Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Bringing home baby and bringing up baby - Part 1.

During my pregnancy, J and I had many discussions on how we are going to take care of the baby once he arrives. We both live away from family, and J still goes to sea so it is tricky for us as a new family.

-- Not a photo of our baby

We thought about infant care centres but I just feel so guilty and sad for our baby. Just barely 4 months old (that's how long maternity leave goes if I take everything at one go) and shipped off to daycare while J and I return to work. The thought of placing him in the care of complete strangers just doesn't sit well with us.

Since we ruled out infant care centres completely, some friends actually suggested that we leave the baby with my parents, who live in another country, while I rejoin the workforce. I bit my tongue at the idea, because what's the point of having a baby if we are going to send it to another country and only see him on the weekends for a few hours? J and I deeply oppose this suggestion as well.

The only other option we had was to hire a helper/nanny.

I was against hiring a helper at the beginning. The idea of a complete stranger living under one roof was just too intrusive for me and the horror stories that I've heard over the years (thieving, bringing boyfriends back to your home, mistreating the children and elderly etc.) did not help. But what else could we do? We could look after the baby till he's a bit older and consider infant care centres, or we could gave a nanny at home and train her to look after the baby.

I gave in in the end and we hired a helper after getting advice from a few friends. An extra pair of hands when we have a baby is godsend, and if the helper isn't any good we could always get a replacement. If we just couldn't accept a stranger under the same roof, we could always send the helper back. The thing is, we will only know once we try this route. And again, we could always send the helper/nanny back if we couldn't get use to her.

So the only thing we could do was for me to take no pay leave for the rest of the year till the little one is a little older. He will be 9 months old when I return to work, and I don't feel as guilty when I send him to daycare, or arrange for my parents to come and stay with us to look after the baby with the helper.

Our baby is 5 months old now and we are quite happy with the helper. She looks after the little one when I'm tired and frazzled, and she takes care of dinner while I play with the baby. The house is clean, the baby is fed and changed and no one is wailing his/her lungs out. Well we have our small issues such as language barrier (she can't really speak English except for simple broken sentences) and different tastes in food (we are trying to teach her some of the food we like). An extra pair of hands definitely helps.

This brings me back to the point. I am amazed at my mom, my grandmother and all the parents who are bringing up children on their own.

When I was little, my mom had to work. We were not well off so my grandmother took care of all the grandchildren (4 at one point) during the day. She cooked, cleaned and took such great care of us. At night, my parents would come back from work and mom would take over.

See, 30 years ago, my grandmother and mother didn't have "off days" because we couldn't afford to. How did they do it all? Weren't they tired? Running around 4 yelling and shouting children when you were 60 couldn't be easy. I'm constantly awed by parents who do everything on their own because I'd have gone insane by now.

I'm a stay at home mom for now and even with the extra pair of hands, I feel tired and worn out most days. I would really love to get out one afternoon on my own, do my hair, get a massage or mani/pedi to recharge. When we run out of milk/food/baby detergent at home, I just go out in my "home clothes" because screw it, I'm not changing or doing my hair and makeup for a quick grocery run. My baby will wake up when I'm out of the house according to Murphy's Law (and all laws of nature), and I don't have time for this. The world is lucky I am out of the house without the banana clip in my hair.

We can't all do it like Miranda Kerr you know. My hair hasn't looked this luscious/groomed since I was pregnant. Makeup? Haven't put on any since the baby arrived. The baby would just smear his little saliva coated hands all over my face (this happened), get makeup on his hands and put them right back in his mouth. So no makeup. 

All the things we need when we take the baby out can barely fit into the diaper bag (never mind that I received a fancy brand black bag to use as a baby/diaper bag), let alone casually strolling out with a Hermes Kelly. Seriously, I've walked into Hermes so many times after the baby has arrived to get a Kelly, which I believe has magical healing powers to make me feel better about myself. None of those times would the store have any in stock. Really, Hermes? Here I am, strolling in with money grabbed in my fist to buy myself a bag but you won't sell me one? Denying a brooding new mom?

Ok rant over. Actually, not over. I won't give up till I get myself a Kelly in Etoupe. I'll even pay in cash, or in $1 coins if Hermes would so prefer if they would just give me one already.

In China, It's the Grandparents Who 'Lean In'In order to help their children pursue professional goals, older Chinese people take an active role in raising grandchildren. But are changing demographics threatening this arrangement?

-- A common sight in Asia (taken from CNN)

“I hear all the buzz about Lean In,” Delia says, referring to the best-selling book whose author Sheryl Sandberg recently traveled to China on a promotional tour. “I would love to be able to march into my employer's office and demand to go home earlier and see my kids. But I also know that if I did that, my career will suffer. Sandberg's advice [that women can advance in their careers simply by being more assertive professionally] is not realistic in today's economy and in my industry.”

I agree. I'd love to tell my bosses that my stipulated working hours are from 8.30am to 5.30pm. Any work I do outside of that time is me "going the extra mile". Calling me at 7pm or asking me to attend a conference call at 10pm because it's 10am somewhere else in the world is just not on. I demand that I don't have to do any work after my working hours. I demand to go home on time. Not any time earlier. On. Time. 

There are many families who are looking after young children without the help of nannies and extended family members. In Australia, it's insanely expensive to send children to daycare centres and all the places are usually taken up. Nannies? You must be rich, cartoonishly rich and swimming in a warehouse of gold coins if you want to hire a nanny. A lot of women choose to stay at home and look after their children because they simply cannot afford to send their kids to childcare. The cost of childcare exceeds the salary. It just doesn't make sense.

It takes a village to raise a child. It really does.

Thank you mom and grandma. You are awesome.

To all the parents out there who feel like the world is judging them for wearing creased tshirts and sweatpants outside their homes, ignore those judging stares. You rock.

Link to other reads:
1. Investing the Economics of Childcare

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