Salute to Spouses Blog

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New Dynamics - juggling childcare in multiple states

By Amy Nielsen

Next week I add a new dynamic to this already crazy life. My younger daughter starts weekly medical treatment at a hospital three hours from home.

Normally this would not be a huge addition to our week as it is really just a day trip and easily done. We’ve been doing it for years almost like clockwork in the early part of the year. Because of the nature of her treatments our appointments are conveniently always on Monday.

This year however, we have the added wrinkle of my on-campus, weekend long classes at a school an additional hour south of the hospital. This would be terrific for us as we homeschool and we could really get a chance to explore two near-by big cities with an abundance of history, attractions, and proximity to other far flung friends.

Seems like a total no brainer. Pack up the fam, including the dog, and head to the adopted home for the next five weekends. Find an air B&B to rent or as the weather warms hop in the RV. In my other life this is exactly what we would do. However, this is not my other life, where things fall neatly into place.

Due to the ever changing crucible that is my husband’s job, he has no static schedule. He is often times on 12-hour shifts that turn into longer as is the case with all first responders. The schedule changes weekly with no rhyme or reason. Somedays its morning, some days evening; others just for fun its eight to two. If he worked a standard Monday to Friday, weekends off kind of job – if such a thing even exists anymore – we would have a much easier time juggling this. While he could opt to use his Family Medical Leave Act days, his team is already short staffed and adding the burden of taking a three day weekend off, five times in the next three months puts undo pressure on an already stressful situation.

So I am forced to do the thing that makes the least possible sense. I will drive five hours south on Friday – passing within mere miles of the hospital - go to class Saturday and Sunday, then drive five hours north home; to turn around on Monday morning and drive three hours south back to the hospital and round trip it so we still have a prayer of doing anything else in the week.

I love to drive. Don’t get me wrong. I really, really do. But senseless driving makes me a bit crazy. If there were a way for me to find someone trustworthy in that central city to park my kidlets with while I go to school, we would be golden. Unfortunately, I know exactly no one in that city. There is no way I would trust someone off the internet to watch them in a strange city, with no other contacts for support.

As our nuclear family has journeyed and we no longer live within a neat village system like military housing, let alone inter-generationally in the town of our birth, child care has become a growing need for us. For the most part we just travel all together or at least the kids and I. If we are traveling it is usually something educational for them or an event we are all invited to. When the event means I have to be otherwise occupied and unable to be primarily attentive to them, we run into trouble.

To be honest, they would probably be just fine doing their own school work in the corner of the classroom, and when done, entertain themselves on mindcraft or stupid cat videos until we were ready to wrap up. We homeschool and they are used to pulling up a corner of rug and opening their workbooks to the lesson at hand and digging in. It’s one of my greatest joys of schooling them. They like to learn. My school, however, frowns on children in the classroom.

So we are at a crossroads scrambling to find overnights and schedule shifts that leave us with the fewest hours of unminded children we can. Once we have that sorted out, I will begin to completely panic. I might have a few leads on friends of friends still in the area, but that is only one step removed from total strangers.

The other hurdler is where to have them hang out. I’m not sure the hours in the hotel room with kids doing homework is what the sitters on SitterCity are envisioning when I posted testing the waters for a person more local to the school. It is not the reason to bring them with me either. The reason is for them to see the city and learn about things first hand.

My other option is to try to hire someone from home to travel with me for the weekends. The drawback I can see to that is expense. I have a feeling that a weekend Nanny gig including going out of state, might just be too much for my meager wallet to handle. I’m not even sure I can swing a sitter for the eight hours over two days of classes.

I really want to have my kids explore another iconic American city and this is the perfect opportunity. I just need to find the right person to help me while I sit in class for a few hours each day. The call of the adult student Mom – if only I had childcare.

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