Thursday, December 06, 2007

Leap

It looks like I'll be going back to work at the beginning of April. It's still months away, but I'm already dreading it. I will be a wreck at first, I know it. I'm so used to being with le Petit all the time, I can't imagine being separated from him on weekdays, and I honestly don't know how I'll make the adjustment.

And of course, I still don't know who will be taking care of him during the day.

As I've bemoaned in previous posts, we did not get a spot in municipal day care, and here in France, there are pretty much no other day care center options around. The only private center nearby is a corporate center, and my employer would have to agree to sponsor le Petit by paying the equivalent of a fourth (!) of my salary. There is, ahem, no chance of that. We looked into a private bilingual center in Paris proper, but it is both inconveniently far from home and prohibitively expensive.

So, we're looking into the tried and true Parisian child care solution: the garde partagée, or shared nanny. My mother-in-law found out that a neighbor of hers was looking for someone to share a nanny with her two-month-old son. It would be convenient: just five minutes away by foot, on my husband's route to work, and just upstairs from Grandma. Yet it was with a huge knot in my stomach that I arrived to meet with the other mom this afternoon. Would we get along? Were we looking for the same things in a nanny, and did we share more or less the same parenting philosophy? And would my natural timidity and deference keep me from asking the right questions?

We spent an hour together chatting, and I think it could work. We both want a nanny who can create a reassuring and stimulating environment for our kids, and we both realize how hard this can be to find. We are both nursing moms and want to introduce healthy, fresh foods when we start solids. And we're both equally paranoid about security, especially about babyproofing windows.

So. I feel a lot lighter. I may be able to sleep a bit better tonight. But the hard part is far from over. The other mom has already interviewed three candidate nannies and found one she likes; the final decision, of course, will only be made after we've met with her as well. That is, of course, if both families agree that we're right for one another. We'll all meet up, both couples and our babies, in a week from Saturday. So stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I am more and more certain that when I do go back to work, I'll only go back four days a week. France's generous parental leave law allows me to choose this unilaterally, even if my employer is less than enthusiastic. I feel it may be the only way for me to find the balance I need between work and motherhood. The more time I spend with le Petit, the more I want to keep at least one special day together. Wednesday will be Mommy day, it will be English day, it will be cuddles and long walks and reading books together day. It will be the day that helps me get through the rest of the week.

Sometimes I wonder if going back to work at all is the really the right choice. Yet my job has been part of my identity for ten years now, and I can't see giving it up entirely. At least not yet, not without having tried to integrate it into my new life as mother first.

Am I at the edge of a precipice, ready to throw myself off into the abyss with an untested parachute? It feels that way. Of course, it also felt that way when, a little over a year ago, I stood in my bathroom staring in disbelief at a second pink dot on a home pregnancy test. I doubt I'll ever really be prepared for any of these huge, important things in life, but sometimes you've just got to close your eyes and jump anyway.

2 comments:

Mom in France said...

I thought that my Wednesday off would keep intact my old pre-back to work routine. In way that's true because I'm tuned to Boo's schedule not the workday. But I often find that I'm more tired at the end of a Wednesday because not only do I take care of Boo, but we often do a social activity with another baby, and I find that I need the napping hours to catch up on housework. I'm pretty sure our home would be a complete shambles (rather than just a mess) if I didn't have these extra hours.

Also, I chose Wednesday only because it was what our nounou had available. It's fine, but I think I would prefer a 4-day/3-day routine. Having Boo's day in the middle of the week kind of means I have two mondays.

Parisienne Mais Presque said...

I think I would prefer Friday to Wednesday, but the other mom in the gardé partagée has a little girl who's in school, so I'm afraid that Wednesday it is (to non-French residents, most French schoolkids get Wednesday off). I'm hoping it won't be too crazy. Le Petit still doesn't nap worth a damn, so I'm fully expecting the house to become a wreck rather quickly...