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              1. Le Scoop
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              illustration of woman working with caregiver holding baby in the background

              Ask Lauren

              Caregiver Conundrums

              From missing milestones to handing the reigns over to your mother-in-law, the childcare struggle is real. Here, columnist Lauren Smith Brody answers your toughest questions about finding—and keeping—the perfect caregiver for your family's needs.

              Written By
              Lauren Smith Brody
              Illustration
              Maria-Ines Gul

              Q: What to do about childcare that won't get vaccinated...when they are such a blessing in every other way!

              A: This is heartbreaking, and I received several versions of this question, so it’s clearly something lots of families are dealing with right now. Technically, you are legally allowed to require vaccination as a term of employment for a nanny. Even if the refusal is because of a disability or a religious need, it causes you undue hardship and therefore if you have to fire, you can.

              But, but, but, so many buts. I would argue that it’s also a hardship to lose your nanny and have to find, train, and trust someone else. So, try to find out what your nanny’s hesitation is, knowing that her lived experience might be different from yours, especially if there are differences of race and socio-economic status. A mistrust of government and medicine might not be surprising for someone who has been discriminated against by those sectors in the past. She also could be worried about having the time and access to get the vaccine doses (and potentially have time off if she has side effects); or she may have a fear of registering if she is an undocumented immigrant (the National Immigration Law Center has good resources on that).

              So, ask her what her concerns are, really hear her out respectfully, and offer whatever support she needs. At that point, if she still refuses, I would turn your focus to helping your child adjust to someone new, which means a gentle and kind goodbye to the caregiver he loves, too.

              Q: My husband and I are both first-time parents in demanding roles. How can we manage our worries about missing milestones?

              A: I love this question so much that it’s long been one of the best practices I teach all of my new clients when they first start childcare for their babies: Decide on a milestones protocol and communicate that clearly to your childcare provider. Do you want to know by text at 11am on a Tuesday if baby sits up for the first time? Or, would you rather see it for “the first time” yourself that evening? It makes zero difference to your baby whether you’re seeing her actual first steps or not (and believe me, you will cheer like crazy either way) so go with your own emotional needs here and ask your caregiver to communicate accordingly. PS: One notable exception that you should clarify with your caregiver is if there are safety implications. For instance, a first rollover is a sign that you should give up the swaddle, so that one you should know about asap. And go ahead and plug up your outlets and anchor your bookshelves before the first signs of crawling readiness.

              Q: My husband and I are both first-time parents in demanding roles. How can we manage our worries about missing milestones?

              A: I love this question so much that it’s long been one of the best practices I teach all of my new clients when they first start childcare for their babies: Decide on a milestones protocol and communicate that clearly to your childcare provider. Do you want to know by text at 11am on a Tuesday if baby sits up for the first time? Or, would you rather see it for “the first time” yourself that evening? It makes zero difference to your baby whether you’re seeing her actual first steps or not (and believe me, you will cheer like crazy either way) so go with your own emotional needs here and ask your caregiver to communicate accordingly. PS: One notable exception that you should clarify with your caregiver is if there are safety implications. For instance, a first rollover is a sign that you should give up the swaddle, so that one you should know about asap. And go ahead and plug up your outlets and anchor your bookshelves before the first signs of crawling readiness.

              Q: Got any tips for mother-in-law as childcare and setting boundaries?

              A: Yes, be grateful. And in the perfect words of Brene Brown, “Clear is kind, unclear is unkind.” Like seriously, tell her that you heard this amazing Brene Brown quote and that you’re going to adopt that philosophy when it comes to communicating about the baby’s care and that you absolutely want her to do the same: Be direct. You two have a common goal here, which is the happiness and health of that sweet little dude, and you can let that shared interest guide even the hardest conversations that you may need to have.

              About those hard conversation moments: If she does something that bothers you, or if you have direction to give, start the conversation with both gratitude and that shared goal. And really, truly, make sure that the thing you’re asking her to change is for the baby’s health and happiness. If it’s just a matter of style, let it go. Another tip (pediatrician approved!): Blame the pediatrician. It can be embarrassing and frustrating for a grandparent to hear that, “things have changed and this isn’t how it’s done anymore,” so lean on doctor’s orders to diffuse any personal hurt feelings and express that you and your co-parent are learning this stuff in real time, right alongside her.

              You asked about boundaries. It’s important to know that those go both ways. She will be more likely to respect your boundaries if you respect hers...especially in terms of her time and value. Different families have very different takes on whether or not to pay family members for the care they provide, but compensated or not, your MIL will need days off for rest and self-care as well as her health. Grandma should not be putting off her colonoscopy! So another key to your success is a back-up plan or sitter and a weekly conversation with your partner/spouse about who’s covering what days if Grandma can’t make it.

              Q: Can you help me not feel guilty about doing anything other than my j-o-b while my kids are in childcare?

              A: First of all, let’s reframe what you think of as your j-o-b. Your j-o-b is to be a working mom. That means it’s two-fold, both the stuff you get paid for *and* all of the unpaid labor it takes to have a functional, satisfying family life. You have childcare in place to allow you to do all of your jobs, not just the paid portion. Okay, so what if you are taking time not for domestic tasks but to do something nice for yourself...lunch with a friend, or a walk in the park, or just one really long savasana that might involve some snoring? Well, self-care needs a reframe too: Taking time to tend to yourself isn’t some kind of indulgence. On the contrary, it is an investment in your future ability to keep working and keep parenting. And it’s modeling for your children that you’d like them to do the same one day, too.

              Lauren Smith Brody is the author and founder of The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom's Guide to Style, Sanity and Big Success After Baby. You can follow her on instagram @thefifthtrimester.