The question I am pondering today is this: Should I take my two youngest daughters out of daycare, where they spend three days a week, and care for them myself instead? We originally placed them in daycare -- a wonderful, home-based operation, run by a Peruvian family we have come to love -- so that I could work on those days. I work for myself, so while the girls are at Nora's house, I and my computer are supposed to be earning money through the various freelance jobs I have and through the work I do to help run the family business. In theory, it all works. In practice, it's quite a different story. I still end up finishing projects at 3AM, working after the kids have gone to bed, working with a baby on one knee. On my "workdays," the first order of business is to plop down in a semi-conscious state on the couch and recover from the monumental daily task of getting five children out the door with lunches they will eat, appropriate attire, a minimum of ear wax build-up, clipped fingernails, sweaters when it's cold, sunscreen when it's hot, clean socks (well OK, matching socks), loveys, school projects, homework, permission slips, money because it's Nacho Day, diapers, wipes, and happy dispositions.
The recovery process is not a small one.
Once recovered, or some facsimile thereof, there are also the many, many distractions: the dirty dishes, the piles of laundry, the bills to pay, the calls to make, the groceries to buy, the shower I get to take every few days. As a result, I'm not as productive as I should be. Or rather, I'm not getting the work done between 9 and 2. Having the girls in daycare was predicated on me getting the work done while they are away, and if that ain't happenin' well, then, I find myself questioning the logic of having them there. As it is now, I often feel like I am "stashing" them somewhere for no good reason.
Oh, and then there's the fact that Elizabeth has developed, over the past few months, a stronger and stronger resistance to being dropped off. The refrain begins at least 30 minutes before we arrive at Nora's door: "I don't want to go to Nati's house." (Nora and Nati are the mother/daughter team.) This plaintive cry is repeated frequently, and uttered in a pathetic little sad voice that would melt the heart of many a work-conflicted mom. I was pretty good at ignoring her for awhile. Then, I was pretty good at being super upbeat and POSITIVE with her, to help her see what a FANTASTIC time she was going to have. Then, one night recently, we were awakened to the sound of Elizabeth crying in her sleep. She was having a nightmare of some kind, and she was actually saying in her sleep: "I DON'T WANT TO GO TO NATI'S HOUSE!" Imagine how nice THAT felt, knowing that my dropping her off was causing some disturbance so deep in her unconscious that it needed to find an outlet in her dreams. Whoa.
I also notice on the days that she does not go to Nora's, that she is soaking up the extra Mommy time; now that Lola is in Kindergarten, she is the only conversationalist around. No one to compete with. Sole custody of mommy's ears. She loves it -- who wouldn't?
So, I am trying to weigh the fact that having them at daycare isn't making me anymore productive than I was before they were in daycare, it's costing a bit of money that one would hope would be truly worth it, my daughter is BEGGING to stay with me, getting them out the door in addition to the school-agers causes me a great deal of "sturm und drang", and it really is true: they are only little once, and I know for a fact and from experience that the day she starts Kindergarten I am going to GASP in disbelief that her first five years have whipped by me like a comet. And a few years later, I'll feel the same with Tallulah.
The State of California has a campaign to promote preschool for the state's Pre-K set; the idea is that the earlier a child starts his or her "education," the more likely they are to have a successful start to regular school, which sets them up for overall school success, which apparently sets them up to go to Harvard and find a cure for cancer. The tag line of this campaign is: "YOUR CHOICES SHAPE THEIR CHANCES." I hate this slogan. Like that's all I need right now: a potent mix of pressure, fear, guilt, and responsibility. Thanks, Gov! Don't we as parents have all of these forces already built in? Actually, I think pre-natal vitamins have a special "mommy booster" that prepares the body to regenerate guilt and fear faster than it makes fetal cells. Unfortunately, it's also an effective slogan, and it flashes across my brain whenever I ponder decisions that have an impact on the lives and happiness of my kids. Is putting them in daycare essentially separating them from their mother, thereby giving their future a shape that includes separation anxiety? Is keeping them home with an often less-than-patient mother who is constantly thinking about the work she's not getting done shaping them up for feeling like an inconvenience for the rest of their lives?
Whoo-boy. It's quite a bit to ponder, on a day that is already plenty full. I'm leaning towards bringing them home. So if I do, in about two months, my new question to ponder will be: "Should I put the girls back in daycare?????"