sitting not so pretty
Before our daughter was born, I remember thinking, we’ve waited so long to hold a baby in our arms, this child will never be put down. Ha!
As strong proponents of bonding and attachment activities (e.g., baby-wearing, co-sleeping, etc.), we’ve done everything possible to promote a strong connection with our daughter. She has formed strong attachments to each of us, and often exhibits normal separation anxiety for her age when we leave the room or when someone else wants to hold her.
That’s right. We do actually put her down.
Not only did she grow so fast and get too big to constantly carry around, but of course we’ve wanted to encourage her development and independent play. Finally, sometimes we actually have to get things done around the house, like cook dinner, for instance. Then there’s the 2.5 days per week I try to work from home. I’ve been struggling with that for six months now, and realized it was finally time to bring in some help.
See, we’ve never used a babysitter. Not even our families. Not that our families are particularly helpful anyway. Or our friends, who each have two kids to keep them quite busy. It’s not really important for us to get nights out. We’ve had plenty of time for that. But it would be nice to be able to do some work during normal hours instead of waiting until everyone is asleep and staying up too late. You know, when I could be reading blogs or writing or something, or sleeping maybe. And it would be nice to go to the dentist.
I was hoping to find a long-term, part-time babysitter or nanny type to help me out two afternoons a week, just a few hours a day. Someone I would trust implicitly. Someone who would respect our parenting philosophy and decisions. Someone reliable and wonderful. Someone Baby J would adore. Someone reasonable within our budget. I didn’t even plan to leave them alone together. I just needed someone to give her the attention she deserves while I try to do the work I committed to doing.
All the long-term nanny options charged too much or weren’t very flexible. We ended up hiring a well regarded 18 year old who’s been babysitting since age 10. The only downside, I thought, was that she’d leave for college in August and we’d need to find someone else. But I needed someone now.
The day before Baby J’s birthday party was Sarah’s first day. She came over for just a couple of hours. After an introduction and some warming, the plan was for her to play with the baby so I could prep, cook and clean, just a few yards away. But it was not to be.
Baby J’s schedule has been somewhat unpredictable as she’s transitioning from two naps to one a day. That morning she refused to nap, after nearly an hour of coaxing. Just as Sarah arrived, she started to get cranky. After a few minutes of play, it was clearly bottle and nap time. Of course she would not let this perfect stranger feed her, so I put her down for a nap and began my party prep. So there I was, paying a sitter to sit while I raced around and the baby slept.
Then I realized I was out of eggs for the cake. Uh-oh. The plan was never to leave her alone, at least not yet. But I had to go to the store. Baby was asleep. While not the best napper, I knew I had at least 30 minutes and possibly a couple of hours. So I did it. I left the baby alone with the sitter for 22 whole minutes. Count ’em. Yes, she was asleep. But I did it. I even saved the receipt to commemorate the occasion. When I returned, Sarah helped me in the kitchen. I paid her to zest limes before her time was up.
Last week we began what is supposed to be a regular schedule for Monday and Wednesday afternoons. I’m trying to ease them into each other and view my time early on as an investment.
On her second day, Sarah arrived in the middle of nap time, so I paid her to read a book and listen to the monitor while I worked. Aside from an occasional email or phone call, the only work I can get done during the day is while the baby sleeps. Sarah didn’t need to be there. But I was able to take a long shower without worrying about her waking. Yet as I soaked in the steamy goodness, I realized that if the baby awoke and Sarah was there, she would freak out that a stranger was in her room, reaching into her crib. Smart girl.
When she did wake, we both went in to get her. Baby J was not pleased at this new bubbly person in her space, talking to her and disrupting our little routine. She wailed. Unperturbed by the tears, Sarah put the baby into her chair for snack time and fed her while I went about my business. Occasional cries were halted by chunks of cheese and berries and milk.
After snack time, I set up her toys and told baby J that Mama was going to work and Sarah was here to play with her. She would have none of it. She cried cries I’ve never even heard before. Animal cries. So a change of scenery. We laid a blanket outside. Brought some toys. More tears, tempered only occasionally by mild but cautious amusement with a ball and her purple dinosaur, followed by more tears.
The third visit was Monday. Tears the minute she walked in. Fierce clinging. The only distractions were snack time (but only if I was in the kitchen too), when Sarah showed her belly button, and, in a desperate attempt to stop her crying, let the baby play with her brand new i-phone. In three hours, I was able to get maybe 25 minutes of actual work done.
Now Sarah is a kind young woman. She exudes happy sweetness. A little vivacious and high-energy, compared to me, but darling to Baby J. The baby simply wants nothing to do with her. She rejects her presence. Only when we spend time together as a trio does she warm up at all to Sarah. Even when they interact, the baby looks to me to ensure my presence. Only then is she content. If I leave — whether I explain where I’m going or quietly slip away — she wails. Inconsolably.
Now I know this is largely normal behavior for her age. Once she gets used to Sarah, this should get easier. The few times she has been well distracted, she grew a little more comfortable. I imagine some day my being out of sight will be out of mind and she’ll be fine. Maybe some day, eventually, she’ll be happy to play with her new friend. Then they could take a walk with the stroller, go to the playground, etc. But right now the baby will not be alone with her. Her favorite distractions (i.e., other kids and animals) are not available.
So how long will this take? The posts I’ve read are not too encouraging. This is apparently just a tough age to introduce new caregivers, I think. Maybe it would have been easier earlier? In any case, I need to decide whether this is worth it. When should this be easier? At what point should I give up?
~ by luna on June 23, 2010.