Trust Your Gut
Suzanne Phelan, Clinical Psychologist/Researcher, Providence, R.I.
Married to Jack Phelan, an independent filmmaker. Mom to son Joseph.
Decision she faced: How to work full time without putting her son in day care for huge amounts of time.
How she worked it out: Phelan loves her job and couldn’t imagine giving it up. On the other hand, she wanted her child to be well cared for. She signed Joseph up for day care in a woman’s home, but after dropping him off the first day, she realized it was the wrong arrangement. Instead, she hired a nanny, and then she and her husband rearranged their schedules—Phelan goes to work early in the morning, her husband goes in late, and each works from home one day a week. The result: Both parents work full time, but Joseph is with the babysitter only about 15 hours a week.
Pros: Joseph gets one-on-one care when his parents are at work, and the Phelans get to spend plenty of time with him.
Cons: Having a nanny for 15 hours a week costs as much as full-time family day care would cost. It also can be tough for Phelan and her husband to concentrate during work-at-home days. And sometimes Phelan feels she’s missing important things at the office by leaving at 3:30 p.m.
Financial issues: Although a second income is welcome, money isn’t the only reason that Phelan works. Working because of personal desire more than financial need, however, sometimes can leave her feeling guilty. When that happens, Phelan tries to focus on the positive. “I think I am a better mother because I feel better about myself,” she says.
How she feels about her decision: “Overall, I feel satisfied on all fronts. It definitely has its challenges, but it’s working out.”
Her best advice: When it comes to making day-care decisions, go with your gut instinct. The family day-care situation that Phelan originally chose may have worked for another baby, but she felt strongly that it was wrong for Joseph. “He was a subdued, quiet child, and that just didn’t seem like the right place for him,” she says. “You have to allow yourself to change your mind if something doesn’t feel right.”