Every Thursday and Friday for over a year now at least two people ask me if Miss 1.5 and Miss 2 are twins. "No, they're not," I reply. "One belongs to me and one to my friend." People look confused. Why would I purchase a second car seat and a double pusher to look after a child that is not my own?
Well, it's because when I was pregnant and thinking about the logistics of children and work, I talked to my friend, Kat, who was also pregnant and thinking about the logistics of children and work. We don't live that far from one another and we have similar values and parenting techniques. So, we arranged our part-time work days to be complementary and once Miss 2 was about a year old and Kat was going back to work two days a week, Miss 2 started staying with me on Thursdays and Fridays. And when Miss 1.5 was about one year old and I was going back to work three days a week, Miss 1.5 started staying with Kat on Mondays and Tuesdays (on Wednesdays she hangs out with Grandpa).
My mat. health nurse said that she had never met anyone who had an arrangement like this before.
There are lots of benefits. Miss 1.5 is with someone who I know and trust, in a home environment. Kat and I can share stories about what the girls did each day and call up if we just want to say "hi". Miss 1.5 learns things that are different from the things that I focus on - for example, Kat taught them shapes and letters before I thought to.
The girls are great friends and learn more from one another than I think that they do from adults. They keep each other entertained, which means that they are less dependent on mum. They also have massive fights, but that is part of learning how to share, so I think that it's good.
From my point of view, the arrangement is much more flexible than childcare. And it's free (yippee)!
The bad things? It's like having twins, really, so it's a pain when one of them is sick. The other one is bound to get sick (more specifically, Miss 1.5 is bound to pass whatever illness she has on to Miss 2) and looking after two sickies is hard work. You have to purchase double of all the baby stuff: car seat, pusher, cot, highchair. A bit more organisation is required to co-ordinate going out and to stop escapes in shops. And when one of us goes on holidays or gets sick, things can be a bit tricky.
I miss the year that Miss 1.5 and I spent at home alone, when it was just the two of us. I think that it's sad that I'm never going to have that time again with future children.
I think that for this to work, you need two families who have similar ideals and parenting styles. And to talk to each other, remembering that this is a friendship, not child care. But the child sharing arrangement is working really well for us and I'm looking forward to more double trouble from the "twins"