One of the more difficult aspects about going back to work after having a baby is figuring out which childcare set-up will work for your family. Will you and your spouse work opposite shifts, so one of you is on kid-duty while the other is at the office? Find a small family daycare or go with a larger daycare center? Hire a babysitter or nanny?
And then there's the issue most parents don't want to discuss: What if you find yourself feeling jealous of your child care provider?
At The Parenting Post, The Cosmo Mom confesses that she feels jealous of her son's nanny:
"Though she only takes care of Preston three days a week, she's with him for 10 hours a day, and at this point they have formed an incredibly strong bond. ... On the one hand I am so grateful that they have this bond -- I leave the house every morning knowing he's in great hands. So, as heartwrenching as it is being away from him all day during the week, at least I am secure in the fact that he's well taken care of while I'm at work. But on the other hand -- and this is where you'll either agree with me or vehemently disagree with me -- I secretly kind of hate it, their bond. A bond he should only have with us --- his mommy and daddy."
Now, I want to be clear about one thing: This isn't a stay-at-home vs. working mom (or dad) debate. Staying home isn't a moral imperative, it's a career choice, and it's possible to feel jealous of your child's caregiver regardless of whether they're looking after your child for pay or they're your child's other parent.
When I went back to work and my husband, who worked nights, was home with our youngest daughter during the day, the fact that she was spending her time with her daddy made me feel less stressed about returning to the office. But there were times when I felt overwhelmingly guilty about not being there and, yes, jealous of the time they had together while I was at work. I remember watching her take her first wobbly steps in the family room -- my husband and I cheered and clapped so loudly that she shrieked and sat down on her little diapered bottom, startled, and then refused to get up. After thinking, "Wow, she's walking!" my immediate thought was, "I am so glad this happened on a Saturday so I could see it."
Parenting expert Michelle LaRowe, author of Nanny to The Rescue! and A Mom's Ultimate Book of Lists, tells Babytalk Magazine writer Amy Levin-Epstein that there are ways to cope. "When parents come home, I recommend they change into play clothes, put down their phones and transition into family time. As soon as they walk in the door, they should get down on child's level to help her warm up to you," says LaRowe. Another way to strengthen your own bond: Stop multitasking so much, and focus on the little things. "The simplest of child-care tasks, like bathing, diaper changing or feeding, can provide wonderful bonding opportunities," LaRowe points out.
And remember: Your baby's love for you isn't diluted by their bonds with others. Having a strong rapport with a caregiver can help your child learn about healthy non-familial relationships and foster good self-esteem, experts say. Michelle Ehrich, author of The Anxious Parents' Guide to Quality Childcare, reminds parents to pat themselves on the back if their child has a loving relationship with his or her caregiver. "When you started looking for childcare, your goal was to find a childcare provider to care for your child in a loving fashion. Now that you are successful, enjoy the fact that your child is able to enjoy a positive and caring relationship with her caregiver when you are unable to be with her," she advises at SheKnows.com. "Your success here does not diminish your vital importance to your child as her mother, nor does it lessen her love for you. No one can ever take your place. Be happy that there is one more person in the world for your child to love, and to love her."
Parents, 'fess up: Have you ever felt jealous of your child's caregiver? How did you cope?
Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @WriteEditRepeat.