Daycare: What it costs and where to find one. No, really.

My daughter’s daycare is closing. To a nonparent, this isn’t a big deal, but it’s reducing me to a puddle of tears because not only is breaking up with a daycare hard to do, but because finding a good one is even harder.

It shouldn’t be. I don’t need my kid to play with sustainably-produced wooden toys in primary colors. I don’t ban food that’s fried, breaded or out of a can or say things like “Now, honey, remember we eat alfalfa sprouts before enjoying this chia seed crisp for dinner.” Nothing like this note to the babysitter.

If anything, I’m getting all sappy about my no-frills Russian preschool/kindergarten. It was standardized across ten time zones, serving up hot meals (same as what adults would eat), your basic toys and books, outdoor areas, activities, recitals, beds with individualized bed sheets. Some specialized in kids’ developmental needs. And Soviet propaganda and forcefeeding aside, it was a pretty functional – and a free – system. Notice I’m avoiding the word “socialized”– whoops, there, I said it.

And cost is a sore subject – because I’m about to shell out twice our monthly rent to have someone watch our two kids while my husband and I work.

The sad truth is American childcare is keeping women out of the workforce, and not always by choice. Nowadays, it’s cheaper – and often better quality – to quit and stay home if your job pays less than what the nanny or daycare charges. Especially since in the past 25 years, daycare costs rose 168%, more than double overall consumer prices.

You’d think for that price that we’d be talking fairy dust with curly straws. But quality is so few and far between that those either have ginormous waitlists or are unaffordable to most. And many providers are themselves struggling to make ends meet.

Listen, looking after toddlers is a God-awful hard job. They scream, they bite, they pee their pants, they smear snot, yogurt and crayons on furniture.

But with the price tag and growing millennial demand, it is surprising to find any of these when I visit daycares:

  • Houses that smell like urine or vomit
  • Children strapped into car seats, baby swings or cribs and crying, while the provider with Chris Christie’s crazy eyes looks for a different job in another room
  • Children parked in front of the TV all day, like in a Frozen nightmare (And here I thought the TV was for us parents to use at home!)
  • The super exclusive centers, where teachers whisper “Your presence is disturbing Carlton,” as said Carlton smashes an abacus against the wall and reaches into his diaper. They have nothing available, anyway.
  • Pissed off providers (“Ha ha, you’re so funny, Johnny, you just told your mama to shut up!” “Ima smack my moron son upside the head after y’all leave!”). True story.

And just last week, I kept being called my child’s grandmother during a visit. Really, lady? What gave it away? My two gold teeth? A mumu emblazoned with AARP insignia? (That’s not a quality thing, just throwing it out there.)

Daycare woes is another reason why American motherhood is a lonely road – on top of no paid maternity leave, the wage gap, lack of women in leadership positions and workplace discrimination for maintaining a human they birthed (birthing being everyone’s business until it’s over and done.). It is a broken system that makes a woman pick between a career and a child because she can’t afford both. In the meantime, here’s to auspicious daycare searching to all those who seek.


So I got no sleep and overdosed on Internet. Plus, podcasts.

I’ve been wracking my brain about why motherhood in the U.S. is ridden with anxiety.

There’s obviously the pregnancy and postpartum stress plus sleep deprivation, which is linked to impaired judgment and a higher likelihood of anxiety and depression. (Not to mention a hormonal, financial and body image mayhem.)

But there’s another stressor: The Internet.

Continue reading So I got no sleep and overdosed on Internet. Plus, podcasts.

Creativity for the Overwhelmed

People without kids often ask,”How come you don’t do that thing you used to do?” or “What do you do for fun?” Other than folding the top of the laundry pile as a feat of domestic accomplishment or the 3.5 minutes of a book before passing out, then, well, not much.

Yeah, I get it. Once upon a time, I’d get tanked up on coffee at some neighborhood cafe and read, write or edit without interruption – except to get more coffee or move away from the rowdy dudes over at the chess table.

Continue reading Creativity for the Overwhelmed

Intercontinental august 009

Buying vs. renting, city vs. suburb

Disclaimer: This post doesn’t try to hawk recommendations, advice or judgments, just my own dilemmas.

Real estate angst is a real thing.

I hear this all the time. Are you renting or buying? How much did you guys pay for your house? Hope I’m not being too forward seeing as I don’t know you, but what’s your rent?

Searching for a house to buy is kind of like high-stakes dating.

Continue reading Buying vs. renting, city vs. suburb

Post-maternity work support network

Starting working again after maternity leave is sort of like traveling to a foreign country on a red-eye flight. Everyone speaks a strange language and moves with a goal-oriented speed, while all you want is a piece of furniture/historic landmark to crawl under and fall asleep for a couple of weeks.

Continue reading Post-maternity work support network


Seven signs you are raising a Russian baby

What does one say to a half-Russian baby?

I didn’t know, so I didn’t speak to my daughter for the first week of her life.

As an immigrant, I figured English would be a straight-forward way of relating to my future child. Plus, her father’s only Russian connection prior to meeting me was Red Dawn the movie and a gig at a college radio station, where he paraded around campus every May Day, chanting “Ain’t no party like the communist party, cause the communist party don’t stop.”

Continue reading Seven signs you are raising a Russian baby


Date Night: The Great Expectations

A version of this post appeared on on April 9, 2016.

A date night for new parents is all about precious currency: money and time. And unrealistic expectations.

Factor in the prep and travel time – and the mental energy it takes to not obsess over whether your child, potentially hungry and/or neglected by a vodka-guzzling babysitter, is weeping into a teddy bear, drenched in snot and inconsolable tears.

Fact is, sometimes parents would rather sleep, watch Scandal reruns or take online “What breed of a dog are you?” quizzes by the quiet glow of the baby monitor.

But then there’s this “Hey you guys, go and enjoy yourselves, get CRAAAAZY, just go all apeshit out there, you hear?! It’s a RARE opportunity!!!!”


Continue reading Date Night: The Great Expectations

Mama found a job

Recently, I wrote about my post-baby job search and babyproofing a new mom’s interview game.

Within a week and a half of writing the post and changing my approach, I got one job offer, one almost job offer (declined preemptively) and two interview invitations to some pretty cool firms. The point is, these ideas do work.

While getting acclimated at the new job and eating Chipotle takeout, I’ve been taking a short break from The Flying Yenta.

Please stay tuned for more posts, soon forthcoming.


Williams, Stewart and storytelling in journalism and public relations

Two developments in the world of journalism last week got me thinking about storytelling.

Brian Williams, anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News, was suspended for falsely claiming his helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade during the Iraq war. The credibility of the journalist, who’d won multiple awards and increased the network’s viewership, is now at stake.

And Jon Stewart announced that after 17 years of hosting The Daily Show – where despite disavowing the show’s seriousness, he was hailed as a voice of the generation – he plans to step down.

Continue reading Williams, Stewart and storytelling in journalism and public relations

Five Suggestions for Babyproofing the Job Interview

(A version of this essay appeared in The Washington Post March 19, 2015)

What would you rather pick, a trip to the dentist or a job interview?

I used to be a fan of the interview – and usually did well. You get to dress up, woo strangers into being impressed and talk about yourself.

All that changed after I’d switched careers, had a baby and made the decision to spend the first year at home, taking care of her.

But then, my job search revealed that a root canal might be easier after all.

Moms in my circles, particularly those who didn’t work in a corporate environment, often returned to those same jobs, with flexible hours. A few others have their own businesses where they set their own pace and schedule.

Continue reading Five Suggestions for Babyproofing the Job Interview