Childcare

Figuring out who's caring for your kids, and what you want out of that person is a constantly evolving situation for a working mom.

I was around five months pregnant with my first daughter when it hit me like a ton of bricks: all this time, if I wanted to continue to have a career, I would need to figure out childcare. And, figuring out childcare would mean that I wouldn’t be the one home with my baby, with her each day the way my mom had been for me.

I didn’t know what life looked like for a working mom, because I wasn’t raised in a household where both parents had worked. Navigating the emotions and the challenges of working parenthood was a new road to tread for me, and I was overwhelmed.

At the time, I was earning a very modest salary. Could I even afford childcare? Could I afford good childcare? Would I be working to simply pay someone else to care for my baby? How had I been so narrow-sighted to invest in my career for so long, when I also wanted a family?

I’m seven years past that point in my life, with three children now, and I’ve been a working mother the entire time. Our childcare strategies have evolved alongside my perspective on working motherhood. 

Throughout those years, we’ve had to be creative and strategic in how we ensured that our kids are always in great care. Our region has a deficit of affordable, quality childcare for children of all ages, particularly if you have an infant or toddler. In response, my husband and I advocated for flexibility and remote work with our employers. 

For years, my husband had one weekday off and I worked from home two days per week and we were able to balance childcare alongside our careers without having to go outside of our families. We’ve also been tremendously lucky to have our parents nearby, as well as available and willing to regularly care for our children. That time together for our parents and our children is sacred, and the bonds they’ve been able to form over that time run deep.

However, in the past year and a half, as my career evolved and our family grew and aged, our childcare needs have changed and we’ve needed to venture beyond what our immediate families could handle. 

That shift has resulted in relying on friends and acquaintances as well as day care centers and professional childcare providers to help manage the childcare needs we have. 

In many ways, that shift has resulted in a fresh evaluation of how childcare mixes with our career aspirations, much like it did when I first became a mother. It’s forced me to ask difficult questions not only of myself, but of the people who are caring for my children. 

I’ve had to be honest with myself and others about what our family really needs, and at times that’s resulted in admitting my own shortcomings. 

For example, I have come to the realization that in this season, we need childcare to happen in our own home more frequently than it happens outside the home, not only to create a consistent environment for our children, but also to help keep up with minor household chores like picking up the toys and doing the dishes. We’ve realized that a canceled babysitter causes a spiral of stress and anxiety to our household, so reliability is paramount to our equilibrium. 

I’m also learning that it’s not enough to simply be a safe adult present, caring for my children. It matters a great deal how that time’s being spent.

I want my children to spend their days in the presence of someone who invests and engages with them, who shows them love. Someone who helps them to learn, someone who invites them to be creative and have fun. Someone who genuinely enjoys their time with my precious children. 

As a working mom, when I know that our children are growing from the time they spend in someone else’s care, I can feel great about my calling to the workplace and the balance of our life.

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Colleen Cook works full-time as the Director of Operations at Vinyl Marketing in Ashland, where she resides with her husband Mike and three young daughters. She's an insatiable extrovert who enjoys finding reasons to gather people.