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Working Moms All Look for the Perfect Child Care
by Linda Burton

I hadn't intended to stay at home; I wasn't born for it.

Having children at the ages of 33 and 34 created an upheaval in my life unlike anything I had ever experienced. Before the birth of my children, I had been a full-time fundraiser for a public-interest law firm. It was a harrowing job sometimes, but it was fun and made good use of my energies. At the end of the day, I used to look forward to meeting my husband and friends somewhere in town. We would relax, catch up on the day's events and generally enjoy each other.

After the birth of my first child, the end of the day found me less convivial than it had in five years. Walking the floor with this child, knowing that he was keeping me from doing much that I really wanted to do, made me angry.

I missed my job and my friends; I felt poverty-stricken and I looked awful. So, like many young women faced with the same predicament, I decided to go back to work. I assumed I would simply give my children good "quality time” in the evenings and on weekends and, in the meantime, I would use all my energies to find an absolutely sterling person to care for them during the day.

I researched child care with a vengeance. Luckily, I did find someone to care for my children who seemed fine. She lasted a month. During that time at the office, I had made some remarkable discoveries. I discovered that I had no "quality time” for my children in the evening. Indeed, I really wanted to have no time at all. I was tired. I loved my children, and I knew that they needed attention from me, but somehow I was unable to give much of it after a day at the office.

I also discovered, to my surprise, that I missed my children when I was gone. I worried about how they were being dressed, fed, cared for. I worried that their bright inquisitiveness was being dulled by the housekeeper who, while a kind and decent person, lacked a certain intellectual vitality.

I was almost relieved when my housekeeper quit. I came back home to attend to my children and, again, searched for child care diligently. And I discovered that there were millions of mothers like me trying to hire the same sort of person I was.

All of a sudden, the notion occurred to me that perhaps the elusive, almost mystical "she" was not out there. After all, here we were, 17 million women trying to hire someone to replace ourselves.

We all wanted someone warm, wonderful, motherly and loving. All of a sudden common sense just told me that there simply weren't enough warm, wonderful, motherly, and loving people to go around. Unqualified, insensitive women were approaching child-care agencies in droves.

Slowly, painfully, after really thinking about what I wanted for my children, and rewriting advertisement after advertisement, I came to the stunning realization that the person I was looking for was right under my nose. I had been desperately trying to hire me.
 

 
Originally published in Empathic Parenting (Journal of the Canadian Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children).
 
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