Choosing childcare

When I was pregnant with my son — my first and only child — I was working full time as a newspaper features reporter.

I told my boss I was for sure coming back to work.

Childcare had been arranged so that both my husband and I could work. My son would go into full-time care at 4 1/2 months old.

Would our plan actually hold?

I think there’s always a bit of suspicion surrounding fi rst-time moms and their assumptions about going back to work. Will Mama really come back? Or will she fall into a love so deep and consuming even work — her career! — won’t matter?

After all, infant childcare often costs far more than many a mother can bring home. You have to really want to keep your career going to lose money while working — while also being away from your kid. I mean, who would choose that?

Well, me, it turned out.

In my heart of hearts, I dreamt of that love — that burning desire to do nothing but stay home with my bundle of joy. A tiny part of me wanted to break my promise to my employer. Sorry, bosses, I would have to say: I’ve fallen in love!

But it was not to be. Did I love my child with every fiber of my being? Yes!

But did I fall in love with infant care? No. I mean, it was SO SO hard. I was not a natural. “Work” was so much easier.

Indeed, I was actually excited to go back to work. Yes, I was conflicted (and hated dropping my son off). But I was ready.

Did I feel guilty about my choice?

Yes. A lot. I beat myself up: Someone else is raising my child for me! What is wrong with me? My mother stayed home until I was in middle school. Why couldn’t I?

Was it the “right” choice?

I think so. I think I fall into the camp of folks who are better mothers because they go back to work. And I had to do what felt best to me.

I think that’s what our biggest parenting choices come down to: There are best practices, sure. But in the end, you have to go with what will work for you. (And here’s a well-kept secret: If it doesn’t work, you can change it.)

In fact, in this very issue — our annual edition focused on childcare — multiple mothers talk about the choices they’ve made and how they’ve had to adjust things over time. They made their decisions, but then followed their hearts to build the lives they wanted for their children.

With these and our other childcare stories, too, I hope we can help you navigate not just the childcare decisions you have to make, but also the complicated feelings that go along with them.

Believe it or not, Mom and Dad, only you know what’s best — and always will.