The Search for our Perfect Childcare

As I prepare to relinquish my Stay At Home (occasionally Work at Home) Mom status this coming week, my feelings are all over the map. Sadness. Excitement. Relief. Anxiety.  I can’t allow myself to wallow in the part that is grief because it won’t do me or the girls or my husband any good. I’m sure I will cry my private cry on the way to work for the first time and I imagine I’ll have pangs of guilt or worry come up at various points during these first few weeks when my girls and I make this rather significant life transition to spending more time apart from one another.

In the big picture, I’m filled with gratitude that this job opportunity came my way exactly when it did.  Working for Whole Foods – a serious happy place for me for many, many years, and even more exciting — a job that is all about supporting my friend Rip Esselstyn and his Engine2 diet. I’ve been a fan of Rip’s recommended way of eating long before he wrote his book which is now a NY Times best seller.  In fact, Mark and I and my step-daughter Audrey are quoted in the book and one of Mark’s recipes is also included.

A few months after I had my second baby in late 2008 and was eating vegan again to support her gastro-intestinal issues, Rip asked if his PR agency could pitch me as an Engine2 success story to Women’s World magazine — I guess because I was losing weight relatively fast after having a baby.  But I still looked solidly pregnant! The magazine called me and liked my story and the next thing I know I found myself agreeing to be on the cover — all in the name of supporting Engine2!  Last summer John Mackey, Whole Foods CEO hired Rip to be the voice of healthy eating for the company. If you go into any Whole Foods, you’re likely to see the Engine2 book displayed somewhere.

Whole Foods Global Headquarters

I’ll be working on the sixth floor of the beautiful Whole Foods building with the grocery store an elevator ride away. And the store is biking distance from house. I haven’t ridden a bike since Sadie was born. With this job I finally have the official impetus to exercise again this way and re-commit to being fully “plant strong” as Rip likes to say.

Now.  For my sweet girls.  What’s the plan?  Who can I trust to care for them, love them, guide them, and teach them cool things in my absence?   Our singer-songwriter nanny, Molly, that both girls adored is no longer with us official the Friday before Mother’s Day as she signed on with a nationally touring band and will be joining them at the end of the month. Until I figure out what feels best for the girls and that we can afford (full-time nanny not an option) — I thankfully have a friend who is stepping in to help for the next 2 weeks.

Last week I got a wild hair and decided to explore a preschool/daycare option for the summer that was radically different from Montessori.  Montessori has  been my eldest daughter’s school experience since she was 22 months old and where my littlest will start in the fall. 

I was inspired to explore something different out of necessity because most Montessori’s in our area don’t have summer programs that support both 18 months and 3 year-olds and a desire to push myself beyond potentially rigid ways of viewing the world. The same inspiration led to the Fairies entering our daily conversations around here.  The school we checked out is called Habibi’s Hutch.  It’s year round and has children ages 18 months through 5 years old. It’s in a price range we could manage. And it’s all about providing the space and freedom for personal expression.

I love one of the parent’s description of their son at the school:

“He is in a community and extended family of adults and children where he is supported, encouraged, hugged, wrestled with, painted on, danced with, read to, surrounded by art and patted to sleep. Maybe most importantly he has the gift of being with adults who are eager to share his journey, not mold him into a human who will then live life; they respect him as a human who is living life. The adults at Habibi’s are partners with our son in the process of living, rather than viewing him as an apprentice.”

Habibi’s is one of the preschools in Austin that many singer-songwriters and artists gravitate toward for their children. And over the last few weeks more than one of our friends that we respect and admire recommended we check it out.

Our visit to the school helped me to get in touch with how uptight I am.  I want to love it.  I get that my persistent desire to “do the right thing” my whole life — whatever that is — has limited me in being fully expressed in every sense of the word.  I so want my girls to be honored and appreciated for their individual gifts and to be fully expressed in their lives. I feel like I’m constantly looking for the perfect environment for them where that can best take place.

I think the trick for all of us mothers fretting over how to provide the best educational experience for our children is to know and honor what feels right for our own personalities and those of our children.  We’re in this perpetual dance of comparing ourselves to others that we forget to connect with our own Intuition — our own Truth. What works for one woman and one family, doesn’t work for another.  It’s all a process of personal discovery.  What feels right for us?

I am a mother who is uncomfortable with my girls being dirty for any extended period of time.  We don’t necessarily bathe them every day — but if they spill a lot of food or splash in a puddle or go crazy with finger paints — I’m all about changing clothes, washing hands and feet in the sink, etc.  They regularly wear two outfits a day — occasionally three.   And I love for them to be as clean as possible before going to bed.  I’ve always been grossed out by the idea of going to bed dirty.

So in hanging out at Habibi’s for a while I saw a wide age range of children — all together and all happy — in their back play yard.  Half were just in diapers or underwear.  Most were barefoot.  Most were running and playing in the post-rain puddles or wet sand.  Some were getting their bodies painted by teachers.  Others were making dirt and bubble water potions with another teacher.  And another group was dancing to a bubble machine that showered bubbles everywhere while The Police played on their stereo.

I was trying to imagine my little girl who has just spent the last 2 years in a highly ordered, structured environment making a comfortable adjustment to Habibi’s and then making the adjustment again in the fall when she started back at her Montessori school. And I realize I could very likely be projecting my own stuff.

I’m not yet sure there will even be an opening for both girls come June 1. And if there were, I’m just not sure I could go for it.

I don’t have any other solid options at this point. If any Austin readers have other suggestions for me to consider, I welcome them!  I’d like to find care within 15 minutes of our house which is just south of downtown.  I’d like to explore other possible Montessori or Waldorf options or a combination (Starbright is full!) with a great reputation and low child-teacher ratios.

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2 Responses to “The Search for our Perfect Childcare”

  1. chelsea says:

    I think that the Olive Tree is close to you and it is Montessori-based. Do they have openings?? Good luck and congratulations on your transition!

  2. Christi says:

    OMG, I felt the exact same way when we explored Habibi’s. We went a couple of times since it was in the neighborhood. One day it was COLD and kids were runnning around without sweaters and the kennel coughs were racking! Maybe things have changed, but that scared me off.

    Please stay away from Town & Country Montessori, they are not true Montessori and staff is not well trained. Sophia dropped out after 4 days. If you are south, I’ve heard good things about Primavera Montessori and we liked Athena Montessori. In the end, I found a Spanish speaking nanny that is working out quite well and my 3 yr old goes to Faith Preschool 3 days a week. Good luck on your search, it is certainly nerve wracking!

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