It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Ditherers and Decision-Makers

I told you yesterday of the my two interviews. Two interviews, two very different family styles. One couple, soft-spoken, a little reserved, cautious. The other high-energy, cheerful, gregarious. One couple dithered and dithered and could not come to a decision. The other took a day to think about it, then decided!

Yay for people who can make a decision!

We agreed to two probationary weeks, because of their child’s difficult experience in her first daycare. During the first week, mom would spend part of some days with us. Two hours the first day, half hour the second, then a regular drop-off (2 minutes) the third and final day.

During those visits, I am reminded that mom is loud, which, as long-time readers know, I find wearisome. But she’s so full of positive energy, I can put up with the loud. What is harder to take is that she interrupts constantly. Not only is that rude/aggravating, but she’s interrupting me while I’m answering questions or passing on information, so she’s only getting half the information she has requested and/or needs. Then she’ll ask me a follow-up question. A follow-up question which would have been answered already if she hadn’t interrupted me in the first place. She also doesn’t remember things we’ve agreed to, because, I suspect, in her head she’d already raced on to the next thing and had ceased to listen to me even as I was speaking.

People like this are exhausting. I make a mental note to follow up any conversation with an email, so we have necessary information in writing.

Eesh.

But that concern aside, the week goes well. Her little girl is a charmer — interested, easy-going, easy to soothe, curious, prone to smiles and laughter even when mummy isn’t around. She’s going to be fine. I’m really looking forward to having her in the group!

At the end of the first week, I get an email from the ditherer. The one who’d interviewed with me a month before, who now has a little over two weeks before first day at work. She’s wondering how the probationary weeks went with the other child.

Why? She still hasn’t signed with anyone! I am flabbergasted. This woman really can’t make a decision! I’m flabbergasted, and also a little concerned for her. I reply, explaining that we’re only partway through the probationary weeks, and suggesting with as much tact and kindness as I’m capable (not to worry, I’m good at tact and kindness!), that she needs to choose from amongst the available options, or she may find herself with no daycare at all.

Wow. Decisions are so hard for some people. Thank goodness for my almost-signed-on parents, and their ability to come to a quick, firm, decision!

A day later, I get an email from the probationary parent. Over the weekend, their child had been to the emergency ward with trouble breathing. It turns out she has cold-induced asthma. Alarming, to be sure, particularly that first time, but not something that can’t be safely managed. I’ve had kids with this condition before. For some it’s more intense than others, but it’s always been manageable.

Except.

Except, these parents, the ones who, you know, can MAKE A DECISION!!! Well, they’ve made one. Another one. They have decided … that they will not put their child in daycare at all.

Boom, done. Guess that’s the flip side of all that decisiveness, huh. Could they not have dithered, just a wee bit?

But, wait! I still have the ditherers, the ones who told me “I kept coming up” in their discussions of caregivers, the ones who, only the evening before, had not yet chosen a caregiver!

Feeling a tad sheepish, I send them an email. Are they still … ?

Guess what? The ditherers finally made a decision. In less than 24 hours since our last email exchange, they have signed on, paid up, and have a start date.

I am impressed by the dark humour of the universe.

Sigh.

November 29, 2013 Posted by | daycare, parents, the dark side | , | 4 Comments

Tale of two interviews

I have two interviews a few weeks back.

Couple A:
Lovely, lovely baby boy. Smiling, cheerful, not at all shy, attended (as much as you can expect of a 10-month-old) to his parents. Dad was cheerfully friendly. Mom was harder to read, but I judged her quietness to be shyness/reserve rather than unfriendliness or hostility. The interview was quiet, calm, measured, but, I thought, friendly enough.

They needed care to start mid-December, a mere six weeks away. In this neighbourhood, that is as last-minute as it gets. With 12-month maternity leaves and a mostly professional clientele, spots fill up 4 – 6 months in advance, typically, often even more. These people should have been in a panic.

They weren’t. At all.

We interviewed, it seemed to go well, though, as I say, mom was reserved and hard to read, and it’s mom who matters. The vast majority of the time, she decides. When it’s a joint decision, she casts the deciding vote. I don’t know that, in 17 years, it’s even been the dad who made the decision. But even so, I thought it had gone well.

Days go by. I hear nothing. Given their deadline, this surprised me. When there are months to look, I might wait two weeks to hear back. With only six weeks till she’s back to work, I expected a quick turn-around. Maybe they’ve found other care? They must have found other care. (No, parents rarely call to let me know, so if I don’t hear, that’s my assumption.)

A week later, she emails. Can she have my references, and can she come and join me one morning, to see the other children?

Oh. Guess they are still interested. I reply to her email immediately with reference and a suggested time for a visit — in two days.

She comes. We spend the morning. She says some complimentary things about the children, their behaviour, my demeanor with them.

More days go by. I arrange an interview with family B. They want part-time care, though, and I’d prefer full-time. Family A needs full-time. Hoping to nudge mom A, I send her an email, letting her know I’m interviewing other families. (Yes, there was only one interview. I thought a plural might add a bit of urgency. Urgency which, I’m now realizing, she utterly lacks. Which is bizarre, people, bizarre. SHE NEEDS CARE IN FIVE WEEKS!!! She should be frantic.) She replies, saying she’s not surprised someone as warm and skilled as me has other opportunities.

Another week. Hm. Guess her “not surprised” email meant she’s moved on. She’s found something else, and she’s happy she hasn’t left me in the lurch. I didn’t nudge her as I’d hoped, I’d only eased her conscience. Well, poop.

But I do have another interview! And yes, they only want part-time, but I can get by with part-time. And their daughter is adorable, mom and dad are nice. We have a very lively, friendly, cheerful interview. Completely different style than family A. Family B was the one of the previous failed daycare, though, and they were a little gun-shy. Would their daughter adjust to daycare here? Even without the larger information I eventually received about the previous daycare, I was reasonably confident she’d be just fine, so I offered them two probationary weeks, at the end of which they could decide whether to sign on.

The next day — the next day! — they call back. They’d like to leave their daughter with me!! Our two probationary weeks will start the week after next.

I inform Family A that the space has been filled, probationarily. “Oh, that’s too bad. We were just thinking we were ready to begin to make our decision, and we really liked you. That’s what we get for waiting too long, I guess.”

Blink. Blink. Blink.

You were thinking of beginning to make a decision? Beginning? Thinking of? How many stages are there to this process?? How long were you thinking of taking … given that you have four weeks now before you have to be at work? I had a choice between a full-time child of ditherers, and a part-time child of decisive people. Well, maybe I did. Potentially, whenever they got around to making up their minds. Maybe.

Yes, I really needed to go with the client who could make a decision!

So, that’s that. But honestly, folk are strange!

November 28, 2013 Posted by | daycare, parents | , | 5 Comments

The Great Debate

I’ve been thinking this week about the Great Divide amongst mothers. Stay at home or go back to work. The so-called “Mommy Wars”, a term I loathe. I loathe it because it’s too simplistic. I loathe it because it’s too often true — women do wage war with other women over this issue. I loathe it because it’s so damned unhelpful.

I was inspired to muse upon it as a result of an email conversation with a woman I quite admire. We were discussing a parenting issue she had recently encountered, and as I composed my notes, I was having to pause, consider, reconsider, rephrase, edit, alter, tweak…

She isn’t a difficult, prickly woman. It wasn’t a difficult, prickly subject, except that it was informed and underscored by the work-home debate. The issue haunted our conversation. As I sought examples from my own parenting experience to bring to her dilemma, they were, necessarily, examples from the other side of that great divide. I wasn’t attempting to convince her of the superiority of my choice over hers, but it’s so easy to mis-step, so easy to cause offense, even when trying very hard not to.

I got to wondering why that would be. Why, even when two women are trying very hard to be respectful, is it so easy to poke at the other’s sore spots?

You know what? I had an insight, I think.

When a woman is deciding whether to go back to work after the birth of her child —

oh, wait.

I need to back off a pace and address a pre-issue, lest I cause offense to yet another group of women. I am very much aware that there is a significant percentage of mothers for whom this entire debate is irrelevant, and its continual appearance in public discourse a continuous abrasion. Because, as they rightly say, “Wouldn’t it be nice if it were an actual choice? Wouldn’t I love to have to luxury to even consider making a choice?” No matter that some of them might still choose to return to paid work, the fact is for them it isn’t a choice. You can speculate as much as you wish on how many of the people who think they don’t have a choice in fact do, but it is undeniably fact that many, many families simply cannot afford to have a parent stay home. So, no choice, and the unceasing blah-blah-blah about it is just too freaking annoying for words!!!

So, to you women? You might just opt to skip this post now.

Back to the post.

When a woman is deciding whether to go back to work after the birth of her child, she (and her partner) will take a set of factors into account.

She’ll consider practical issues like finances, insurance, availability and quality of daycare, professional development, pension, time. Personal issues like ambition (this is not a dirty word, by the way), aspirations (for yourself, your partner, your children), self-esteem (what are its sources, for you?). Parenting concerns: will my child be best served by having this role model, or that? living here or there? having mom around all the time, or sharing time with other loving people?

The thing is, each woman making the decision is going to be choosing from a very similar range of factors. When two women weigh “child’s emotional health + personal aspirations + finances + role model + professional development” and come out with two entirely different choices, it can be very easy to see the other woman’s choice as a criticism of yours.

If you weigh the same set of factors, shouldn’t you come up with the same decision?

Well, no. Only if those factors carry precisely the same emotional weight for each person. Professional advancement was never a huge motivator for me. I might like the increased salary that came with it, but the job title isn’t a biggie. For me. I am not going to extend that to someone else and say, “If you really valued your children, “mom” would be the only job title you’d aspire to.” Any more than I would accept it if someone said of me, “If you really valued your daughters’ future, you’d be showing them that women can achieve great things in the world.”

We need to stop saying this critical stuff to each other, and even more important, we need to stop reading it into what other women are saying. Because really? I believe we read offense into things far more often than it’s intended.

(A little secret? Even if offense is intended, the best response is often to refuse to hear the insult. React to it straight, as if you believe they were only sharing a different perspective, with no judgment at all. Very often, if you do that, they will retract the claws and go along with your interpretation. They may even feel quietly ashamed of themselves, and change their tune a little. Thus we evade and re-direct aggression, and reduce the intensity of the Mommy Wars.)

Human beings are emotional animals. It is pretty much impossible for us to make a 100% rational, 100% non-emotive decision. In the case of parenting, I tend to think that’s for the best, anyway. Parenting is so very much about emotions, after all. You can’t eliminate them from your parenting decisions, nor should you.

So, you’ll weigh the same sorts of factors, and you’ll come up with a different conclusion than your sister, your best friend, your co-worker. Not because you’re right and they’re wrong. (Nor even because they’re right and you’re wrong — relax!) But because the factors carry a different emotional weight for each of us.

And that’s as it should be. We are different. Our children are different. Go to work or stay at home? Make the decision that feels right to you, that meets your needs and matches your values as closely as possible. And your children? Will be FINE. Love your child/ren, spend time with them, respect them, guide and correct them, provide a stable and nurturing home … and they’ll be fine.

January 2, 2012 Posted by | controversy, parenting | , , , , | 7 Comments