A case of the mondays

Two weeks ago, Baby got viral gastroenteritis for a couple of days and shared it with me for all of 8 hours while I was home from work with him, but we both recovered. Last Friday, as I was picking up Dawdler Toddler from daycare, she starts hurling. She had it all through the weekend, meaning we got nothing whatsoever done except tending to her. Side note: why is it that the weekends where I want to sit around on my arse and do nothing do not coincide with the weekends I get to do that? I had TONS of errands & stuff I desperately needed to get done, because I’d gotten nothing done being home from work with a sick Baby.

By Sunday, I was feeling very stressed – faced with missing even more work and still needing to get tons of stuff done outside of work, I texted every sitter as well as any contacts who could potentially serve as an emergency stand-in sitter, asking if by some random chance anyone could possibly watch her on Monday. I’ve been missing TONS of work with sick Baby. My Better Half doing fieldwork during the workweek means that I’m the only one ever available when daycare calls telling me Baby has a fever and has to leave, so I feel like I’m walking a fine line at work. I don’t know if I am. Maybe I’m just super sensitive to the rolling eyes one of my coworkers gives me (a childless jackass) whenever I’m dashing out to grab a sick Baby or Toddler. Maybe I’m just super sensitive because it’s performance review season and I’m paranoid that it might appear as if I’m not accomplishing much other than occasionally and unpredictably occupying a chair after returning from maternity leave this time around. Maybe I’m super sensitive because I have a new boss, who, while he has four children of his own, has never once experienced the “my kid has a fever above 100, so s/he has to be picked up from daycare within 30 minutes and can’t return for at least 24 hours” because his wife has always been a stay at home mom. I’d like to believe that my work worries are all in my imagination but I’m not quite convinced that’s true. But, alas, no sitters or would-be sitters were available.

So I crossed my fingers and held my breath and the next day, Dawdler Toddler seemed to be back to her normal self, and after being able to hold down her breakfast, I took her to daycare. And her Baby brother. Even though he had a fever. I didn’t have an alternative, given that I had no sitter available. And I HAD to make an 8:30-10:30 meeting, if nothing else. So I just prayed that he was just running a low-grade, teething? minor thing? fever and would be fine. After having to wait in the morning to make sure Dawdler Toddler was okay enough to go to daycare, I was super late to work – more than an hour late. Let’s just say the clock read 8:32 when I was getting ready to leave daycare for work. I got to work only to discover that my meeting was way far away in another building, so I was about 30 minutes late for that important must-not-miss meeting. And I was there about 25 minutes before daycare called and said Baby had a fever and was vomiting and had to leave.

So I excused myself with yet another quick missive of “sorry! gotta run! I’ll try to get in some work from home!” apology and dashed out. Got Baby, got him some Tylenol and he went down for his afternoon nap. That just dragged on and on and on. By late afternoon, after I’d picked up Dawdler Toddler from daycare, I was starting to get concerned. He seemed a little out of it, listless if you will. And his fever, rather than going down with Tylenol just kept going up. And he wasn’t the least bit interested in eating anything at all. By the time his breathing seemed to be getting strangely irregular, I left My Better Half, home from 10 hours of fieldwork in 111 degrees, to put Toddler to bed while I took Baby in to the children’s hospital, the only thing open at that hour. I get to the children’s hospital and have a text from My Better Half saying: I have the stomach flu now too, can’t stop throwing up, but keep me updated. I get us checked in and while we’re waiting in triage, I start hurling. Repeatedly.

They kept an eye on Baby, checking his vitals every 20 minutes, trying to coax him into taking pedialyte (unsuccessfully), giving him medicine for nausea first in order to then administer more Tylenol so he could keep that down and then waiting for him to demonstrate that he wanted and/or could eat. They kept him far longer than I would have expected. Which is why I was more miserable by the moment. I couldn’t stop throwing up, my stomach was doing somersaults, and I had nothing with me. Nothing. Not even a water bottle to go fill up, not a sweater to stave off the fever chills that were washing over me in waves. So every 20 minutes they came in to give him medicine and make sure he was improving and I’m getting worse by the second but they couldn’t even so much as bring me a goddamn apple juice because I’m “not the patient.” I get it on an intellectual level – liability of treating someone who’s not a patient in this letigious world of defensive medicine we find ourselves in – but at a visceral, physical level I was furious. Your whole purpose as nurses and doctors is to help people feel better, and if mom is doing this horribly, how can she be expected to take in all the information you’re giving about Baby’s condition and respond?

Why wouldn’t I just text My Better Half and say “for chrissakes, bring me some gatorade?” you ask? Because we have one vehicle. One. With both carseats in it. So even if he would have wanted to drag Toddler and himself out of bed and then out of the house at an ungodly hour to come bring ME medicine at the children’s hospital, he couldn’t have. Not to mention he was throwing up at home too.

So all in all, I’ve managed to make it to work one whole day this week. My Better Half seems to have improved, as have I. Although now that he’s back to working in 110 degrees, we’ll see. Baby still has a fever and is vomiting and was seen again yesterday and will be seen again Saturday. So I’m not counting on getting ANYTHING done this week or weekend either. Good thing my folks are coming in town Tuesday. Oh wait, that means I gotta somehow clean & disinfect this disastrous house. And take 48 hours vacation time. Right before my annual performance review. I’m beginning to think the rumors circulating yesterday that anyone who was getting a raise this year got notification yesterday is true. Like that asshole coworker who shoots me a dirty look every time I rush out, scrambling to go get a sick kid, just doing my best not to lose it.

A Public Service Announcement

The following are incompatible:

  • Trying to catch up on sleep at any opportune moment while living in a household with
    • a Dawdler Toddler who invents every excuse under the sun to delay bedtime (because that’s what toddlers do)
    • a 7 month old who refuses to sleep through the night for no good reason whatsoever

– while also –

  • Trying to relieve My Better Half™ of many parenting duties so as to permit him blocks of uninterrupted time and focus to write a dissertation.

The following are also incompatible:

  • Trying to escape the soul-crushing pressure to finish a dissertation so that one can have free time again (aka, sleep, attend to the monstrously long honey-do chores list so our house does not fall down, and for the love of all that is holy, relax for the first time in months years)

– while also –

  • Knowing that ‘free time’ should really be defined as the pressure of “hurry up and get a job, goddamnit!”

And, finally, the following are also incompatible:

  •  Trying to predict whether one will be able to find childcare on such short notice should one accept an offer of seasonal archaeological fieldwork

 – or –

  • Deciding to turn down said job offer in order to avoid bringing in a chess master to calculate and predict the matrix of childcare solutions such a job would require, with the hopes of finding another part-time job that may never materialize

Those who attempt to reconcile these incompatible goals report side effects including sleeplessness, restlessness, frustration, stress, loss of patience, and an inability to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

So angry I could…

The parenting issue that has given me the most grief so far is that my precocious, sweet, active little girl is.

A biter.

There. I said it. I know, I know, it’s normal, age appropriate. Oh for f*ckssake. I just got another incident report from daycare while I was typing that.

At first I thought “not my daughter! How could this be?!?” She doesn’t bite at home, and, being the first born, doesn’t have anyone *to* bite anyway. She is not aggressive, she is highly verbal & communicative, and at home, when she asks for something she can’t have, she tends to work out her anger & frustration through fist-pounding tantrums & the accompanying wailing.

So it was totally mystifying to us to hear that she’s been biting. Repeatedly. So much that I’ve had to leave work to retrieve her from daycare because she’s been released. Repeatedly. Like 2-3 times a week.

It’s usually the same. Right before a nap (read: tired), wanting a toy, she lunges out & Mike Tyson’s someone. Okay. It’s not thaaaaat bad (I hope) but still.

At first, I would get to daycare all concerned – is the other child ok?? I’m SO sorry (and embarassed). They would say she’s fine, the other child is fine, and you don’t need to apologize. When it kept happening, I turned to the trusty interwebz and found it’s totally normal, not to worry. When we saw the pediatrician for her 15 month checkup she told us the same thing. Still, it kept happening. I wasn’t worried about it as a behavior anymore, just what it was doing to my good standing at work to be ducking out all the time. I can’t overemphasize how big of a pain in the ass this is. For weeks now, I’ve had to tell my boss ‘so sorry!! Gotta get her. Again.’ I’ve missed more work than I am capable of calculating.

As the weeks wore on, daycare no longer would say “no need to apologize!” It turned into more of an exasperated we need *you* to take steps to address this okay? attitude.

What am I to do? I have said to my friends & family, why should I have to apologize to daycare for completely normal, age-appropriate behavior?! I’m not here when it happens. I’m not the one watching her at those moments. I’m not going to preemptively drug my kid with Tylenol because ‘maybe she’s teething?’ Yeah. Right. Because pretending teething is the cause is going to help correct a behavioral issue. I understand that there are expectations on how she is to behave. And there are rules she must follow. And that you need to be able to protect the kids here from being hurt.

But I am paying you, daycare, to meet your responsibilities too. To take care of her, which doesn’t just mean keeping her from eating glass & running into traffic. It means helping her to understand boundaries, and learning what is expected of her. Is she just supposed to automatically know? It means teaching her what she can do *instead* of biting. Y’know, like “NO biting. Let’s try ‘F*CK OFF YOU DILLWEED! Or can you say ‘NUT UP OR SHUT UP YOU SISSY ASS?'” It also means getting to know her, taking the time to be patient with her most exasperating toddler behaviors, and, knowing that her toddler behavior includes biting, so knowing that it’s important that you take the time to keep a close eye on her when she is tired & frustrated so that you can proactively intervene and prevent the bad behavior. Look, I know there’s 8 other kids. But you claim that part of the problem is that her behavior is a danger to those 8 other kids, so how about investing that little bit of extra attention her way at those times?

I’ve tried to be patient with daycare. I’ve tried to be both non-apologetic and empathetic towards the perspective of the other kids’ parents. In fact, just yesterday my friend’s Facebook status was all about how upset she was that her daughter had been hurt by another child at daycare, and I was just far too ashamed to weigh in amidst the “WHAT THE F*CK? Bullies CANNOT be tolerated” bullsh*t. At this age, we aren’t talking about “bullies.” We’re talking about children who are too young to be able to communicate effectively, who don’t yet know how to share, and who are headstrong and bent on getting their way, come hell or high water.

But today was the bombshell that “I’m just going to be honest. Lots of parents are very upset…” So here’s where we got handed the bottom line: if she doesn’t stop biting in 2 weeks, she’s getting kicked out. I still am reeling.

How is this even? WHAT THE F*CK?! Other parents are upset? OTHERS? Newsflash to them: cause it’s a total joyride to feel like you are totally trying work’s last reserves of patience to be having to leave all the time with no notice to meet the 30-minute pickup deadline. It’s not at all frustrating to feel like I’ve little to no control over my otherwise decently-behaved toddler who never exhibits this behavior at home. And it’s a pride-filled moment to hear that my daughter is USING HER INCISORS TO ATTACK OTHERS like some chimp chewing off some lady’s face. What happened to an understanding that kids-will-be-kids and part of being a toddler amidst other toddlers means that they will sometimes fall down, get scuffed up a bit, get dirty, and, yes, get hit and bitten and scratched. Lest you think the shoe is always on the other foot, my daughter has been hit and bitten herself, and have I gotten all up in daycare’s sh*t about how they failed to protect her? No. And parents? I’m sure you would agree that routine is critically important to your toddler, right? You may have noticed that inconsistencies and deviations from routine are upsetting and difficult for them to manage. Inconsistencies like, oh I don’t know, how different teachers are there on different days and at different times, so maybe, just maybe it’s within the realm of possibility that some teachers are better able to monitor and prevent my daughter’s toothsome attacks than others? Yet I’m the one facing telling my boss tomorrow that perhaps I may need to take just a few vacation hours unexpectedly in the coming weeks – like, I dunno, ALL OF THEM? –  until I can make alternate arrangements for my toddler’s care?

I’m so angry I could bite someone.

Another Problem Only for Upper Middle Class Moms

So I tried the meetup group thing again. This time, it wasn’t all about women who hate PHX, it was all about women for whom daycare is beneath them. Down to the very last mom, every mom was either looking into Montessori or already had their child enrolled in one. Except for me.

Don’t get me wrong – I love Montessori. I myself went to a Montessori-style elementary school and it was an amazing school. I would love nothing more than to be able to send my daughter to Montessori. But the reality is that, at least right now, it ain’t happening. I’ve looked into the Montessori schools here. They are, without exception:

  • highly expensive. Every single one costs as much as infant daycare, the priciest of all daycare ages
  • designed for the affluent mom. The longest ‘full-day’ any of them offer is 8:30-2:00. “Hey work? I’ll be rolling in around 9:15 each day because I’ve got to drop Baby off at nursery school. Oh, and I’m sure you’ll have no issue with me leaving at 1:15, too, k? thx!” So, in addition to being able to pay as much as I’m currently paying for daycare, I also still gotta come up with the cash for  daycare on top of a ‘full day’ Montessori school…or just have my nanny schlep her back home after school & take care of her til I roll home. No wait – it doesn’t make financial sense to work just to pay for my nanny, so I’ll just be a stay at home mom.

And why should I trust the educational chops of a school that is named Tempe Montessori…when it’s located in the city of Mesa?!

 

So Much for Montessori

As Baby approaches 1 year, I had started to put out a few feelers for Montessori or other nursery schools. It seems ridiculously early, I know, and I never ever wanted to be a parent putting my Baby (and myself) through the agony of long waitlists, auditions, and just otherwise stupid antics. (At least not until kindergarten anyway).

But the reality of living in a big city (or, for all I know, anywhere these days, thanks to the general sh*ttiness of education in American public schools combined with the parenting instinct to give your child the greatest advantages in life that you can) is that you gotta start early. The highly rated preschool for 2-5 year olds on campus? Yeah, they have babies on their waiting list who HAVEN’T EVEN BEEN BORN YET. So when my dreams of having Baby right here on campus with me, learning and developing at some beautiful, highly respected, preschool of excellence were squelched? I decided I needed to get on the ball if she was going to end up in any halfway-decent school someday. So, dear interwebz, that is how you may find yourself, like I did, on the path to becoming the very person you despise, but let me continue.

I know what I envision when I think of shipping Baby off to preschool is a nurturing environment very much like the one I grew up in (I went to a free-choice nontraditional elementary school, way back before it was cool). A learning environment you just don’t see in public schools. And second, I know everyone thinks their school systems suck, but Arizona’s really, really suck. Getting her into a good school in Arizona is probably equivalent to getting her into the most mediocre of schools pretty much anywhere else.

But, dear reader, I know this will come as a shock, but my research shows that Montessori caters only to elitist, pretentious, upper middle class folks. In other words, whitey. Without exception, the Montessori schools here are:

  1. At least as expensive as infant daycare. For half days.
  2. Unable to define “half.” Without exception, all define a “half day” as fewer than three and a half hours.
  3. Unable to accommodate demand, and so implement all manner of pretentious interviews, evaluations, and auditions.

So the expectation is either that I am ridiculously wealthy and can afford

  • a nanny for the rest of each day once the ‘half’ day session is over, or
  • daycare for the rest of each day
    • Well, that, and a chauffeur, because it’s not like I can dash out of work at 11 a.m. to go pick up my kid who I couldn’t drop off before 8:30 so that I can then shlep her from nursery school to daycare, or
  • to not work.

Even though the educational credentials and teachers may impress me, none of what I’ve seen sits well with me. I can’t afford it and I can’t beat myself up because I can’t afford it either.

People act like the whole working mom thing is hard due to the emotionally and culturally-fraught decision of whether one’s identity as a woman who has offspring is tied up in what one does not accomplish at home because she works or what she does not accomplish at work because she is home. No, at least not for me. What is difficult is that the choices for high-quality childcare are so prohibitive and few and far between that only the parents who are both: financially *able* to not work AND also choose not to work have access to the quality of early childhood ed I would want.

Anyone out there wealthy enough AND willing to sponsor me? I’ll gladly stay at home AND ship my kid off to an excellent program. Anyone?

 

 

Bitter, Party of Two

Daycare is right next door to Trader Joe’s. That produced the following conversation this morning.

My Better Half™: I HATE the people who come to Trader Joe’s first thing in the morning.

Me: Why?

My Better Half™:  Because. They are just there to shop for lavish things. They clearly have nowhere they have to be right now. All they have ahead of them today is a leisurely schedule of making extravagant meals out of their delicacies. Do YOU spend your mornings menu planning for the day and then leisurely shopping at Trader Joe’s?

Me: Uh, no?

My Better Half™: Right! Because you have to be somewhere. At a JOB. My point is this: they don’t have to go to a JOB. I FUCKING HATE THEM.

The Math’s the Same

Today is payday, but this week, my paycheck was slashed in half. Money’s been lean since my maternity leave, which, other than the 3 weeks paid at 60% by short-term disability, was unpaid. And then when I came back to work, I was only part-time for 2 weeks, so I was only making half of my salary. My previous paycheck was my first full paycheck, but as the first full paycheck in months, it only began to make a dent in our financial deficit. What with daycare, we’ve been on a tight budget. So we’ve really been looking forward to getting more of a foothold with a steady full paycheck from me.

Unfortunately, my employer’s incompetent HR didn’t cooperate with that plan. You see, we elected a flexible spending account for daycare – a pre-tax deduction. And when we filled out the form, which says “Enter your ANNUAL CALENDAR-YEAR contribution, not a per-pay-period amount,” we did just that. We multiplied the weekly daycare fees times 52 weeks a year, which came out to way more than the maximum you could withhold, so we elected the maximum – just under $5000. There are 26 paychecks in a year, so that works out to about $192 withheld from every paycheck. Except my HR department seems to have a different understanding. They take whatever you fill in as your annual amount, and divide it by the number of pay periods left in the year at the time you enroll. So, in my case, $5000 divided by 9, or more than $550 to be withheld from every paycheck.

Uh, WHAT?! I had even been contacted by HR when I submitted my form, and they had explained that they calculate whatever amount you elect and divide by the number of remaining paychecks, regardless of your intention for that $5000 to be spread out over the calendar year, as their own language implies. So they “fixed” it, and my last paycheck had only $192 withheld. But today’s paycheck? There’s $550 withheld. And though I lost my shit brought this to their attention, they were unable to correct it, and so they’re adjusting the amount withheld from the remaining 8 paychecks of 2011 to balance out the extra they took out of this single paycheck. Fine, except that doesn’t help me pay my bills for the next 2 weeks. Like daycare, for instance, which is now going to constitute half of my pay for the next 2 weeks. And since I’m the only full-time employee in my household, the next 2 weeks are going to be ramen filled.

Then I thought, oh! I can at least recoup alot of what’s missing from my paycheck by submitting my daycare receipts for reimbursement, something I haven’t done yet. A good plan, but when I logged on to my daycare FSA, it only shows the initial $192 contribution, not the extra $550 they also withheld this time.

I would say that I would work even less today than I normally would on a Friday to express my outrage that half of my net pay is gone because of someone else’s incomptence. But then again, 50% times zero is still zero.