Headed out in the morning!
Our family recently made a BIG change:
Lucy is now going to daycare.
I kept the transition private–though I’m sure that some of you guessed or knew 😉–because very honestly, it was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made. (Yes, I realize how silly that might sound considering how routine it is; tons of kids go to daycare, haha.) But I’ve personally found that it’s more worthwhile for me to write about important stuff once I’m in a good place with the subject matter. And now I’m in that place!
In short, we needed help… in the form of professional childcare, since neither set of parents live nearby.
Since having children, we’d spent a ton of time developing systems that would allow us to spend the maximum amount of time with our kids while also keeping our two small businesses afloat. We’d left the 9-to-5 world in the hopes that the flexibility of entrepreneurialism would allow for this, but quickly realized that one small hiccup would cause everything to fall apart… and it would take us weeks–sometimes even months!–to recover from it.
I resisted the idea of childcare from the very beginning. Everyone told us we were crazy for trying to balance everything on our own, but my heart physically hurt every time I thought about someone else getting to be with Emma (and then Lucy, once she came along) throughout the day. And I felt that if I just worked harder, slept less and sacrificed more, that I could be a stay-at-home mom and handle the responsibilities of full-time job (that I loved!) and a few side gigs, too.
Spoiler: I could not. 😂
I mean, I could. But not without the repercussions that came along with it. I felt like a failure in all areas of my life. I wasn’t fully present when I was with the girls; Mitch and I rarely got alone time; I couldn’t keep up with family and friends; the house was a disaster; my social life was non-existent; I was missing deadlines left and right; I wasn’t sleeping, eating or exercising enough; and I almost never had downtime. It was go-go-go all the time.
I cried a lot. I felt guilty for being so overwhelmed, too. I was lucky. A flexible job that I truly enjoyed and that also allowed me to be with my kids! Incredible. But somehow, my anxiety was higher than it was when I taught at a failing school in the South Bronx. I loved my students, but these were my own kids. The pressure I put on myself was tremendous, and I didn’t give myself much grace. Why couldn’t I handle it?!
For me, there’s almost always a final straw that forces me to make a major life change. I’m kind of never proactive, haha; I’m just someone who typically allows things to get completely out of control before doing something about it. ;) But that didn’t happen with this. Yes, things were definitely tough 🙈, but the turning point actually occurred when my sweet friend Haley got in touch about her wonderful nanny who they no longer needed full-time since the kids were going to school. Would we possibly be interested?
We took this as a sign from the gods, and decided to have her over for a day to see how we felt about it and how the girls felt about it. Half of America uses childcare of some sort, after all.
At the end of the day, Mitch and I were shocked. No, we weren’t able to undo years of chaos within eight hours, but man, did we put in the effort and feel the results. I submitted a bunch of projects I was late on, Mitch caught up on approximately seven million things he needed to do for his business, the house was tidy, and I even showered. And while I had missed the girls terribly, I could see that they were HAPPY. They’d tried new things and gone on new adventures. Even Lucy, who was normally very clingy, happily allowed the nanny to hold and play with her!
That night, we sat down at the dinner table together and our heads weren’t elsewhere. We laughed together; we took our time. And then we had a grand old time playing in the basement. And after we put the girls down, Mitch and I sat in the living room for an hour, just catching up. When was the last time we’d done that?
I suppose it was then that we realized how tired–both mentally and physically–we both were, and how much of a toll it was taking on our family’s health and happiness. I was a little heartbroken knowing what we needed to do, and tears were definitely shed. But it had to happen because life > death.
We LOVED the nanny. Frankly, she was perfect. In the end, however, we decided on an after-school program for Emma three times per week and a more traditional daycare environment for Lucy for two reasons:
That’s right. I found myself feeling ridiculously jealous–resentful, even–of the perfect nanny because she was with my kids instead of me. 🙈 The after-school and daycare programs, though, curbed my insanity. The girls would be interacting and engaging in educational activities with their teachers and peers, getting them ready for pre-school and kindergarten, and that knowledge made the whole thing a bit easier for me to stomach. I also remembered the gains Emma made while she was attending her short two-hour peewee program when she was younger!
In short, though, it felt like the right decision for our family.
A couple of months have passed, and I’m happy to report that life is so, so much better. I won’t lie and say things are perfect; after all, there’s no such thing as perfect, especially when you have young kids! (It takes a while to pick up after 3.5 years of chaos. It’s like a lego mess. You think you’ve got ’em all and then OUCH! You step on one of those little suckers and it kills. 😜 Oh, and then one of the legos gets Pneumonia and another one gets Hand Foot & Mouth right after, and suddenly you haven’t worked in three weeks. 😂) But the girls love their programs. Emma gets teary-eyed on Tuesdays (when she has swim lessons instead) and on Fridays (when we pick the girls up early for Family Night). As for Lucy, she is so much less clingy and she’s made a ton of advancements with her fine motor skills. And collectively, we’ve really been working hard to identify the kind of life we want for our family, and map out how to get there.
Chilcare? Clearly a step in the right direction!
Today, I’m fully present when I’m with the girls; my marriage is stronger than it’s ever been; I keep up with and hang out with friends and family more regularly; I’m able to maintain the house; I get enough sleep; I eat better; I walk three miles per day; I have work-free weekends (like, actually); and I kick back and relax at the end of the day. I seem to have kicked a somewhat significant bout of depression, too.
I’ve learned a lot from this experience, but one of my biggest takeaways is that I’m actually a better mom, wife and person when I don’t do it all. Another is that I am in control of my wellbeing. If I’m unhappy with something in my life, I need to do something to change it.
To be totally honest, my heart still hurts when Emma’s at after-school and Lucy is in daycare. I know it’s just part of life, and I am way better about it than I was in the beginning. But I know I’ll likely make some changes to this situation in a few months because deep down, I really want to be a stay-at-home mom. (But I also want to work. But I also want to be a stay-at-home-mom. But I also want to work… SO CONFLICTED. 😂) While we 100-percent still need full-time help since we haven’t yet totally caught up, the hope is that by the end of the summer, I can be a part-time stay-at-home mom. 😉 I’d like to significantly cut back yet still work two or three days per week–just “smarter, not harder.” My hope is that this will allow me to feel (creatively) fulfilled and contribute to our family and the girls’ futures. We’ll see how all of this pans out!
All of this said, we’re without a doubt the happiest we’ve ever been as a family right now, and we’re having more fun than ever… and I’m excited to see how we continue to unfold our story–which is clearly modeled after a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book.
Isn’t it amazing how quickly life can do an about-face?
Tell me: Have you ever had to make a similar decision? Or are you currently facing a tough one? I know we’re all in very different life stages and dealing with very different issues, but I’ve found that a great deal of meaning and clarity can usually be pulled from seemingly unrelated experiences. xoxo!