I always knew I would never be a stay-at-home mom. I’ve always loved math and science, and along with that has come the understanding that I’m a tad different. Looking through my childhood pictures, you will see me standing there as the lone girl on the math team, the junior engineering team, and the science team, to name a few. As an adult, I have a successful software career and I had always planned to continue that after having children. During my maternity leave, I learned something that was hard to admit: I would never make a good stay-at-home mom. I am a much better mother and wife when I work at a job outside the home. And I feel very good that part of my income goes to people who love being around children all day.
We researched two child care options: nanny and group day care. I telecommute full-time so our first preference was to have the kids out of the house. However we had a backup plan to hire a nanny if the boys were born too prematurely. North Carolina has a star rating system for group facilities, so we used this list a starting point to visit and interview 5 star day cares. When visiting facilities, we were astounded at the differences in equipment, facilities, staff, and general environment. When we walked into the center where my kids would end up, it just felt RIGHT. The babies were happy. The staff was friendly and open, chatting with parents as they passed through. They have an indoor gym so they always get exercise no matter the weather. They were willing to let my twins sleep in cribs next to each other. And most importantly, I felt confident in the director, who plays a huge part in how a facility is run.
I’m happy to report my gut instinct was right. We have been incredibly happy with our day care, and have referred six other families to the same facility. It is a place I know my children are loved, well-cared for, well educated, and happy.
What I love about group day care:
* Teaches me to be a better parent. My day care has taught me so much about caring for my kids! They see such a wide variety of kids so they always have a solution to our problems. From getting the boys to nap to getting them on sippy cups to dealing with a biting phase, they have helped me through some tough times.
* Socialization. My kids have a lot of friends they’ve known their entire lives. They get to experience peer relationships outside of the twin dynamic on an ongoing basis. For example, Alex gets to boss other kids around while Nate gets to be bossed around.
* Convenience. It is open almost every day of the year. If a teacher is sick, there’s another teacher to cover. I can be a few minutes late or early and it’s okay.
* Structured activity. This was very important to us. We wanted our kids to participate in a wide variety of learning experiences. Every day they have structured music time, reading time, circle time, and outside time as well as structured meals and snacks.
* Access to lots of qualified babysitters who know my kids. I’ve gotten bolder about asking people if they babysit on the side. In this economy, the answer is frequently yes.
* Practice for “real” school. I’ve learned a lot about communicating with teachers and caregivers, how to handle issues when they come up, and when to make a stink about something or let it slide. I’ve also learned how one of my boys will click with a certain teacher and the other will not. And we’ve gotten really good at the morning scramble. I’m taking all this in as practice for “real” school.
What I do not love about group care:
Make no mistake about it, kids in group care get exposed to tons of germs. I can not stress this enough to twin parents considering this option. When I look back at my blog from the first cold and flu season in group care, I’m surprised to see any posts NOT about illness. You name the illness, my boys have had it.
But! This goes back to the science thing. I believe people build an immune system by exposure. This year was my boys’ third cold and flu season in day care and they barely caught anything at all. The first year, I’m not quite sure how we survived. The second year, it was easier as they didn’t catch quite as much. This year, it was incredibly easy. And I feel conflicted about the following fact, but since my kids have had so many colds and illnesses, being sick doesn’t really bother them. They can cough all night and it doesn’t disrupt their sleep. Only fevers and ear infections really seem to disrupt sleep, both of which are cured by some Motrin and getting in bed with mom and dad.
However, a major factor in our ability to deal with illness is our (awesome) jobs. My company allows me to work with a sick kid at home, and my husband’s company has a very liberal sick leave policy. Knowing our kids would miss school with these illnesses at some point anyway, we decided it was better to do it while we both had jobs that fit so well with being working parents.
As for being a working mom, I love it, but I also feel strongly that I have a job that fits a working mom lifestyle. That is why I so very very very rarely talk about my job publicly – I want to keep it as long as possible! Since I don’t commute to work, I say good-bye to the boys at 8:25 and hello again at 5:05. We have at least 4.5 hours a day together as a family, more if someone wakes up early. While it does take significant effort to achieve balance between working, family, friends, chores, and me time, it is the right choice for me and my family.
And I am so very incredibly thankful to all the women in math and science who blazed the trail before me to give me the choice to be a working mom in a career I love.