Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The working mama juggle struggle

I returned to my full time job when Jordan was 16 weeks old.

Because my office is in DC, rather than VA or MD, we get 16 weeks rather than 12 of maternity leave. Unpaid, except for two weeks of 60% disability. But still - the option of 16 is lucky by comparison.

And your child is still so small when you return to work. I am fortunate that my mom was and is available and willing to take care of my baby.

I was full time for a few months, and then we realized that five days a week was just too much for Betty. And I felt like I was missing out on time with my itty bitty boy that I could never get back. So I cut down to three days a week in the office.

And then, about five months ago, we stumbled into a perfect situation, and I upped my office days from three to four per week.

Some of it was about more time as a professional adult; some of it was about money. I do realize I'm lucky to have this kind of flexibility at all.

We need my salary, but perhaps more importantly, my benefits. Jordan's on my health insurance. I pay his premium and about $70/month for mine. If my mom weren't watching J three days a week, my salary would mostly go to child care. I really would feel like I were working just for benefits.

So for the past five months, we've had this ideal situation in which one of our neighbors watched him one day a week and whenever we had an emergency, like Betty was sick. They are friends of ours, and their son is J's best little friend. They love our son and we love theirs.

And on Saturday night, they told us they are moving. In two weeks. It wasn't planned - life is just happening this way. They leave on Easter.

I sat down and cried. And then I drank a lot of wine. I emailed a friend of mine with a whole lot of fuckity fucks. And I cried some more.

I had this momentary, I'll quit and be a stay at home mom! Except that it's not a possibility in our current situation. Also, I would probably go batshit. And then we would struggle to pay the mortgage and Nick would have to foot mental health bills.

Like I said, I drank a lot of wine.

And now we're trying to figure out what to do.

Betty can fill in for a few weeks, but my boy is a lot of work. By the end of the third day, she's pretty tired. Hell, by the end of the weekend, I'm exhausted.

We need the child care, and almost more critically, we need a relationship with someone so we have backup for emergencies. But finding this is a hard process.

Because basically, when you trust someone with your child, you're handing over your heart and soul all packaged in toddler clothes and saying, "Bye! Have a good day!"


  1. Oh, Lisa, emotions run high in a situation which impacts your day-to-day and family, which leads to stress. Wine is a wise choice, the support of Nick and Betty is likely comforting too. It will work out, J is such a sweet, healthy boy which makes for more options. Hugs.

  2. First of all, I'm sorry. The whole working mom juggle is such a pain in the ass, stressful thing sometimes, and particularly when you get a curveball like this.
    Second, my situation is a little different in that my husband works from home so stays home with our son, but we recently put him in daycare one day a week--my husband's business needed him to have one full day of work sans toddler. Single day daycare is pretty pricey where we are, but it was still less than me losing a day of work, or my husbands business losing a day of work. We found a place we trust, and while it was a bit of a transition for Jackson, he really loves it there now. So maybe something like that would work for you guys?
    Lastly, oh my god do I feel you on the needing a relationship with someone as an emergency backup. We have...no one. No family, no friends, no nothing. It's the hardest thing in the world to find and trust people that much.

  3. move to the literally nine-minutes-from philadelphia- part-of- jersey in which i live, and we will each work three days and watch each other's (exact! same! age!) boys on the off days. wait, there are an odd number of days..we will figure it out!

    i am having a similar sitch- i'm three days, the hubs was home for (gulp) 14 months, and now he's back to five days, so the little man is with my mom for my three days. she is exhausted as well as a bit...snitty. so, i want to find a 'school' (no 19 month old attends *real* school), but i don't want to offend, and really, paying for school would negate most of my salary, but i can't quit b/c of benefits either...blasted first-world problems...

    my point, and i do have one, is that i empathize, and i wish you luck. and hugs.

    (i also think we should be IRL facebook friends, so's you can check out mah delishus baby. no pressure!)

  4. I was in a similar situation. What we've done in my family is have our boy go to his grandparents twice a week. For the other three days a week, he has a parttime slot at an inhome daycare that is otherwise filled by another little girl who goes on the other two days a week. I think you can connect with other parents looking for similar arrangements in local parent forum websites. Just a thought.

  5. So, mostly I do the stay-at-home mom thing but one day a week someone pays for me to get a babysitter so I can work on a book we're collaborating on. One simple goddam day a week but it's a giant pain in my ass with the babysitter canceling or calling in late. ALL THE TIME.
    Like this week and last week. And a bazillion other weeks before that. I was just griping to someone yesterday that I don't know how mothers with full-time jobs do it. My hat's off to you!
    I hope this works out quickly and to your liking.

  6. Oh shit, lady. I'm sorry. Two weeks is so soon! I don't have any wisdom to share. Just ... shit. I hope you can find a solution that makes you happy.

  7. Ugh, what a drag. What about daycare or a nanny one day a week, with Betty staying with J the other 2?

  8. Oh Lisa it is so hard. And not-quite two year olds are A LOT of work. And they don't stop being a lot of work till, maybe, 5-6 (Declan is pretty easy now, as long as I keep him fed and watered).

    Can you do any work from home? I am in the office two days a week and at home one. It's not ideal, but it kind of works. Mind you, I am currently looking to move into a home-based business due to the ginormous mummy juggle, so maybe I'm not the ideal work-out-of-home role model. :)

  9. crap,shit, punt! A few things went through my mind while I read this. Thank God I am not in that situation again was one of them. Sorry. I think you should ask your fine readers for solutions. They are a pretty smart bunch and I bet a solution that you tweak a bit will work out. Like hiring another older lady to work in the home in exchange for money and some handy man help from Nick. Or, cut to three days a week and spend one day a week searching for a day care for Big J to attend one day a week. My son did not like strangers and even though I was a stay at home mom I took him to an awesome day care at least once a week as a way for him to get used to others and untie his apron strings a bit. And I don't like private day care homes! Use a place that has more than one adult in charge. That's my 2 cents. And only worth about that but I'll think positive too. Hang in there Lisa! They go off to school before you know it.

  10. this what they mean ..when they say..
    ...it takes a village...
    a network..of moms & friends & neighbors...just watching out for each other..backing each other up...sharing each others joy & pouring each other wine on "those" days...
    ... you'll find help in surprising places...
    i think the universe works...
    ...most of the time...


  11. Oh, god, that just sucks.

    I thought I would never be able to trust anyone except my mother or my mother in law, or my sisters, with my kid. But then we joined a co-op preschool and started meeting other parents and getting to know them. One of the other parents watches my 4 year old once a week now. And we found a trustworthy babysitter through another parent. The babysitter helps out about once a week also, and the odd slot here and there.

    I just googled "dc area coop preschool" and there were some interesting hits -- maybe that's something to look into for the long term, anyway? In the short term, I know something will work out. Possible to go back to three days for a while? No? Ugh, this is the worst kind of logistical problem. ...well, as Coleen said, worst first world kind of logistical problem. Could definitely be worse.

  12. I truly hope you can find something that works for you and your family!

    I knew health care in the US is the shits compared to Canada - I thought receiving 60% of your wage for a year was bad. You just made me realize how fortunate I am to live in a place with great health care. I don't at all say this to rub anything in - I can't imagine how to juggle life in either situation - since I don't have kids yet.

    I'm sure you will be able to work something out...from reading your blog you seem like a hilarious SuperWoman! :)

  13. When he is two, i would recommend nursery school, perhaps Montessori for a couple mornings or afternoons a week . . . it will all work out :)

  14. HK - Thank you for the support. Hugs back to you.

    Ginger - I am looking into nanny shares or possibly a nanny. It is much easier to find than daycare in DC, and the one part-time daycare I know about hasn't returned my call.

    You are so right - the emergency backup is so important. It's such a stressful position to be in not having it, because you know it's going to be you if anything goes wrong. Also, I love the name Jackson. Love it.

    Coleen - I absolutely love Philly but one, Nick's business is here, and two, I'm pretty much never moving again. I would, however, love to be FB friends! Can you send me an email so I can find you?

    As for school...a friend of mine works at one and she said part-time is $10K /year. I just don't see us swinging that. In DC, though, once they turn three they are eligible for public preschool. But there's a lottery because not enough spots for everyone.

    Michelle - You've set up a good situation. Good thinking - I jumped on parent websites and listservs immediately after she gave us the news. Something good may come of it soon!

    Dana - Oh, yikes. Don't tell me that! Our friend has just been perfect and amazing and oh, I'm so sad. I would lose my shit if I had to do work and someone cancelled regularly.

    Hillary - I know. Shit. Thank you.

    Wendy - I am hoping I can find a nanny share. That would be my ideal.

    Nicole - Yes! My goodness is he a lot of work! I'm glad there's some reprieve on the horizon, even if it's 3-4 years away!

    I can do some work from home, but not on a weekly basis as a long-term solution. I just wouldn't get enough done.

    Lynn - Thanks, lady. If we can wind up sharing a nanny, then he'll have another kid to play with and get out and about to the park and such, where there are always tons of kids with their moms or nannies. I don't know of any big day care centers that don't have insane waiting lists for kids under two, and none that have a part-time option. And no home day cares either. DC is tough for child care.

    sb - Thank you! It's funny you said that because I have really been wishing for a village. I've been thinking how perfect that would be. I mostly believe things work out, or at least, I like to think so. I think we'll find something good.

    Laura - Yes, it is such a first-world problem, Coleen was right. Although for first-world, it's a very American problem, because everyone else seems to have health care. I talked to my boss - because Betty is gone for 6 days the end of this month (we thought we had it covered!) and he knows I'm in this childcare panic and is totally supportive. So if I have to take the time off or juggle my schedule for a bit, it's OK. I'm not so much on the coop idea mainly because I don't want to have to work there.

    Shelly - Canada does things WAY better than we do. I'm completely aware of this and completely jealous. If it weren't so far north and so cold, I'd totally want to be Canadian. :) And thank you - I'm so far from a Superwoman, but I appreciate it!

    LJ - I'm calmer now, and I do believe it will work out. When he's two...is not so far away! Yikes!

  15. Blogger lost my comment! :-( Anyway, I raise a glass of wine with you. This figuring out child care thing sucks.

  16. Trying to think back on what that part of parenting was like, is too much for me to bear thinking about, even though it was so long ago. But having felt that wincing at the memory, having said and felt that, I realized, "Hell, we got through it ok!"

    I'm glad that in between the fuckity-fuck-fucks, you are remembering all the good things in your lives, which are numerous and considerable. You've got that great balance; letting off of the steam, and then looking for the good things.

    In the midst of all the hub-bub, you're going to want to take "good bye" pictures of the boys, and that's another of those really hard parts of parenting: explaining things like the sudden disappearance of a friend, to one so young. That too, tugs on my heart to think of.

    I join the others in saying a prayer that you find your angel fast!

  17. All this does make me pleased to be in Australia - nationalised health care? check. Subsidised quality childcare? Check.

    Maybe you should move here ;)

  18. Oof! I'm sorry.

    It's no comparison, I know, but I have a friend who takes my dogs on occasion, and I take hers. She's been talking about leaving the area, and I am forbidding her from doing so.

    Again, not the same thing, I know (and I hope to God that didn't sound at all callous) - but I can feel and empathize with about 1/100th of your angst. I hope it works out, Miss...and I'm certain that it will. It always does.


  19. have you thought about contacting local universities? some of them have job-placement assistance and might even be able to set you up with someone majoring in early childhood education... hell, you might even be able to work out an internship deal where the student gets educational credit for pre-pre-schooling your kid and you get a tax deduction! it's a win-win-win!


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