By Stephanie Ila Silver-Silberstein
Entry #3 – The $60 Nap
If you have full-time help or even regular part-time help, this article may not apply to you. You’ve already factored in the cost of childcare into your annual budget; and the lump sum you came up with doesn’t really seem all that frightening when it’s in the context of at least one decent incoming salary. But for the rest of us, the cost of childcare, on both emotional and physical levels, can be hard to get your head around.
I truly love taking care of my kids and I feel very fortunate that I am able to be a stay-at-home mom. But a few times a year (or rather, after any major school vacation), I feel the overwhelming need to get some help. Running after my one-year-old and 3-year-old all day on a daily basis can get pretty crazy, not to mention exhausting. Actually, running after ONE kid at whatever age can get pretty crazy and exhausting. Fortunately, my husband, my parents and my in-laws are of great help in keeping me sane and (relatively) well-rested. But sometimes, even their help doesn’t feel like enough.
After the feelings of guilt and failure associated with this realization subside, if they ever do, I embark on an all-out hunt for babysitters, hoping to find the perfect caregiver for my kids. This person needs to be professional and responsible but not so professional and responsible that they demand 5 hour minimums, a lot more money on the weekend and paid vacations even if they’re working 1 or two days a week. Granted, this list doesn’t seem unreasonable but for someone like me, who literally needs someone for the chaotic and unscheduled 45 minutes before dinner, these demands can be a tad annoying.
In the first few weeks of working with a new babysitter, I inevitably become a human calculator and think about how much more I could buy had I just packed all of my shopping into one day when my parents were watching the kids. Ultimately, all hell breaks loose the moment I realize that my daughter just took a $60 nap just so my 3-year-old didn’t have to be trapped at home for an extra hour waiting for her to wake up. For me, going through the process of hiring a babysitter is like going through the 5 stages of grief:
1. Denial: “I don’t need any help. I’m a stay-at-home mom! It’s literally my job to take care of these kids and I should be able to do this on my own.”
2. Anger: “Obviously, my husband, my parents and my in-laws are not doing enough to help me and it’s their fault I’m about to have a nervous breakdown! Nobody understands how hard it is to take care of 2 toddlers 21 months apart!”
3. Bargaining: “If only I didn’t quit my job. Then it would be a given to have full-time help and I’d have a valid excuse as to why I need to hire a nanny. What if I do charity work or write a novel or do something more productive than shopping (for stuff I don’t need) with the free time I’d get hiring a babysitter? Would it be ok then?”
4. Depression: “I’m the worst mother EVER. I might as well let this random nanny raise my children and send them off to college since clearly I can’t do it myself. I might as well just sit here and clear out my DVR and this entire vat of Cool Whip.”
5. Acceptance: “It truly is the hardest job in the world being a mom. Hiring someone to help is not a luxury but rather a necessity. Whether I get a massage or volunteer in a soup kitchen, carving out time for myself is not only important for my own happiness but for my children’s and husband’s as well. I am not failing as a mom or being selfish by hiring a babysitter, nor am I wasting money on something I could conceivably handle (however difficultly) on my own. And it’s probably temporary – After all, don’t all nannies have to find new jobs once the kids are in school full-time?
There’s a common saying you hear upon becoming a mom: The days are long but the years go by fast. Hiring a babysitter can help reverse that sentiment and reiterate just how wonderful it is to be a parent. And you can’t really put a pricetag on that.
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