The funny thing about being given 12 weeks of maternity leave, paid, is that it means there’s a job I should return to. I actually found myself back at my desk two weeks early in order to save the last two weeks of leave for going home when my husband’s unit takes leave.
When I envisioned having a child over the last 3 years I imagined I would be in a position where I was freelancing as a writer and able to stay home. When I envisioned having a child eight months ago, I thought I would just quit. I was so in denial about the fact I would have to go back to work, I neglected to sign my son up for daycare on Post until after he was born in February, which means he is on a waiting list until August. I ended up locating a daycare off-Post. I didn’t have much of an impression except that it smelled faintly of bleach which was comforting for me. The staff was just a bit ghetto, but I couldn’t see how that would matter. I was relieved to have found childcare but could not get over adding an hour of travel to my day.
I became fixated on keeping my baby home with me as I grew more maternal. I felt I could provide care working from home but knew I wouldn’t be available on demand. I went to a babysitting website to pay for an account and look through applicants who had passed background checks. I didn’t really know what I was doing and ultimately decided to pick someone I would like to hang out with. Unfortunately, those girls didn’t respond. I ended up extending an offer to a rather pesky 18-year old newlywed of not even two months, that had just moved here with her soldier from Oregon. She had messaged me a dozen times. I met her at a Starbucks and handed her my child. While not completely natural, she seemed competent. I offered her the opportunity to watch my child for the following two weeks. You can listen to me tell this story here.
One the first day, she showed up promptly and had even asked if I wanted anything from Starbucks. Shortly after she arrived, I got the sense she wasn’t used to coffee in the morning. Slightly annoyed, I avoided that bathroom. The rest of the day went off fine. I wasn’t taking calls for my customer service job that day and was able to observe her with my son. I had no complaints.
I was back to taking calls on her second day. Baby was fussy, but things were going well until I heard her in the nursery say, “why won’t you be quiet???” I couldn’t get off the call I was on fast enough. I hurried into the nursery to rescue my porcelain newborn angel. “If you feel overwhelmed, just come and get me… Never shake the baby.” Despite being functioning adults, we had been told not to shake our baby several times since he was born. I was definitely going to pass that warning on to an 18-year old. Every break or lull in my day had been spent looking after my son and I was exhausted that night. I understood the saying “a mother’s work is never done.”
The next day she did not show up because her dog was attacked. Spencer was able to come back from work for the morning to take care of the baby, but I was on my own after 1:00. There was about an hour of unsuccessfully playing the “mute” game before I was able to take my son to a friend’s house nearby.
When the nanny returned on the fourth day, I was sympathetic to her ordeal the day before. Given how desperate she was to work for $200 a week, I figured she couldn’t afford the $3500 hospital bill.
She arrived early and asked if she could use the bathroom. After an extended visit she emerged into the living room with book in hand. Irritated that she once again didn’t poop at home, I handed to her my child so I could get ready for work. As I walked passed the bathroom, I noticed I didn’t pick up the bath mat I put down when I shower. Not wanting it to be walked on with shoes, I went in to drape it back over the tub. As I walked out, I looked down and noticed something horrifying.
This was like the point in a horror movie where you realize the killer is IN. THE. HOUSE.
The sink was completely dry! I didn’t know what to do! Was it my fault because I hadn’t specified “must wash hands after using the bathroom and shower daily” on the job posting? (She had been a little ripe earlier in the week.) I went back and forth between keeping the peace for the day and demanding my minimum standards for my child because I was afraid of being confrontational. It would have been a little different if I hadn’t thought she made a bowel movement– still trifling but not as much of a health hazard. Finally, I found my resolve as a woman. I traipsed into the living room and scooped up my baby. I said, “I noticed the sink was dry, can you wash your hands for me?”
We did not recover from that incident. I did not trust her after that and I was stressed out. I couldn’t trust her judgement as an 18-year old, and I was mad at myself for not picking up on her deficiencies earlier. I could not decide what to make of the stress I felt. As a mom, if I was feeling stressed like that, was it intuition I should act on? But what would I do about childcare? I talked myself into making it through the last week.
But the situation resolved itself when she didn’t show up or answer her phone the next day. What a relief. I’m sure she had felt unwelcomed since I’m terrible at hiding my emotions and was too embarrassed to show up. Fortunately, my husband was off.
The following day we attended a cookout of a friend of a friend’s. Shortly after I walked in, the friend took Brooks from me because she had met him a couple weeks prior. She was one of those women that has her own kids and loves babies in general. Her movements were deft, and my son took to her right away. After a couple hours I asked her if she would watch my son the following week until I found someone else. She agreed. I played it cool but texted my mom immediately.
It has been three weeks and I could not be happier. Brooks is honestly in better hands than if I were taking care of him myself. And having him out of the house while I am working is less stressful for me . She also lives on Post so I usually go see Brooks during little 40-minute lunch break. The only challenge has been pumping, but so far we have not run out of milk nor have my nipples fallen off.
So I’m a working mom now. And my husband is a soldier dad which means he has been gone for days at a time training these last couple months. On the first week of work I was impacted by my son was getting 10 hours less of me on top of not seeing his dad at all. Given the transient nature of being in the Army, I understand why many military spouses may choose not to work. I also understand how taking care of my own child seems like a better use of my time than working. It seems I’m always rushing and busy because I have to adhere to a work schedule on top of my other workload. My husband wordlessly shoulders the load when he is home but his workday starts at 6 am. At the same time, even though I don’t care for my job I am grateful to have time where I’m focused on something completely separate from family and responsibility. Money aside, I understand why some women want to work and some women want to be stay-at-home moms.
I don’t see this situation being sustainable for me because I need more personal time. I’m at the point where I’m dreading getting my hair done this weekend because of the time suck it is on a Saturday. I could be cleaning, grocery shopping, or letting my husband go to the gym instead of sitting under a dryer with my hair beyond dry feeling guilty, boobs aching and black women materializing into the stylist’s chair just when I think it’s my turn. I had to hire someone to clean my house (lowkey a life dream) a couple weeks ago before in-laws came because I just could not. There just isn’t enough time to be everything I want.
At this point, I have to choose between money and time and I am learning money can cost more than it is worth. I’m paying money to replace myself because I don’t have the time.
There is still one thing I have not decided: do I send the babysitter the money for the few days she did work? Or do I require her to be an adult and ask for it? Do I leave her a review on the website or let the fact she has to remember for the rest of her life that someone had to ask her to wash her hands be her guiding light?
With this child I have been given great responsibility, but they forgot to pack the instructions…