Women's work: the challenge of child care beyond daycare and making time for you - MetroFamily Magazine
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Women’s work: the challenge of child care beyond daycare and making time for you

by Callie Collins

Reading Time: 4 minutes 

Oklahoma City family fun sometimes happens for parents too, beyond the carpool lane and the daily routine we all seem to share.

It’s not always easy to reconnect, remember who we are as people outside of this parenting thing.

Supposedly, that’s the point of date nights, Valentine’s Day, weekend getaways. Work conferences, awards ceremonies, euphemistic terms like workshops or summits or roundtables: they all have their place to help us connect to others, get out of the office and see our industry through the individuals that represent it.

Our family isn’t like that, though. Date nights don’t happen, Valentine’s Day is like asking the stars to align one pressure-filled day when everyone has the same idea and weekend getaways as a couple feel impossible with kids ages 9, 5 and 2. It’s rare that we go to work conferences.

The lack of babysitters determines much of what we do or don’t. Time, money and the weight of parental absence keep us home.

I have turned down many a cocktail hour, networking event or local performance because of the lack of alternate caregivers. And that’s fine. If I really had to go, wanted to go, needed to go, I would find a way.

This past week, I attended the annual Parenting Media Association conference in Florida. I am not a person who wears business attire very much. I work from my laptop with crossed legs and yoga pants, hoodies and headphones. This just wasn’t me, except it totally was, for four whole days.

The same wonder with which my children receive the world seemed fulfilled in me with airports, museums and other professionals, that “there is life beyond your own with its crumbs and school schedules.” I saw Frida Kahlo’s special exhibition at the Dalí Museum and remembered that was my other major, Spanish language and literature. Met blogger Alice Bradley. Wore heels and hose and drank adult beverages.

Worth it? Yes. Easy to arrange? No, not at all.

My in-laws, the recently-retired grandparents, came to stay. They have temporarily abandoned the comforts of their own in Costa Rica and I am grateful.

Child care is expensive and often surprisingly sketchy, depending on how you go about it. I swore off of babysitters after our nanny service sent someone inexperienced that I later found rocking back and forth in my living with her head on her knees while my infant wailed in his crib. It had been five hours of crying for both of them, I think, and she threatened to shake him if the service forced her to return. They didn’t.

I do employ child care when there’s a meeting I must attend or a really pressing social obligation, maybe once per month at most. Otherwise, my husband and I trade off, which isn’t easy to do since he works 60+ hours each week and I manage my own crazy schedule, which is unusually hectic right now because it’s event planning season. I’m getting ready for MetroFamily’s annual Kids Fest, which is five kinds of awesome, but requires a lot of preparation.

It seems fitting to discuss this topic on International Women’s Day because, although we’ve progressed so much and there are more men raising children or at least participating in a hands-on way than ever before, we the moms are still responsible for so much. I don’t know how you do things at your house but I can attest that I’m the person with the little black book of sitter numbers over here in my household.

There it is, the famous “Diego, estoy sola.” I’m alone.

I work from home so that means I don’t want or need full-time child care but I do often need to step out or be able to work by myself. We rely on a local Mother’s Day Out and thank God for that because it gives me five hours by myself each week. Five hours. That’s an eternity when you’re used to negotiating bathroom breaks with a toddler. I’m not a fan of strangers in my home so no nanny service or Care.com ads for me.

If you’re in a similar dilemma, here are three ways to become a Weekend Warrior for yourself and step away:

Plan an outing: You don’t have to cross state lines to have a worthwhile time. Trade child care with a neighbor and take yourself to a movie, a show, a campus exhibition. Go somewhere you want to go. Two hours away without having to share a snack you buy yourself or explain the art can be a great thing. The ideal aspect of trading is that it doesn’t cost you and you return the favor, which lets another woman near you have a well-deserved break.

Plan a day: So you want to go away for a day? That’s harder but not impossible. Day camps are around for spring break, winter break and pretty much every break in-between for school-age kids. Get to know local preschool-setting type arrangements like Mother’s Day Outs where your child can attend on a consistent basis so they feel more comfortable. I’m not personally interested in drop-off child care facilities for small children unless we know the staff on a consistent basis.

Plan a weekend: Grandparents are an option for some families. I know others who are happy to trade off with school friends and neighbors. Other than that, it may prove better to take your child with you but proportion certain weekend times to join children’s classes at museums in other cities. You may not get the whole weekend to yourself but there are certainly ways to plan how to make the most of a shared excursion without spending the entire trip together.

The reason why it’s so essential to have this time in the first place is because we already spend so many days cleaning, cooking, wiping and wishing. Wouldn’t you rather miss them a little? Come on home and be smothered with toddler kisses.

We all need that.

If you have other tips on how to make non-traditional child care work for your family, share those with me. I just might share them with our readers, because, you know, #ittakesavillage.

 

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