My maternity leave ends in three weeks.
But instead of feeling grateful for the time I’ve had at home with my squiggly little newborn, I find myself whining like a 4-year-old.
These images keep running through my head…
My baby girl smiling after she’s done eating, half asleep with milk dribbling out the side of her mouth…
Ducking into a lactation room to pump in between meetings, and gritting my teeth because why is my body being so damn SLOW? I have 5 minutes to wrap it up AND wash everything AND drop the milk off at the fridge AND get to my next meeting…
Reading Mouse Paint to Bailey for the 42nd time of the day, and her laughing like it’s the first…
Leaving her with a stranger in a roomful of other babies, knowing that when my baby is hungry or tired or just wants some reassuring cuddles, she might have to wait a while. No. She WILL have to wait a while…
Bailey’s perfectly content sigh that always comes midway through a nap in my arms…
Rushing to pick up my baby from daycare, so I can get home and have one hour (maybe) with her before she goes to sleep for the night…
A Rude Awakening
We know how important the bond is between a mother and a baby, but at the arbitrary milestone of 12 weeks (or 8, or 2) we act like that bond is a baton you can hand off to a stranger like it ain’t no thang. (Sometimes a poorly paid, undertrained stranger.)
Disclaimer: I’m NOT in any way suggesting all women should stay home with their babies and not go back to work. I applaud the moms and dads who do take on that job, but to each their own.
Me? I enjoy my office job, and I want to work. But there’s a disconnect between “Here, have 12 weeks off work so you can focus on taking care of your sweet new baby” and “Break time is over, beyotch, get your ass back to work.”
In the U.S., you’re lucky to have ANY amount of maternity leave paid for by your employer. But what about after that leave? A transition back into the workplace definitely isn’t baked into the system.
But Hey, You Got Options
- Option #1: Go back to work full-time, stick your baby in childcare for 50 hours a week (factoring in commute times), and savor your weekends. See above re: pumping, strangers, etc.
- Option #2: Switch to part-time work to dial back your work obligations. Keep in mind you probably won’t get a real price break on childcare that’s part-time versus full-time. Nannies are more flexible with time, but the cost of nanny care is a butttload higher than a daycare, so part-time nanny care won’t save you anything compared to full-time daycare. And if you have a part-time salaried position, unless you’re very strict with yourself, it’s easy to end up working just as many hours as you did when you were earning a full-time salary. Which means you’re making less money AND probably paying for full-time childcare. Still, you have the theoretical promise of more time during the week with your baby.
- Option #3: Quit your job and be a stay-at-home mom. It’s a big financial pill to swallow if you’re used to two full-time paychecks, but many people are able to make it work.
- Option #4: Set up opposite work schedules for you and your partner. Maybe the love of your life goes to work from 6 am to 2 pm, and you work from 12 pm to 8 pm, so you just have to figure out childcare for a couple hours a day. But you’ll be sacrificing quality time with your partner, which probably isn’t very healthy in the long run.
(Oops, I almost left out the best option: Have a nursery built next to your office so you can pop in whenever you want throughout the day.)
I don’t know what the solution is – better tax breaks for childcare, employers stepping up to help families, people writing more books, women having fewer babies?
But I do know this: News articles and statistics and policy proposals don’t matter much when you’re faced with the very real decision of what to do when your leave is over.
What I’m Doing – Plus 5 Creative Childcare Solutions
I’m switching to a part-time work schedule for the next three months or so. I hope I can be strong and say no when it’s necessary.
Part-time is the best option for me right now, but I find myself ravenous for stories of other childcare solutions.
The beauty of these childcare ideas is that you’ll save some serious money AND get more time with your littles.
(For tips on transitioning back to work, you’ll need 9 Secrets for a Successful Return to Work After Maternity Leave.)
1. Keep It in the Family
One of my friends is blessed to have lots of family in town.
She works part-time in the office two days a week. Her mom takes care of her kids one of those days, and her dad hangs with them the other day. The kids get to form a great bond with their grandparents, and my friend saves beaucoup money. No huge childcare bill every month? Sounds mighty nice.
2. Get a Nanny With Baggage
Rachel is Roo’s friend, and they each have a baby. Rachel comes to Roo’s house and watches the babies while Roo works. Roo pays Rachel, but it’s much more economical because Rachel is bringing her own baby to work so the hourly rate is lower than a traditional nanny setup. Rachel benefits because she gets to spend all day with her baby and make a little extra scratch while she’s at it.
Everybody wins! Especially the babies.
3. Bring Baby to Work
One mom I know uses a group work facility with an on-site daycare.
If she needs to focus on work for a couple hours, she pops into the co-working facility, drops her kids off in the daycare area, and gets down to business in the nearby (soundproof) work area. Mama doesn’t have to leave her workplace 45 minutes early to pick up her kids and then start the commute home because THE KIDS ARE ALREADY THERE WITH HER.
And if her littlest one gets hungry and needs to nurse, the daycare staff just call her over for a few minutes, and after that she gets right back to work.
4. Swap Your Baby
Some folks are starting babysitting co-ops with other families.
First, you find a few families with similar parenting philosophies. You could try a group of friends, church folks, neighbors. Then you swap babysitting when you need it. No money exchanges hands, but you use a point system to keep everything fair.
5. Share the Love
One couple I know works from home most of the time, and they both work part-time at 30 hours a week.
Dad works 7 am to 1 pm, and Mom works during the baby’s morning nap and again from 1 pm to 5 or 6 pm, depending on how good that morning nap was. If one of them needs to go into the office for a bit, the other watches the baby.
The best part? They don’t lose 1-2 hours of their day to commuting during rush hour – and they’re not paying for someone to watch their baby while they sit in traffic NOT working.
Check out 9 Secrets for a Successful Return to Work After Maternity Leave. And for more essential tips on surviving your bundle of joy, follow my Pinterest board Bundle of Joy.
What’s the best childcare solution you’ve ever heard of? Share your thoughts in a comment below!