Category Archives: child care

Sorry Working Moms, You’re Getting Bashed Again

I’m popping out of my blog-break to rant. Today I (stupidly) read an opinion piece that flat-out stated daycare is bad for kids. And that studies claiming “the kids are alright” are actually carefully crafted so as not to hurt working women’s feelings with the truth.

Naturally, working fathers were not mentioned in the post.

I’m not linking to the piece because a) I think it’s BS and b) it turns out to be an old post making the rounds a second time and you probably already read it. But allow me to rage for a moment. Or longer.

This blogger’s argument makes the following (wrong) assumptions:

That all children at home are automatically receiving higher-quality care than those in daycare.

That all women have a choice between staying home with their children, and going out to work.

That there was some golden point in history where no mother worked outside the home, and the children were all perfect as a result.

That mothers who did stay at home were always focused solely on caring for their children.

That wealthy mothers who stayed home never hired other women to care for their children. (See: Downton Abbey.)

That mothers who work outside the home today are doing so to afford “luxuries” like [insert things other families are supposed to learn to live without if only they made sacrifices].

That mothers who could afford to live comfortably off their partner’s income but choose to work to afford said luxuries are automatically bad mothers.

That mothers who do have financial choice and still opt to work outside the home because [insert any other reason] are automatically bad mothers.

That men are more ambitious than women and wouldn’t choose to stay home with their children anyway.

That fathers who work outside the home never have anything to do with the raising of their children.

That fathers who work outside the home are never doing so for selfish reasons, or even if they are, that’s ok, because men!

That women are always the better caregivers and should therefore always be the ones to stay home with the children.

That marriages never break up.

That there are no single parents.

That there are no same-sex parents.

That all women who stay home with their children want to do so.

That women can just pick up where they left off career-wise after staying home for X years to care for children.

That mothers who do stay home never have all or some of their children in daycare or preschool.

That sending a child 3.5 and up to school full-time is fine, expected even, but daycare is “letting others raise your children for you”.

I could go on. But bear with me a little longer…

Let’s just say, it’s true: children in daycare are at higher risk of x, y or z. I don’t believe it, but for the sake of argument, let’s go there. So, what now? Many if not most mothers work! Have to, want to, whatever. This is not changing! So maybe something else needs to. Maybe…

We could be a more family-friendly society over all, one that actually cares about the well-being of all children, and supports all parents in caring for theirs? Where women—and men—didn’t have to fear career-suicide for putting their families first when necessary?

There could be better parental leave for both mothers and fathers (we’re pretty fortunate here in Canada, but not everyone can take advantage of it, for financial or other reasons)?

There could be more flex-time, telecommuting, or job-sharing options?

We could value child care workers, and pay them a decent wage?

Or, what if there were more on-site daycares, so families could reduce the number of hours their children are in care and maximize the time they spend together?

What if we had universal child care, so those opting or needing to put their children in care could be assured it is of high quality, and not just what they could afford to cobble together?

What if instead of offering working mothers criticism (because let’s be honest, the articles are never about “working fathers”), we offered solutions and support?

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Filed under babies, career, child care, education, gender issues, in the news, parenting, pet peeves, Uncategorized, work, working parents

Things I Don’t Regret

Before I had kids, there were lots of things I was never going to do. And there were lots of things I was told never to do, or I’d regret it. Ten years into this parenting gig though, the kids seem to be doing all right, so I can tell you there are a number of choices that I don’t regret. Not at all. Here are some of them:

Breastfeeding my infants on demand around the clock. Breastfeeding past infancy. Not forcing them to wean when they weren’t ready. “Encouraging” them to wean when we both were.

Co-sleeping. “They” said we’d never get them out of our bed. “They” were wrong. If anything I regret not doing it sooner.

Rocking them to sleep. Nursing them to sleep. Staying with them until they fell asleep. Letting them nap in my arms, in the swing, in the car. Those years seem so long ago.

Vaccinating.

Picking my babies up when they cried. Carrying my kids as long as I could.

Not potty training. Amazingly, they have been out of diapers for a long, long time, despite the lack of candy or sticker rewards!

Encouraging my kids to take part in different activities. Not pushing them into activities.

Having a child in daycare. Working full time. Having a nanny. Staying home. Being a student-mom. Working part time. Working from home. It’s all good. Honest.

Taking a year of maternity leave. Having my kids three years apart. Taking my preschooler out of daycare while I was on mat leave with BB#2.

Putting my kids in French Immersion.

Not forcing them to do homework in Grade One.

Taking a stroller to Disneyland for my almost-5-year-old. Judge away, at least we had fun!

Spending money on books. Reading to my kids after they could read to themselves.

Letting my kids watch TV and play video games. Not letting my kids watch or play everything their friends are watching or playing.

Giving them choice over their hairstyles.

Staying with them on playdates when they were younger. Letting them walk around the block alone together now that they’re older.

Telling them the proper names for body parts and being honest about where babies come from.

Not being Pinterest-perfect.

Letting them believe in Santa Claus. Not getting into Elf on the Shelf.

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Filed under babies, birth, breastfeeding, career, child care, education, midwives, night-time parenting, parenting, reading, schools, sleep, technology, the beautiful boys, Uncategorized, work, working parents

Free Helicopter Range Parenting

Yesterday I cemented my identity as “uncool mom” when I refused to leave my 9.5-year-old at a friend’s house for an unsupervised playdate. In hindsight, I should have asked if a grown up would be there when the invite was extended, but to be perfectly honest, it did not even occur to me that BB#1’s friends were being left home alone. (Actually, he wasn’t alone: he already had another friend over, also 10 years old, and his sister was there too. His younger sister.)

I don’t live under a rock, so I’ve been reading and thinking a lot lately about the “McDonald’s mom”, who was arrested after letting her own 9-year-old play in the park while she was at work. Parents across the blogosphere are waving “free range” or “helicopter” parenting flags—though some, like me, question why we need to have these silly labels at all. But of course, as one blogger so eloquently explains, this particular case is not even about parenting style.

I don’t live in a low income area, but I know from experience that doesn’t mean people here don’t struggle with astronomical housing and child care costs. So I am not even going to begin to guess whether my son’s friend and his sister were home alone due to financial reasons–or because “parenting style”. I can’t judge, particularly without all the facts, and I’m certainly not making any phone calls. But that doesn’t mean I am down with leaving my child there. We are not yet comfortable leaving him on his own in our home. And even when we do decide he’s old enough, we probably won’t ask him to be responsible for his younger brother, at least not right away. Nor will he be allowed to have guests.

The irony of this is we’ve recently started giving BB#1 what we thought was some “free range”: going ahead of us to the park, or returning on his own to retrieve a forgotten item; getting the mail; going to the corner store. We give both boys lots of space to play at the park; let them push their physical limits despite the stink eye we sometimes get from other parents; wait for them to come to us if they fall; rarely interfere in their interactions with other kids. While we are perfectly comfortable with what we’re doing—we’re the parents here, and we know our sons and what they can handle pretty well, thanks—there’s still that fear of being judged. Or worse, reported!

So imagine my surprise to learn we’re still on the helicopter after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Things I am SO Over this Winter

I know I am not alone in wanting to see an end to the longest.winter.ever. Here are a few things I will not miss when spring finally arrives:

Endless sweeping of snow-melter salt in the front hall.

Not being able to see over the mountain of snow on my lawn as I back out of my driveway.

The other mountain of snow that used to be my assigned parking spot at work. (Currently taking bets on when it will finally melt. Leaning towards May…)

My winter wardrobe.

Indoor recesses.*

Hands so dry my skin is cracking.

Obsessively checking the forecast for a sign the temperature is starting to rise.

Playing pass the cold germs with my family.

Static cling.

Worrying about what to do with the boys in the perfect storm of husband away on business+buses cancelled+schools still open (read: I have to work but have no way to get my kids to and from school).

Complaining about the cold.

Other people complaining about the cold.

People complaining about people complaining about the cold.

Not being able to complain about the heat.

*These I suspect will continue on as the snow turns to slush, and then the April showers begin. Fun times!

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Beautiful Boy’s Day Off

I had to go pick BB#2 up from camp early today after he complained he was sick. And as I watched him watch TV this evening while standing on his head, I had a pretty good idea that I’d been had.

He didn’t want to go to camp in the first place. When I originally signed him up months ago, he said he’d “try it for one day”. Then he seemed to at least be, if not excited, used to the idea that he’d be going. Though he’d been offered the choice of several day camps, none seemed to appeal to him so we opted to send him to the same one his brother had chosen so they could be on the bus together, even though they’d be in different age groups.

When they got off the bus after the first day, BB#2 immediately told me he hated it and was never going back. The kids were mean, and he just wanted to be home with me. (Cue mommy guilt.) But he’d barely eaten anything, his water bottle was still full, and the bus had been almost an hour late. Once he got home, fed and rested, he seemed willing to try again—especially when he learned they’d be having freezies later in the week.

And honestly, we weren’t prepared to pull him after just one day. He’s not much of a joiner, not one for organized activities of any kind (including school, to be honest). We know this. He takes swimming lessons, but this is not optional as far as we’re concerned. And I’ve been known to take money from my boys to pay for lessons missed as a result of tantrums or stubbornness (oh yes I have.) However, his interest in taking gymnastics faded after one class, and though we insisted he complete his Beavers session, he’s opted not to go back in the fall. And it’s not like his entire summer is structured. We’re currently fortunate enough not to have to put our boys in camps the entire summer because we need the childcare. Or, depending on how you look at it, we’re not fortunate enough to be able to send our kids to programs the whole summer (though even if we were, we would not choose to do so for a variety of reasons.) This camp is total nine days. Nine days didn’t seem like too much to ask—and it’s supposed to be nine days of fun!

Because we’ve pulled him from programs in the past, we wanted him to see this one through—in no small part because we were using the time to paint the house, and work! Yes, he’s only five; it’s not like he’s not destined to be a slacker who can’t commit to anything just because we haven’t found an activity he loves just yet. His brother (who was also slow to enjoy most organized activities) is enjoying camp very much. But there has to be a line at some point—doesn’t there? And a single day is not that line. So back he went. And while he wasn’t throwing fits at getting in the car each morning (once we gave up on the bus–long story), he also told us he spent a lot of time lying around on the ground instead of participating in the games.

Generally, we don’t mess around when we’re asked to pick the boys up due to illness, because, well, PFAPA. I half-expect BB#2 to have an episode any day now. But he was not running a fever today, and was well enough to eat brownies after dinner despite his earlier “sore stomach”, so I feel certain he was suffering from something else: homesickness.

The question is, do I make him finish out the week to learn the value of stick-to-it-iveness? Or am I the one who needs to learn a lesson here?

ETA: He woke up with a low-grade fever this morning, and is currently passed out on the couch, so…It’s sometimes hard to know when behaviour is signaling an episode, or when he’s just being five!

ETA: And now we’ve gotten an earlier appointment with the ENT–this week. Which is better than waiting until September, but, even once he’s feeling better, there goes another day of camp. So clearly, mommy is the one learning something from this experience after all…

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Periodic Fever Syndrome: It’s A Thing (Part 2)

Read Part 1

It was somewhat of a relief to have a name for what was happening (and to know I wasn’t crazy for thinking a fever for no apparent reason every two weeks wasn’t normal). But I see the diagnosis as sort of a catch-all. He doesn’t have one of the genetic fever syndromes, but what he does have has no known cause or cure. So really, there are still more questions than answers.

Don’t get me wrong, compared to some of the things it’s not, the things the doctors originally tested for, PFAPA is the least-worst thing he could have. It’s not life-threatening, he’ll grow out of it, and it won’t have any long-term impact (so we’re told—in all honesty, we worry his growth has been affected by not eating several days out of each month in these crucial years). But “short-term”—if you can call going on four years short-term—there has definitely been an impact.

First of all, seeing your child ill is never easy. Knowing he’ll be sick again within weeks, and there is little you can do about it? Is worse. My husband and I have missed a lot of work and school between us–I was very close to deferring teachers’ college for a year. Yes, we had a nanny at one point while this was going on, and that was a huge help, but naturally kids want a parent when they are ill—we wanted to be with him too, and we didn’t feel it was fair to leave the burden of a sick child on our childcare provider on such a regular basis. And of course, the many doctor appointments meant time off for one or both of us.

As a family we’ve missed a number of holidays and big occasions, or had to split up so some of us could put in an appearance. So far, BB#2 hasn’t missed too much school—JK/SK was every other day, and most weeks he only went to school two days anyway, so he missed a only day here or there. But he’s starting full-day grade one French Immersion in the fall, and days and weeks of missing school will be much more problematic. Socially though, he’s missed more birthday parties than he’s attended. His illness has meant his brother has had to miss out on a number of things too, particular when my husband is away and I’m on my own with both boys. And though his condition is not contagious, some of our own friends seem to avoid us in the days after an attack, just in case. I suppose I can’t blame them—having a sick kid sucks and everyone wants to protect their own family.

So what were the treatment options? We could continue treating the symptoms, and wait for him to grow out of it. Or treat the fevers with prednisone, which can stop the symptoms within hours, but may cause the episodes to become more frequent (this is also considered somewhat diagnostic—if the fever responds to the prednisone, it’s definitely PFAPA). Or we could opt for a tonsillectomy, which has been known to work in some cases, but is still no guarantee. None of these seemed ideal.

We saw surgery as a last resort. Why put him through an invasive procedure with no guarantee it would even stop the fevers? But I had no desire to be dosing my preschooler with prednisone once or twice a month either, especially not when it meant risking even more frequent fevers. We opted to wait for him to grow out of it.

Then after several more months of watching him suffer, we decided steroids might be the lesser evil after all. We filled the prescription—and watched in amazement as the symptoms disappeared. Unfortunately, he had another episode days later. The next month, the same thing. Yes, it worked to treat the symptoms, but it was as if his body refused to be fooled. He still got sick, more often. Not a viable long-term solution, when frequency was the biggest issue (though we did take a vial with us to Disney World one year, just in case. Fortunately we did not have to use it.)

So we finally asked for a referral to an ENT for a tonsillectomy. But a funny thing happened in the months while we waited for a surgery date: nothing. No fevers. It was too much to hope he’d grown out of it, but if he was only sick every few months instead of every couple of weeks? We could deal with that. That’s life with kids, no? We cancelled the surgery.

It seemed as though we’d made the right choice. He didn’t have an episode for eleven months straight. And even the few times he was ill after that, it wasn’t clear if it was PFAPA, or just regular kid stuff.

But this past Christmas, not ten days after our yearly check-up at the rheumatology clinic, where we’d shared the happy news that he seemed to have gotten over the whole thing, BB#2 got sick. All the same symptoms. And since then? He’s had six episodes in five months. We’ve missed Christmas dinner at my mom’s, Easter dinner at my mother-in-law’s, and last week, he missed his best friend’s birthday party for the second year in a row.

So we’re back on for a tonsillectomy, if we ever get a surgery date (the initial consult is not for three months! love our Canadian health care, but it can be a bit slow moving…) And this time we’ll go through with it, and hope it actually works. Because we’re exhausted, and there’s nothing else left for us to do, no other way that we know of to help our child.

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Filed under child care, health, parenting, periodic fever syndrome, PFAPA, random, the beautiful boys, working parents

Periodic Fever Syndrome: It’s A Thing

Our youngest was sick again this week. And I’m sick of saying that. But, this is our life. Bear with me, this could get long.

When he was around two years old, BB#2 got sick. A lot. Yeah, pretty typical for a two-year-old, you’re saying. Except he didn’t go to daycare, and though his older brother had just started JK, he wasn’t getting sick, at least not at the same time or with the same frequency. And #2 wasn’t getting colds or coughs—he’d just have this crazy high fever with no warning, be lethargic and have no appetite for several days. Then he’d be completely fine. I’m not one to run the kids to the doctor only to hear what I already know: rest, hydration, medicine to bring the fever down. The last thing I wanted was to be placated with a script for unnecessary antibiotics. For a while I figured it was his body doing what it was supposed to do: fighting off germs. Most of the time we just treated him at home.

But he seemed to be sick all the time, and we started to get worried. We were missing out on holidays, swimming lessons, cancelling plans on the weekend, and missing work. We started to take him to the doctor or a walk-in each time. At first they brushed it off as viral. He’d usually be perked up on ibuprofen or already over it by the time we got in to see our own doctor. It was winter, and no doubt she saw many such children brought in by over-cautious parents every day. Strep was often suspected, though the swabs (when they were taken) were always negative. And still he got sick.

So I started to track the episodes. And every two or three weeks seemed like way too often for a toddler to be getting sick, especially one who was at home with a nanny, who was rarely exposed to other kids, and who never passed his illness on to anyone else in the house. What’s more: I realized could predict his next episode almost to the day.

A couple of times we did give him antibiotics, just in case it was strep. But during one round, I took off his jammies and freaked out when I discovered his entire body was covered with hives, and his joints were swollen. He wasn’t bothered by it, but it looked awful. Ever since, I’ve been adamant about getting an actual diagnosis before giving the BBs antibiotics. This is harder than you might expect.

Everyone had a theory. His brother was bringing germs home (even though he wasn’t getting sick nearly as often.) Someone suggested perhaps our nanny was a carrier for something (despite the fact she’d been with us for a year before this all started). A few suggested having the house tested for mold (but would an environmental issue cause fevers? And no stuffiness or coughing? Besides, we were living in the same house we’d lived in the previous two years, so why would he be reacting now?) Someone even suggested it was my milk (because I was nursing in the early days—and thank goodness, since breastmilk was sometimes the only thing that kept him from dehydration.)

I worried my green cleaning wasn’t enough. I pitched sippy cups and reusable twisty straws that might be harbouring germs, and started soaking water bottle tops in vinegar before washing. I replaced his pillowcase daily and became (more) obsessive about replacing toothbrushes. And nothing changed.

In desperation I went online. I didn’t find much about kids with regular, predictable fevers, but eventually I came across something that sounded almost exactly like what we were dealing with: PFAPA. I even mentioned this as a possibility to our doctor, but she wasn’t familiar with it. It seemed a long shot.

Then one day I was finally able to bring him in to the doctor at the height of his fever, with no medicine masking the number. Seeing him lying there, burning up, almost unresponsive, with no other symptoms to explain it, she asked if he was like this every time. Yes! And she sent us to the hospital right away.

There were lots of blood draws, a referral to a pediatrician, lots of going over and over my months of calendars tracking his episodes, hearing things I had already read in online journal articles myself. Eventually we ended up at a major children’s hospital, where more tests, including a genetic work up, were done. The diagnosis: PFAPA.

In other words, I had diagnosed my own kid on the interwebz.

So what next? Read Part 2

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Filed under child care, health, parenting, periodic fever syndrome, PFAPA, random, the beautiful boys, working parents