“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.” – Albert Einstein

I write a lot here about the silver linings of Katrina.  It is necessary to my outlook on life to find them; it is only the firm belief that when God closes one door that he opens another that can overcome the massive feeling of disorientation that the storm blew through my life. 

Had we stayed in New Orleans, Harry would have had a nanny at 2 months old.  I was due to return to work the day after the storm hit.  We had a dear friend, Elaine, who was willing to come to our house for price I could afford.  As her child, Rachel, is the nearest thing to a perfect teenager that you are likely to find, I believed in her ability to raise a pretty good kid.  The happy coincidence of somebody you trust absolutely, at a cost that will not financially ruin you, simply cannot be had more than once in a lifetime.  Unfortunately, when returning to New Orleans became an impossibility, that opportunity vanished.  Elaine’s home sustained comparatively little damage, and her husband’s job not only remained, but flourished.  Arkansas was a little too far for her daily commute.

If I ignore the fact that I was raising an infant in a series of spare bedrooms and motels, Katrina did bless me with far more maternity leave than I ever intended.  It was October before the USDA was able to get its employees reassigned and I had to report to my new duty station in Arkansas.  Even after I officially went back onto duty, I had a research program in ruins, a facility unprepared to process us and assign us email and access privileges, and a tiny furnished apartment only ten minutes away.  My time was even more flexible than my days as a researcher.  I came home at lunch every day to feed Harry and cuddle him.  Since Kris’s job at Tulane was still on hold, he was able to extend his family leave and be a stay-at-home-dad, a role that became semi-permanent when I decided to accept an unexpected offer to change careers and stay in Arkansas.  Though it wiped us out in the material possession department, Katrina presented us with the gift of time with our son.  For this, we are grateful.  We have a happy, well-adjusted little man who has had a suprising level of stability despite the turmoil he has been through in his short little life.

But no good thing lasts forever.  After the bills were settled from Katrina, the new job pays well enough to keep the basics of life intact, and Harry in his home, spending quality time with his Dad.  But one income, even in Arkansas, leaves little room in the budget for extras, or to save for the future.  So, the time has come for Kris to go back to work.  Since Harry has been at home all this time, this has caused me a certain degree of anxiety.   I mean, it was one thing to leave him in his own home with somebody who knows and loves him. But now?  He is going to be spending the majority of his waking hours with strangers.  It’s enough to make me hyperventilate thinking about.  I have eliminated the possiblity of another in-my-home-caregiver.  I just don’t know anyone I trust enough to have the free unsupervised run of my house and, frankly, I can’t afford it.  I have also eliminated the idea of placing Harry in a home-based daycare.  The lack of oversight involved in a single caregiver gives me nightmares.  This means group daycare.  While I am paying for it by a loss of individual attention, there is a certain comfort in having more than one responsible adult present.  It just seems more, well, accountable.

Our interview with our first daycare was not a reassuring experience.  The facility was a bit worn.  It was not dirty, but it wasn’t the sterile hospital clean I was expecting.  Then again, the place is filled with toddlers and pre-schoolers, what WAS I thinking?  And the caregivers were so, well, young.  The director couldn’t have been out of her twenties.  I will admit, this last bit is likely the biases of an “older” mom showing their gray roots.  They were very nice, and the child:caregiver ratio was sufficiently low.  Harry would be one of only five 12-to-24 month olds in his room.  They had a daily curriculum with scheduled activities, and tracked his meals and diaper changes.  They are less than five minutes from my work – close enough for me to drop in and have lunch with Harry.  Harry scrambled down out of my arms and immediately flew to the toys, unconcerned.  I think we could have left him right there and he would have been happy as a clam.

But, it just didn’t instill that flood of confidence that I was expecting.  I didn’t ask half the questions I wanted to – they seemed so accusatory.  Did the toys get sanitized regularly?  Could I send his food with him? (He eats all-organic at home.)  What were their punishment policies?  It was all just so overwhelming.

I am going to call a few more facilities and arrange a few more visits this week.  I am going to take a checklist so that I can go down the list and it will feel less intimidating to ask the questions.  I am not looking forward to it.  I miss him enough when he is home safe with Daddy.  I don’t know if I am ready to turn him loose on the big, big world.

August 28th, 2006 at 2:22 pm
3 Responses to “Giving him up to raise”
  1. 1
    Gwyneth Says:

    Bri –

    Don’t know if it will work with your schedule, but Trinity Methodist Preschool is really the best place in town, IMO. Corner of Mississippi and Evergreen. Check them out. CDC downtown is also pretty good – it looks like a kid farm, but both our kids had a REALLY great experience there.

    There also used to be an online searchable childcare database that was maintained by the State – don’t know where it is these days, but I’ll see if I can’t dredge up a link for you. That might give you some more ideas/options to try.


  2. 2
    Robbin Says:

    The big problem is getting him there and picking him up. Since I work in NLR and live in Cabot, anything that requires a lot of backtracking starts getting unworkable. We are on a waiting list at Cabot Methodist, a church we are looking at joining. If we join the congregation, he will move up the list. Until then, La Petite won’t be bad as a stopgap, since it is only 2 minutes from my office.

  3. 3
    Heidi Says:

    I used to work for a La Petite in Arizona. I was a single mom with a daughter to raise and it happened to be right out my back door. I found it to be way less than sufficient, even though I worked there. I found the director to be dishonest and she was backed up by a whole bank of high-powered lawyers. I found that the children had no meaningful discipline to speak of. I was written up for telling a mom that her darling had been knocking younger children off their chairs. They regularly chivvied children from one teacher to another to meet cursory investigations by State regulators. I made the decision when I got married again to stay home with my children and do freelance work. For me that works. For a researcher that would be difficult. I’m glad not to be in your shoes…;o) It means that I get to play much less than I’d like to, but to me, life with my children is too short to entrust them to people who neither love them nor care deeply about their welfare. They drive me insane but I know that I’ll be able to look them in the eye tomorrow (when they’re suddenly leaving for college or otherwise out into the world) and know that I was There.