Our Reality-Show Worthy Childcare Journey. So Far.

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Rachel is the birth mom in a two-mom household with boy/girl 18 1/2 month old experts at the word “no”. You can read more about them at Motherhood.Squared
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I was supposed to write a post during our Childcare Week about childcare back in April, but the death of my grandfather scrapped my posting plans, and, as is the story of my post-kids life, I am just now getting around to certain things. Irreparably long-winded (you should know how much I struggle to twitter!), I’ve stream-of-consciousness written about our childcare journey, but if you are short on time, scroll to the bottom for the executive summary.

Technically, we have used childcare since the day they were born. We took advantage of sending the twins off to the nursery at night, bringing them in only for feedings. Bonding, shmonding. We’d have plenty of time for that later, said the veterans in my mother’s of multiples group.

Major high-fives to all the mom’s who did the newborn period and beyond without any help from family or hired assistance, and especially to those who did that solo while breastfeeding while also being a stay-at-home parent. I am not one of those people. BY FAR.

My mom stayed with us for nearly two weeks, and she was free. My mom, my partner, and I rotated shifts for feeding the kids round the clock while others napped. My mom was a huge support and help, but my sister and I joke that the experience aged her twenty years, and rendered her forever frightened of watching over any of her grandchildren alone. We think she’s afraid they’ll multiply.

Jennifer’s and my original intention was for me to keep the twins during the day until I went back to work (at 12 weeks), at which time they would go to group daycare. But we learned fairly quickly (around 3 weeks, I think?) that it was far too overwhelming for me (major twin reflux, wonky sleeping patterns (of course, they’re newborns!), and utter exhaustion), so we scrambled to find a part-time day nanny to help me during the transition back to full-time work. Through word of mouth, we found someone that we paid $10/hr. It was worth every penny, but not necessarily a bargain in the end.

Of course, as things go, the daycare we had planned to send them was delayed in renovations and suddenly did not have space. The daycare where we had been waitlisted a year before and finally secured two spots three months before birth, confirmed, and re-confirmed within two weeks after their birth. To this day, I still swear up and down that our “practice” day at the place, fueled with the kids’ reflux, scared the bejesus out of them and that’s why they suddenly couldn’t accommodate us. But anyway. Thankfully, the day-nanny was more than willing to work full-time. In fact, she wanted the job full-time, but we felt that for our family, group daycare was the better option. Plus, during the two months she was with us, she proved to be unreliable and I started tuning out her excuses (the bus was late, my kid had a teacher meeting, etc). The ones I couldn’t hear over the steam blowing out of my employer’s ears because of my “childcare issues”.

Scramble some more. Turns out there was a Montessori infant program at a place exactly 200 yards from my office building. Thanks to a second-sibling discount (always ask!), the cost of daycare leveled out at around $1600 per month and I dropped them off before work, and picked them up on the way home. It was perfect.

Until about a month later, when the ear infections began (five in three months for the boy, alone.) I would oftentimes stay home from work, or Jennifer would, but there were days with work that that was not an option. With no available family to help, we often had to use agency care (through an agency we were familiar with, at least that) at a cost of essentially $100-$150/day (averaging 3-4 days of illness per month between both kids), pushing our childcare bill up to an average of $2100 per month. And then add to that all the stress and anxiety of coordinating care and related arrangements. Suddenly, we just weren’t sure that group daycare was the best option. As it was, my work (mostly men who just don’t get it), was already becoming tense and layoffs had begun.

What with all the illnesses and up at nights and working full time, we found a night nanny to give us a few nights of relief the two week run of The Runs. Turns out she was looking for some day work through the holidays, and we were looking at any way to get the kids out of daycare, a stint that lasted from July 28 to Dec 5. We were glad it was a temporary assignment with her, though. As good as she was, she had kids of her own and there were school issues and illnesses for her to deal with. Oh, and that day that I had to talk to her about being on time and how she blew up at me, yelling and screaming, and then crying that she’s sorry and how her husband is traveling a lot and how she misses her kids and I missed the rest of it because my brain was writing “find. someone. else” 1,000 times on the chalkboard of my here-and-now. One thing about hiring individuals is that you have to be willing, able, and comfortable confronting issues as they arise. Having a nanny is not for the passive. Well, unless you are passive-aggressive, I suppose. Ha!

Nevertheless, during the few weeks she was with us, we were able to take our time finding someone to be a full-time nanny, specifically an agency-provided live-in. That was most definitely the least expensive option (only $400 per week). I took a vacation day to show her the ropes, and the next day Jennifer had off from work to do the same. But she was a tiny Nicaraguan who didn’t speak much English (language barrier issue for my partner), she was too short to reach over the crib, my son was almost as heavy as she was, and we have a two-story house that requires constant up-and-down. She was great with the housekeeping but lacked confidence with the caretaking and that made me nervous. I felt horrible for letting her go after only one week, safety first and all.

But what now? Well guess who called a few days into live-in nightmare: flaky unreliable nanny from the beginning. She was great with the kids, when she showed up. I was like “Ok, but this is your last chance. You HAVE to be on time because we HAVE to get to work.” WE WERE DESPERATE! So we rehired the original flake. And then after a couple weeks of stellar performance, she no-call no-shows. And proceeds to not answer her phone for several days. More last-minute agency paid childcare.

Finally, in mid-January of 2009, we were happy to find a full-time nanny, someone who was old enough to be responsible and have experience with multiple children under her belt, young enough to be able to keep up with the kids, and had no children of her own (a HUGE bonus because then there’s none of their kids’ issues to interfere with your own, ironic as that is). We knew what we were getting because for 5 months she had often babysat for us once a month on Saturday mornings so that I could run errands and cook (my partner works on Saturday’s).

Most nannies’ hourly rate for twins runs about $11-18 per hour. I work in a business-hour office, having to leave at 7a and getting home around 6p. At an hourly rate, that can get expensive. My partner is an independent contractor (a golf instructor) and has more schedule flexibility. We wanted an arrangement that would better suit our needs, and we were able to negotiate a weekly rate with our nanny for a fixed amount. Some weeks our nanny works 60 hours, but more often she works far less, but gets the benefit of a steady income stream. Which means we pay right at around what we were paying with daycare + sick day care, but without the anxiety, stress, and hassle of juggling it all. Plus, she does all the kid-related housework. The kids are happy, she sends me pictures and text messages and videos, and we all think we got a deal. It hasn’t been perfect, but it’s the best arrangement we’ve had thusfar. Plus? NOTHING MORE THAN OCCASIONAL COLDS since December 2009. Knock. On. Wood.

We even get out to dinner every once in a while. Most babysitters in our area want $12-15/hr for twins. EVEN IF THEY ARE SLEEPING. So instead, we either ask our nanny to stay (we’ll buy her dinner or some other form of payment), swap with other parents in the neighborhood, or ask our neighbors if they’ll come over and watch TV (and then they borrow our SUV for moving stuff around, or I give them greens for their compost bin, or whatever we can barter).

Is this forever? No. We definitely want the kids in at least a part-time day program at some point. But first, we want to get through this winter/flu season. I still have anxiety over last fall’s experiences. So maybe closer to their second birthday. After crunching numbers a couple weeks ago, we I know that we can’t afford a full-time nanny/housekeeper AND part time programming for two children (for the purpose of expanding their days and play and experiences past our home). We’re not sure our nanny will want part-time work, though she does want to go back to school. Even so, we’re not ready for someone else to drive our kids around. We’re also contemplating a part-time program with one parent working part-time. We’ll see what the future brings.

So…Summary:

Our Family: two full-time, out-of-the-house, working parents
Kids: boy/girl twins, 18 ½ months at the time of this post
Average cost of childcare in area (Houston, Texas):
Sitters– $12-15/hr
Night nanny – $17-25/hr (the higher range tends to be through an agency)
Non-Agency Day nanny – $11-17/hr (to depend on the level of English fluency, whether or not the nanny has a vehicle, whether or not they are picking up your kids, the nanny’s experience, age of nanny, ages of children, who is paying taxes, and whether or not the nanny is also doing any combination of cooking and housework.)
Our childcare progression: nanny, daycare, ear infections and stomach viruses ensued, back to nanny in home.
Biggest pro: If they’re sick, they’re still home. Very reliable. No rushing out the door. It’s smooth. I’m not on a hit list at work anymore, at least not for childcare reasons.
Biggest con: we are paying more than we ever expected to spend on childcare, but at least it’s predictable.
Factors in our decision: remaining employed, stress, availability of a nanny the kids and we, the parents, are quite happy with overall.

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16 thoughts on “Our Reality-Show Worthy Childcare Journey. So Far.”

  1. Wow. We were CREAMED with illnesses the first year in day care. Vomiting, ear infections then tubes, RSV, pink eye, actually if I made a complete list I might lose my mind.

    But reading your epic story, I’m kinda glad we powered through that insane year. What a nightmare for you guys! Our day care was $2100 a month for infants and average of $150 for co-pays. Now it’s $1700/month, average $40 co-pays and no diaper or formula cost. We’re spending about $1000/month less.

    One thing I would say for your future is once you put the kids in a group setting, they WILL get sick. I have seen this time and time again with my SAHM friends. So even if you are planning to have your nanny go part-time, you may find they will end up missing pre-school anyway bc of illness and you will need backup care.
    .-= LauraC´s last blog ..Untwinproofing the house =-.

  2. Whew! I’m exhausted just reading that. We put the boys in daycare at 4 months (when RSV season ended) and they’ve been there since. Yes, they get sick a LOT (they had tubes put in their ears at 13 months because of the constant ear infections) but I figure, they’re going to be really really healthy adults. (Gotta look on the bright side!)
    .-= pam´s last blog ..23 months! =-.

  3. Ugh, child care. It wears me out just thinking about all of that. We are on our second nanny and are really happy with her, but every decision associated with child care has been stressful and difficult.

    We want to put our kids in day care/school part time as soon as openings become available just for the socialization and structure aspects. I don’t know what we are going to do when that opportunity presents itself. I know our nanny won’t want to go part time, so we are going to have to figure something out. I think I am sort of in denial and just figure we will cross that bridge when we come to it.
    .-= Erin´s last blog ..Go Irish! =-.

  4. We have an extremely reliable nanny I found who was willing to be part time while I was on leave and has transitioned to full-time. She is never late, willing to work overtime, does activities with the kids, and all their chores (laundry, bottles, dishwasher). She takes the kids to group at least once a week for some social interaction – we bought car seats for her. They’ve been sick because of playdates, etc. but we never, ever have to worry about not being able to go to work. Yes, we pay $16/hr PLUS overtime (1.5x) for anythign over 40 hrs a week. She gets 10 holidays and 2 vacation weeks (one which must coincide with us). Both my husband and I have back up daycare so for a treat we occasionally take the kids to that. Phew. So much to say about childcare but nanny was absolutely the best for us – especially because I am lazy about chores. My house is picked up, my kitchen is clean, their nighttime clothes and diapers are left out. Wow, I am really lucky!
    .-= Mommy, Esq.´s last blog ..Team Building =-.

  5. Our bugs are in part time daycare, for the snotilization, I mean, Socialization…It’s more that a nanny. It costs $10 an hour per kid. So, I sometimes dream about keeping them at home with someone that could do a little laundry and dishes at the same time.

  6. We were fortunate to have a school district that offers free preschool… and fortunate to qualify for it. With out that I’m not sure what we would have done. My MIL watches my daughters once a week while I work and DH and I split the duties the rest of the week. The first year of preschool was rough: countless colds, one bout of croup and a nasty, nasty stomach bug.
    .-= Quadmama´s last blog ..Whistler’s Mom =-.

  7. So can anybody with a nanny share how you deal with the taxes? Up until now we’ve had a part-time nanny who has her own LLC and is an independent contractor, so she paid her own taxes and we never had to deal with it. We pay her $17/hour but it’s been worth every penny both for the taxes issue and because she’s a retired pediatric nurse with tons of twin experience.

    Anyway, she specializes in infants and as the kids approach 2 she is going to move back to infants with another family, and we’re now looking for a traditional nanny. The amount of taxes we’ll have to pay for that is a bit daunting and it seems confusing to have to do all of the paperwork. But I’m way too scared to not do it, seeing as how it’s illegal and the penalties are so stiff if you get caught. Any tips?
    .-= albe´s last blog ..November Already? =-.

  8. Oh yeah – we went through crazy babysitters, unreliable babysitters, language-barrier nannies, and finally, finally, decided on utilizing an au pair agency. Our current au pair is great. The tax issues are much much easier, and my urchins get the benefit of learning a new language, a new culture and new skills from each au pair that we’ve had.
    And her hours flex around my schedule, which, yippeee!

    In looking over our childcare craziness over the past five years, I have to add that a huge part of it is also that I have learned an awful lot about how to be a better “employer”. In the beginning, I probably stuck with a “bad match” longer than I should have, and failed to make the job requirements crystal clear. Am getting much better at that…..

  9. I have to say being as chatty as you are Rachel you’re born for blogging – don’t worry about not Twittering! I see a lot of blogs and just going by the comments you get this should have more Page Rank than it does. I’m sure it’ll come. If you’re in any doubt (I hope you’re not), you really should keep this up.
    Complicated getting a nanny, not just because you need someone with the right temperament for your household but because of the finances too – tell me about it!

    BB

  10. OMG. That whole process sounds awful. Makes the struggles I have getting coverage for the occasional meeting or doctor’s appointment seem not so bad at all.

  11. Hmmm, my twins are 4 months old (on Sat) and I’m just finishing up my maternity leave.

    We decided on a full-time day nanny who started with me when they were 8 weeks old so I could “train” her – am very exact in how I like things done so this is great.

    An earlier commenter mentioned how her mistake was staying with a bad match too long. I fear I may be doing that too.

    She is good with kids but does not communicate and she and I don’t really get along – we talk enough to get by… but not great communication.

    But am too terrified to try and cope with these babies on my own……………

  12. Benefits of hiring a nanny This is just another childcare option!
    1. The Obama family is moving in their mother-in-law to the White House. More and more families are looking into hiring a Granny Nanny.
    2. Affordability of a nanny in today’s society.
    a. Nannies are not just for the wealthy.
    b. If you have 2 or more kids in daycare; you would be paying the same for a nanny in most cases.
    c. If your kids are sick, you can still go to work – a nanny could stay with the kids and kids seem to stay more healthy out of daycare settings.
    3. Families hiring nannies online and saving thousands of dollars rather than using a Nanny Placement Agency.
    4. A nanny can simplify your life.
    5. Nanny Share – Where 2 families are sharing a nanny due to cost.

  13. We’ve just started looking into childcare for next fall when our two will be two and a half. It’s so overwhelming and the cost is outrageous. One center wanted $770/week, and that was with the sibling discount! At that rate, I might as well continue to stay home, because I won’t be making any money by going to work.

  14. Wow! Just … wow!

    I thought we had childcare drama because I
    1) Moved the kids from a program we LOVED to one we thought we’d love that was more convenient.
    2) Didn’t like it and moved them back to the original daycare.

    The not-so-great daycare made a huge deal about needing 30 days’ notice, which was fine. This week, when my friend told them they wanted to withdraw her autistic son, they didn’t say a word about 30 days. She thinks they’re dying to get rid of him, and I don’t disagree. It’s a pity, because he’s sweet boy.

    When what you have works, stick with it!
    .-= Sadia´s last blog ..Close to home =-.

  15. @albe – i’m sure there are several resources, but the popular ones in my circle of MoMs are breedlove-online dot com, which provides tax prep, filing, and remittance, labor law guidance, and payroll management for household employers; with a few other using a payroll service called intuit dot com. this should not be construed for tax advice, however, and as always, it is best to contact your tax advisor

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