Struggling to decide what to do for childcare for my 3 month old
May 17, 2020 9:01 AM   Subscribe

I’m struggling to decide what to do for childcare for my 3 month old, and running out of time to make a decision. Feeling very overwhelmed and anxious about it. My maternity leave ended last week and my mom was supposed to watch my baby at least until mid June but that fell through due to some unexpected conflict that arose on the very first day of arranged care.

We had planned on him starting at daycare in June when he was 4 months old. We have the option to put him in early because there’s only one other baby in the infant room right now. Me and my husband are both working from home full time but feel like we can’t meet all his needs while working and we don’t have much flexibility with our schedules. The daycare has extra precautions in place but I still feel uneasy about having him out of the home with all that’s going on. Not to mention I just don’t feel ready to be separated from him. I thought I’d have another month to spend with him while working from home with my mom to help. As a new mom, sending my baby to daycare for the first time is hard enough but now I also worry about his safety. Would you send your baby to daycare at this time? I’m at a loss because I don’t know what other options would be affordable and available at such short notice. Not sure what to do. Please share advice and thoughts on how to get through this situation safely and realistically. I am incredibly sad and nervous and it’s making it hard to make a decision/figure out how to make arrangements. Location: Durham, NC
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I would consider hiring a babysitter. Especially if you and your husband can flex your schedules at all, so one or both of you are working earlier/later, you might be able to have a babysitter for just 4 or 5 hours a day (making it more affordable) to let you work full time. Bringing someone into your house at this time is always tricky, but I'd feel better about that than going into someone else's enclosed space.

This all depends on being able to find someone you're comfortable with, your personal tolerance level around coronavirus and someone else's distancing precautions, things like your baby's nap schedule and you and your husband's work flexibility. But I have friends (with an older kid) who are working on a schedule where one of them works from 7-3, the other works from 10-6, and they have a sitter from 10-3.
posted by gideonfrog at 9:09 AM on May 17 [4 favorites]

“ Would you send your baby to daycare at this time?”

I do. My son is eight months old, and he’s been in daycare through the whole pandemic. My three year old daughter has been, too. It’s not the ideal situation, but it’s not terrible.

What you’re feeling is completely normal, even without a global health crisis. No parent ever *wants* to send their child to daycare. You will still feel this way at four months, when he’s scheduled to start, or at eight months, like my son, or at three years, like my daughter. Literally every day I drop my kids off, I think about quitting my job and staying home with them. Now add in all the stress and emotions of new parenthood, and you’re probably a wreck. Don’t beat yourself up about it.

The thing about daycare is, kids freakin love it. My daughter sprints inside when I drop her off now. Our daycare is between our house and the nearest grocery store, so back when we’d still take our kids shopping, we’d drive by on weekends and she’d ask us to drop her off, and then she’d be sad when we explained that it’s not open on weekends.

It’s also good for them. It gives them a chance to be around peers, which is really helpful for socialization. There’s benevolent peer pressure at work, where your kid sees other kids crawling and picking up food and hitting other developmental milestones, and they try those things too. It makes a difference.

That, of course, is in normal times, which these aren’t. That said, I don’t think *that* much has changed. Daycares are already a highly-sanitized, controlled-access environment. They have a lot of experience in limiting viral outbreaks. They don’t let random people in off the street. It’s a pretty safe environment, all things considered.

Meanwhile, you’re absolutely right about not being able to meet his needs while you’re both working full-time. You just can’t. A three month old simply needs too much. Even if your kid is the most chill, independent infant in the world, he’s still gonna need to be fed, burped, changed, and put down. Best case scenario, you’re looking at a half hour every three hours or so. Absolutely best case. More likely, it’s gonna be more like 50% (or more) of your time. Some employers might be ok with that, but I think that’s the exception.

Ultimately, the difference between starting him in daycare at four months and starting him at three is minimal. All the risks are the same, all the benefits are the same, and all the non-monetary costs are the same. Waiting until four months seems like procrastination to me. Just rip off the proverbial band-aid.

And again, I’m not just talking out of my ass; I actually have an infant in daycare right now.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:04 AM on May 17 [11 favorites]

I just don’t feel ready to be separated from him... I am incredibly sad and nervous

This is just my two cents and I know we all have to do what we have to do to get by, but if possible, I wouldn't force this on yourself. I can still remember the feelings I felt when I went back to work with my first. I thought "oh, everyone feels this way. But there's nothing I can do." But in retrospect there were things that I could have done. And I don't think everyone does feel that way. I thought that I had to go through that separation sooner or later, and that it would be unacceptable to change my return-to-work plan. But with my second baby, I felt fine about going back -- perhaps because she was a different baby, or because it was later after the birth or more gradual, or perhaps because the person stepping in to provide care was my husband, I don't know. But it felt fun to get dressed up, leave the house, drink a cup of coffee uninterrupted, and do intellectual things (not that parenting doesn't have intellectual components, but you know what I mean). I was ready.

Looking back at my first I'm sorry I put myself through that and wish I'd honored my own feelings more. I could have at least tried; I imagine my work would've agreed to a change of plans. I don't feel guilty to him -- he got good care and did great with it -- and I don't feel horrible regret. I just feel bad that I put myself through that.

The idea above of having a babysitter come is a good one. Or could you take some CARES leave? I'm not sure if it's legit under the rules and your circumstances, but that leave covers some portion (2/3?) of pay for people who lost child care due to COVID-19. (Was the last minute change related in any way?) Another idea: could your husband take time off? Has he fully explored his organization's time-off policies? You've probably heard that there's actually research about the benefits of men taking paternity leave and getting the confidence and intimate knowledge that comes from being the only one taking care of the baby for significant lengths of time. And it's legit to ask his organization and/or yours to make a last-minute change. This COVID thing was unforeseen and your care situation fell through, and it's not necessarily the case that you have to be the one to sacrifice to keep things the same for everyone else.

Every week at this age makes a difference, but it's true that I probably wouldn't have felt that much more ready at four months than at three. For me, the readiness started around 7-8 months. I don't know what your situation is, but if you're changing plans anyway, you could consider thinking big.

Anyway, my heart goes out to you. I remember this being really hard.
posted by slidell at 10:34 AM on May 17 [12 favorites]

Can you extend your maternity leave by 3 or 4 weeks? Can you or your partner take a bit of extra time off? Has he taken all of his FMLA? Can you work out your conflict with your mother?

In all honesty, I would 100% send your child to the existing daycare situation before trying to secure anything different involving an outside provider in between for such a short time. Maybe ask what their precautions are, but only one other child sounds pretty limited exposure.

Maybe some combo of all of the above? It’s not easy, it’s never easy. The current times make it even harder and more stressful, except that everyone knows things are difficult right now, so you might get some additional flexibility from employers and coworkers.

Good luck!
posted by vunder at 10:36 AM on May 17

Isn’t feel a lot more comfortable sending a 3 month old to daycare than a one year old right now. They’re not mobile! They won’t be sharing toys and food!
posted by bq at 10:42 AM on May 17 [4 favorites]

You might check out this question. It was me. See what I mean about how much and I was feeling about going back to work with my first kid? In fact, ignore the question, which might add to your worries, and just read the answers.

Here is a more recent question from someone stressed out about returning to work.
posted by slidell at 11:03 AM on May 17

Echoing that 3 month olds are pretty much completely non-mobile, and you can control what they touch and mouth better than older kids.

No parent ever *wants* to send their child to daycare.

I wish people wouldn't say things like this, even if they mean well. I, personally, *wanted* to send my baby to daycare when I did (at 4 months). It was the best thing for both me and my spouse, and it was wonderful for her. I still do, but I live in a state where they're all closed, so I'm struggling while we put together babysitters and scrounge for nannies, and I feel my work suffer.

But, OP, if you are not comfortable with daycare, you might want to follow your gut, especially with the way everything is now. Can you find a full time nanny or a nanny share? I don't know how things are in NC, but over here, there are still nannies and ex-daycare teachers who are out of work, as well as school teachers looking for summer gigs. Nanny shares don't usually cost much more than daycares, as far as I know, and you can offer to host so you can be around your baby.
posted by redlines at 11:05 AM on May 17 [16 favorites]

I'm not sure if your anxiety is centred more around daycare in general, or daycare during the pandemic. You're getting good responses above around the former. My own anxieties about sending my own 18-month old back to daycare (whenever that is) are around the latter, so I can talk about that.

First, I am not a doctor. I have a friend who is a doctor whose advice I will refer to below, but they are not your doctor. We are also not in the same location.

In spite of the troubling child-related news around things like Covid toes and increased incidents of Kawasaki's disease, it is still people in the 65+ age range who are most at-risk if they catch coronavirus (as per my doctor friend). The risk of sending your child to daycare is therefore not so much to them, as it is to you, your husband, and anyone else you interact with. So if you send your child to daycare, you would probably want to act as if you were infected all the time, which would potentially cutting of contact with higher-risk friends and family.

Your daycare is probably as safe as it's ever going to be with all of the extra precautions they're taking. Plus, if there really are only 2 babies in the infant room, that's really good!

Realistically, the daycare is going to be a source of coronavirus until there is a vaccine.

I'm sorry you have to make this decision in these circumstances. Best of luck to you.
posted by Rora at 12:56 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]

Something else to consider, for those who have the privilege of doing so, is the possibility that “best practices” for day cares during a pandemic has the potential to be less than ideal for child development*. For instance, we know that it’s a good thing for babies to see faces/ mouths of their parents and caregivers. But babies can’t see/ touch mouths when they are covered by masks.

*Of course, raising children, especially during a pandemic, involves making choices that may be less than ideal. Feel free to consider this point (or not) when deciding what is best for the family unit.
posted by oceano at 10:05 PM on May 17

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