Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Gym Childcare. Again.

I know, I know, I didn't talk this much about childcare when I had a job! And I both worked caring for children and used childcare for my own kids. Now I'm a stay-at-home-mom and it's all I can talk about!

We tried out a new location of our gym today. Just so this makes some sort of sense, we live on the west side of a relatively small city. I teach yoga in the heart of downtown. The gym where I teach is not a family facility, but it has locations in two different suburbs that offer family programming, including free childcare while the parent works out in the building. One suburb is east of the city, and the other is north. They are equidistant from our house--down to the very minute, in fact (I timed it today)! A membership downtown can be used at either suburban location.

We've been going to the eastern suburb. It's a newer gym and has really amazing facilities, as well as lots of cool classes for tots. But it's huge and incredibly busy, and every time I go there and use the childcare I'm anxious as all get-out (and here I want to clarify that it's just a free-floating anxiety as opposed to any serious gut feeling that something is wrong--I would absolutely heed a bad gut feeling, but I'll work through anxiety).

Today we visited the northern suburb. And here's where I exhale: Aaaaahhhhh! Oh, that felt good, didn't it? (Just say yes.)

At the eastern location, it's staffed by a large group of sweet, young girls (early 20s). They don't introduce themselves, ask any questions, or even pay much attention when you drop the kids. They seem to be doing a good job caring for the kids, but don't put a lot of effort into interacting with the parents. I observed their interactions with the children, and decided that if they were good with the kids, that's what mattered.

The northern location is much smaller, and older, with fewer programmatic bells and whistles. But, and this is more like a BUT when I walked into the door with my baby there were two grandmotherly women sitting on the floor with two other babies (compared to 15-20ish babies at the other place, and 4 to 6 staff). One woman introduced herself, and then asked our names. And how do we think she'll do today? she asked about my daughter. When I said she had done well the first time and then poorly the second time at the other location, she asked questions about her nap and feeding schedules, and then about what she likes to play with. I asked her to come get me if she cried, and assured her I'd be fine cutting my workout short.

She came and got me 10.5 laps into my 16 lap half-mile, all apologies, but I was so grateful that she had done just what I'd asked. And after rinsing quickly, tossing clothes onto my still-wet body, and racing down the hall to rescue my daughter, she and the other woman told me everything they had tried to do to comfort her, and shared stories about their own struggles with leaving their babies. They babied me, and it was just exactly what I needed. They encouraged me to come again, and told me they would let her cry for as long as I wanted them to (up to 15 minutes, which is their policy limit), and come and get me every time, until she adjusts.

My son was in a smaller classroom today too, with 15ish preschoolers as opposed to what could have been 50 at the other location. I'm not good at guessing crowd size; I just know it was crazy busy. He said he liked it better at the northern location today, and that he played with a little girl, and she was nice and funny. My son really enjoys these opportunities to get out and play with other kids and new toys, which is one reason I feel like this is important.

Without the encouragement of the women in the baby room, it would have been very easy for me to walk out the door and say: forget it. Instead, I'm going to try using a treadmill or elliptical for short periods so she can get used to the new environment in small doses. I hate treadmills and elliptical machines (so fucking boring when I could be walking outside in the real world instead of on a machine; except for the part where my kids hate strollers and it's winter 6 months of the year here), but the warm, supportive environment made me willing to try harder to find a way to make this work.

I worked in childcare for years, and it's harder to reach out to the parents than it is to care for the children. In fact, when I got my last job, I was psyched about working with the infants and toddlers, and very uncomfortable about teaching parenting classes. But over time, the parenting classes became my favorite part of the job, and -I grew to believe- the most important. Being on the other side, now, of the childcare provider equation, it just reinforces how serving the whole family makes all the difference in the world. Free professional development for the out-of-work professional! Ha! I do imagine that the things I learn during this time at home with my kids will come back with me into the workplace, whenever I make my way back there, and make me better at what I do.

In the meantime: the fucking treadmill, for me. And the damn baby room, for her. C'mon kid. We can do this.


  1. That last line should be on a t-shirt: Come on KID! We can do this.

    It was interesting to hear about the childcare experience from your perspective.

  2. I'm so glad you found an environment that is more nurturing for BOTH of you. I joined a gym again last week, had the free personal trainer assessment on Thursday and discovered my body fat percentage is only slightly higher than my age--good god. So, to your fitness goals and mine: c'mon, kid. We can do this.