For better or for worse, staying home was not a realistic option for me. Daniel is in grad school and in order for us to maintain a certain standard of living (ie. not having to live in the EasyMac box our dinner just came out of), I need to go back to work. Plus I like my job and my coworkers, and I would feel like I was leaving them in the lurch if I quit. Also, we live in an economic climate when anyone can be laid off at any point for any reason through no fault of their own and finding another job can take months or years, and I feel like it's irresponsible to try to raise a family without having two separate incomes. Reasonable can people disagree, but having a "backup salary" is a bit of financial security I don't think I'd be willing to live without.
So that solved one parenthood dilemma but raised a second - what to do about daycare.
Neither Daniel or I went to daycare as children so neither of us has any personal knowledge of what is good and/or bad about being a kid in daycare. It seems like in the '90s there were all these studies showing that sending your kid to daycare was a sure fire way to turn him or her into a serial killer, but the pendulum has now swung back the other way and daycare is just fine as long as you don't pick the one run by the iPhone factory in China.
But it's still hard. It's really really really hard to think about leaving my tiny 8-week-old baby with a stranger. It's hard to think about returning to work after not sleeping for 2 straight months and trying to figure out how our lives will change to meet the baby's needs. While I don't think being a stay at home mom is easy, I do think that there are a lot of aspects of it that are easier than being a working mom. And I don't want my baby to become a serial killer. Part of the reason I stopped going to visit daycare centers after July (in addition to spending my time organizing the move) is that, no matter now nice and wonderful each center seemed, I always left feeling sad and overwhelmed about the decision to "give my baby away" for part of the day.
Anyway... from the very beginning, I've felt more comfortable with the idea of the baby going to a daycare center rather than an in-home daycare. I have coworkers and friends who LOVE LOVE LOVE their in-home daycare providers and advocate that as 100% the way to go, but I still like the idea of a center better both because there would be more oversight for teachers and because you don't have to worry about a back-up plan if the teacher gets sick/has a family emergency/etc. On the other side, in-home care tends to be cheaper and more flexible than a center.
So far I've visited 6 centers and applied for 4 waiting lists (one center was unacceptable and one only takes applications in March). Infant care is competitive so it's recommended you be on something like 10 (!!!) waiting lists, so I'm still looking. I'm planning to go to one more center on Thursday, but I do want to step out of my comfort zone and explore what's out there for in-home care, too. The problem that I've run into so far on cites like Care.com and Craigslist is that the only people who are advertising are people looking for kids to watch NOW, and people who won't be looking for kids to watch until March (when I want care) aren't advertising so I can't find them.
So... my plan is to visit this final center and then just peruse Care.com and Craigslist regularly and keep my ears open for recommendations for in-home providers to try to round out my 10. I'm going to call the centers I've already applied to in November to see where we are on the waiting list, and if NOTHING looks like it will pan out, then I'll make my in-home care search more active again. I feel like this plan balances my need to feel like I have some control over the future without dragging myself through emotional hell by visiting a million more day care providers.
I'm not sure I accomplished anything by typing all that out, but it's been on my mind a lot lately, and I needed a blog topic for day, so there you have it.
Because this post was so un-funny, I give you My Dog: The Paradox. If you haven't seen it yet, it's totally hilarious (but crude and contains bad language, FYI).