Handing My Baby Over And Feeling Great About It

(Baby E., AKA The Beast)
I love my baby more than anything. He’s adorable and funny, and if something ever happened to him, I would be destroyed. But boy do I look forward to getting away from him every day.

Ever since I started teaching school part time in the fall, I’ve been struck by how happy I am to hand him over to Mike (twice a week) and babysitters (three times a week) so that I can go off for four hours to do my thing. What can I say? E’s a doll, but he’s also a whiney kid who is much happier when he has people other than me to look at.

So every weekday at noon, I gladly hand him over. I have no worries about his well being. I have the best babysitters in the world, including my mom, my sister in law, and a neighborhood friend. I know E. has a great time when he’s playing with these babysitters’ kids.

I love the fact that I get to step away from my baby for a few hours a day and interact with a different group of people. Not only do I get the stimulation of using a whole different part of my brain, but I also get to see (sometimes) how much it means to certain students when I tell them how smart they are and what great people they are. I really feel like I have the best of both the parenting world and the working world.

I’m curious: How do you parents (and potential parents) feel about handing your kids over to babysitters or day care? Do you feel guilty? What is your personal optimal balance between spending time with your kids and also having time to pursue other worthy things?

Caroline

Caroline is a PhD student in Women's Studies in Religion and mother of three.

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  1. Marie says:

    A few years ago I thought 2 years old was way too young to go to preschool. That was before I found out that my three and half year old had hearing loss, a severe speech delay and some behavior problems that we were told might be autism. As I worked to got him evaluated and into the school system I realized that I had no idea what I was doing. I have no education in child development. I didn’t even notice that my son was so far behind. I had my second son tested as well and discovered that he too has delays. I put my two year old in preschool three mornings a week and he loves it and is improving by leaps and bounds. I love it too because not only do I get a few hours of peace but I also have access to teachers and therapists who care about my sons and are helping me be a better mother! The expertise and experience they offer is something that I cannot provide at home and it has been a huge help to my family. Why should I feel guilty? My kids are happy and in an environment that stimulates them and I am happy too! It has given me time to take a class and find an environment that stimulates me as well.

  2. sarah k. says:

    I’m sorta jealous. Not that I sit around daydreaming about getting away for a couple hours each day and getting something useful done (besides being the best homemaker in the world, of course). Cause I don’t. Except maybe once an hour.

  3. amelia says:

    this is something i’ve actually thought about a lot. i’m single. i don’t know if i’ll ever marry. but i do plan to have children regardless of whether i marry–most likely to adopt. obviously as a single mother, i’ll depend on childcare to make life possible. i am fortunate in that i plan to enter a profession that will give me very flexible hours; i’ll be able to tailor my work hours to fit my children’s schedules to a certain extent. but i’ll always have to rely on some amount of childcare. and i’m fine with that. i suppose at the end of the day i believe child-rearing should be on some level collective. we all accept and hope for nurturing from many sources for our children. why can’t childcare providers be one of those sources?

  4. Janna says:

    Caroline, this post was a revelation to me. I’ve kept marriage and children subconsciously at bay for years (thank you, therapy!) because I fear my life will be 2 decades of not having time to even blow dry my hair. I’d be interested in hearing from the moms – how do you maintain your “Self”? *Do you* maintain your “Self”? I’m so afraid I won’t or can’t.

    Seems like Caroline has found a way!

  5. Ana says:

    Part time would be so fantastic. I am really looking forward to possibly being able to cut back my hours next year when my husband finally finishes his Ph.D.

    I’ve been working outside the home now for a little more than 3 years. When I started, my boys were 3 and 5. It was an age where I felt like they were ready to be away from me a bit more – kindergarten and an afterschool program for the older son, a full-time preschool for the younger.

    Since then we have added 2 foster kids, a 3 year old and a baby. The 3 year old goes to Head Start (great!!! program) and then joins the baby at a private home babysitter for the afternoon. We have been so lucky to find this sitter. Unfortunately, she is now needing to quit to focus on the 3 siblings she is adopting. So the real bummer about childcare, to me, is that it is just never going to be as stable and consistent as mommy. I worry a lot about how the 3 year old will do transitioning to a new caregiver. He has already been through so much upheaval in his little life.

    And then there is also the fact that it takes an hour to drop everybody off in the morning (3 places) and about 40 minutes to pick everybody up in the evening (2 places). And we are paying about $1000/month for childcare. Now, most of that is paid for by our foster care subsidies, but still! Ouchie! It makes me realize why, among the people I know, moms with more than 2 kids don’t work outside the home. By the time I pay tithing on my paycheck I am working for a few hundred bucks plus my benefits – and the benefits are what keep me working, because I do not feel okay about going uninsured.

    This is getting long!

    Anyway, what I am hoping to do next year is start working 3/4 time – something like 9 AM to 3 PM. That will help a lot to de-stress my mornings, expand the time available for homework and togetherness, and reduce child care costs.

  6. Ana says:

    As if I hadn’t said enough –

    Also, when my oldest was a baby, I went into the office one day a week. My mom watched my son. It saved my sanity and also allowed us to save up enough for our second adoption in less than a year.

    I think every mom needs *something,* and it’s very wise to do some freelancing or part-time work because it keeps you in touch with your field and eliminates those pesky gaps in the ol’ CV.

  7. Sue says:

    I’ve always worked part-time from home since I had kids, and until this year, I’ve always had to utilize mother’s helpers so that I could get some solid work done for 3 or 4 hours each day. I was always there at home, always available for owies and activities and even if they just wanted to see me. So they’d be in another room with the nanny for a few hours, then we’d be together the rest of the time.

    But I still felt guilty. I know it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it is what it is. Guilt is an amazing thing.

    My husband has been home for the last year, so even when they are not with me, they are with their DAD, who is frankly, more patient and creative than I will ever be, and yet I STILL feel guilty. I can’t explain it.

    Of course, if you accused me in a debate type of situation of not being a good mom because I’m not a full time SAHM, I would bite your head off. I will defend my “position” to the death, and yet I feel something different internally, a lot of times. I’m a hypocrite I guess.

  8. mraynes says:

    I have been working full time since my baby was 2 months old. I rarely feel bad about this, maybe because I feel the work I do really helps people. My baby splits his time between his part-time stay at home dad, my mother, and a woman with a baby 4 days younger than my son. Baby G loves all of his caregivers, he loves having a little friend, and he is always excited to see me when I get home. I feel like the time I do have with my baby is so wonderful because he doesn’t take me for granted.

    They only time I feel guilty is when my milk supply gets smaller because then I don’t feel like I am providing for him nutritionally. Regardless of the fact that I am providing a place to live, his crib, diapers, health insurance, food for mommy & daddy and transportation. There always has to be something we mommies feel guilty about. Oh, the complexities of motherhood!

  9. FoxyJ says:

    I was actually thinking of starting a series of guest posts at FMH about moms who work part-time. There are so many of us, and yet the debate always seems to center around a dichotomy between moms who stay home and women who have full-time careers.

    Anywho, this was a hard issue for me too. I started my master’s degree when my daughter was barely one year old. My husband was in grad school too, and the first semester we were able to juggle things around so one of us was with her the whole time. Then the second semester we just couldn’t do that. The thought came to both our minds to ask a family member to watch her three days a week. It turned out to be great; she loved her little friends and her babysitter, and I know our payment helped out this family a lot (the husband was getting an MBA and not working). Since then I’ve discovered that it’s good to share parenting and that it’s OK. Earlier this year I was trying to finish my thesis by working on it during my kids’ naps and at night. It wasn’t happening. I found a good preschool for my daughter and a ward member who could watch my baby for a few hours three days a week. I got the thesis written within two months. Right now I’m teaching an adjunct class in the evenings, so my husband is able to be home with the kids at that time.

    I think it’s very good for women to have some time for themselves. At the same time, meeting the needs of the whole family is a delicate balance and it takes a lot of thought and constant readjusting. For small children I’ve always felt more comfortable having friends or family watch them than day care. My daughter was in day care for a few months and I really didn’t care for that particular center. This year she qualified for a Head Start program that the university administers and she is loving it. I think I’ve gotten over the guilt about sending my kids away by finding good situations for them that will enrich them, while making sure they still get plenty of time with the family. Like you, I’ve discovered that teaching a few hours a week really rejuvenates me and gives me strength to be a good parent. I also think that other people can enrich my children’s lives in ways that I really can’t.

  10. Dora says:

    I like the idea of expanding the idea of families beyond the relatively new tradition of the nuclear family. From our early Mormon sisters, to those who live in multi-generational homes, to those who exchange babysitting, to those who use formalized programs … I think it can be a marvelous way to expand the circle of loving contacts and learning experiences.

  11. Eve says:

    No thoughts on child care, I’m afraid–just want to say that I love the picture, Caroline. What an adorable little boy!

  12. Caroline says:

    Thanks for sharing all your stories, everyone.

    It sounds like there’s an overall consensus that sending kids off to babysitters/day care can be a very good thing, both for the kid and the mom.

    Janna,
    I am definitely able to maintain my ‘self’. I think working part time has helped with that. But even if one doesn’t work part time, I think it would be possible, particularly if you could get away from the kids an hour or two a day for some ‘me’ time. Trading babysitting is one great cost free way of doing that. Also – and this is key – the local gym has super cheap babysitting! I love getting a mid morning break from Evan that way. Also, the after bedtime hours are key. My kid goes to bed at 7:00, so I’ve got 4 hours of no baby time. A great chance to read, write, work on hobbies, etc.

  13. Caroline says:

    ana, wow! You have your hands full. But it sounds like you’re finding ways to make it work really well.

    Sue, I love the idea of a mother’s helper. I need to look into that. I don’t think you’re a hypocrite at all, just someone dealing with some complex feelings. It’s hard if you’ve been programmed into feeling like you should be home all the time with your kids.

    mraynes, sounds like you’ve found a way to make full time work a good experience for everyone in your family. That’s great.

    foxyj, feel free to submit us a guest post on your experiences as a part-time working mom. 🙂

    Dora and Amy, I agree. It seems to me like a variety of family models can work beautifully. There is something very cool about the idea child rearing as being a more collective experience.

    Eve, thanks!

    Marie, it sounds like you definitely made the right decision.

    Sarah, if working part time sounds good to you, maybe you can start looking around for some possible caretakers. In my experience, there are often some Mormon moms around who would love the extra money.

  14. Amanda says:

    I’ve never posted here before, but this is an issue I’ve been struggling with lately. What about when part time isn’t working for the baby? I am a 3rd yr PhD student in Electrical Engineering. My son was born in May and I started back to one class + my research in the fall when he was four months. A lady from the ward baby sits him. Not much – about 8 hours a week. But he hates it. The first month he cried the entire time – if I left him for four hours , he would cry for four hours. He is slowly adjusting (he only cries about 1/2 the time now). And the evenings when I am supposed to work on my research – I am so tired already and I feel like I have no time to spend with my husband. It’s hard – conceptually, I like the idea of part time, but lately I’ve been feeling the need to quit, because this arrangement really isn’t working for my family at all. Does it get better? Or is this just the bind women are in?

  15. Caroline says:

    Amanda, what a tough situation! Based on my knowledge of babies, it will get better in a few months. At about 6 or 7 months or so, E started really finding other people and particularly other kids interesting.

    Also, I don’t know if your baby has started sleeping through the night yet, but if not it will hopefully happen soon. And that will be such a relief – to have 12 uninterrupted hours of no baby is going to make you feel a hundred times better.

    Hearing your story makes me realize how lucky I was with E. I started back to work 3 weeks after he was born, and it didn’t phase him at all.

    Without knowing you or your baby, my tentative advice would be to try to hang in there for another month or two and see if it gets better. It would be a shame if you gave up on your program and then had regrets a few months later when your baby was doing better.

  16. Maren says:

    Hi all. This is definitely an issue I needed to weigh in on. I currently work full time BUT with my university position, am able to work from home 2 days per week and enjoy more time with my family in the summers. My twins were born the first semester of my PhD program (they are now in 1st grade and my youngest is 15 months). Having the twins while in school was difficult but I feel the sacrifices made then are now paying off. I am grateful to know that once my children are grown and independent, I will still have my identity. Amanda, hang in there if you can!

    Why do we feel guilty about allowing our children be loved by others? Child care is not a new concept and childrearing duties have long been a shared responsibility. Though working men never seem to struggle with the guilt that society and the church put on working women, I believe my husband’s presence is just as important to my children and we do our best to share parenting responsibilities. I miss the baby during the day, but do not feel guilty about leaving him with the sitter. The way I see it, my sitter is able to maximize her talents and I am able to maximize mine!

  17. Maria says:

    Caroline,

    While the consensus on this post is that a babysitter can be a good thing, I honestly don’t think that would be the consensus in your average (U.S.) LDS ward. I think there is still quite a bit of lingering guilt/fear from the 1970s/80s, when the rhetoric was all about “good moms” being with their kids 100% of the time.

    I was speaking with my mom about this a few weeks ago, and she said that when she and my dad were both in grad school (in the early 1980s) she was totally harassed by the other women in their ward for enrolling me and my brother in a ONE day a week cooperative pre-school program. She still remembers one woman who insisted that every MINUTE a child was cared for, even touched, by someone other than the mother would be detrimental to the child in the long run.

    Unfortunately, those kinds of sentiments run deep…and take generations to fade out of existence. About a year ago a woman in my current ward detailed for me why “all of the misbehaving children in primary” were the children who “were shipped off to daycare,” and how if their mothers would just follow the prophet’s counsel then primary would be a much quieter place. Yikes.

  18. Caroline says:

    Maria, I think you’re right that there is a significant portion of LDS people who would be uncomfortable with the idea of a mom working part time.

    But I have to say, I have been thrilled with my LDS acquantances’ reactions to my part-time work. They have been, with one exception, entirely approving and admiring. (At least to my face.)

    Last Sunday my stake RS president chatted with me and asked if I was teaching. When I told her my situation, she thought it was just wonderful and perfect for me as a mom. And this is coming from a stay-at-home mom in her 60’s.

    Maybe times are changing…. or maybe I just live in a little bit more of a progressive place.

  19. Ana says:

    Amanda, I wonder if your son struggles so much precisely because being with the babysitter is so infrequent or unusual in his life. Every time I imagine it is a shock for him. I don’t know if there’s a possible solution there, but maybe that’s an angle to consider.

    Good luck – I don’t envy your dilemma!

  20. Anonymous says:

    It was in 1986ish
    at a Women’s conference when the Prophet said,
    “Sisters, leave your desks and come home!
    You should be at all the crossroads of your children. At their comings and their goings.”

    A sister of 4 young daughters stood up to bear her testimony in R.S. the next fast Sunday.
    She said, “I, sniff, weep, cry, oh my, just signed up to go back to school to finish my education, sniff, weep, cry, oh my, now I am not for I cannot leave my children. I am going to obey the Prophet.”

    1989ish I was reading an Ensign article on how women SHOULD get SOME education.

    1994ish I was reading an Ensign article on how women NEED to get AN education.

    2004ish Pres. Monson said that the sisters should have marketable skills, education etc. (again)

    Me “sniff, sniff, oh my, I am going to cry! I had marketable skills alright, I had been changing diapers, nursing, being super mom since 1977ish.

    Times have changed!

    GUILT is something I think too many LDS women suffer from.

    One of my favorite personal motto’s,
    “Never compare yourself with others, because that leaves you thinking you are either elevated or degradated.”
    Neither of which is true.
    You are you, a unique individual with divine composite. You can do anything you choose.

    Sorry for the self-imposed essay!
    pjb

  21. Jonette says:

    I feel very strongly about this topic. I have found that working a part time has saved my sanity and given my children a much happier mom. I have two children and am expecting a third. I love the time that I spend working. I see clients in the evenings when my husband can be home with the kids and all day Fridays. I LOVE it! I feel like my children get to have an opportunity to interact with different adults and have grown to love some of them :).

    In response to Amanda… You have to try different people. My children have not always loved each sitter. They respond differently to different people.

    I say do what is best for you… You are the only one who knows what it takes for your sanity.

    I feel like we are given personal revelation for a reason and that we should especially exercise that gift in matters as important as mothering….

  22. Vada says:

    I, too, feel great when I leave my kiddos with someone else. Of course, I don’t do it very often, so that might be part of the reason. Even when they’re sad about it, I’m just so happy/relieved to finally get some time away that I just don’t care.

    My “work” (it doesn’t make me any money now, but hopefully it will some day) is writing, and I love having a mommy’s helper. Before I got pregnant and the writing went out the window (I just can’t seem to write when I’m pregnant — maybe because the creative juices are being used up by the baby) I had a babysitter who came over a couple of days a week for about 4-5 hours. Most of the time I was there (occasionally I ran errands, etc) and my kids could come find me if they really wanted me. But I would just give them attention for 5-10 minutes and then get the babysitter to start playing something with them and go back to my room. It gave me a chance to get some real writing done, and I loved it. And sometimes I used the time to do laundry, or unpack boxes, or anything else I wanted to do without the help of the kiddos.

    One day I mentioned that I didn’t want to go out with a couple of girls from church because that was the morning that the babysitter was here, and I wanted to use that time. One of my friends was like “Oh, you shouldn’t have to hire a babysitter; if you need some help please call me.” I thanked her, and was appreciative, but she just didn’t understand that having regular time that I could spend on “me stuff” was essential to me, and well worth the cost of the babysitter.

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