn’t work nine to five, but I do feel like I was a mom that worked outside the home.
For a while in there, I worked at a Chiropractor’s office but I took Azita with me. I mostly wore her in the sling or let her play on the floor.
Anyway, I pumped for about 9 months. It was definitely easier once we passed the 6 month mark and she could eat rice cereal, avocados, bananas–whatever the first foods we gave her were. Mostly pureed fruits and some veggies. Fruit tastes so much better pureed than vegetables.
I am glad I did that. That being nursing and working. It has its challenges. But it was so worth it for us– me and Azita.
I think the biggest misconception that I’ve run in to, meeting and talking to other moms, is that breastfeeding is incompatible with working or being in school. A lot of moms are worried about the baby not taking the bottle when they do return to work. Or they don’t want to start something just to have to wean when they go to work.
When I would return home from school, and my sweet little 3 month old, who barely even realizes that me and her aren’t the same person at that age, would come and nurse, and it was like all was forgiven.
And the same thing goes for when she got older and the separation anxiety and all the crying when I left for class kicked in. I felt so much less guilty about my choice to leave her when she was so little.
At night and the days I was at home, we spent that special time together.
Even now, with my mother-in-law visiting and holding Ada a good bit, I still feel like nursing is what keeps me being me for her. It’s what only I can do. I know we will have our time together and I won’t get too caught up in what I want to get accomplished.
And again, I don’t feel guilty for needing a break to do something other than hold her or feed her, because she’ll be happy when she snuggles up, gets warm and cozy and nurses to sleep. Right now, she is asleep on my mother-in-law, which in all honesty, I think would bother me if she was being fed by a bottle by just anyone.
So I’m totally in support of women working and nursing. It’s the best way to blend our world of independent women, dual earning families. It brings me back to being a mom in a natural, real way while I pursue my career.
All that being said, I’m happy this time around to be working from home and not having to pump. That is so great too. Ada’s almost 5 months– will probably start solids soon, and I’ve only had to deal with pumping once. Pumping can get tedious.
Another misconception about pumping, that I had myself, was that it would somehow be just as easy or the same as just nursing. A few moms-to-be have told me that if nursing doesn’t work out they’ll just pump. And that’s what I figured I would do when nursing wasn’t working for me at the beginning. I figured it was the mother’s milk so it was the same as nursing.
Well, I’m glad I worked through our difficulties, because in the long run, that was much easier than pumping for six months or a year.
Now, on to the issue of daycare or family or friends watching the baby. I was lucky in that Azita was always watched by my sister or mother-in-law. I didn’t have the cost involved in daycare or the worry about the baby being one of many– so that her needs for being held and security were at risk, from my point of view.
Still, Azita wasn’t with me for portions of her life that I can’t get back. I don’t know that I feel her needs were met in the same way that I would have met them. Some people believe that a baby is just going to cry because that’s what babies do– and for me, this is the big one that I need to know whether or not someone believes before they could ever watch my kid. Are they going to accept that a baby may be crying because they want the security of being held, or do they think the baby is just being “spoiled” by being held too much?
That’s the deal breaker for me.
So although I wouldn’t chance my choices to finish my Bachelor’s Degree while having my first child, I’m happy to not be doing it with Ada. My job is important to me and I enjoy working. But Ada’s first two years are more important to me. Once they are both over three or in school, I’ll focus more fully on my writing, or working somewhere full time.
I know that Azita has more insecurities because I left her at a young age. I know that some of her clinginess comes from that. I also know that that is why she nursed for an extended period of time (extended for this culture– but that’s another topic). Nursing until she was two really helped her be as independent and amazing as she is.
For me it was a balance— I did what I want, but I also gave her what was important to her, even though its not the norm.
So what are your thoughts on childcare? Do you worry as much about it as I do, or less?