Ever had a childcare calamity? Lou makes a desperate plea to save her from being ‘that mother’ at childcare.
In my experience I’ve found the childcare experience to be one of life’s great levellers. As adults we increasingly find ourselves orbiting in the same spheres with the same kinds of people – Facebook is a great example of this. An echo chamber where similar philosophies, ideas, political and social beliefs are buffeted back and forward like a highly contagious case of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease in Toddler Room 2.
If and when we return to work after having our kids, most of us seem to find ourselves in the position where we need to outsource the care of our kids to someone else. There are those of us who can rely on family members and friends to help lighten this burden but for a lot of us it means getting on waiting lists while your wee bebe is still a foetus. Trudging to place after place with a hopeful smile and an ultrasound looking for someone, anyone, who will help you out. Nodding and smiling your way through tour after tour, so focused on making the cut that when they ask you if you have any questions your only one really is, “Why don’t you like me?”
Those who have been down this road before give you really helpful advice like; “You should attend a centre that’s exactly halfway between your home and your work” and “Oh I heard a really bad thing about the only place you’ve gotten a look in – real Hansel and Gretel situation” and “My parents are dedicating their lives to being our constant un-paid babysitters – why don’t you have exactly the same life as me and just do that?”. They let you know how many times their kid got sick in the first year (eight) and how many biters there were in their kids’ room (three but the identity of the third biter remains unconfirmed – some say they saw teeth imprints on a grassy knoll but that remains a conspiracy theory). They blow your mind with horror stories of waiting six months for the childcare rebate to kick in and of parents being signed out with the wrong kid. The only thing they don’t seem to let you know is that, for the most part, once you’re settled in, everything just kind of works.
My son really loves his childcare. This is the third one he’s been in. The first was great but then we moved states and I had to get him into a place without being able to inspect it first-hand. Let’s just say it was less than ideal at the risk of defamation and leave it at that. However, this place he’s in now, is amazing. Huge, adaptive spaces that can be shaped for different learning activities. Lots of outdoor and indoor play and learning opportunities. Highly trained, highly capable staff led by a team of dedicated professionals who pride themselves on being the best in the area.
Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?
But there’s always a fly in the ointment. Except this time the fly is me. Picture a tiny Jeff Goldblum with wings and too much makeup on yelling, “Help me, I can’t stop getting too involved”. If there’s an email, I’m replying all. If there’s an event, I’m first in line. If there’s an activity, here I am, completely in the way.
I’m the mother who childcare workers flee from and the worst part is I can see myself doing it – but I cannot stop. I’m The Elephant Man, running up and down halls in sensible low heels, beseeching poor girls in their twenties to listen to my theories about exactly what developmental stage my son might be going through when he is shouting about putting his bum on someone’s boobies. I’m Dracula lurching out of the shadows at around 7:30 am to “just have a quick chat” about the current junior kindy literacy program. I’m Medusa crawling around corners with unintentional dreadlocks borne of an abundance of hair and a lack of free time who is “wondering if I could pop in on their day off” to help tidy up the arts and crafts area.
I see the fear in their eyes when they see me and I can hear how these ridiculous things coming of my mouth sound, but it’s like I’m watching a film. A film about a desperately weird woman trying to come across as normal and freaking everybody the fuck out in the process. I can only imagine the quick conversations that are exchanged as they look out the one-way glass to see my station wagon being inaccurately squeezed into a car park.
“Shit, Gladys, she’s here! Put up the sign about reception being unattended! I’m off to hide behind a filing cabinet.”
So if I know that I’m doing it, and I know I need to stop, what do I do?
That’s not actually a rhetorical question or a lead-in to the part of the article where I explain to you what to do. I literally don’t actually know how to behave in any way other than this. I am basically a loud, drunk peacock constantly hooting for both attention and to signal distress except in human form.
This is my resolution to cut this shit out. Here and now, internet. I solemnly swear to take a good, hard look in the mirror prior to stepping foot in that beautiful, bleached-clean sanctuary again. I will not fuss. I will not follow. I will not Facebook stalk the teachers (I know you all do it, do not even lie to me right now). I will not hover around reception for no discernible reason than to lean on the counter and desperately try to get the admin staff to like me. I will not re-organise the lockers where the children store their spare clothes and bedding. I will not be this mother anymore.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have 60 cupcakes to make before tomorrow morning. It’s my son’s teacher’s mother’s birthday and I just want to show I care. Should I take them straight to childcare or drop them at her house? I know where she lives, after all.