Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The importance of the village (part 1)

My twins turned 2 during the "limbo" phase of my diagnosis. We knew there was something really wrong- but we didn't know what exactly. It "probably" wasn't an aggressive cancer, but until it was biopsied, we really didn't know. That was a tortuous month. We had a small birthday party for them with close friends and family as guests. I'm so glad we decided to have a party. George and MJ (the twins) had a blast and they knew the party was in their honor. Two short weeks later I would be preparing for surgery and an undetermined length of a hospital stay. 
I didn't need to do a lot to prepare my body for surgery, besides following a liquid diet the day before and not eating or drinking before midnight. Mentally, I was ready to get this tumor out of my body. My surgeon told me this was an awful, nasty surgery with a long recovery, but I knew I could handle it. I wasn't worried about surviving surgery because of my otherwise good health and relatively young body (I'm about half the age of a more typical whipple surgery recipient). My kids were too young to understand what was going on, so to prepare them we took them to get haircuts because that's a two-parent job! 

An unrelated decision we had to make about their daily care a couple of months prior turned out to be one of the best ways to prepare them for my absence. Daycare. Up until they turned 2, we were lucky enough to have my mother as their caregiver while we were at work. She came to our house daily and our children benefited from their "Grammy Nanny." She made a lot of sacrifices to help us out, and we are grateful. But it was time for her to return to work and for us to make new childcare arrangements. 

Daycare. Some moms shudder at the word, and I admit I used to be uncomfortable with the idea. If you are a mom who participates in social media, you have probably come across a blog article that either sings the praises of paid childcare workers or shuns the very idea of leaving your child in the hands of "strangers." Prior to sending my kids to daycare, I assumed neither position. You do what you have to do, and sometimes that includes daycare. Period. Now that I send my kids to daycare, I sing the praises of the wonderful people who care for my children in my absence. 

In the childcare "Mommy Wars" the topic of daycare is inevitably linked to the topic of working mothers versus stay at home mothers, or SAHMs, because we seem to need acronyms for everything. I work because I choose to (and I like eating food and living in a house), and I will not apologize for that. It is the best for me and the best for my family. Daycare is a necessity, and we chose a daycare facility rather than a nanny or a smaller home daycare for a multitude of reasons, but those reasons don't belong in this blog post.

Something most people hopefully will never have to consider is the necessity of daycare because you are physically unable to care for your children because of a lengthy, serious illness. The timing of sending my kids to a daycare facility could not have been more perfect. I spent two weeks in the hospital and three months at home recovering, and for the better part of those three months I was unable to give my children what they needed on a daily basis, by myself anyway. My kids started daycare the first week of January, and I had surgery on the 20th. Sure, there were tears that first week of newness, but by the time my surgery rolled around it was part of their daily routine. In fact, my parents came and took my kids to daycare (and picked them up) the day of my surgery. I wanted them to have a sense of normalcy even though things in their life definitely were not normal. I was comfortable with that decision at the time, and in hindsight, it really was best in a not-so-ideal situation. 

When raising children, the old adage "it takes a village" is relevant. It does take a village. My village happens to include daycare. Of course no one loves your children like you do, but I know my children are well-cared for and loved in my absence. The daycare naysayers wouldn't believe that, but I certainly do. I am a teacher, and I do care fiercely about my students. I believe the same of the wonderful people who taught my children to wash their hands, eat with a fork, and pedal a tricycle (among other things, of course). Thankfully the daycare we chose assumes a philosophy closely aligned to our parenting philosophy, but that was not an accident. We CHOSE this facility. Now, nearly a year later, my kids will now occasionally cry when I come to pick them up, especially if I am too early. They don't want to miss their outdoor/gym play and their time in "Kathy's Room." They get upset if they miss "school" because they are sick. 

Our village includes many people, and I learned how broad my village really is during the length of my illness. I am so thankful for the individuals who care for my children during the day while I am at work. My husband and I would have had a very difficult time during my illness without them. I believe my children would have had a more difficult time without the love and support of the daycare "school" and teachers. The timing of this transition could not have been better. It's unfortunate I had to learn this very important lesson because of a very large tumor, but I am thankful. I understand that people do not take their childcare decisions lightly, and I also understand it is not the job of others to judge their decisions. So I cringe whenever I see an article that calls working moms "selfish" to leave their child to the care of others, not specifically because I am a working mom, but because sometimes we, as parents, need help from our village. Sometimes, that village includes daycare. No apologies.

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