Thursday, October 25, 2012

Babysitting Will Be Provided

This past weekend a small miracle occurred: The entire family made it out of the house early enough on Sunday morning for the Senior Agents to attend Sunday school and all of us to attend the church service that followed. We even arrived in time to be social with pastries and coffee, because, well, that's what good Lutherans do.

Anyway, "church school" (as Agent E calls it) lasts about an hour, but is only for pre-K and up. So, that posed the dilemma: What to do with Agent A for that hour?

All dressed up and ready to go
A woman we were introduced to about five minutes prior offered to take Agent A to the nursery for us if we wanted to attend the adult Bible study class going on at the same time. We declined. Instead, all four of us (me, Hubby, Agent A, and Seemingly Nice Church Woman We Just Met) hung out in the nursery together for the hour. 

We chatted about life in Florida, our travels, the Agents, her (now grown) kids, the church. I only had to bite my tongue once, when she asked if A was getting a case of the "terrible twos" as he approached his birthday. (I just said "no" and changed the subject.) All the while Agent A perused the toys and books and entertained us with his toddler charm.

It would never have crossed my mind to actually leave him alone with this total stranger just so I could attend a class for an hour.

The truth is, I don't feel comfortable leaving the Agents (especially Agent A) in childcare situations like this. Yet I encounter groups and meetings all the time where "babysitting available" is a huge draw. I've passed on military spouses groups, MOPS, women's Bible studies, and other similar venues that offer such free childcare because I just can't get on board with leaving my children in a room with a random person to have an hour to participate in some activity. I especially feel this way while they are infants/toddlers, but I'm iffy on the Senior Agents, too.

I remember when we first moved to Italy and I begrudgingly agreed to put Agent E (almost 4) and Agent J (almost 2) into (free) temporary care at the Child Development Center on base so Hubby and I could attend a few days of area orientation. (Terms like "required" and "mandatory" were thrown around, and I totally fell for it.) They both hated it, I felt very uneasy with the whole set-up, and it was pretty much an all-around disaster. Months later, Agent E would point out "that building" when we would drive or walk past it. 

Now, you may be thinking what's the big deal? It's only a few hours and you'll all survive. But the truth is, it is a big deal, because it illustrates how we handle both long and short separations in the context of a securely attached relationship. It is important because it shows how we view trust in our everyday lives. It matters because my children know I would not force them into an uncomfortable situation just to have time to myself. I would not expect them to just "get used to it." I consider all our needs.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those women who claim they never need a break from their children. (Newsflash: They are lying.) I sometimes count down the hours until the end of the day  anticipate bedtime or the early morning hours as my chance to relax and recharge. Every once in a while I escape to Starbucks or Panera without them for a few hours, but only if Hubby is with them. (Notice I didn't say Hubby is "watching them" or worse—cringe—"babysitting them." Don't get me started.) I simply don't feel the need to regularly leave my children with other people for the sake of getting out. 

And then again . . . clearly I do feel okay with some temporary childcare situations.

On this same Sunday morning I wrote about in the intro to this post, I dropped off the Senior Agents in a classroom with two unknown teachers (one I met about 90 seconds before and one I never saw until after the fact) and walked away. Does it not bother me as much because they are older? 

We go to the YMCA a few times a week, and all three Agents go into the childcare room while I exercise. However, we've been going for months and so it is very familiar to all of them (including A) now. I knew this would be a long-term situation and they would get to know the caregivers over time. When we first joined, I would only leave for 20 minutes or so to help them (Agent A mostly) adjust as necessary. Now they "direct" me to stay at least an hour and complain if I come back "too soon" because they are having so much fun. 

Agent A and Ferb on a recent visit
We are also going on a cruise later this year, and yes, we will utilize the kids' areas, even for Agent A (although he will not spend nearly as much time there as I imagine his sisters will). This one pretty much violates all my "rules" . . . short-term, sitters we don't know personally, Agent A participating. Yet, I feel pretty comfortable with that because (a) it's Disney, and our experience with Disney is very positive, always top-notch and going above and beyond expectations; and (b) as a homeschooler I'm seeing all the educational opportunities, and considering it more of a "camp" type experience for the Agents.

So, the more I think about it, I'm not really sure how my Momma Radar decides these things. Maybe I just need more time to ease into childcare situations than these one-time "babysitting available" situations can provide? Maybe it's really just the infant/toddler stage that concerns me? Maybe I just feel wishy-washy about these gatherings in general and this provides a good "out"?

Of course there will always be someone who points out that if only I weren't a stay-at-home mom I'd feel differently. Or that I'm too attached to my children and should put my own needs first. 

Whether you are a stay-at-home parent or working outside the home, how do you feel about temporary, short-term childcare arrangements such as these?

10 comments :

  1. To be honest, we love sending the kids to the church nursery. It gives them a chance to bond with some of the high school youth and other parents in our church, and gives us a chance to focus on worship. I mean, if you can't trust people at church, who can you trust?! You have to do what you are comfortable with, but you also have to model trust for your children and give them a chance to build relationships with others who may turn out to bless their lives in special ways. Just my opinion!

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    1. It's not just about *me* trusting the person, though; it's about my children's familiarity with the person. Someone could be a dear friend to me, but if my children have never met him or her, I have to consider that to them this person is a complete unknown. If I know it's going to turn into a consistent relationship (e.g., joining the Y and knowing we would see the same 4-6 caregivers over the next several months or even years) then I work with them to adapt as they are comfortable. We just started attending this church, so everyone there is a stranger even to us. I'm sure we won't feel that way long, though, and we may re-evaluate the childcare after a while.

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  2. Hi there! Found you on SITS Girls and thought I'd check out your blog. Cute little girls:-) As the mother of three daughter's myself (16,13,10), I can totally understand where you are coming from in regards to this whole babysitting thing. My kids are older now so its getting to be less of an issue but when they were younger, we literally only allowed them to be watched by a handful of people. Close family members. I never pawned them off on friends. In a social setting like you mentioned with Disney, it was a no-no. I just didn't feel comfortable leaving them in the hands of someone I didn't really know. Thank you for bringing up this valid point!

    Following you on a few social sites now:-) If you can return the favor it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    http://lauralistardiaries.blogspot.com/

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    1. Our first Disney cruise the girls had just turned 5 and 3 and they did not even see the inside of the kids' area once. This one they will be 6.5 and 4.5 and are *asking* to go. They even look it up online and check out the pictures and activities. :-) Not sure what A is going to think, though (he'll be just over 2). We may see how he does. If it doesn't work, oh well . . . we won't force the issue. The big thing for him is that he'd be in the under 3 room, separate from where the girls are, so he may not go for it.
      I will stop by and check out your blog. Thanks for visiting!

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  3. I would be more comfortable leaving my kids in a church nursery than in child care on a Disney cruise. It's funny how we all have different comfort levels. :-) I do try to go with whatever my kids are comfortable with though. I figure if there is a reason they are not okay with it, I should listen! Consequently, my 13 year old sits with us in church, but my 7 year old goes to class.

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    1. I think part of the reason for my mixed thoughts on the church nursery vs. cruise childcare concepts is that I know on the cruise the distraction level will be high, the folks watching him will be mostly peppy, enthusiastic 20-year-old college students (90% female) who fawn over the kids (I've seen it in action on past vacations), and they have set procedures for contacting parents immediately if issues arise (e.g., if kids are excessively upset). Whereas the church nursery is one older woman who, while very nice, is clearly of the I raised my children a certain way and they turned out fine mentality, I'll handle whatever comes up. Does that make sense?

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  4. Found you from SITS.

    Stay the course. We have had total disasters because I didn't listen to my heart in this area. You can't un-ring a bell.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by. I find that I'm constantly re-evaluating this whole situation. I feel much more comfortable leaving the girls with someone than A, who is a lot younger. But even that's on a case-by-case basis. I also find that I am more okay with it (as are the kids) if it's a group situation where they are all together (like at the Y) because Agent A has his sisters (especially E) for security until he gets adjusted.

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  5. I don't have a problem with them as long as I know the facility has done proper background checks and they are staying in the same building where I will be. For my son, it's the most socialization he gets with kids his age. It was hard at first, so I offered to stay in the room with him. After a few weeks, he loved it and can't push me out of the room fast enough.

    What works for your family is what works!

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    1. We've spent a lot of time "hanging out in the room" with the kids when introducing them to new childcare experiences. It's always more about their comfort level than anything else, and sometimes that's what it takes. We've also had the situation like you where eventually they're kicking us out of the room. It's all about knowing your kids and what they can handle, IMO.

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