What I want from a Non-parental Caregiver

I’m lucky to be starting grad school at the end of this month. I say lucky because I have a small fellowship, because I have an infant, because I have a supportive husband. I’m lucky because my mom is going to take care of my baby; I won’t have to take out loans to pay for childcare.

I wasn’t always comfortable with the idea of my mom being my daycare provider. Sylvie is familiar with my mom and comfortable with her. And I have had plenty of chances to observe the two of them together. Those two things are not something you can sneeze at; everything I have read about vetting facilities says those are things you want.

Not only that, but I was able to broach the idea of making “Nanny Notes” and sharing them with my mom — that way my mom knows exactly how I would like my daughter to be cared for (i.e. I am clear about my expectations) and she knows exactly how to spoil my daughter (i.e. I expect my mom to still be a grandparent and do what she wants occasionally).

Nothing I found on the internet about preparing your child for daycare really approached the subject the way I have in my own preparations, so I thought I would share my list.

What I want from a Non-parental Caregiver:

1. Someone who will love her, bond with her; someone who will build trust with her. I subscribe more or less to the Attachment Parenting philosophy espoused by Dr. Sears, and I believe that attachment is key in Sylvie’s development — particularly the psychosocial development task of infancy: learning to trust. This means that when Sylvie cries, my ideal caregiver will respond, because crying is a way of communicating need. Which brings us to…

2. Someone to fulfill her needs. Her needs, as I see them currently, are: eating, sleeping, clean diapers, play, and love. Since Sylvia is breastfed, this means that I will be providing her grandmother with expressed breast milk. Sylvia is not too keen on her bottle, so we may be switching to more of a sippy cup soon. She will start solids at six months, so those kinds of equipment will be needed as well. Sylvie will need a couple of swaddle blankets and a pacifier for her grandma’s house. I gave my mom a set of cloth diapers already. We’ll need to make sure there are good toys at both home and at grandma’s. And I know my mom loves Sylvia.

3. Someone to keep her safe and secure; provide limits. This means that my mom and I will work together to make sure that my mom’s house is appropriately child-proofed, but it also means that we will have to work jointly on discipline issues. Right now, discipline isn’t too much of an issue — after all, she is only an infant. But by the time I graduate, which is when I foresee this arrangement ending, Sylvie will be old enough to be willfully disobeying.  We don’t want to give her mixed messages about what is and is not appropriate, which will require communication. Also, I want Sylvie to be disciplined with positive methods, which will also require communication, so that my mom knows what I mean when I say this.

4. Someone to play with her, and to be her partner in learning. I believe that play is the key to learning, and so I think it’s very important that Sylvia plays. Of course, she can and does play on her own, but play with an adult is important too, because it provides Sylvie and opportunity to stretch her skills with a technique called scaffolding. The play should be directed by Sylvie, if at all possible, to give her a sense of efficacy. Reading is play too!

5. Someone who respects our boundaries as her parents. I am the momma, and with my husband we are ultimately responsible for Sylvia’s care and upbringing. How we want things done matters. However, this means we are also responsible for communicating those boundaries. A major way we’re going to do this is through “memo” type of correspondence; I like to have things in writing.

The thing about this list is that it’s basically what I expect from myself as a parent. I think that’s as it should be — the care for my daughter by non-parental caregivers should be as close to what her parents provide as possible.

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Self-Depricating Pregnancy Announcements

I’ve been thinking about pregnancy announcements for a long time, long before I ever got pregnant.  As some of my peers have “moved to Bolivia,” pregnancy announcements appeared on Facebook — and congratulations followed… as well as many baby-related updates and pictures.

It’s very similar with blogs written by women — blogs that are about work/life balance, or growing up emotionally, or searching for your place in the world… once these women become pregnant, become mothers, all of them seem to become mommy blogs. There’s nothing wrong with mommy blogs. Some of them are quite funny, poignant, and awesome.

But it seems to me that this kind of baby-centric naval-gazing that mothers often indulge in is part of the New Momism — the idea that the only way for women to be “real” women is for them to have children, and for them to put those children first, first, first.

My goal with my imagined pregnancy announcements has always been to convey the important news (that I’m expecting a baby!), but reassure that I realized that while my responsibilities and identities may be shifting, I still wanted to be part of a larger society, that my life hasn’t changed all that much since that first positive pregnancy test, that I’m still struggling to find my place in this world and relate to people, and generally build a remarkable life.

Four pregnancy announcements that I think would potentially convey this message:

1.

Dear friends:

I hereby pledge to try to reign in any smugness that may occur due to my current gestation. There will be a certain amount a naval-gazing (literal and figurative) as this time progresses, but I’m still very interested in you as people. I hope you will remain interested in my non-pregancy related pursuits, which include being more than a incubator.

Love, Kate

2.  My husband works at a company that produces software for the manufacturing industry. I wanted him to send the following announcement to his coworkers:

We're in production!

Subtitle/Customized Alt-text: We’re in production!

I particularly like this one, because it emphasizes the “normal” nature of having a kid, and identifies what’s going on in a clever way.

3. Another XKCD comic, this one perhaps better for a second pregnancy, but if you clip it to just the first frame, it’d be perfect for a first pregnancy:

Text: Please excuse the panic while we attempt to become parents. ❤

So, really

In all reality, I’ll give you details. I’m just shy of 3 months pregnant. I’m due the second half of April/beginning of May (I believe in giving mothers a wide range of time to get on that birth bandwagon).  I know it’s a huge, life-altering event, but I don’t want to make a big deal out of it — it’s part of normal life.  I’m still working, I’m still planning to work. I’m still writing a novel this November, I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing after AmeriCorps. I’m still trying to find a community and be a better partner to my husband.

It just so happens that every once in a while, I hate to admit, I rediscover that pure stomach bile is yellow. (As one of my pregnant friends put it: I have never been in so many funny-in-retrospect situations involving body fluids.)

Love you all. Welcome to the in-the-know fold. ❤