Category Archives: Child care

Q&A: Work scheduling for freelancing couple?

At the Twin Cities meet-up, Amy was wondering about scheduling. She's a SAH/WAHM who does freelancing, and her husband is a teacher. He's off for the summer, so they're both picking up extra work.

They went into it thinking it was going to be awesome–he spends time with the kids while she works, then she spends time with the kids while he works, they each get 20 hours of work done a week, it's more relaxed, the kids have so much parent time, etc. Then the first week was a disaster. Not an emotional disaster, just in terms of trying to actually get the work done. So there were good results there to modify the plan.

Amy also came up with some things she hadn't thought so much about but now realized were important, one of which was that she and her husband wanted only to work during the actual work day (for them that's 8-5).

So we were all talking through it (those of us here have a huge gamut of work schedule experience) and this is what we came up with:

1. Plan the week's work schedule in advance–who's working when. If possible, assign shifts: 8-noon, and 1-5. Vary shifts so no one gets stuck with the non-nap shift or the nap shift all the time.

2. Schedule non-work (meaning non-paid-work AND non-childcare) events the same way you do during the year, meaning use a babysitter if you need to go to the doctor or do some other errand you can't take the kids along for.

3. Keep clear in your mind that being in charge of kids is a job, and you can't double-book with your paid work. So don't even be tempted to do it, as it will only lead to confusion.

4. This kind of split schedule with a partner isn't going to work if you or your partner are averse to scheduling and sticking to a schedule when temptation is there.

I know there have to be couples out there who do fit their work around each other like this, whether they freelance, own their own businesses, are academics, etc. What do you think? Have you come up with good solutions?

Q&A: Neighbor stealing her nanny

I'm cranky about this comment trouble. But Alexis is even crankier:

"I have a neighbor (who thank god just moved away) who uses my fulltime nanny constantly for weekends and weeknights.  2 years ago, I
invited her to share our nanny, as she had her first child.  Since then
the mom has quit her job, and no longer needs regular care.  She did
however, continue to use our house as "drop in day care" when she
needed it for appointments or whatever.  For the most part, I deemed
this acceptable because my oldest loves their oldest.  However, I now
have 3 kids (3, 2, and 1 yrs) and that is a lot to handle.

have spoken to both my nanny and the mom about how I am uncomfortable
with how much my former neighbor asks our nanny to work.  This
conversation was prompted because my nanny called my husband one day
and said he needed him to come home because she had to go across the
street!  What? 

Anyway, the mom is totally unresponsive
to the fact that I would like to use my nanny on weekends, but I
respect that she needs a break and has a life so I tend to not ask
her.  When I expressed my discomfort specifically to the mom she said
she thinks our nanny has every right to do what she wants and she(the
mom) should be able to book her–that I need to just book her then. 
They did move away, but not far sot the drop in stuff has stopped, but
the other stuff has not.

weekend, the former neighbors invited her on a weekend trip. 
I actually realized this after she left, and  put two and two together
that that is why she requested two days off from work from us.  I think
she may have extended the weekend trip with her fiance, but I am just
appalled that my former neighbor would consider booking my full time
nanny for a weekend trip.  I would never in a million years book a
friend's full-time nanny for a weekend.  Maybe if I was desperate and
cleared it with my friend,but even then just maybe.

my bind is I am extremely displeased with my neighbor, and now so with
my nanny and do not know how to address either of them.  I am so mad, I
don't know what to say, and I don't even know which of  my expectations
are reasonable or which are not.  Please help."

My initial reaction was, "That's screwed up!" Because there are a ton of angles on it. On the one hand, this is a free market economy (for the majority of my readers), so the neighbor is free to hire whoever she wants, and the nanny is free to work for whoever she wants.

On the other hand, it sounds like the neighbor has just gone way too far. Using the nanny as an occasional babysitter seems reasonable to me (especially because it's hard to find a good babysitter, so if you only need one occasionally it's hardly even worth the search and reference checking, etc.). And maybe an occasional night or weekend when the neighbor knows for sure it wouldn't be infringing on the nanny's regular work schedule. But to take the nanny on a trip that would require her to ask for time off from her regular job? That's ridiculous and presumptuous.

On the third hand, what's the nanny thinking? In NYC, where it's a hirer's market for babysitters, the nanny would have been fired for double-timing and requesting days off from one family to work for another. Unless the nanny really doesn't want to work for Alexis anymore, and is pulling the old "I'm too cowardly to break up with her so I'll act like a jerk until she breaks up with me" ploy that works so well for 19-year-old boys.

Either way, I think some confrontation may be in order between Alexis and her nanny. Parameters need to be set about when the nanny can freelance. And if the nanny's not happy about that, then she needs to be honest and resign from working for Alexis.

As for the neighbor? Well, you could always sign her up for a bunch of new magazine subscriptions she doesn't want. If it were me I'd never say anything to the neighbor about it because I'm conflict-averse, but also because the neighbor clearly doesn't get that her behavior is inappropriate. It's hard to talk to someone  who doesn't have the same set of standards and values you do, so sometimes the best you can do is just let it go and move on. Since she doesn't live near Alexis anymore, Alexis never has to see her again, and can just refer to her as "remember that horrible woman who stole my nanny" from now on.

What do you guys think? Are you as scandalized as I was by the situation? It's the sneakiness of it all that upsets me most.

try clicking through to comments the regular way, but if that doesn't work, try this: /2008/06/qa-neighbor-stealing-her-nanny.html?cid=117769662#comments

More holiday brouhaha

Because I just can’t stop, and I’m away on a business trip, so why not.

Anyone want to start a conversation about Santa? I wrote this post last year about it. Basically, we don’t really make a big deal about Santa, so what I’ve told my older son is that Santa is a fun game that grown-ups and kids play at Christmas time. That way there’s no "truth" vs. "secret" aspect of it, he won’t spill it to other kids, no problems with his non-Christian friends, and we have no conflicts by seeing a billion different Santas on the street.

And here’s a lovely question from Amy:

"Since you’re talking about holiday gifts this week, do you have any recommendations about what to give your daycare provider? Or if it’s even appropriate to give gifts? My daughter goes to a group daycare where she has two primary care givers, but many more caregivers rotate in and out through the day. Also, my daughter was recently diagnosed as having cerebral palsy  and I really appreciate the extra attention they’ve been giving her at the daycare so I’d love to show my gratitude somehow."

Hmm. I think for babysitters/nannies, the rule is a week’s pay at the new year. And I know that in preschool, we collected and gave each of the teachers a cash card and a handmade thank-you card from each kid.

But a daycare center with multiple caregivers, I do not know about. I also suspect it may be regional. Everyone, what do you do, and where do you live (generally)? Also, if you are a daycare provider or teacher, please tell us if there’s anything you don’t like to receive, since no one wants to give things that aren’t appreciated.

Also, if you’re renting a car on business, the Chevy HHR has enormous blind spots that make it hard to drive.

Q&A: adjusting to naps with caregiver

Apparently this is "sleep problems and single parenting" week. Here’s a question that combines both. Kay writes:

"very soon i’m going to have to go back to work (sigh. sigh.).  my daughter just turned a year old, and to say sleep isn’t always her thang would be an understatement.  i’ve gotten used to our schedule/routine for sleep, but soon she’ll be taking her naps with someone else.  the only thing that works for us is for me to nurse her down in bed, then roll away.  almost like clockwork, she wakes after 30 minutes, and if i’m close by i can nurse her back down to sleep again.  i’ve tried rocking, patting, pacifiers, etc. – she wants the real deal, nipple action!  she only takes one nap these days (1-2 hrs when i’m right there), so naptime is a one-shot deal now. if this matters, she does something similar at night, with frequent wakings to nurse (we co-sleep).  and i’m not into CIO, though i say that with NO judgment to others.

okay, so my point is….  how is someone else, someone who she doesn’t even know well, going to get her to sleep???  i feel like i need to establish a new routine BEFORE i just throw her into this kind of mix, but don’t know where to start.  i’ve read previous posts about sending in the other parent, etc, but i’m a 100% single parent.  i seriously lay in bed (while she’s asleep!) thinking about this over and over.  it’s bad enough to feel like i’m leaving her with someone else, much less knowing that she could be crazy sleep deprived.  she is SO active (started walking at 9.5 months and now just goes and goes), but she does not konk out when she’s super tired – she just gets more ramped.

in respect to the tension-releaser vs builder, she is a very determined (and lovely) toddler who seems able to cry for long periods of time (the couple of times i’ve sat in the room and tried to get her to sleep in her crib).  aaaaahhh, it just makes me want to rack up my credit cards so i never have to go back to work until she’s in preschool!  i would be so grateful for any suggestions you or your readers (especially single parents) have."

Your guys know I always say "You’re the best parent for your child." I mean it, and if it’s the one thing I hope anyone ever takes away from this site that’s it.

But there’s another half to that. Which is that you’re the only you there is. Your child is going to react to you in a way that s/he doesn’t react to anyone else in the world. That’s great in some ways–you’ll be the one who gets hugs and kisses and a special kind of love. But sometimes it can feel like you’re the only one who can do things.

Your child, though, knows who you are, and that no one else is you. And your child doesn’t expect anyone else to be you. Your child can form meaningful rituals and bonds with other people.

At moments of big change, like starting day care, it can feel like you’ll be helping everyone if you become the facilitator of those rituals. But it’s not your job to create a relationship between your child and someone else, just to set the stage to allow it to happen.

What I’m saying is that whoever cares for your child will come up with a way to get her to nap. She may not like not being able to nurse to sleep anymore, but she’ll adjust to going down for a nap with her caregiver, and she’ll probably still want the nurse-and-roll-away from you on weekends. But it’s not your job to come up with a new routine for your caregiver to follow. Your daughter probably wouldn’t accept it from you anyway, and why make tension between you right before you have to change something in her life?

Let the new caregiver come up with the plan that works for them. You stay you, being the mother and doing the mothering that you do when you’re with her.

And it’s going to be OK going back to work. Unless it’s not, in which case you’ll figure out something that you can live with. At this age everything changes so quickly that what doesn’t work now could be perfect in three months, and vice versa.

Now, in the comments section I need tales of children who will only sleep one way for you, but can go down a different way with someone else. I’ll start: My younger son does not like to take a nap when I put him down, and will keep making excuses for me to come back (the whole "I need some water" routine). But he goes down easily with his babysitter, who created a routine involving a "tuck-tuck" (which I assume has something to so with tucking the blankets in around him) that he sometimes requests at times when she’s not there.

Anyone else have anything to share? We’re assuming she’s getting a competent caregiver who’s got her own bag of tricks to get Kay’s daughter to nap.

Q&A: Who do you trust with your child’s well-being

Shandra writes:

"Short background: I was a victim of incest by an extended family
member as a child; my parents failed to protect me and my mother’s
narcissism, in particular, was also a factor in being Somewhat Messed

My son is two now and I got a pretty much
dream job that’s a perfect match for me – the kind of timing that
doesn’t happen very often. 

So I carefully
visited a lot of daycares. I have a nanny who still watches my son once
a week, but we could not afford her full-time, and also I generally
have felt that if it’s full-time care of a toddler, a centre may be
safer because the staff get breaks and things. I chose this centre
because they were open and friendly and warm, the physical space was
good, and most importantly a toddler from our playgroup has been going
there and thriving (on the surface) and her mom recommended it. It’s a
Montessori. My parents wanted to be my son’s full-time caregivers, but,
see background, above.

forward to today, 4 weeks into the full time daycare thing. It was
grandparents day and my parents went, and they are appalled at how
miserable they perceive my son to be and want to have a huge family
meeting and g-d knows what all else. I called the school and my son’s
teacher said that yes, he was upset when they were here, the way that
he is upset when we drop him off and pick him up, but that he was fine
the rest of the day, except at nap, because he often is a little teary
at nap, so they had to rub his back for him. 

does cry at dropoff and pick up, and he does tell us that he does not
like school (although he also says he likes the blocks, painting, his
friends, and his teacher).  I would say until today that I thought he
was having adjustment issues but was generally fine – eats, sleeps,
laughs, plays, etc., fine when he is at home. My mother spidey sense is
horribly upset at walking away from my son every day, but is not going
off that he is being damaged awfully or anything like that.

yet I feel like I should take my parents’ concerns seriously because I
am kind of invested in the dream job and that may cloud my judgment.
My husband, who does all the dropping off, thinks the school is fine
and that our son is having some trouble adjusting (but not horrible all
day crying or anything) and that it is really too early to tell any
more than that,

So my core question is, how
do you know if daycare is working or not working? How do you know
whether to trust the staff when they say your child is okay? I am
ambivalent because (see incest survivor, above) I have no trust in
anyone really."

This one’s a gut-punch, for sure. I’m so, so sorry for the incest and your damaged relationship with your mother. But I’m so happy for you for your job!

It sounds like you’re in a huge conundrum: Trust yourself in this situation, and you’re risking being a mother like your own mother was, who didn’t protect her child from horrible emotional damage. Or trust your mother, and potentially protect your child, except that how can you trust your mother when you know she’s not trustworthy?

Now I certainly don’t have any idea whether things are going well at daycare. But I do think there are somethings you can tease out about motives of the various parties involved here:

Your husband: You know his main concern is for your son’s well-being, with yours and your family unit’s coming a close next. His opinion and judgment counts for a ton.

Your son: He’s 2, and all he knows is that he wants to be with you, because that’s the way it’s always been. Transition times are tough for this age, so he cries and clings. (I actually think it’s worse when they don’t cry and cling. The other day I left my younger one with our new babysitter B–a friend from church who is 22, energetic, goofy, and thinks he poops rainbows just like I do–and he wouldn’t look at me when I tried to kiss him goodbye. That about killed me. Even though I know he has tons of fun with B. Don’t you love how I turn everyone else’s problems into mine? Charming, I know.) But he’s also adaptable and looking for a good time, and is probably loving hanging out with the other kids and all the new-to-him toys. In short, he’s an unreliable witness about the daycare center, because he may love it while he’s there but hate being dropped off and picked up. To a 2-year-old, that’s completely logical.

The teachers at the center: IME, daycare providers and teachers will definitely tell you when your child is having problems. They want you to be able to help from your end working on the adjustment thing. And it doesn’t help them one bit to have a miserable kid in their class, since it distracts them from the group as a whole. I just don’t think they’d be telling you he’s fine if he was miserable, because it goes against their best interests.

The other playgroup mom: Her only motive, it seems, is to tell you about a place she likes and her daughter is happy at. Presumably she’s your friend (or at least friendly acquaintance), and she wanted to offer a good solid solution to your childcare problem.

You: You know you’re only looking out for your son’s best interest, but your own faith in your abilities to judge a situation is shaken because the story you tell yourself is that you don’t trust anyone. The overwhelming feeling I get from reading your email, though, is that you don’t trust your parents. So you’re in this conundrum now in which not trusting your parents could potentially turn you into your mother. But trusting your parents could drag you under emotionally, because it means that a) you failed to protect your son initially, and b) you’re still that same scared kid who couldn’t do anything to help herself.

And finally, your parents: They wanted to be your son’s full-time caregivers, and were hurt when you didn’t ask them. They clearly have major lingering feelings (guilt, fear, denial, something else) about not having protected you when you were young. Maybe wanting to take care of your son is the way they think they can "make up for" what happened to you. Or maybe they are just in denial that anything that bad happened to you, and think they can do a better job with your son than anyone else can. At any rate, to me it sounds like they were predisposed to hate the daycare from the beginning, because his going to daycare instead of being with them reflects badly on them. Of everyone involved in the scenario, they’re the ones with the cloudy motivations. But you knew that already.

I can’t really come up with a way to summarize that this isn’t going to tell Shandra what to do, and I’m not going to do that. I am going to say that she knows more about herself than her parents can afford to give her credit for. This is sort of a real-life version of Prisoner’s Dilemma, only in this case, Shandra knows who the other prisoners are, and what their motivations are.

Other thoughts?