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Baby Steps: Finding the Best Childcare to Suit your Family

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Sarah Morgan and family

Welcome to Baby Steps, KzooConnect's new quarterly series on being a working mom in Kalamazoo! We want to share the many reasons why Kalamazoo is a great place to raise children, and what working moms are finding out along the way.

As more and more millennials have children, they are leaving their own mark on parenting. And in true form, they are striving to achieve a work/life balance. We'll start with one mom whose journey taught her that maternity leave goes by way too fast, and that plans made before the baby's arrival need to be tweaked - and often.

We would like you to share your ideas! Let us know what helps you balance your family and career. Do you have a successful 50/50 relationship with your spouse? What makes it easier to get out the door in the morning? How are you finding time to relax? Make sure to post your comments on the blog or by sending a Facebook message or Tweet us @KzooConnect.com.

Learning as you go is something only another mom would understand, and often involves baby steps. Find out why Kalamazoo has all of the pieces to help build a successful family. Stay connected at www.Kzooconnect.com.

Ask any working mother, and they will tell you - no matter how much you prepare - the journey of returning to work after having a child is a series of baby steps.

And while every generation has their own set of issues with working and raising children, finding good childcare seems to always top the list. About one in five moms is a millennial, making up 90 percent of the whopping 1.5 million new mothers within the last year, according to an analysis of new US Census Bureau data.

Today, the millennials are navigating the childcare system in full force - using their own broad-scale style. With their level of education and power of the internet, millennial moms are well connected, pick up ideas instantly, and share them.

Sarah Morgan, Senior Account Executive with LKF Marketing, is one of those moms.
When choosing a daycare before her daughter was born two years ago, her needs included proximity to her office and finding caring and compassionate teachers.

"I was more concerned about finding a place that showed love, especially in the baby room, rather than a strict curriculum - a place that is safe and clean," said Morgan. "I also looked at the kids. I was looking for happy, laughing children."

Morgan said she and her husband decided on a daycare center in downtown Kalamazoo, First Care. "We liked the idea of our child interacting with a variety of teachers, staff, and other children."

While there are many resources to find care, the Morgans customized information. "Word-of-mouth was really our main resource," said Morgan. "I used a few childcare websites but those were more or less just listings of daycares in the area. I relied on advice from friends and visits to the various daycares."

When the time came to return to work, Morgan realized she underestimated how difficult it would be. She needed to adjust the plan. "I appreciated the flexibility of my employer," said Morgan. She came back slowly and settled on a flex schedule of four days a week - making for a happier, more productive employee.

This camaraderie continues today. Projects and deadlines are real and kids get sick!

"I'm very lucky to have a very flexible and understanding boss and coworkers that jump in on a project if I have to go home to take care of a sick kid," said Morgan. "I also have a supportive husband who takes time off work to care for her if I cannot."

The Morgans' daycare community has also been a critical part of being a working mom. Last year, the parents and staff rallied around a family whose four-year old was battling a fatal brain cancer.

"Although tragedy brought us together," she said, "We continue to lean on each other for advice and gather for regular parent lunches to talk about the crazy, funny things that our kids are up to!

Even with the best-laid plans, millennials are no different than their parents - guilt is always looming around the corner!

"If anyone tells you they didn't have guilt, they are lying!" says Morgan. "My kiddo is two now and if there's one thing I've learned, it's that you have guilt about everything, no matter what! I feel guilty when I’m at work because I’m not with my kid. I feel guilty on my day off work when I'm with my kid and I feel a need to check my email. It's all about learning to balance what's humanly possible in any given day, and to realize that as long as you are doing your very best for your family at home and your family at work, then you need to let go of the guilt and embrace life as it is."

And what about managing two children? Morgan has learned that she'll need to be in the situation to even know how the steps will work best.

"As a type-A planner, I've learned to not overthink things. You will figure out what's needed when the time comes! Being a parent is the hardest, but most-rewarding 'job' ever, and one that's totally worth the challenges it brings," said Morgan.

Some ways that working parents take baby steps to becoming productive working parents:

  • Go with your instincts. You know what's best for your family and for your child. Look for happy kids at your daycare.
  • Look to see if your daycare has a 'community.' That community is important to provide guidance and advice that is timely and relevant.
  • Find another mom to talk to. No one knows how you feel unless they are going through it themselves.
  • Be up front with your employer about what will help you be successful.
  • Use your organizational tools. Calendars and deadline-driven software can help you focus on work while at work, and family while at home.
  • Work out when you can. It will keep you sane!
  • It is all hard work. Remember that it gets better!

Please let us know the concerns you may have about being a working parent, or if you have ideas that have worked well for your family! Share the baby steps that have worked for you at: www.KzooConnect.com.

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