Mothering the mother

I was in a bind. My 3-month-old daughter was in an awful daycare. It was nearly seven years ago and thinking about it still turns my thigh bones to jelly. 

I waited too long to find a daycare — half anxiety, half ignorance — and I made the best choice I could, and then my fears of leaving a child with a stranger came true. 

She wasn’t taking the bottle. She wouldn’t sleep in the crib. I was getting multiple calls at work every day to come get her. 

Plus, I was out of time off, because I had to use it for maternity leave — and bedrest before that. And she was born in January, so I had no more time off for a whole year. America!

Piecing it together

Long story short, we managed to get her placed in my nephew’s daycare, but the provider didn’t work Mondays. Not ideal either, but I was so relieved and grateful, I teared up on her couch when we visited to see if she’d be a fit. 

We’d make it work somehow. 

My mom had just retired from teaching, and my sister is a nurse who works a slightly off-kilter schedule from normal business hours. Together, in some miracle of miracles, they told me they would take Ruby on Mondays. 

That was seven years ago. Now I have a first-grader, a preschooler and a toddler. And all of those years, all of those Mondays, my mom and my sister have taken my three wild children and tamed them for “Mema and Susie Day,” spending time together and introducing their own little traditions. 

It’s one less forkful of guilt to swallow about being away from my kids more than I’d like to be, because my kids are spending time with beloved family members and getting to know them on their own terms.

Here’s what else I get: The spoiled-baby-of-the-family reassurance and support of two people — my north stars since the beginning. 

I know they will always act with love and in the best interest of my children, and I take mental notes of their child-management techniques. 

A safe haven

Plus, things like this happen: The week of this writing, William and I were scrambling around some deadlines while the kids got their devoted day.

They were a bit late coming home, and I had that moment of oh-they’re-here-NOW as the headlights swung into the driveway. Had we planned dinner? Not exactly. And bedtime comes awfully quickly after dinner at our house.

My sister bumped in the back door, her arms strung like clotheslines with snow pants, piled high with tiny backpacks stuffed full of the kids’ current favorite things and a bucket of popcorn from that afternoon’s Frozen 2 showing. 

She made a second trip and appeared with a vat of one of my favorites — my mom’s homemade pea soup, still warm, and a container filled with five Mema-made cream puffs. Dinner and dessert. 

So not only do they mother my children, but they also mother the mother. These moments are much-appreciated, hugely welcome ports in my storm. 

They’re my safe place to hide for a few minutes and sigh with relief — every Monday for seven years or every time I send a panicked text about how I cannot possibly do it all.

I don’t do it all. I have them. 

Katie Dohman is currently living in the midst of a full-house renovation with her three kids, two pets and one husband. Follow her adventures at