Childcare options: When partners disagree

My husband and I have a six-month-old girl. He works nights and I work at home. He worked nights while watching the baby during the day, and I vice versa. However, he has been transferred to a day shift and we are at odds about child care. I am strongly against sending her out to a friend of my husband's who runs an in-home center. Although I hear she does a wonderful job, I can not imagine my daughter being taken care of in the way I think she needs. Because I am at home all the time, I think it would be best to have someone come to my home, where I will be in case of emergencies. My husband disagrees strongly and says that his friend is a better choice than a stranger coming into his home. My husband thinks it will be good for our daughter to learn socialization. My view: Socialization for a six month old?? I am afraid we will never agree and time is running out for a decision to be made.

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Gayle Peterson

Gayle Peterson, PhD, is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She is a clinical member of the Association... Read more

You are right about socialization. Babies are much more interested in being the center of their caretaker's devoted attention at this age, than in developing friendships with other babies! However, your husband's concern about socialization is a good one as your child reaches toddler age. And nothing is wrong with introducing your daughter to other babies as early as she shows interest. However the concern for appropriate care for an infant and peer socialization are best separated at this time.

It may be the case that you and your husband are not talking about the deeper ramifications of the new change in his work schedule. The biggest difference between you, is that you will be continuing to spend some time with your daughter during the day, while your husband will lose the time he has with her. Could there be some jealousy your husband is experiencing related to this change?

Perhaps your husband has unexpressed feelings of loss or fears that he will not be as close to his daughter as you will be in the future. Could feelings about the change in the family's togetherness be clouding a clear evaluation of what is in the best interests of your daughter? Perhaps he is feeling left out, as the two of you worked together to some extent as a team, caring for your child. Perhaps he fears being replaced by someone who will come into the home. This could account for his negative expectation of a "stranger" and his attraction to putting your daughter elsewhere.

Ask your husband to reflect on his feelings about this change. Does he feel left out in some way? Is he afraid you will become the more important parent if you continue to relate to the baby throughout the day and he is not?

In your current discussion, your feelings are based on your ability to supervise and be in touch with the situation involving the childcare provider on a timely basis. Your availability is a significant factor. This also allows you contact with your daughter on break time, as added benefit. Why does your husband not see this as an advantage to your baby?

Your husband's concern, so far expressed, focuses on fear of the unknown. Surely, there are people he would feel comfortable leaving his baby with, if he got to know them. The consideration of how many babies are being cared for by one provider is a separate issue from whether or not the caretaker is a quality provider. Why are they being addressed as if they are not different situations entirely? Your point that 4 children (or babies) is quite alot for one person to care for is true. Certainly your baby will not get the same amount of quality attention from a nurturing and trustworthy friend that is caring for 4 children, as a loving and competent caretaker who is caring for your baby alone!

There are no short-cuts when it comes to choosing the appropriate care for your child. Perhaps the "ideal" solution, based on your current discussion would be to (magically) have the friend your husband trusts take care of only your baby, in your home, for the same amount of money that she would charge to care for your child in a group of 4 in her home!

Naturally I am teasing you to make the point that the two of you have either been avoiding dealing with the real underlying issue, and/or you have been confusing the issue by lumping together variables that need separate consideration.

In your current discussion, you are clear about your priorities. Your child comes first and needs one-on-one care with a quality person. You feel it is worth the money to provide this quality of care. While it will take you both time to interview and find the right person, there are certainly competent and caring people who make their living as someone's "Nanny". Certainly your being available to not only supervise, but relate to your baby throughout the day is a big plus!

Your husband's concern about not knowing a stranger is real, but needs to be addressed as a consideration for how to find an appropriate person, rather than blocking this alternative. Other situations will come up in the future which require you to identify trustworthy individuals you do not already know. This is a part of parenthood for the next many years. Developing your ability to interview and supervise caretakers is a necessary parenting skill for a family with two working parents.

Your husband's concern for "socialization" at this age can also be honored in other ways. Part of the caretaker's routine could include a visit to a nearby park where other parents bring their babies to play. Or, each parent could make arrangements for visiting other friends who have babies, or inviting friends and their babies over for a visit.

Bring these issues up for thorough and unhurried consideration. Do not try to rush through this process, as you might regret your decision later. If you are at an impasse and time is running short, consider the fact that staying in the home with you and adding a new caretaker is less change for your daughter than sending her to a new place with other children and a caretaker that is new to her to boot! This calls for a whole lot more change than trying out a new caretaker in your present situation. Remember that nothing is set in stone. If after a trial period of time, either of you remains discontent with the situation, you can reconsider your options.

But keep in mind, that it is up to the two of you to work this conflict through and come to some clear agreement about what is in the best interests of your child. Consulting experts for opinions is fine. However there is no short-cut to developing your ability as parents to negotiate and solve problems together. If after thoroughly discussing a daycare situation, either you or your husband feels uncomfortable about your baby's well-being, your child should not be left in that situation.

Consider all of the issues explored here, and have a heart-to-heart discussion about your child's best option. But also take some time to explore your couples' connection apart from work and parenthood. Are you keeping up with each other's feelings and experiences since becoming parents? Do you save some amount of special time just for each other in your busy schedules?

It is possible that you may have neglected one another, with all of your efforts going towards parenthood and work since your child was born. There may be a silver lining in the new work schedule that allows you to sleep together again! Nurturing your relationship will help you feel more connected. And you may discover that when you are feeling connected in your couples' relationship, your negotiations flow more smoothly and problem-solving is more productive.

Your relationship is the garden in which your child grows. Do not neglect it!

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