Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The other mommy

Annabel's other family
Originally uploaded by toyfoto.
After reading numerous Web logs questioning the state of feminism in the 21st century, most recently a brilliant post by Mom-101: The F Word, I have decided to weigh in on the discussion from a slightly different perspective.

There is something that doesn't happen enough, in my humble opinion, in the world and on mommy blogs -- mine especially: The extolling of virtues of those behind the scenes -- namely daycare providers -- who are helping us raise our children and ensuring that feminism flourishes.

I'd like to introduce you to Lori, our baby's stay-at-home-mom. Annabel calls her "Yaya," while I often refer to her as "the babysitter" in this blog. I always wince before writing "the babysitter," because it's not a word that aptly describes what she does for our family, and most especially for what she does for Annabel. She is the reason I am able to work, retain health insurance and keep my sanity. She is a friend, a mother and I just can't imagine her NOT being in our lives.

This is our story:

When I was five months pregnant this woman -- the wife of my husband's friend and someone I only knew in passing -- told me she was unhappy in her job. She knew I was planning on returning to work, and she had been praying for God to guide her. She was leaning toward the idea that her path was leading to me. She was thinking she would want to take care of our child when I eventually went back to work.

I was silent. I knew her family enough to know that in addition to raising two beautiful girls, she had also suffered the death of a child and a late-term miscarriage. I knew her as an intelligent, eneregetic, ethusiastic and empathetic mom who loved Disney World and Christmas stories and public television. I knew, without question, that having this woman provide daycare for my baby would be the best of all possible scenarios. Even, I am ashamed to admit, if one of those scenarios included me being the at-home mommy.

But I couldn't ask her to give up a CAREER to watch MY baby. That was something, I told myself, she would have to decide.

For the next four months, neither of us mentioned the conversation.
Once the baby came, she visited bestowing gifts. She looked sad and didn't seem interested in getting too close. So, I began calling around for placements. There were none to be had. I began to realize that even if I could find a facility willing to take on my child I wouldn't get a choice. I couldn't leave my daughter with a stranger much less the only place willing to take her at that.

I called Lori seeking the name of a woman her husband had previously recommended; a woman whom he and Lori had used when their own children were small. She was silent. A long pause, and then quietly she asked me if I had given any thought to what we had talked about way back when.

I nearly cried.

Turns out neither of us had thought of much else since that conversation, but each had so much hope invested in the prospect that we couldn't even let words escape us. Even I - the heathen - have to admit that devine intervention cannot be ruled out.

Of course there have been struggles. There are religious and political differences as well as occasional communications break downs, but nothing that I would call outside of the normal 'family' growing pains.

I can even say with complete honesty that I haven't once been jealous of Annabel's love for Lori. I am grateful for it. She is another strong, independent woman for Annabel to admire and an inspiration for her mother to model.

When we first started this endeavor I told Lori I thought about this arrangement as "women helping women." Now I'm telling you fine folks, I couldn't have been more right. Two years and one month later, I just want to say thank you to Lori for being in our lives.

Note: How cool is this? A Perfect Post Mom-101 nominated this as one of her picks for best post of April. Thank you, but I'm a little verklempt. Please, talk amongst yourselves.


the mama said...

well said. you're very lucky (dare i say blessed) to have lori in your lives.

we ended up hoping that someone would "take" mia. we couldn't choose. luckily she ended up in the hands of women who really love her.

and now as we're getting ready to place mia into another daycare center (for various reasons that have nothing to do with her teachers) it breaks my heart to think that she'll never see these secondary mamas and grandmas she's had for the past 19 months again

Be Still said...

What a beautiful story Siobhan.

I love your wonderful perspective on the contribution caregivers make in our world.

Mom101 said...

This is just beautiful. And I agree with you so much about the role most care providers play in the life of a family. The ones I know really are another family member, especially to the children. And while some call it "someone else raising your kids," I call it "yet one more person to love them."

I'm glad you enjoyed my post and honored that you mention it here. I feel like there's never enough time or words or space to say all there is on the subject, so I thank you for lending your own wonderful pov to the discussion.

Mega Mom said...

Congratulations on your perfect post. I have been lax in blogging lately and only visit a few, but I always enjoy your comments over at Mom 101. Guess I'll have to start reading here...

One of my favorite subjects is people embracing one another's differences. I think it is wonderful how you, her, and your family have embraced one another!

Her Bad Mother said...

This is a wonderful post. So, so important to say what you said here: that those who care for our children are, in the most important respects, family. And, blessings. And should be understood that way.

Stephanie A. said...

I love this post. My son is in a wonderful daycare and knowing that he is happy there is priceless.

And I love how you tie in feminism. I'm all for women supporting women and this post captures that!

So-Called Supermom said...

Seriously, I got teary-eyed reading your post. My daughter is in a fantastic day care situation as well. Every day, Afghani (my day care provider---I hate that word too!) tells me how lucky she is to take care of my daughter and how much she loves her. Its so nice to know that my baby is happy, safe, and loved while I sit for 8 hours at my desk! :)

Binky said...

This is a great take on the issues of feminism and motherhood that helps keep the ongoing debates/discussions fresh and interesting. As the other half of Mom-101's nomination, I just thought I'd say: aren't we lucky?!?

something blue said...

This is a touching story. I'm so glad that it worked out for you, Lori and Annabel.

I am lucky to have an inspiring daycare that my girls get to enjoy. I trust the care providers and have great respect for them. My daughter’s lives will become that much more enriched because these women offer more experiences than just the ones that I have to share.

Congrats on your well deserved Perfect Post!

Gurukarm Kaur said...

Late comment attack here... It's really a wonderful thing to be able to put your child's care into the hands of a loving woman who becomes the world's best "auntie", or second mom, or whatever you call her. I had that blessing as well, and my children both thrived mightily in her care. Yay second moms!!

Suburban Turmoil said...

This is wonderful, and the best of all possible situations. I wish that every working mother had a Lori.

Congrats on your Perfect Post Award. You deserved it!

MommaK said...

What is that saying? When God closes a door- he opens a window? It looks like that happened for you both - mostly for Lori but you get to relish in the treasure that is family. Family - homespun and homemade and all yours in your very own way.

Congrats on your award today and for finding a beautiful path in life that is richer for all involved.

JGS said...

This was an absolutely beautiful piece. It brought tears to my eyes. Our kids (twins) are 3.5 years old and my wife is beginning to consider working again after having been home with them since they were born. Now we are faced with the dilemma of figuring out a sane solution. I have such a hard time with how our society makes it so difficult to care for our own children that we need to work so someone else can care for our children. You are lucky you found someone special and it gives me hope we might be able to do the same.

Michele said...

Found this late but loved this post. My kids have been blessed with a wonderful daycare situation too and I never taje it for granted. By the way - next week is Day Care Provider Appreciation Week.

Krisco said...

I found this a little late, too, but really appreciate it.

I recently returned to work after 4 years at home. My little one is only 21 months, and having a hard time adjusting. She really likes "Yaya" - what she calls her, too, how interesting - but gets all sad when I mention "work.'

I trust our Yaya and know she really cares for my little one; I can see that. But it's good to hear the positive side, for once...

Tim Hedrow said...

yada yada yada. Beautiful story- but it will end bad. Trust me. I know. Anyone willing to take care of children is untrustworthy by definition. Maybe it will end with her sleeping with your husband. Just trust me. For a long time I thought I had it good and considered my nanny my best friend. Then my boyfriend told me to put spyware on her computer and holy hell- She was sending emails to my sister about my "neglectful" parenting. She was tattling on me for calling my five year old a "fat ass". A home is a very private thing and one thing I demand from my servants is absolute respect. And no questions asked and no judgement. Good luck to you. My advice is just to hire a new nanny every year or so. My kids were way too attatched to my nanny. She had been with us 8 years when I fired her and the girls cried for months. Months. Do you know how insulting that was to me? Their mother?

supa said...

Just saw this today. It's beautiful. I'm so glad you found someone you're so happy with.

Anonymous said...

You were so very fortunate to have this woman in your life. After five years of infertility, my husband and I decided to put the baby issue on hold while he went to law school. Wouldn't you know, the week he was accepted to his first choice school, I discovered I was pregnant.
The choices were difficult. We needed my salary if my husband was going to go to school full-time. At 30 he didn't want to postpone his new career any longer than necessary. I agreed with him, in principle, but those were very stressful times. My work was demanding and we had no one to care for the baby while I was at work. The people who advertised themselves as childcare providers in the local paper only wanted to work out of their own homes and we wanted the baby to stay in his house. A nanny was much too expensive.
We struggled through somehow, but there were some hair-raising moments. It was a little better when our son was old enough for preschool, but we still needed childcare sometimes.
We probably employed 15 babysitters before he was old enough to stay home alone. Of those, four were excellent, six were so-so and five were awful. My son is a freshman in college now and I still feel anxiety thinking about those days when the sitter didn't show up and didn't call or quit without warning.
America is far behind many European countries in providing good, inexpensive childcare options. It makes me sad that so many mothers have to live with the uncertainty that their children are being adequately cared for while they are at work.