Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Finding an AP Friendly DayCare

As a working outside the home mom, my world rises and falls with my childcare situation.  I returned to work when Liam was 5 months old.  My husband stayed home with Liam for a month, and then we had to find childcare.  My "ideal" child care situation has evolved with time and Liam's age.  As a young baby, I felt that he was best attended to by a nanny who was in our home.  As a toddler, I think daycare is the right place for him. 

At each of those points -- and many in between -- my concern was finding a childcare situation that was in tune with my parenting and child development beliefs, i.e. I was looking for a nanny or daycare that was attachment-parenting friendly.  For me that meant finding a place where my child's needs would be attended to quickly, where compassion and empathy for my child would be without limit and where the childcare providers would seek to establish a connection to my child. 

Disclaimer:  Below is what I have found based on having several child care set-ups, interviewing numerous nannies and touring many day care centers, but there are always exceptions and each child and daycare is unique.

Tips For Finding An Attachment-Parenting Friendly Daycare

1.  Small:  After touring both the big name facilities and several "home" (or close to it) daycares, I found that the smaller daycareswere generally more in line with my beliefs.  The smaller size meant that there was less bureaucracy, fewer ways things "had to be done" and more room for the individuality of the child.  In my experience, the "at home" daycares also tended to be run by and employ moms.  There is a comforting measure in someone caring for your child who has had his or her own children and then VOLUNTARILY choose to help take care of other people's kids.  Our daycare also employs a college age woman who has the pep to keep up with some of the really rambunctious toddlers and preschools, so naturally Liam loves her.  The other woman who spends a lot of time with Liam is a mother of FIVE boys.  She is the most calm and calming person I know and nothing alarms her.  She is wonderful.

2.  Mixed Age:  I found that I gravitated to places where the children were in mixed-age groups.  I love dropping Liam off into a room with one baby that is still crawling, a preschooler who is setting up trains and another toddler who is potty-training.  It feels like a big family.  I found that in a mixed-age environment, the younger children are encouraged to develop their verbal and social skills.  And, as a practical matter, the older children appropriately require a bit less attention from the caregivers and as a result, the younger children receive a bit more attention.  I found that places where there were 10-15 children, exactly the same age, all in one room overwhelmed me.  So many kids!  At the same developmental point!  With only three or four caregivers?!  If I was overwhelmed, I could only imagine how my kid would feel.   (As a side note:  I found that I could get a sense of how much attention each child received when I walked into a daycare by watching how many of the children ran up to me.  If the kids continued on with their activities, I felt as though the children were engaged in what they were doing and were not craving adult attention.) 

3.  Breastfeeding-Friendly:  It has been important to me to feel like my choice in breastfeeding my baby, and now toddler, is respected and valued.  I loved Liam's nanny, but she became less supportive of breastfeeding as time went on.  I felt pressured by her to switch to cow's milk, well before he or I was ready for that change.  Our current daycare is incredibly supportive of breastfeeding:  the owner was a LLL leader and breast-fed her own children for two years each.  As a result, I don't feel the least bit awkward or like I have anything to hide when I pick Liam up and he starts pulling at my shirt and saying, "Mommeeee" (the only time I say "mommy" as opposed to "momma" is referring to "mommy milk").  If Liam and I are going to run errands after pick-up, I will sit down on one of her couches and feed Liam before we head out.  The fact that the daycare is breastfeeding friendly is widely advertised in the policy manual, and a quick question by a prospective parent would reveal just how breastfeeding friendly the place is. 

4. Sleeping and Napping:  In the smaller day cares, I found that the providers were willing to try whatever I wanted to help Liam sleep.  "My child needs his blanket and his back patted."  Totally fine.  "My son is rocked to sleep."  They were willing to do that too.  But, I found the follow-up question even more important:  what do you do if a child will not go down for a nap?  Liam had a tough time adjusting to napping at daycare.  For a couple of weeks, he would only nap for thirty minutes -- not nearly long enough.  So, each of his daycare providers took turns sitting with him, reading him books, doing puzzles and other quiet activities while the other kiddos slept.  He was never left in his pack & play to cry. 

5.  Being Held:  After I received my current daycare's policy manual, I nearly started crying when I read a passage that said, "your baby will not be held all of the time."  I completely freaked out, thinking that it meant that any baby would be left on their own and would not be held, even though that feeling was contrary to my sense when we toured the daycare (and that Liam was no longer a baby).  Now that we have been at the daycare for a long while, this is what I have realized:  She is right, the babies are not held ALL the time, but they are held ALOT.  Every day when I go for pick-up, at least one of the babies is being worn by one of the providers.  There are two pack and plays set up for the two babies, but they are only in there when they are sleeping.  The rest of the time, the babies are being held or are in a jumper or are on the floor in the room with other children.  They are interacted with, held and loved by the providers.  My gut instinct about the place was right.

I think that is what it truly comes down to -- your gut instinct.  I wish there were a checklist: find the following things in a daycare and it will! be! great!  But I don't think it works that way.  Instead, I think any parent can get a sense from information on the web and then you really have to go for a tour.  Stay for a while.  Linger in the room where your child would be.  Talk to the providers that your child would be with, not just the person who runs the center.  Watch the children.  Watch the providers.  Ask questions.  And then, most importantly, trust your instinct.  After all, isn't that what attachment-parenting is all about?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Bliss of Toddler Sick-Days

I woke up at midnight on Saturday/Sunday night to a sound that I had never heard before but recognized instantly:  my toddler was barking like a seal.   I spent the rest of my night with a constant refrain running through my head:  Liam has croup. How should/will it be treated?  How long is he contagious?  When will he return to daycare? 
We woke to a gorgeous fall day.  The perfect day to go pick out our perfect pumpkin at our favorite farm, undoubtedly filled with lots of other families and little ones.  Maybe not.  Although it pained me slightly (imagine the beautiful pictures of Liam toddering around hundreds of pumpkins!), we decided to stay in our warm home and let our little man have a quiet, peaceful day where we could keep a close eye on him.  Early in the day, my husband and I started discussing our "sick day" plan for the next day.  We decided that he would head to work in the morning, come home at noon, and I would head into work at noon.  It seemed like the perfect solution:  each one of us would be able to put in a half-day of work and Liam would be in the care of one of us at all times.
I make no secret of the fact that I wish I could spend more time with Liam.  Right now, I need to work full-time.  Someday, hopefully soon, that may change.  But for now, the office pulls me away from my son for at least 40 hours every week (a HUGE reduction from when I was in private practice, but it still kills me to spend that much time away).  I feel like I go through seasons with my desire to spend more time at home:  some days/weeks/months I am begrudgingly OK with working full-time, some times I am happy to trot off to work while Liam runs into his daycare room, and other times, each day feels like my heart is being wrenched out of my chest anew.  Lately, I have been in the latter season.  Sunday night, I devolved into a puddle of tears over having to leave Liam while he was sick.  My husband and I talked, I decided to spend all of Monday home with him, and I breathed a small sigh of relief to spend the next day with Liam.
I don't take joy out of my toddler being sick, but yesterday filled my soul.  With croup, Liam seems to feel the worst at night and waking up.  By mid-morning, he was buzzing around the house, joyfully getting into everything.  There were times where he clearly needed down time, and I was happy to provide a snuggle or hug.  We spent the day puttering around the house, running an errand or two and making homemade muffins.  With the weekend behind me (and the laundry and cleaning and whatever else behind me too), I felt like I had a day to focus on Liam.  I sat on the floor and played with trucks.  We ambled through Target looking for sheets for his big-boy bed.  I sat him on the counter, talked him through making muffins and explained in a quiet voice that we had to be gentle (and quiet) in folding in the blueberries.  In response, Liam started talking back, "buuuberry" in a hushed tone.  And later, we sat in Daddy's chair, eating our muffins and watching the wind whip the trees.  At nap time, Liam fell asleep on my chest and I dozed off with him softly snoring in the nape of my neck. 

Going to work today was not easy.  It never is, but at least I had fresh memories of a day where I was totally focused on and enjoyed every moment with my son.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fancy Diplomas On The Wall

Come into my office.  Look.  Do you see them?  I have several fancy diplomas hanging on the wall of my office.  A pretty (and huge) diploma from a university down south.  It's beautiful, isn't it?  And next to it, do you see that one?  It is a fancy-pants diploma written in latin.  The day I received that diploma, I thought I had arrived (except for the looming bar exam).  They are pretty aren't they?

Do you want them?  Seriously, take them from me.  Please. 

Come have coffee with me.  I can tell you all about my high-flying career.  I worked for an amazing man who wears a robe.  I worked in a tall skyscraper and looked down on the world from a corporate palace.  That day, I'll wear a beautiful, polished black suit with earrings and a necklace to match.  I will whip out my phone to make sure no one from the office has called to tell me about a hearing that was just scheduled and will happen in three hours. 

Do you want the towering office space, pretty clothes and the phone?  Please, take them from me.

Because the truth is, I don't want them anymore.  I worked so very hard to be "the best" and to earn jobs that are respected, prestigious and fancy.  Yet, over the past six months, a crashing reality has arrived in my lap:  I don't want them anymore.  You see, this little person has taken over my life.  His name is Liam.  And I want the best for him.  No, not fancy cars and toys.  I want to give of myself to him (and hopefully, someday, a number 2... and maybe 3).  I want to run my own business or do something I am deeply passionate about  (midwife?  lactation consultant? teacher?).  And this fancy stuff?  Its just window dressing to a life I no longer desire.  Please, set me free.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

So Close

There are fleeting moments:  moments when I read another's words, see a picture on a blog or a thought scampers through my mind.  Fleeting moments that when I try to capture them in my two hands, like I used to try and catch fireflies as a child on warm Virginia nights, I open my hands to find the moment gone, flitting away.  In those desperate moments, my heart sings and my mind smiles, content.  For in that single, fleeting moment, I see a glimpse of what and who I want to be: who I really am at my core, stripped of years of academic training and corporate indoctrination that has thought me to shun risk and flee to the safety of predictable boredom.  I so desperately want to throw my arms around the person that I know is inside, because inside, I see the real me: a young girl who is vibrant, wild even, who embraces risk and life.  I want to tell her that it is ok to come out from her hiding place and that she is free to explore and stretch, to awaken from years of sleep and fear.  I will tell her that no one is going to yell at her or scorn her for her thoughts or her ways.  She is welcome.  I am still trying to understand who she is, what she does with her days and what her life looks like.  Yet every time I try and get a close look, her features fade to fuzzy and she runs away.  Perhaps all that I can do at this stage is tell her that she is welcome and know that at her own pace, she will emerge and we will become one.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Less Than Full Support

I didn't set out to breastfeed my son for 20 months (where we stand now).  Before Liam was born, we took a breastfeeding class and my goal -- my husband and my goal -- was for me to breastfeed our child until he or she was six months old.  I think I came up with six months because a good friend had breastfed her son for six months, and I thought that sounded like a good time frame.  After a rough first day involving a low blood sugar, mandated formula, and a lactation consultant, Liam and I got the hang of breastfeeding.  In the beginning, I wasn't particularly passionate about it either way:  I knew that breastfeeding was best for my son and for me and I was going to try and figure it out. 
From day one, my husband was incredibly supportive.  He encouraged my persistence and my patience.  Looking back, I see that he was suprised that his role was to support me caring for our son, rather than doing the direct care (feeding) himself.  Despite the bumps and bruises to us becoming new parents and my adventures in breastfeeding, he never once uttered a word that was discouraging.  I was always careful to say, "I'm not ready to wean yet, but man, I need to complain about how tough breastfeeding is right now."  He would listen and ask what he could do. 
My family is a different matter.  Two of the people that I am closest to on this planet are less than supportive.  Around the four month mark, I felt their support gradually fall away.  Their comments are never directed at me, or if they are, the comments are passive. 

"So what brand of formula are you going to go with?  We really like ___."

"I can't believe my friend is still breastfeeding her son.  He's almost a year old!  Its time for her to knock that off.  I'm going to talk to her husband about it."  

"She's still breastfeeding and he's two!"

"He (Liam)'s still doing that"  

Less than supportive comments or wayward glances are not easy when they come from the public, from people that you don't know.  When those same comments come from people that are close to you, from the people that you have relied on for support for the past thirty years, it can be devastating.  I wish I could say that I let those comments go, that I turn away without a thought and stay strong.  But every time, those comments cut me to my core, making me question my decisions and my parenting.  I run to my husband for confirmation that I -- that we -- are doing the right thing. 

In the moment, my head is screaming with all of the research I have read of the benefits of "extended" breastfeeding (whatever "extended" means).  As I stand there, I want to retort with a glib comment:  "He needed it yesterday.  He needs it today.  He'll probably need it tomorrow."  Or I want to spout that the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until two YEARS, not four months or one Year.  I want to get on a soap box and educate.  Yet most of the time, I stand there with my mouth slightly agape, mumbling about daycare and the winter (translation = this is his first winter in daycare and I want to assure that his immune system has my support for this first winter).

After the initial sting wears off, I realize that I am doing the right thing for Liam and for me.  I will not give up our breastfeeding relationship until WE are ready.  And WE includes Liam, my husband and me.  I muster my own resolve to ignore the voices that are not my own (or my husband's).  The comments hurt, sting and make me hesitant to bring up breastfeeding, but they do not change my decision.  With every comment, my determination to continue breastfeeding is made stronger.  And perhaps with every comment, I learn to ignore the outside voices just a bit more.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Five months ago, I left the world of corporate litigation in search of a better, calmer and more simple life.  I can't say that I have completely "recovered" from my time in a large law firm, but I can say that every day I take another step towards having the life that I envisioned.
In my prior life, stress was the name of the game.  Long hours with demanding partners, associates and clients took their toll on my health and my marriage.  I worked so hard to ensure that my son was insulated from my stress and from the effects it had had on my marriage, but I am sure that he felt it too.  Even when I was not physically in the office, I lived in fear that I would be called upon to drop whatever I was doing to attend to a client or partner need.  I tried my best to control the stress, but I know that I snapped at those around me, whether it was the innocent paralegal, a delivery guy or my husband.  I didn't realize until I was removed from that environment how hard it had been on my husband and I.  Now, I see that years of me putting the demands of work first took a toll.  Not an unrecoverable toll, but a toll that is taking time and hard work to heal.  We were consumed with our city life-style: the best and the newest had to be ours.  Fancy stroller!  Condo downtown!  Shiny new clothes and shoes!  Outsourcing our laundry, our cleaning!
Looking forward, I see possibility and a return to simplicity.  I see a happy marriage with my husband, where we are engaged in our own lives and with our family.  I see laughter around a full dining room table.  I see a house that does not contain the latest, greatest and newest of things but all that is in the house is lived in and loved.  I see our sheets hanging on a line, being dried by a summer breeze that smells of hay.  I see our now vacant "hobby farm" populated with animals and us, at least in part, living off of our land.  I see my husband's career taking off and him continuing to be engaged, challenged and loving it.  I see my son growing up and learning the value of laughter, love and hard work.  I see a good future for us.
As for my career, I don't know.  The not knowing is really tough.  I'm not sure that I see myself as a practicing attorney twenty-years from now.  I see myself working, but where and in what capacity remains a mystery.  I have time, at least a little while, to figure out my next step.  I crave a plan.  My mind would be so much more at ease if I knew, or could decide, the path that I want to walk.  But I know that I need time vacillating, dreaming, imagining and wondering "what if."  So, for now, I will enjoy the sense of possibility.  I will embrace a return to the good life and simplicity, knowing that at least I am walking in the right direction.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


My mother is a retired Army Colonel.  She is a kick-ass woman who raised my sister and I single-handedly while climbing through the ranks of the U.S. Army.  As a soldier in the Army, for her physical fitness was not an option.  I remember raising with her before dawn.  She was clad in her gray, simple PT uniform.  She would bring extra blankets for me so that I could sit in the bleachers as she passed -- and maxed out  -- her PT test every single year.  I would cheer her on as she finished her run.  In addition to her PT, my mom also ran (and still does) local road races.  When I was a kid, she was amazingly quick, earning herself a peck on the cheek from President Carter at a road race that she won near his hometown.  A few years later, she started entering me in those road races.  Most of the time I enjoyed running with her and sometimes racing my friends.  I have a great picture of my long hair blowing straight back off of my head as I raced my best friend in second grade to the finish line.  That was a good year.  The next year, well, I have that one coming back to me in spades as a parent.
My mom entered us in the same road race that she had won a few years earlier.  Running with me, she had no plans of being the first to the finish line, but I do believe she had planned that we would actually make it to the finish line.  It was a warm, humid Georgia morning on an out and back course.  The beginning of the race was fun enough, but about half way through the race, I decided that I had had quite enough of this whole running thing, thank you very much.  I told my mom that I didn't want to run anymore.  She said that we could walk for a few but that she knew I could finish the run.  I promptly decided that I was not only finished running but that I had no intention of taking one additional step.  I sat down on the side of the road, at least a mile out into a Georgia peanut farm.  I refused to run.  I refused to walk.  I would not be moved from my spot on the side of the road.  I remember my mom's look of frustration.  I knew that I was being obstinate, but I didn't care.  I was not going to move.  As the number of runners passing us grew fewer and fewer, the sun grew warmer and warmer.  Nope, not moving.  Finally, she sat down next to me for a while.  She convinced me to get back on my feet.  We finished the race.
Although I was recruited to run track and cross country at every high school I attended (three), I refused.  I would run to get in shape for soccer, but other than that running held little interest for me.  I'm not sure when running changed from a means to get in shape to my way of escaping the world and having time to myself.  College, probably.  Through college, law school and the bar, running was something I did when I wanted, for however long it felt good.  It wasn't until I started working and my husband took up running that it became a MUST for me.  Through my days at the law firm, running was my sanctuary.  I knew that even if I worked 14 or 16 hours of the day, I had taken some time just for me, to take care of myself both physically and mentally.   

The need to take care of myself, even for thirty minutes, resonates with me even more now that I am a mother.  It is rarely easy to find time to get out and go for a run.  Now that I am working a reasonable schedule, I run over my lunch hour three or four days per week.  I find that I can squeeze in a decent run if I change quickly and forgo the shower at the end (a little gross, yes, but my standards for my own cleanliness have plummeted since becoming a mother).  On the weekends, I load the little man into the jogging stroller and we head out for a run.  He is a great motivator: every time I stop to walk or stretch, I hear from the stroller, "mama, run." 

Running is my time.  It is my time to listen to my music or just enjoy the silence of running on a trail or through town.  There are many days where I drag my feet getting out the door, but the vast majority of the days that I actually get out the door, I don't regret it.  When I return home or to the office, I feel calmer.  Running is my reset button for whatever has been annoying me or weighing on my mind.  It reminds me of who I am and who I was before I became attorney, wife and mother.  Running is my lifeline.  I embrace attachment-parenting whole-heartedly, including the need for balance and to do what works for the family.  Taking that short period of time a couple times a week lets me be a better parent, wife, and a better person in general.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Baby-Wearing and Toddler-Carrying

Despite predictions of gloom, cold and rain, my family trudged out to a local fair on Saturday.  After paying to park at least a half-mile away from the fair, my husband threw our son on his shoulders, I grabbed my purse stuffed with spare diapers, a sippy cup, a spare outfit (the kid decorates himself when he eats) and rain jackets for all and we headed off to the fair. 
When we arrived inside the gates, we headed straight for the animals.  This past summer, my husband and I bought a small "hobby farm" in my home state -- something that we had long dreamed about making a reality.  Our new/old farmhouse was, and still is, in desperate need of renovations, and the tales of our remodeling are best left for another day.  Nonetheless and despite the fact that we still have exposed beams (not in the good way) in much of the house, we are debating and love talking about what animals will one day join us on our little farm.  So, when we arrived at the fair, we naturally headed over to the animals that we are considering.  First up: dairy cows.  I love them but know that they are a ton of work.  Our son, Liam, took great joy in walking down each of the aisles while holding my hand, pointing at the cows and saying "mooooo."  Next up: sheep.  Liam let us know that he was done walking and would much prefer to crawl amongst the sheep rather than be carried or walk on his own, thank-you very much.  Crawling on a floor covered in sheep manure didn't work for me, so we spent a fun few minutes with him refusing to walk or be picked up and me refusing to let him crawl.  The tantrum passed and after a few minutes of him sitting in the middle of an aisle, he got back to his feet and continued to walk down the aisles looking at the "sheeee" and saying "baa."  Throughout all of our trudging among different animals and watching parades and ordering way-too-greasy of food, there was one piece of equipment that was conspicuously absent from our little tribe:  a stroller.  
Liam spent the entire fair on my husband's shoulders, in my arms or walking on his own.  I know that in a way we have it easier because our kid is on the lighter side, but he still gets heavy after a while.  The kid is no speed demon.  Letting him walk on his own can be downright painful, especially when you just. want. to. get. home.  Nonetheless, I truly believe there is value in foregoing the stroller most of the time.  Don't get me wrong, we have two strollers:  a jogging stroller that I LOVE and so does Liam and a fancy-pants stroller that we bought when I lived my prior life as a corporate litigator.  

For me -- and for us -- I have always believed in baby-wearing and now toddler-carrying.  When he was a true baby, he spent much of his days in various baby carriers.  Now that he can walk, I believe there is value in teaching Liam that he has two feet and legs that seems so little now, but that will soon have him running, leaping, jumping and playing.  I want him to be up, be active, to run so fast that he feels like his feet can't keep up with his legs.  I hope that he learns that his feet can take him anywhere.  

Right now, as a 20-month old toddler, I know that his little legs frequently need a break.  While he is a full-fledged toddler and no longer my tiny baby, I know that he is not grown either.  He needs to be close.  He needs to be held, cuddled and loved close.  When he lets me know that he can no longer walk, I carry my little boy, either just in my arms or in a carrier.  I like having him close to my eye level, seeing what I am seeing.  When we are looking at the same huge horse at the fair, it is easy to engage him.  Holding him, I can sense in his body language when he is excited or scared.  I can get excited with him when we turn the corner to see my husband walking toward us.  I can comfort him and let him know that the loud noise is not going to hurt him.  In contrast, I think it is so very easy to become disconnected with my little boy when he is in a stroller.  Perhaps he is enjoying watching the world go by, but it is so easy for a walk to devolve into me thinking about what I have to do for work the next day and maybe he is looking at the bugs on the sidewalk but neither of us is talking.  I know that the days that I can hold him and that he wants to be held are limited, so for this period of time, I will hold him when I can and encourage his little legs to take off when he is not in my arms.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Starting Point

For too long I waited until everything was in place.  I was convinced that I had to have everything figured out -- perfect even -- before I could start writing: I needed to define my viewpoint and my subject-matter; I needed to decide how I was going to refer to myself, my son, my husband, our dogs; I needed to understand how to upload pictures and not let others steal those pictures;  I needed a name for my blog.  The last question, the name, has stopped me in my tracks before I started.  Why is it that I needed a name that I felt perfectly encapsulated what I wanted to say before I started trying to say it?  I felt like I needed to define myself.  But here is the truth:  I'm still figuring it out.  I am still trying to understand my own voice, trying to hear what it is that I have to say. 
So, here is what I have decided.  I will start writing and let the name flow from what I write.  Maybe the name will come to me tomorrow, maybe next week. It will be an adventure?
My voice is here.  I am ready to start sharing what drums around in my head all day.  I am ready to share the struggles that I know are not unique to me, but that seem lonely and without a like-minded community.  Perhaps there is a community out there, and my writing will help me find others out there like me.  I hope so. 

The starting point:  I am going to give voice to what it means to be an AP (attachment-parenting), crunchy/granola/tree-hugging (or whatever other term you want to throw in there), simplicity-focused mother and wife -- while also wearing a suit and heels to work everyday to be a lawyer.  I'm not going to pretend that I do it all, have it all or have it all figured out.  This is just my perspective, my voice, my successes and the inevitable (but hopefully not too frequent) falling flat on my face.  

Here's to the beginning!