FamiLee Childcare: A Non-Revisionist History

I was catching up on Kendi Everyday this morning and am belated in my congrats on her new-ish babe. Didn't even know she had added to her family, so absent from the blogosphere neighborhood have I been. I was interested in her recent post about Overcoming Mom Guilt Whilst Finding a Childcare Solution. I could write a long treatise on why childcare is one of the branches of the Stink Tree that is maternal care, postpartum care, healthcare, family supports, etc. etc. in these United States of America, but I will leave that to keener policy wonks. Suffice it to say, it's not just the lack of affordable care, it's our whole model of care that deserves a whole row of poop emoji. Thusly, the attitude toward childcare providers and their compensation is all kinds of wrong, and I am only one woman but I've tried to do right by everyone who has cared for our child. I COULD GO ON but what I thought I would offer today is to share our dossier of childcare solutions. Note: Loverpants and I have never lived less than a 10-hour drive from family, so family as backup has never been an option. I have a number of friends in the throes of employing different childcare models and I think it's sometimes nice to know that the model is often subject to renegotiation as the family dynamics change.

Ahem. Without further ado:

A Truthful History of Childcare for the Wee Lees: Winter 2009: Still pregnant with daughter, my boss and I agree that I will probably not return to work full-time in the same role. My performance has not been that illustrious for the past six months (largely on account of having a 2 hour-roundtrip commute and being in night school part-time THE HELL DID I THINK I WAS?!). So it's probably best that we part ways after I have the babe. But we leave it sort of open-ended, to be determined once the babe arrives.

One Child Help from visiting grandparents

Jan 2010 - Babe arrives by emergency c-section. I spend 5 days in the hospital to recover. Loverpants returns to work even while I am in the hospital, because, I have support from the nurses. He is working 3 jobs, because we have a mortgage to pay in a city with a high cost of living. This is not sustainable but for now it is necessary. Once we return home, my mom visits for a week and my in-laws visit the week after that. These are difficult weeks for me - recovering from surgery, becoming a mom for the first time, learning to accept help - but I am so, so appreciative of the grandparents for taking this time as they are invaluable forces of love and food preparation. Short-term disability is a help for six weeks time, in addition to John working 6 days/week.

One day/week nanny

I do not return to my full-time job. When Baby Girl is six weeks-old, I start my graduate internship. This is one of the last requirements before I can work on my portfolio as I prepare to obtain my master's degree. I want to finish this degree as soon as possible as it will (I hope) enable me to teach college journalism. My internship allows me to work from home one day--which is awesome--and I do plenty of work from home for this internship between the hours of 10p-1a. Through a church friend network, we find a recent college graduate, Diana, who is able to help us one day/week. (Sidebar: In a perfect world, I would have been in the business of checking that our childcare provider for our infant babe was CPR certified and checked a couple of references. But most childcare providers don't want to take one baby for one day a week, so I was in a bit of a bind.) In the end, Diana was a huge blessing and a great fit and became part of the fabric of our family. Baby Girl cried for most of the day when Diana came and never took a bottle. That was maddening. But our pediatrician assured me that Baby Girl would make up for it. I also loved my internship - despite having to shlep my breast pump on the train every Wednesday - and found the one-day reentry into the workplace a wonderful experience.

One day/week morning care

Once my grad internship ended, I was sort of bummed out. I was glad to be able to stay home with Baby Girl, but I also needed to work on my grad work. I started a little part-time hustle selling cosmetics which was not very lucrative but was fun.  Loverpants agreed that we could employ some kind of few hours/week babysitter situation so I would have time to get a little work done. I was glad when a mother in our neighborhood said she could bring her 18 month-old daughter over to watch Baby Girl. I was a little too loosy-goosy with this time, though. I was so happy to get out of the house without Baby Girl that I would sometimes just sit on my laptop and write a blog post for funsies. This worked for a few months but then I decided that I was paying for a sanity save rather than a productivity boost. So I needed to figure something else out.

One day/week Mom's Morning Out

When Baby Girl was 9 months-old, I joined a gym with daycare. It took 2 weeks for her to not cry when I dropped her off at the gym daycare. Those first two weeks, I would use the allotted "15 minutes to let your kid cry and then you have to come claim them" to take a shower at the gym. It was pathetic. I was paying for a gym membership in order to shower. I kept at it, every day, for 2 weeks, though, and this was enough time for Baby Girl to realize that she was better off just playing with the McDonald's hamburger playset at the gym than crying. Victory was mine! The gym daycare was a complete boost to stay-at-home motherhood. I got to work out, Baby Girl got to play with some rad toys, and I started to feel better about life in general. I was still needing to stay up when Baby Girl went to sleep to work on my grad school stuff, though.

At the gym, I saw a flier for a Mom's Morning Out at the home of a woman around the corner from the gym. Every Tuesday, I would drop off Baby Girl there for 3 hours where she would "play" with 3 other kids her age and I could get my grad stuff done. This time, I was really committed to getting my stuff completed. The 3 hours zoomed by but it was a help and it fit our budget.

Three Days/Week of All-Day Care

When Baby Girl was just over a year-old, I finished grad school and got my diploma --hurrah! A few months later, I was hired for an adjunct teaching spot teaching community college. I was so pumped! I also was able to score a few part-time hours with a neighborhood newspaper, as well. Baby Girl was 18 months-old now so she was eligible for an in-home childcare provider in our neighborhood for three days/week. This was probably the best experience in all of our childcare solutions. The childcare provider was very committed to children's early education and hired very loving co-teachers. She was open to cloth diapering which helped our family economy, as well. Also, three days in a row helped our family rhythm. I was able to get my work done, run errands, and still have time with my daughter.

Daddy Day Off Once I started teaching, Loverpants was able to take Mondays off to spend with Baby Girl. It was so special since for the first 18 months of her life, he barely saw her, he was working so much. He really bonded with her on Madi/Daddy Mondays--they went to a kindergarten readiness program in the mornings and went to the park after her nap. This also allowed me to get some work done, as well.

Two Children When our Little Man arrived, Baby Girl was 2 years-old. My recovery after my son was much more painful than with my daughter because I had lost a lot of blood in delivering him (another emergency c-section).  I had a hematoma that took many weeks to clear. During this time, my parents and in-laws visited and this was, again, such a big help. Once they left, though, Loverpants got double-pneumonia and was literally on his back for two weeks. This was by far the hardest month of my life. Little Man nursed around the clock and Baby Girl was a sibling rivalry rageball. It was a lot of adjustment.

I tried to teach a summer intensive for a little bit of money, while Loverpants watched both kids. It was a disaster. There was no time for me to pump during the four hour class so I was lactating everywhere whilst teaching. Hot mess. One thing that did help was that Loverpants, instead of taking paternity leave all at once, took every Friday of the summer off. It was easier to get through 4 days parenting solo and to have Friday to look forward to as a family. We went on outings and just enjoyed our time as a family of four.

Two Days/Babysitter's House

Although we would have loved to have put both of our children back in the in-home childcare provider as we had with Baby Girl, we couldn't afford it and Little Man was still too young. We found another in-home provider who could take both kids along with her granddaughter in their home. This was a good match but it was in this season that I realized that our life situation was just not sustainable at all.

Loverpants was still working 3 jobs, and after he got pneumonia, I realized this was just becoming too much for one man. I needed to find something full-time. Teaching was agreeing with me, so I applied for a full-time teaching position with one of our denominational universities in Tennessee. In a strange and providential turn of events, I was hired and given six months to move our lives down to Tennessee.

Daddy Daycare

By the time we arrived in TN, I was already being paid full-time. We blithely assumed that Loverpants would build a private therapy practice in Tennessee and it would take a few months to get up and running. We enrolled Baby Girl in a full-time Montessori preschool. Loverpants was able to watch the kids most of the time. It also took some time for the therapy practice to take off. It was a huge save-our-butts help, though, that Loverpants could be with the kids as much as possible because I was over my head trying to ramp up my syllabus prep, teaching, etc. etc. We sometimes had babysitters (my students or recent grads) watch Little Man in the mornings if Loverpants had to teach (he taught part-time, as well) or attend a meeting.

It was a stressful time financially because of our real estate holdings back in Mass. but for the most part, Tennessee was the perfect place for our family to live off of one salary and to rent a home with some land.

Both Kids in School

The day finally arrived when both kids were full-time students and when that day arrived, Loverpants and I were ready for it. Little Man enrolled in the Montessori preschool when he was 5. We were not sentimental about this heave-ho--probably because we both had been so fortunate to have gotten to spend a lot of time with our young children.


As I reflect back on these shifting choices, I think how different the balance was between what I had thought would be best and what actually was the best option for our family at that time, factoring in cost and provider and access. I think being able to change your mind is a very important part of claiming adulthood. It also speaks to privilege, though. I wish and vote and rally for more affordable, accessible options for families of every income level, and for there to be better compensation overall for childcare providers. This is not a country that prioritizes childcare, like France and Canada do, and that's a shame. I am most grateful for all the wonderful people who came into our lives as a result of caring for our children. Our family was shaped and enriched by them, and I never want to stop thanking them for the gift of care they provide.

Chronicle of Valentine's Past

1987 - I remember room 1B, the desks aligned in rows with each student’s handmade mailbox scribbled in crayon. Danny B. includes candy in his valentine envelopes, something more exotic than the chalky conversation hearts, and he is the coolest kid in Mrs. Ferry's room. 1990 - My parents leave us little valentines at our breakfast plate, including sponge toffee from Sell’s and a kite for each of us. Hockey Boy gives me a cardboard valentine with a devil and a pitchfork that says, “You’re Hot.” I don't know how to describe the tingling feeling up and down my spine.

1992 - My bestie and I go ice skating and we see Hockey Boy who asks us to couple skate but we turn him down. I am wearing overalls with one of the straps unhinged. I am obviously too cool for Hockey Boy.

1994 - I slow dance with Morgan S. at the Student Council Valentine’s Dance. I totally drag him onto the floor, the lights are totally on, I am totally wearing a red flannel shirt with my uniform skirt.

1995 - The boys’ high school send over carnations to be distributed in homeroom. I receive one from my friend’s boyfriend, J.R. Yeah, it's not like that. It's more like a self-esteem valentine for him plopped on a thorny pity stem for me. Like, Please worship at the altar of my chivalry, as there is plenty to spread around, since I, the magnanimous boyfriend of your friend am happy to have so very many young ladies to enchant with my oft-desired carnation in the homeroom mail.

1998 - I am in Indianapolis with Big Pops and TP, on a college tour. I am finding this is so not the school for me, even though they have offered me a very handsome scholarship, and I am freaking out about it.

1999 - Freshman year of college, in love with Goldenboy. I make a comic book by hand and send it to him as a valentine. I receive a letter from him the next week indicating that he already has a girlfriend. I am numb for at least a year and a half. Whenever I find the Xeroxed copies of that comic book, I am amazed at how much free time I had in college.

2000 - After stalking a particular member of the football team for all of first semester, he shows up at my RA room while I am on duty.  I am wearing pajama pants with stars and a ’70s cardigan and Doc Martens, an ensemble that should have told him this wasn't really going to work out. Alas, he corners me in a stairwell that smells like dirty snow and Bath & Body Pear Glace body spray, and he says, Let’s give this a go. This sort of thing does not happen to me, so I am unable to absorb what is happening.  He is mashing my face and I am paranoid the entire time that, since I am on RA duty, there is a 99% chance that freshmen on a bender are rolling multiple kegs down the hall upstairs and I am totally going to lose my job, lose my scholarship, lose out on college because I am missing this round to smooch a boy. By the next week, it's clear he's not that into me and I feel a mix of relief and dread because we are supposed to go on a spring break trip together and ugh, why didn't he just turn back when he saw the pajama pants?

2001 - I am interning in DC and have dinner in Dupont Circle with my roommates. We go back to the apartment and my future husband is waiting inside, having driven from Meadville, PA to DC that afternoon. Best Valentine's Day ever.

Retro valentine

2002 - My future husband surprises me at the Safari Bar where Lori S. and Celia N. are stalling me until he shows up, Megan W. having picked him up at the Pittsburgh airport just hours before. Ben in a Box gives me a rose, which is the icing on the cake.

2003 - I am clinically depressed and think my future husband is going to break up with me any day now. My future husband and I have a subpar dinner at Harvard Square and are given a bootleg CD of Jason Mraz by some guy at a shoe store. We go back to my future husband’s apartment and dance to bootleg Jason Mraz. I can barely get out of bed the next day, I am so depressed.

2005 - I am engaged to my future husband. I have no memory of this year’s V Day.

2008 - I give my husband a valentine “from the two girls who love you the most.” We bring our 2 week-old daughter out for sushi. She does not partake.

2009 - Baby Girl and I attend the funeral mass for Uncle Kevin. Uncle Joe gives one of the most eloquent and moving eulogies ever. I am happy to be with my family, but sad to leave my valentine behind in Boston.

2010 - I receive my first handmade valentine from Baby Girl with her handprints shaped like a heart and the feeling is not unlike the tingles of Hockey Boy in the fourth grade, except these ones radiate all around my heart.

2017 - My husband sends me a box of cupcakes to my work at the all-girls school which send a very strong message that I am loved and also that I married well.

2018 - I am helping son prepare his valentines for class when we receive the memo that his school disallows food and candy being brought to school for Valentine's Day. Son walks around in a huff, referring to Friendship Day in air quotes, and proceeds to write his name backwards on all his packs of Fun Dip in the hope that they won't possibly know the source of the offending candy, stealth candy dealer that he is.

Directions for my Memorial Slideshow

Whereas your mother is of a sound mind on this day the 11th day of January in the year 2018, she will be henceforth referred to as the Deceased. The Deceased shall entrust members of family, namely her children and eventual publishers of her memoir(s) to handle the attendant Memorial Service Slideshow according to these irrevocable conditions:  

  • Archival photos in which the Deceased appears to be volunteering in children’s school or at least has Eyebrows on Fleek shall be given preferential placement in the slideshow arrangement.


  • Archival photos that feature the Deceased wearing mom jeans, other pleated slacks, or more than one chin should be used sparingly, if at all.


  • Under no circumstances shall images in which the Deceased appears to be holding more than one beverage in more than one hand be used in the slideshow.


  • All musical selections should be vetted against the Deceased’s playlists on Spotify. If Spotify ceases to exist, under no circumstances should any songs be drawn from the Bob Carlisle’s “Butterfly Kisses” album.


  • Unattributable quotations, such as “Live, Laugh, Love” will cause the Deceased to rage from The Beyond and should be used under no circumstances.


  • All text slides should utilize a sans serif font. Okay, just kidding. Don’t go getting crazy and using Curlz or Comic Sans or something totally insane, ya wingdings.


  • Preludes to the slideshow should be limited to live duets by Lea Michele and Chris Colfer in the spirit of “Defying Gravity” as seen on “Glee” (Season 1, Episode 9). OBVI.  


  • Postludes should be brief but meditative and probably entail a string instrument.


  • It is the Deceased’s wish that you would find yourselves crying throughout the slideshow because you found a reason to miss her -- I mean, HOW MANY TIMES was Leroy the Elf not moved in the morning? -- and not because the slideshow was triggering in a certain kind of way.


  • Length of entire slideshow should be appropriately long based on years Deceased was alive, and just awkward enough for any ex-boyfriends present.
  • The Deceased wishes to vouchsafe the fact that there are fun-size packs of Goldfish crackers for each of you in the vault if you get hungry.