Childcare available. I never thought I’d come to fear that phrase. Before you have a baby and maybe even while you’re pregnant that seems great. “Oh that’s nice you’d be able to drop your kid off!”
Now I see it and my stomach sinks. “So I can’t come unless I put my baby in the nursery?!”
Then there’s Childcare Not Available.
This is a giant flashing red light that screams “DON’T EVEN BRING YOUR KID INTO THE BUILDING! I HOPE YOU HAVE A SITTER AVAILABLE”
Obviously, a fussy baby shouldn’t come to every event. But why can’t my 2 year old sit with me at evening service?! It’s not formal liturgy at 9am! Will she make some noise? Probably. Is that more annoying that the old man behind me who’s wheelchair is beeping, the high-pitched singing lady in the corner or the teen girl loudly sighing and googling Korean boy bands in the front row?
When I ignore these Church Nursery social norms I am mom-shamed every single time. My husband is on staff at the church and still multiple people will ‘mention’ to us that childcare is available. Yes. I know it is but she’s teething and has horrendous separation anxiety and LOVES the praise and worship band.
In fact, a few times I’ve told these helpful people that the nursery staff has called us early to pick up our hysterical daughter on several occasions. We get bland smiles or are told it’s probably because I don’t make her go enough. Even if that’s true, forcing my daughter to scream for an hour so I can sit through worship isn’t exactly restorative and calming. I spend most of my time hiding in my husband’s office with my daughter to avoid glares or embarrassment.
I’ve searched for a mom’s bible study for over 2 YEARS, since I was still pregnant with my daughter. There’s not a SINGLE event on the calendar for young adults, young women, moms or couples currently that allows kids. Mom’s Group? 9am with children in the nursery or 7:30pm with childcare not available. Couples Bible study? 7pm childcare not available. If I want to be involved and get connected my options are the nursery or a sitter.
Honestly, I gave up looking at our church a while ago. So recently I looked up options at the biggest young adult ministry in the city. 5 different mom’s bibles studies throughout the week. Every single one stated “Childcare available for a fee.” For a fee?? I have to pay for you to watch my kid at one of Nashville’s biggest churches? Most of these already had a fee for study guides and last just 7 weeks. You’re joking. You’ve got to be joking.
Just tell me 1 thing. WHAT HAPPENED TO PLAYGROUPS?
Why is it now outlawed for toddlers to play in the corner while the mommies talk? Do you have to be rid of your child to relax or communicate with another person? I totally understand if moms want to have an adults-only conversation sometimes, but NO options at all?
The mom’s group at my church did have a yearly "mixer" event last month. It was at a fancy indoor play gym and cost $9 per kid. My daughter is 22 months old. Bubbles are the most exciting thing she’s ever seen. It wouldn’t kill me to pay $9 I suppose but it just seemed so strange. You think you need to pay to take a bunch of toddlers to a loud, germ-filled “soft-play wonderland” and sit in the Mommy waiting area in order to have a bonding experience?
When I was a kid, once a week 4 or 5 of my parent’s friends would bring their kids over to whoever’s house was next up on the rotation. The moms hung out in the kitchen or living room drinking too much coffee and eating Dunkin’ Doughnuts and often watching Oprah - it was Chicago in the 80’s.
Half a dozen kids played on swing sets, chased dogs around, colored or pulled off all the couch cushions to make a giant pit.
We didn’t bug the moms much. The elementary age kids loved to play ‘babysitter’ and ushered around the tots. Occasionally there was a scraped knee that needed immediate mom kisses but mostly we just did our own thing within sight of the adults.
Maybe the problem is we no longer live in a “hangout in the kitchen” culture. When was the last time you called a friend to meet up and it didn’t involve venturing out of the house? You go get coffee in a café or grab lunch at restaurant. And Heaven Forbid you invite a group to your house that you didn’t know. Strangers in your house? Ahh!
Oh how I would love to have a group of girlfriends who all got pregnant around the same time. But I don’t. I stay at home with my daughter and I need other outlets to connect with moms and get some fellowship.
Yes, taming a screaming toddler is harder, and more embarrassing, in the middle of Starbucks. You can’t put the 6 year old in Time Out when you’re out at lunch. So we’re told (verbally or otherwise) that they shouldn’t come. Moms are expected to put children under 4 go in the nursery during worship. Invites to events, groups and the young adult weekly dinner all state Childcare Not Available.
So where does that leave moms like me? Who don’t have access to free childcare, don’t have babysitters or nannies and actually like being with both my daughter and husband? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the nursery. The ladies are lovely. But it’s not what I want to do with my daughter.
Call me an attachment parent, helicopter mom or just plain co-dependent, but I really don’t like other people watching my baby. Waiting until my husband come home so he can put her to bed and I can go out isn’t what I want either. I like my family. I want to be around them. They are my greatest blessing, so can’t we all just let the kids stay?