Cry-free childcare?

A grandmother and her daughter share stories about their experiences with childcare.

Mary and Laura

MAMA: Before my son, Kellan, arrived, the childcare decision was all about logistics: How close was the daycare? What were the hours? How much did it cost?

That is, until the first day I dropped him off at the daycare center we had chosen. I stayed for about 30 minutes, watching in disbelief as the reality of the 5:1 ratio at daycare began to sink in. The daycare employees did their best to manage the needs of all of the babies, but in a room with two employees and 10 babies, there seemed to always be at least two or three little ones crying.

As I sat on the colorful carpet holding Kellan close, not wanting to release him into the scary reality of that space, I realized that our original childcare-vetting process was far too analytical and didn’t take into account the emotional side: How we would feel about the type of care he was getting for 8 to 10 hours each day?

I already felt guilty enough raising him with two parents who work full time (and then some), but the thought of him being shuffled around with only his very basic needs met was heartbreaking.

That night I hopped on and posted a job for a nanny-share position. I also added a post to my neighborhood, seeking local families looking for a nanny share.

Over the next few days we reviewed more than 30 nanny applications, interviewed six nannies and met with three possible nanny-share families.

Four days later, we had a family and a nanny picked out and there was no more crying over daycare.

Today, at almost 2 years old, Kellan now attends daycare at our local YMCA childcare center. The nanny-share was a great fit in the early days, and now that he’s older, we love the flexibility, socialization and educational focus at the Y.

Through all this, I’ve learned that every childcare option comes with a set of pros and cons; the trick is to find the best balance for your family.

If I had to do it all over again, I would recommend these strategies:

  • Revisit your childcare decision after the baby is born and check to be sure it still feels like the right fit;
  • Consider visiting the daycare center or having the nanny watch the child prior to the first day (ideally around 8 weeks of age);
  • Leverage your resources, including the Internet and recommendations from friends and family;
  • Trust your gut: Even if your pros/cons list is telling you one thing, if it doesn’t feel right, explore other options.

NANA: Nearly three decades after the fact, I can still remember the angst of dropping off my 3-month-old baby at the home daycare we had carefully selected.

As I got back into the car, I started crying and thought, “There has got to be another way.”

Yes, we needed both incomes, and yes, I wanted a career, but I also wanted to be there to raise my baby.

When I returned home from work that night, I had only about a half hour with Baby Laura before she fell asleep right after dinner.

I proclaimed to my husband, “This is not going to work” and immediately created “Plan B.”

Since I was a supervisor of a 24-hour employee-assistance program, I told my manager the next day I wanted to move from full-time days to part-time evenings.

This plan would allow me to be home with the baby during the day, and my husband could care for her at night while I was at work.

Unfortunately my manager said “no” to the part-time component, and when I asked why not, he lamely answered, “Supervisors don’t get to work part time, only counselors do.”

Immediately I ran to the bathroom and sobbed. I was sad, frustrated and angry.

That night I discussed the roadblock with my husband and the next day made another trip to my manager’s office to propose “Plan C.”

I said, “Demote me to a counselor, and put me on evenings four nights a week.”

He grudgingly obliged, and my husband and I successfully worked this tag-team parenting schedule for approximately 10 years. Oh, and within a short time my manager “re-promoted” me back to supervisor.

The two drawbacks to this arrangement were that my husband and I had only one night a week together, and I didn’t get much sleep.

But once all three kids were school age, I quit the corporate life (which I was tired of anyway) and started my own company, which I ran from home. That worked well, but since the pay wasn’t steady, once Laura started college, and our sons were in high school, I returned to a “normal” full-time job with a predictable paycheck.

Nana’s takeaway: Trust there are many ways to balance work and childcare. Be creative, persistent and assertive, and you will find solutions to stop the crying (primarily yours).

Mary Rose Remington, a baby boomer and new grandmother in Minneapolis, and her daughter, Laura Groenjes Mitchell, a millennial first-time mom in Denver, are documenting their generational differences with this occasional series in Minnesota Parent and its sister publication, Minnesota Good Age.