By Mary Becelia
When my daughter was born in May 2002, I knew I did not want to return to work full time. However, I was almost equally sure that I wanted to work part time. Lucky me, my boss was willing to accommodate this and work within my newly restricted parameters. Even better, my mother watched newborn Katherine when I worked two days a week. All was rosy on the childcare front for the next three years: my mother (who lives an hour away) would come to Fredericksburg on Tuesday morning and pick up her granddaughter and for a two day/one night visit. I would head to her house after work on Wednesday to pick Katherine up.
In June of 2005 I had baby Robert and the good times were over, with regard to the easy daycare. My mother told me early on, "I'll come down one day a week, but that's all I can do on a regular basis." Fair enough, now I had to find someone reasonable and trustworthy to watch my children on the other day.
I discovered that part time care at daycare centers is scarce and expensive. The place I had used occasionally for Katherine would not take children for part time care until they were three and potty trained. I needed to find an in-home provider. After a several false starts, I put a brief ad a local publication.
Thus it was that Amanda, a fellow mom, came into our lives. My due date in late June was fast approaching, and work in early September loomed as well--I needed to act quickly. Fortunately, Amanda was perfect. While I could not quite fathom it, she had a lingering "baby urge" and was looking forward to having a squalling newborn to tend to one day a week, and welcomed a playmate for her preschooler. She was a great find, and for the next two years, cared for both my children.
But, as they say, all good things must come to an end and so it was with Amanda. Once our Katherine and her daughter, were in kindergarten, our schedules no longer meshed and I was back to square one in finding care for Robert. (Fortunately an aftercare program exists at Katherine's school). A neighbor told me that her part-time care giver, Anne, had openings so I left a couple of messages, but did not get a reply until July. While my job affords me the luxury of summers off, I am back in the office by September 1 and so was ready, again, to leap at an opportunity.
Anne's house, while tiny, was immaculate. I marveled at how she was able to keep several kids happy in close quarters. She described her system of rotating meals and naps, showed us the playroom, and, when I asked her about the TV playing throughout our conversation in the background she said that, yes, it was on all day long while the kids were there too.
Suddenly I was not so enthralled with this care giving situation but I figured it was only one day a week... surely I could quash my TV-hating instincts in the interests of safe and affordable childcare? Yes, I decided, I could, and I did, for about four months. But I never felt quite right about it. One day a week or not, I decided I did not want Robert exposed to that much TV.
About three months into taking Robert to Anne's, inspiration struck. I was at the playground with a friend, Lisa. Our various offspring were playing well, when I asked her, super casually, if she had thought about resuming the part time child care she'd been doing prior to her new baby's birth. She responded in a vaguely positive way and I continued, still very off hand, "If you ever want to try it again, I'm looking for someone to watch Robert one day a week through May." Happy day! She said yes. We scheduled a "practice run" and I dropped Robert off at her house for the day, praying all that he would play nicely with her preschooler and not bonk her baby on the head.
Miraculously, all went well and continued to do so for awhile. I felt like a heel when I had to break the news to Anne, but it was worth it to have Robert being cared for by a mom whose values regarding the TV were more similar to mine. Then came March when, rather suddenly Lisa got a full time job, starting in two weeks, and had to not only stop watching Robert, but find daycare for her own children.
Once again, I was thrown into turmoil. If I could only make it to early May I'd be done for the summer...and somehow I did, with help from my mother who had never stopped watching Robert one day a week, and temporarily took him on for two days a week. And thus I made it to the summer of 2008. Over the preceding year, I had been working hard to get Robert potty trained by age three, so that he would be eligible for the part-time care program. Fortunately, he caught on and has been going there an average of one day per week since the week after his third birthday. I've made it to the promised land: to a facility that is convenient and well-run, where there is no TV!
The adventure is not over yet. The licensed daycare center Robert now attends is more expensive than any of the in-home providers I utilized previously. But I've scraped by, and I hope my saga provides hope to other parents trying to find part-time daycare and hold down part-time work. Now, if I can only hold onto my job during these tough economic times...