Thursday, December 3, 2009

How to Stop Worrying about Childcare

My first sitter, Maggie, spoiled me forever. We met, I adored her, she adored the baby, I hired her, and a love affair began. I left for work on her first day without a second thought -- really! I had no urge to run back and ask her 12 more questions about her experience, her references, her opinion on daytime TV or high-fructose corn syrup.

But the love affair had to end after a year -- we moved, too far to keep Maggie -- and we went through four more nannies before the next year came to a close. I had more than my share of irrational fears (like the time I was sure Christine had a boyfriend lurking around my house; she didn't, though she simply disappeared one day) and rational ones (like the time I was sure Danielle would quit to return to a glam fashion job; she did -- with no notice!). I second-guessed myself into a pretzel.

Even now, with 3-year-old Daniel and his little brother, James, happily and safely ensconced in daycare, I feel the uncertainty that seems part of handing over your kids to someone else. Should I work less or try again for a nanny? Shell out more cash for a ritzier daycare?

Fact is, "even when you know you've done it 'right' choosing childcare, the uncomfortable feelings come," says Linda Smith, executive director of the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies. Add in the childcare studies that periodically make alarming headlines in the media-like March's research from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development about how kids in child-care centers exhibit a slight increase in minor behavior problems through sixth grade -- and it's a wonder any of us have a moment's peace of mind. (Of course, that study also found that kids who experience high-quality childcare, even in centers, have better-than-average vocabulary skills through fifth grade, but the guilt-provoking part of the findings got most of the play.)

The emotional tug-of-war is as much an unpleasant reality of childcare as late-pickup fees and the times your child calls the sitter "Mommy." To deal with some common childcare trip-ups

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