Child Care

All’s well that ends well, eh?

One of the lovelier aspects of this pregnancy has been the fact that we already had a good school with a fantastic infant staff all picked out. Considering the emotional trauma that we went through when trying to find care for Charlotte (okay, I’m being a tad dramatic), which only worked out as a last-minute FLUKE in the final hours of my maternity leave when a mom suddenly decided to stay home and forfeited her baby’s spot, this round has been a breeze. We had no doubts about the school, and we now had that precious daycare commodity in the super competitive DC region: sibling priority.

Now, none of the following saga would’ve been that big of deal if this had been Round 1, involving only Baby Charlotte. But we can no longer devote all our resources to just one kid—we have to split them. So, things got complicated. Let me explain.

We requested a start date of January 1 for Lorelei, knowing it would be unlikely she could start exactly then, as the infant class has only 6 children and open spots are rare, but we hoped for the best. Well, craptastic luck of ours, 2 weeks ago we learned we’d need to choose between December 1 or March-or-April 1.

Big fat problem, that.

Assuming Lorelei is born on time (and not late), December 1 meant placing a 6-week-old in care, which Chris and I ruled out. I’ve done this mommy thing once before, and I know myself. Six weeks would be too early--despite an ill-timed wisecrack on Chris’s part where he joked, “Why not go back to work at 6 weeks and bring in some dough in December?” This resulted with me in tears, and the poor guy INSISTED he had been joking and that he would never, ever suggest I part with my littlest girl so early (unless I wanted to—and I don’t). He then added, “I forgot that I shouldn’t joke during the third trimester.”

Well, duh.

Our dilemma with December 1 was that we’d have to pay a month of infant tuition to simply hold the spot—almost two grand (just for Lorelei!) into a big black hole. We just couldn’t justify it—too freaking expensive. The alternative was terrible too—we looked at it from every angle, trying to figure out how to cobble together 3 months of non-daycare to cover Lorelei during my busy season at work, to get us to springtime for the next available spot. Telecommuting? No, not during the busy season. Lorelei would suck up too much of my time and attention (as it is her right as an infant to do). Different daycare? We LOVE Charlotte’s school. Oh, it’s just money. We can’t switch schools for a mere two grand. That’s crazy. Wait. Two grand is still a lot. Screw it, should I just stay home? Oh. I’d have to pull Charlotte out of school to do that, and it would break her heart.

Really, so much of our angst came down to Charlotte’s sheer happiness at her current school. I just couldn’t bring myself to change her school, or pull her out altogether, and neither could Chris. Yeah, I know, kids are resilient. But I pictured my girl barreling down the school hallway with her ladybug lunchbox, pointing at the animal murals on the wall (“Baby elephant, MOMMY elephant! BIG elephant! Whoa!”), and just being so dang happy, well-adjusted, and thriving, and I couldn’t do it. Literally. I’d pick up the phone, dial a new daycare to get some information, and bail at the final couple digits and hang up.

To be fair, Lorelei also contributed some emotional agony. I so wanted her to have the same teachers Charlotte had. I trusted them, completely.

Finally, we proposed a compromise with the school to change Lorelei’s start date to December 15. This would cut that month’s tuition in half (though we’d still keep her home until January). Still a lot of moolah to throw away on pretty much nothing, but I could live with it.

Our proposed compromise didn’t work, as I feared, and we truly understood the school’s need to keep the infant slots full and cash flow, well, flowing. (All of our back-and-forth with the school was done very cordially.) But oh, I lost a lot of sleep. Chris was almost ready to throw in the towel and just pony up the two grand. I wasn’t there yet. My maternity leave is only partially paid (with sick leave and vacation time), and December will be a paycheck-free month for Mommy, and that’s with Charlotte still attending school. I couldn’t justify that cost to keep a spot so I could return to a job that, let’s be honest, is at a nonprofit. I’d be paying to work at that point, by starting out so far in the hole with that December tuition. I debated. Was this a sign I should I stay home? Well, that seemed short-sighted—I mean, staying home because of December tuition? Could I just do unpaid leave until March or April and be a stay-at-home mommy for a few months longer? No, I couldn’t screw over my department during our busy time, and besides, the FMLA law only protects my job for 12 weeks. ANGST!

Then the owner of the school contacted me. She had taken another look at the baby class. She could probably make February 1 work. Might that be an option?

(Sniffle, sniffle) YES!

I physically felt my stress and worry LIFT from me. Obviously, we jumped on February 1, confident we could put together a patchwork arrangement of care for Lorelei, especially because Chris will have some vacation time (Mommy will be cleared out) and Charlotte will continue to go to school as usual. The next morning, I talked to my boss and explained that I’d need a couple weeks of telecommuting flexibility in January, which she was fine with. After going through the insanely stressful close call of “Baby Charlotte,” as my big girl is still known in my department, my boss was highly aware that a perfect start date for Lorelei was unlikely. February 1? Oh, February we could make work.

Saving an extra month of infant tuition—January—ain’t so bad either.

So. I cannot adequately express our elation. What I wanted most was to keep Charlotte in the school she adores and to give her little sister the same great experience with the same incredible staff that took such good, loving care of my firstborn. In the DC area, finding infant care is damn near impossible. Finding child care you love and having both kids in one place? And having it settled, 8 weeks before maternity leave even starts?

Well, geez. Now I’m sniffling again.


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