Monday, May 9, 2011

Rosy cheeks, no warts

Sometimes, when considering the elusive work/life balance chase that eludes so many mothers, I think I've got the golden ticket. I have three small kids and a full-time career that I find interesting and stimulating, and I'm able to have them all at once – and all in one place.

I got lucky, though. I wish I could take more credit but for me it was as simple as everything fell into place.

I started working at the government agency where I work seven years ago. It was a lateral move from the non-profit that had previously employed me. My seniority and responsibility took a huge hit but my pay immediately increased. In the seven years since I've still never regained the seniority but my exposure to skills and opportunities has been so much broader than the non-profit could have afforded me and I've nearly tripled my pay. Perhaps most importantly, the government position still has plenty of room for growth, and the non-profit model would have had me ceilinged-out by now.

When I took this position in 2004 I barely even registered that the building I'd be working in had an on-site daycare facility, but two years later, that detail became the keystone in my beautiful balancing act. As it turned out, not only is it on-site, but it's also small, nurturing, accredited at the most stringent levels, teaches to a play-based curriculum that complements my child-raising philosophies (although I didn't know that until after researching various alternatives), and it's always had openings when I've had babies.

Amazing, right? I know so much more now, but especially not to take my circumstance for granted.

It's why I've been able to breastfeed my babies while working full-time, or pump and deliver warm milk; or bring a piece of chocolate to a kid having a tough morning; or pull a child out of school for a lunch date in the grown-ups' cafeteria. It's why I can be to my child five minutes after getting the dreaded call that s/he has a fever. (It helps that I work in a very family-friendly office where leave has never, ever been challenged or denied.) It's why, really, I never had to face the working woman's identity crisis when becoming a mom. I had to question a lot of things, but going right back to work was never one of them. It's why I can have three kids and an out-of-the-house career and not completely lose my mind.

Well, all the charmed part of that charmed life will soon be challenged when E begins kindergarten this fall. For the first time, I'll be working full-time but my baby won't be with me. I've never faced that before, and my own emotional concerns aside, we as a family have never faced the logistics of anything like this before.

She'll be finished with school hours before I'm finished with work, and even if we enroll her in the aftercare program it ends before we could reliably gather her. So I think we're looking at hiring an afternoon nanny. I'm picturing someone whose hours would begin at 3:00 at the door to E's school, and who would drive her home (or to the library or a karate/ballet/whatever class or to the grocery store) and care for E and color with her and keep her giggling and walk alongside her as she rides her bike and helps her practice her reading, but also care in some way for our family (by taking E to buy groceries or popping the dinner I've left prepped into the oven or folding the kids' laundry or some other thing that engages E but also contributes to this ever-fluctuating work/life balance we all constantly seek).

Now we have to find this person, and fit her (him? probably a her, I'm guessing) into our lives (and budget). And because I'm dreaming so specifically, I'm hoping we can identify someone we already know and trust – someone E already loves. She's so slow to trust new people and kindergarten is going to be a difficult enough transition for her without giving the authority of caregiver to a stranger. Is it too much to hope?

So, universe, what do you think? Any advice? Tips? Any candidates out there looking for a part-time job beginning this fall, working roughly 3-7pm, five days a week, already in possession of a driver's license and my oldest child's trust?

I'm so not kidding here. Interested? Love my girl? Call me…


This post is inspired by the mild panic that results from E's preschool graduation being at the end of this week, and the resulting knowledge that she starts kindergarten very soon thereafter and we need to get some plans together to accommodate that; and by the book Good Enough is the New Perfect (affiliate link) by Becky Beaupre Gillespie and Hollee Schwartz Temple, a copy of which I received from the From Left to Write book club.

Because this is my first posting affiliated with From Left to Write, let me explain explicitly that the content of this post was in no way directed by the book or the book club. We're just given a book and instructed to read, to be inspired, and to write. Go read and go write: these are my kind of instructions.

And I really do need an E-trustworthy nanny. Pin It