For the past few weeks, whenever my husband and I would try to put our littlest pea down for a nap, he would point to his forearms. At first, we thought he was pointing at a mole, but this didn’t entirely make sense because he only has a mole on one arm.
After a few weeks, I pieced together that my nanny must be doing something to his forearms when she puts him to sleep. When I asked her, she told me that she uses her index and middle fingers to “walk” up his arms while singing a song. No wonder! He was probably like “What’s wrong with these people? Don’t they know my routine!?”
When I was a first-time mom returning to work after maternity leave, not knowing these details pained me to the core. I would agonize over what was going on: how is our nanny/my mother/my mother-in-law putting him to sleep? Were they feeding him too little/too much milk? Did they dress him in the correct pajamas? Were they sticking to the nap schedule? Were they careful while taking him on walks? And on and on and on. The mental load was exhausting!
But there were a bunch of little things too: what songs was he learning, what books was he reading, what words was he hearing over and over again? Our first nanny taught my son to refer to his bottle as “teta”. Now “teta” translates into “boob”. Although I speak Spanish, this term is culture-specific and not something we say. So for months we dealt with our son essentially screaming “BOOB!!!” every time he wanted a bottle. Fortunately, most people in the U.S. don’t speak Spanish, so it could have been worse. The point is: when you’re not with your child all day, you give up a certain degree of authority over what happens. This can be challenging for control freaks.
2.5 years in to having other people (family, nannies, “school”) care for our kids during work day hours, here’s with I’ve learned:
- Most of the details don’t matter. As long as your caregivers are adhering to the “big picture” rules, you can let the small things slide. In our case, we want our caregivers to be fully engaged with our kids – loving, patient, and kind. But we don’t need to micro-manage what happens during the day.
- Other people often do things better than you do – be open to suggestions! Having a variety of caregivers in our kids’ lives allows us to learn from people who have more experience than we do. Our kids benefit from different types of learning, play, and knowledge. In my opinion, this adds to their lives (and ours!).
- Having others care for your kids earlier in life may make later transitions easier. I have friends who are heartbroken because their children are starting kindergarten (which I imagine is so tough after 5 years of being their primary caregiver!). This transition may be less stressful for parents who had had their kids in day care, preschool, etc. on a full-time basis because the schedule doesn’t drastically change. Don’t get me wrong – it’s always hard to give up this autonomy, but if you had to do it once when you went back to work, you don’t have to worry as much about doing it later on.