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02.16.12 Being a working mom means you can't always look before you leap


As I wrote in my previous post I specifically chose a day care facility for my son, and I’m sure I was given the school calendar when I enrolled. But somehow school holidays—like next week’s Presidents’ Day—often sneak up on me at the last minute. (Thank you day care teachers for reminding me with a note taped to the sign-in sheet!) Luckily, my husband has a flexible work schedule so he’ll watch our son this coming Monday. But, there have been plenty of times where I’ve had to scramble for day care at the last minute—and most often it’s because my son is sick.

Despite the day care “rule” that sick kids should stay at home, I’m guilty of sometimes dropping my son off when he should probably be snuggled up on the couch. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never knowingly dropped him off with a fever or a stomach virus. But, I have brought him to day care with a nose that just keeps running or a cough that’s been lingering for days. And, I’m not the only one. There’s always a runny nose in his classroom—and it’s just a matter of time before my son catches it.

When my son was about 15 months old, I got a call from day care saying that I needed to come pick him up immediately because he had hand, foot and mouth disease. What?!? Well, in rare cases HFMD can lead to viral meningitis, but most often it just means your baby will get a mild fever and blisters in his mouth, or on the palms of his hands or the soles of his feet. The worst part is that it’s highly contagious, so my son couldn’t go back to day care until every blister was gone—which my pediatrician told me could take a week or more. At the time my husband was traveling for work, and my mom was living across the country, so I was on my own. I certainly couldn’t take a week off of work, so I needed to find someone—ASAP.

As soon as I got home, I called a friend and asked if her nanny had any recommendations. I also called my pediatrician’s office to ask if they had anyone they could recommend. In all, I called five potential babysitters, and the only one who was available was the sister-in-law of one of the nurses in my pediatrician’s practice. She wasn’t a professional nanny, but Margret had eight kids of her own and was out of work so she could start the next morning. She sounded nice on the phone, she was obviously familiar with kids and I saw her sister-in-law at the pediatrician’s office all the time—she wouldn’t steer me wrong. (Would she?) Plus, I didn’t have anyone else to call. So, Margret got the job.

She showed up at 9 a.m. on the dot the next morning. I’m a stickler for promptness so we were off to a good start. I went over my son’s feeding and nap schedule, and she tried to play peek-a-boo with my son as I showed her around. I thought, this seems OK, so I gave my son a big hug and kiss and—insert leap of faith here—I left for work.

I called Margret’s cell phone a few hours later to see how things were going. She didn’t answer. So, I called again. And then again. Still no answer. I thought, well, how far can she go? She has eight kids of her own—she can’t possibly want another one. (Can she?) I gave it another half hour and called again. This time she picked up. It turns out that my son was having trouble going down for a nap so Margret had laid down with him to help him sleep, and she didn’t want to disturb him by answering the phone. And they were just on their way out to take a walk around the neighborhood. Whew.

When I got home that night, Margret and my son were playing and he seemed fine. He was obviously happy to see me, but he also seemed perfectly happy hanging out with Margret. Sometimes a leap of faith pays off. Like the exciting leap you take when you start a new job. Or the nerve-racking leap when you leave your firstborn in someone else’s care. Or the incredible, life-changing leap you take by having a baby in the first place. Here’s to leaping— and mostly happy endings.

What unexpected leaps have you taken as a working mom?