Reality bites. If you are returning to work after your paternity/maternity leave, you need to start planning for your baby’s childcare. Some parents may hire a live-in-helper, or rely on a babysitter or grandparents. In my case, both my wife and I are working full-time and don’t know anyone who would really take good care of our little prince plus the fact that we are just two living in our home, it was hard to entrust the baby to any nanny without some adult watching over. The parents are far living in another province and not willing enough to live with us. My mother-in-law was still teaching in high school. We are then faced with a dilemma until finally we are very much lucky that she decided to take her retirement.
We are one of those parents who decided on weekend parenting as a form of childcare as we have brought our boy to my in-laws’ house. This typically means we only get to see our baby during the weekends, while he’s cared for by my mother-in-law during the week.
With distance parenting, the baby remains at the caregiver’s home most of the week, and only return to the parents’ home on the weekends which seldom does not materialize for our jobs sometimes requires us to be at work during weekends. This arrangement is commonly known as weekend parenting (weekend parents).
There are several possible scenarios on weekend parenting. First, some parents drop off and pick up their babies several times during the week from the caregivers (more common with parents who do shift work or have irregular hours). Second, others come by every day to spend time with their babies, but the baby stays on at the caregivers’ (mostly applicable for nursing mommies who want to breast feed their babies). Lastly, with a greater percentage of seeing their children only at weekends (this is where we fall under).
Making the best of the situation
If you are a weekend parent, you’ll undoubtedly have worries if this is a good decision. It will be one of the hardest decisions new parents (like us) will have to confront, as they deal with their guilt, wondering if their baby will feel abandoned.
You would obviously have mulled over the choices, trying to do what is best for your baby and family. No two families will have the same set of circumstances, so be prepared for unsolicited comments and advice from friends and family if you choose to adopt weekend parenting.
We did our research and asked experts how we can best manage distance parenting and still bond with our baby. We also have searched for helpful tips on how we can make it work with the caregiver (nanny and/or granny).
Can we still be a family even though our child doesn’t live with us?
Yes, if you really work hard at it. Considering technologies we have at disposal these days, there is no reason you cannot stay in touch with your child and have meaningful interactions with him/her on a daily basis. This will help reassure them on your presence in his/her life even if you and your wife cannot be there physically. In our case, we have provided a cellphone unit under Sun postpaid plan 350 in order for us to monitor our baby’s status and well-being from time to time and at the same time let him hear our voices and speak with him the least though we do not understand yet what he is saying. The best thing is we do not become strangers to him even though he seldom sees us.
We know that all babies respond to their parents from the very beginning of life. Scientists believe that babies can learn and remember even before they are born. Even babies who are not old enough to understand language are able to distinguish mother’s voice from all other sounds. Your one-year-old like our Aelard can make meaningful noises and will soon say his first words. He is getting better at anticipating what will happen. A three-year-old will certainly have a good memory by now, and can be counted on to remember routines and notice differences.
Keeping this in mind, call your children every day as you can. Equip your parents/in-laws with the necessary gadgets such as smartphone or a laptop with internet connection, to enable your children to stay in touch and see you. Ask about their day. Read them a story or tell them about something funny you saw yesterday. These are the little ways to show that your lives and theirs remain connected.
You can also prepare a photo album, fill it with pictures of things you’ve done together as a family over the weekend. You children will delight in recalling these moments spent with you. As for me, I always take pictures and videos of the important things and events that involves our baby though my cellphone and would from time to time show it to my precious baby with which he is enjoyably watching most of the times.
It is important for mothers and fathers who parent from afar to understand that they may feel a sense of loss as they lose the day-to-day interactions with their children. Just recently I have been sickly and hospitalized and we weren’t able to visit Aelard for more than a week. When we came visit him last Saturday and Sunday we witnessed that our baby has been becoming distant to us. Whenever he has something to ask or whine about, he would eventually turn to my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law to address his needs which is very much painful on our part as parents.
Meanwhile, your in-laws/parents can help reinforce the connection between you and your children. In our case, whenever we visit to my in-laws, they would let us bond with Aelard by letting us be. They would give us plenty of time hugging, carrying, bathing, feeding him and even would let the baby sleep in our bed. Enough for them to take rest for a weeklong or so of taking good care of the little prince. It is true that strong family support is the key for parents who can’t be there every day. We are fortunate to have a family who are able and willing to step in and help us raise our child. With their support, our child can grow up feeling enriched by all the “extra” people in his daily life.
Can our toddler and us enjoy quality time, even though we are full-time working parents?
Plan wisely for great quality time together. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make the weekend count with your child. Your toddler will probably be bursting out of his little self at the thought of being with mommy and daddy this weekend. Take him to a token driven rides at the malls just be careful to choose which ride best fits for him at his age. As for Aelard, we started from the slow moving ones until such time that he got used to it and went bored riding so we decided to take him to a faster ride which entices him.
While it is very tempting to conquer great escapades, the reality is that your toddler still needs routine-consistent sleep, regular naptimes and predictable mealtimes.
As you only get such a short time with your toddler each week, it may be hard for you to understand his cues and know when he’s tired, or hungry. You don’t want to court a tantrum or a meltdown before you realize he’s just tired, or needs a quick snack between meals.
Ask your child’s caregiver (babysitter or relative) about your child’s routine. Find out when he usually has his naps and meals. Plan your activities or outings around his best times, when he is refreshed from his sleep.
It is common for weekend parents to practice co-sleeping with their toddlers over the weekends. Whenever we visit Aelard we would lay down a bed for us to roll around and play with and eventually would fall asleep after meals and bottle feeding which is great for we can also rest from weeklong work and at the same time bond while we sleep. Some parents like us find that this is a great way to bond with their child, whom they have been missing all week.
You can also set up a routine that you and your baby can enjoy together. For example, reading to him before bedtime, or giving him a massage right after his bath.
If your toddler has started nursery, bring him artwork home with you. Go through each of her masterpieces. Show your interest, and be genuine about it. Hang them up on a wall of frame at home. He will be proud to show them off.
Take lots of family pictures, print them out and store them in a handy album. Ask your care giver to show the photos to your toddler during the week, he will delight in recalling these moments.
Less is more
Don’t plan more than one big activity during the weekend – a trip to a park, or a simple walk and picnic is plenty enough. All your toddler wants is your company.
If you want to sign your child up for some age-appropriate classes, find something that is parent-accompanied, and not a drop-off. The key is your participation, and your toddler will relish your attention.
There is nothing like home, so spend as much time as you can with him, at home. This is a great opportunity for your toddler to know that he has his own room at home, where he has his toys and books waiting for him. If he has favourite comfort objects, make them visible. All these will cultivate a sense of belonging and familiarity.
Try to get as much as your errands done during the week, which will leave your weekend free of chores. For example, shop for your groceries early in the week, pay your bills before Friday comes around, and do a little bit of home-cleaning each day before weekend arrives.
I would like to remind parents that weekends are a time for rest for all. When planning your weekend with your toddler, it’s important to find pockets of time for your own rest as well. When your child is napping, get some shut-eye yourself. Or use that time to read a book, listen to some music and just relax. Take care of yourself too, and you’ll be in a better state to take care of your toddler.
The inevitable arrival of Monday will not be easy on anyone. You have to return to work and your child has to go back to his caregiver’s for the week.
To help make the transition more bearable, give him a special object to ‘take care of’. It can be your favourite book, or an old pillow he likes snuggling up to. Ask him to keep it safe for mommy, until you see him again the following weekend.
As for the art wall of fame, tell him you’re looking forward to new artwork that he will be bringing home. Hopefully, this will excite him about going back to school, and help with slipping back to his routine at her caregiver’s.
Weekend parenting: making it work with your toddler’s caregiver
If you adopt weekend parenting as a form of childcare, the most important thing you have to do is to find a suitable carer for your toddler. This person can be a babysitter or a relative.
Once you have decided on a trustworthy caregiver, both of you will need to be on the same page. Here are some guiding tips on how you can work together with your caregiver to provide the best possible care for your toddler according to Sarah Poh, a Counselling Manager with Focus on the Family:
- Communication – parents must manage both their and the caregiver’s expectations. Pick your battles wisely. Decide which areas of care are important to you, and be accommodating on other aspects. This will help minimize conflicts between you and your caregiver. Always keep regular contact with your caregiver and get daily updates about your child. Acknowledge your caregiver’s efforts by giving praise where it’s due. We all know caring for a toddler has its challenges. Your praise and appreciation will encourage your caregiver to do her best.
- Safety – Make available all emergency contact numbers to your toddler’s caregiver. Your carer must have your number, your partner’s and the doctor’s. She must be able to contact any one of you. An emergency can occur any time or your child may fall ill suddenly. You will soon find that your toddler is very keen on climbing and scaling anything in sight – tables, sofa, and gates. Make sure your nanny is able to keep up with this new-found ability. Every nook and cranny is an invitation to explore. You will have to take the initiative to create a safe environment for your child. If it means having to buy safety gates for the kitchen, or fixing up grilles for the windows, then you must do so. After all, it’s a small price to pay for your child’s safety.
- Sleep – As your toddler grows, his sleep needs will change and he may even start dropping his naps. It’s important that his usual sleep routine is maintained so bedtime doesn’t become a struggle for your caregiver. Bear in mind though that some caregivers work very well with routines, while others do not. If your caregiver belongs to the latter group, give her strong guidelines instead of a minute-to-minute breakdown. If your carer’s home has space constraints, she may request that your toddler sleeps on a roll-out mattress or futon. Sleeping on roll-out bedding is actually still very common in many Asian households, but if you have concerns about this, there are ways to ensure that your child is safe sleeping on the floor.
- Food and nutrition – At this age, your toddler’s meals will likely be prepared by his nanny or grandparents. The types of food he eats will be more varied. As you are not seeing to your child’s meals every day, pay attention to his weight gain and growth. If you suspect he is overweight or underweight, consult your paediatrician.
- Development – The communication floodgates are opening up fast. Your toddler will be talking and learning his ABCs soon. If your nanny is able to read to your child, books are a fantastic way to develop his speech and language. It doesn’t have to be English books. If the carer or grandparents can read in another language, your toddler will benefit from the added exposure. Expect your toddler to spend at least some time in front of the television when he’s at his carer’s home. Alas, how much time he spends watching TV will be difficult for you to control. Speak to your carer about your preferences: how much TV time is allowed and what kinds of programmes are suitable. You may want to keep a selection of children’s educational videos or DVDs at your nanny’s home.
- Discipline – As your baby becomes a toddler, the delicate struggle of wanting to be independent versus seeking reassurance will start to take place. There will be tears and smiles, tantrums and joy, all at the same time! It’s very important that you and your caregiver are on the same page when it comes to discipline. Some grandparents or nannies tend to overindulge their charges, so make your preferences known.
- Games and Play – Your toddler will be discovering himself and his environment through fun games and play. If you can afford it, you may want to enrol your toddler in a group class, such as music classes which are age-appropriate. Your carer can act as the accompanying adult. This will give your child an opportunity to socialise with other children her age.
- Potty training – Since your toddler will be spending a lot of time at the caregiver’s, you will need to enlist your nanny’s help with potty training. The first thing to look out for is whether your child is ready to begin potty training. If your toddler shows signs that he is ready, you need to discuss with your caregiver about how you can begin the process. It would be good to read up on what other parents found useful before your toddler embarks on potty training. If your caregiver is finding it difficult to potty train your child, you can offer helpful solutions, such as using a reward system. A little bribery may help in this situation!
- Changes in care – Your two-year-old will hit new milestones, and soon, he may be ready to start pre-school. Some parents feel their toddlers are better off at school than staying at home all day with the caregiver. If your child continues to live with his caregiver, it would be best to look for a pre-school nearby. This way, you are not subjecting your toddler to long commutes each day. When your toddler is ready for nursery, you may decide to stop weekend parenting altogether, entrusting the daily care to a childcare centre. Because of their long operating hours, childcare centres suit parents who have to work all day. You drop your toddler off at his school before leaving for work, and pick him up at the end of the work day. This means that your family is together once again, and living under the same roof. There will be some resettling issues initially, such as preparing him for school, and getting him used to living at home with you. Remember to be patient. These are all big changes for a little person. Have faith that all transitioning pains will pass. Weekend parenting is not without issues and often, your personal choices will come under scrutiny from others. If you need to connect with other weekend parents, a good place to begin is in parenthood forum. Start a thread, speak to other parents in a similar arrangement, talk about your challenges, and share your tips on making the best of the situation.