I have a confession to make: my wife is a stay-at-home mom.
She has been home with our son since the day he was born. It was a choice we made together, for a few reasons, not least of which were the facts that a) in our neck of the woods, the cost of daycare pretty much negates that second paycheck and b) we don’t trust other people. From the start we’d made the decision to forego a nanny, which are popular extravagance here in Park Slope, as we weren’t ready to hand over daily care of our son to a stranger. So we figured we’d go the first year or two on just my income, especially since it was important to us that we were home with the kid ourselves.
At this point my wife has been at home with her son every day for almost a year and a half. And we’re happy with that decision.
As I said, my wife has been at home caring for our kid (by herself), every day for close to a year and a half (by herself), and it’s time for a change (together!). To be clear: my wife certainly wouldn’t trade the one-on-one time she’s had with her baby boy; she knows how lucky she’s been to have witnessed every precious step of his development. But being alone together all that time is a bit of a double-edged sword. Shit can wear on you (and believe me, I know how rich that is coming from a guy who gets home from work an hour before the kid goes to sleep and reaches the end of his rope at about junior’s second screaming fit).
For example, my son is 100% dependent on my wife, to the point that the clinginess that is natural at this age (according to the oh-so-reassuring guides) is starting to raise some eyebrows. On top of that, my wife has actually started dressing like a baby. It’s a real turn on, obviously, but it can be an issue when she goes to the grocery store.
Childcare is a full-time job, and as such, my wife has little time for much else. Before she became a mother she was devoted to her career and she definitely misses that aspect of her life (but let’s not go crazy – she mostly misses the money and having some time to read on the subway). She could use some more adult interaction before she ends up putting Ice Station Zebra on repeat and asking me to show her all the blueprints.
She also misses having time to herself, even if only to read or surf the net or watch the Kardashians. But as we’ve never dropped our son at daycare and, aside from weekends or my occasional day off, no one else comes by to watch him so that she can relax or take a breather, so it’s rare that she has any time off. Of course, when she does it’s often spent napping, purely out of necessity.
The flipside to that coin is my son’s experience. We haven’t gotten a full report from his therapist just yet, but we’re beginning to suspect that he needs more interaction with children his age. He’s not a hermit; he’s actually very good with strangers, he has friends and he hits the playground pretty frequently (to use the swings, not buy drugs. As far as we know – he can be pretty tightlipped about his visits). My wife and I don’t sequester him by any means, but without daycare we worry that he is missing out on a vital part of his development by not getting as much independent interaction with his peers.
This is not to say that he’s behind; far from it! But it can’t hurt for him to have some more time apart from his mom (she’s never spent more than 48 hours away from him, and even that may be a stretch), and to have more time interacting with other children, if only so he can learn their weaknesses.
So we’ve decided to take the plunge into daycare. We scouted locations (luckily, this being Park Slope, they were all nearby), did some research (luckily, this being Park Slope, there was no shortage of vocal parents willing to share their opinions) and eventually found the one we liked the most. Starting this afternoon (gulp), we are submersing him into a flexible, part-time schedule at a local daycare joint.
We’re expecting some screaming the first few days (hence the daycare’s phase-in program whereby my wife sticks around the first day or two to ease the tension, baby), and the two of us have ALREADY contracted colds from the other children (pretty sure now that we’re braving daycare we’ll both have the sniffles for the rest of our lives). But we expect it to pay dividends down the line, both for my wife and my son.
It had better, because if it backfires? We may be forced to homeschool. And I’m pretty sure that’s how kids grow up to be Juggalos.