[Episode 6] Choosing the right caretaker for your baby

There eventually comes a point where you will need to share the care of your little one with someone else: your spouse, a nanny, daycare, school, pediatrician, family members. After all, don't they say "Parenting takes a village".

In episode #6 of the series "Moms talk with a French accent", La Petite Creme co-founders Cecile and Fanny look back into how they found the right caregiver for their babies with co-host Dr. Varisa Perlman, a NY-based Pediatrician and Holistic Health Coach.

(full text transcript below the video)


Moms Talk with Dr Varisa Perlman [episode #6]: How to choose a caretaker for your baby

Cecile: Hi.

Fanny: Hi, everyone!

Cecile: This is Cecile and Fanny from-

Fanny: -La Petite Creme.

Cecile: And welcome to today's Episode number 6 of our Mom Talks series with pediatrician, Dr. Perlman, which we're going to add to this conversation very shortly. Hi, everyone. Hello, hello.

Fanny: So let's [inaudible]. We hope you are doing well this week and the hangover from the Christmas and the New Year Eve is done.

Cecile: Hi.

Fanny: Hi.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Hi, how are you?

Cecile: Good morning, Dr. Perlman.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Good morning.

Cecile: Here we go. Let's see, that's all settled, so. You look lovely today. Look at that. [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: [laughs] I'm actually in Miami.

Cecile: That's why you look lovely.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Just for a couple days. Yes, yes. So that's why. The sun's a little different here. [laughs] But yeah. So I'm Dr. Perlman. I'm a pediatrician who's also working as a holistic coach. So joining in just to have a good time with you guys.

Cecile: Yeah, as always. So today we're on episode number 6, and as we have more and more people joining today, we want to talk about handling your baby to someone else. So that's an emotional topic. It's loaded with a lot of feelings and emotions, but as much as we love our kids, at some point, we have to let them be with other people. There's a lot of different things that we're going to touch here.

But if you who are watching wants to write down your feelings about that, your questions, what brought you here today, where you are in that transition, did you choose a caretaker for your baby already? Are you looking for one? Is it something that you have concern about? Is it something that you already have experience? So write down in the comments and we'll address those. We'll be happy to tackle this topic with all of you today.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: I think it might be an interesting way to start just because I think it is such a personal experience. So maybe we can go around the three of us and describe what our choices were for our kids for the first five years, what choices we had made.

Cecile: Well, I was lucky because two of my main caregivers are right here today. It's you, Dr. Perlman, who we're lucky to have as a pediatrician who's down here in Miami. And then I was blessed to have met Fanny when I was pregnant. And she ended up caring for my little girl when she was born. So I had the best luck, I would say, or maybe I manifested that and then she showed up on my doorstep one day, and that's how we met actually, and that's how we became the [inaudible] we are and that's how the company La Petite Creme came together as well.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Wow. How did you find out about each other?

Cecile: Well, I was pregnant so that was no secret. I was walking around with a big belly. And Fanny, you just—

Fanny: Yeah. Our husband connected us because Cecile's husband had an intern—

Cecile: At work, yeah.

Fanny: Yeah, at work. And my husband knew this intern, and the intern said, "Hey, my boss is looking for a caregiver for his future baby." And my husband sad hey my wife is looking for a side job."

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Wow.

Fanny: So I contacted them, and that's it. An interview and that was meant to be.

Cecile: And it was interesting because as many of you know, we're from France. So I had been in the US for about 10 years when I got pregnant, and as an expat, I felt like I needed to reconnect to my roots a little bit because even though I felt really comfortable in the US, becoming a mom root me back into, okay, now I have—I don't know, I felt more secure in the French world of parenting for some reason, even though I wasn't a parent just yet. And meeting Fanny, who had an extensive knowledge of caring for babies as an assistant nurse for babies in France, it felt really reassuring to have somebody who—we share the same background.

And it's not something I was actively looking for, but then we just met each other and it felt like, "Oh my goodness," maybe that's the piece I needed to feel more comfortable in my parent role, having somebody who has the same background as I have.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Were you working at the time?

Cecile: I was working part-time and she would come over to my house, which is something very popular back in France, people do that quite a bit. And also, you have a lot of small caregiver who would get people at their house. So they have three, four children at their house. So it's like a more alternative way. We haven't found too much of that. At least here in Miami, it's not very common to have that type of daycare facility.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: And it's an interesting idea. And then the reason why I wanted to ask about what you guys did is because I think that you have to—and like you said, you weren't even walking into it thinking that these were things that were important to you, but as you stepped forward into it, you were like, "These are elements that are important to me."

And I think before you embark on finding a caregiver or caregiver situation that will work for your family, you really need to spend a moment and say like, "What would give me some peace of mind?"

Cecile: Exactly. And as somebody mentioned here in the comments, the aspect of trust. So trusting somebody else with—I mean, you start with your baby inside you, so you control it, and then they're in your arm and you control, and then all of a sudden you have to hand that over to somebody who is going to be adding value to that baby's life and not damage it. So that's how I felt. I don't know how you felt when it was your job to—

Fanny: I think trust comes—it's not natural to trust someone with your baby because it's your gut, so every time you would have the instinct that you are the better care for your baby. But I think trust can be built little by little. So first you have to meet people. If it's at a daycare, you have to go and visit I think the daycare and ask your question, and there is no forbidden question. So every question that you feel you have to ask, even if it's like you will feel like I'm the annoying one, just ask your question. There is no bad question. And maybe with those answer, you will be able to bring this stress and this confidence to know if your baby will be fine in this daycare or with this person.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yes.

Fanny: It's very hard to trust, but it can be built by time and little by little.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah, and I think that what we're also showing or talking about are small settings versus large settings. I've heard both ways. Some people say, "I want a small setting so there's more intimate care. And I feel like two or three babies in a space is very good." But some people say, "When my baby can't talk or can't say anything, if it's a large setting, then there's at least other people watching versus one person with three kids."

So I think that trust can be found not only in the person that's taking care of them, but also in the structure which you're placing the baby. Does that make sense?

Cecile: Yeah. But you don't know what's going to build that, what's going to bring you comfort or safety until you actually look at different set-ups. I felt like I answered some of those questions later on when I had to put my kids into daycare when they started growing up. You don't know what you want or what you need until you actually face what is out there. And then you're like, "Wait a minute, I didn't consider that was something that made me either comfortable or uncomfortable. But seeing it, I don't see my baby here." Or, "I see it very well because I didn't think that—" And then, again, you're adding value to something you knew what you knew but you have to expand the scope of the possible, right?

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah. And I think that you have to give yourself grace. Maybe everyone's like, "Oh my god, this place is amazing. You have to go there, it's amazing," and you go there and you don't have a good feeling about it, just because all your friends are doing it doesn't mean that you should do it.

Cecile: Yeah, that's very true because sometimes the less confident we are in situational decision as parents, the more we feel like we have to advertise our decisions so that we have buy-in from other people, right?

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah.

Cecile: And it feels true with daycare, it feels true with what we buy, the clothing, the choices of the school as they grow up. It feels like the less confidence there is overall, the more advertising of what each one is doing. Let me comfort myself. If somebody else buys into what I did, then maybe I didn't make such a bad decision. [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah, very much on this performative parenting, which we talk about in terms of replacing helicopter parenting, this whole idea of like, "Well, I send my kid here and I send my kid there and I do this for the kid." It doesn't matter what other people think about your decisions. You literally have to look at your kid and be like, "What setting will my kid really enjoy?"

And I remember when I was pregnant and I had a baby, I have people that would come that are like, "You have to put them into daycare." The kid was two days old. They're like, "Otherwise, they won't get any socialization." I'm like, "The kid just wants to survive. The kid just wants to eat, sleep, and poop." We're not really there where we're like, "Oh my God, can I pick up some social skills at two months old?" We're not doing that. So let's just be real about it.

Your decisions have to be a reflection of what your family feels comfortable with and then also what your setting is in terms of what you think you would want your kids to be raised. And I think that one of the things—because the trust thing is a long space, that it takes a while for us to find the right caretakers. But let's say that you find the right caretakers. You find the people that you're like, "This person, I feel like I can communicate with them. They listen to what I'm saying. I can afford it." So that's a big deal.

Cecile: Big element, yes.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: And it seems to, at this point, be comfortable in my space. And I can come in and out of it. I think the flexibility is a big deal, because what if your job changes? What if your needs for your kids change? If you're in a place like, well, you have to do this at this month. And you're your kid's still young. Well, that doesn't work. So what if my kid's sick for three months, I may not want to do daycare anymore. I want to be able to come out of it or I might want to go to a different place.

So being able to have that flexibility when those kids are that young is actually a great question to ask. If they're being a jerk about it, not so great, maybe not necessary. So I think that that's really important to ask those questions, what your options are. But the thing that I always tell people, when we say that it takes a village, we say that in a good way, right? It does take a village. And it is really, really important for your kids to have multiple caretakers.

And I know that sounds strange that I'm saying that. I'm not telling you throw them in a daycare with 35 kids [laughs]. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about the fact that I don't always think it's fantastic for just mom and baby to be at home or dad and baby and nobody else, never seeing anybody else. Socialization, even though it's not something where I'm like, "Oh my god, the 2-month-old is gonna absorb everything," but in many ways, you want your kids to be able to be comfortable with other people.

And I think that sometimes I see a situation where unfortunately mom and baby have become a bit isolated. Not healthy for mom and it's not healthy for baby. And even if you're just walking around, you don't even say anything to another person. That's why personally, I do tend to prefer urban environments, environments where there are a lot of people walking around because unfortunately, we became scared of people through COVID, unfortunately, it is what it is, right?

But I do think it's important for not people in the mall to be picking up kids, but for them to hear the sounds of other people around them, to hear what's going on around, to eventually when they have people visiting, okay, yes, they can hold the baby and play with the baby. Because those are adaptive moments where the baby starts to learn that there are other people in the world. And in the end of the day, you don't want your kids only consoled by you.

Cecile: That's the thing. Sometimes we feel like when we choose a caretaker, we're choosing a replacement. But it's no way a replacement, it's an addition to the team. So it's like, that's what I can bring as a mom, that's what she can bring as an internist, and then everybody adds to it so that it's one plus one plus one and not one equal one.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah. I think that this is something—So I'll share a little bit about my experience with caretaking that colored my space. My parents are both pediatricians, so my mother had a full-time in-house daycare person. Not daycare person, but nanny, I guess you would say, but she lived with us. And it was hard. We were three kids. And it became tricky because when you look in retrospect, the nanny knew that it was a situation where my mom really needed her. And so really took advantage of the situation. And then things got strange where my sibling would call the nanny "mom" and it became a weird moment. Even being a kid, knowing that's strange.

Whatever. My point is, is that it became just uncomfortable, but there was no communication. There was no open line of understanding where is this healthy or is this not healthy? It was a situation where I felt my mother felt hostage to it because she was an immigrant. When you're an immigrant and you don't trust a lot of people, you think, "Oh, well, at least it's somebody from my home country," but that's not always great if that person takes advantage of the situation.

Cecile: For sure, yeah.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: So when I came about to do my world, my life, I was stubborn because I really didn't want that space. I didn't want to be taken hostage. It just wasn't something that I—I just didn't feel like that was healthy. So I strangely brought my kids to work. [laughs] So we made a little nursery in our office and my mom and I would switch places. So I guess she was also a caregiver, but also the lady in front would answer the calls. And occasionally she'd come back and feed. The village became very fluid.

And Izzy and Andre both grew up being in the office, but also I would bring them out to the little nursery school that they had and they would come back for half the day and they would hang out in the office. And yes, it wasn't like I was teaching them foreign languages all day. They would just have to hang out in the office and play with a toy, kind of old school, but that's what kids do.

Sometimes these days we feel like we have to entertain our kids all the time, but my kids had to learn how to entertain themselves. And my mom was infuriated. She was like, "Why are we doing this? This is really hard. Why are we running back and forth?" And she's like, "Why don't you just have a nanny or stay at home? One or the other." And I was like, "No, I want to do both. [laughs] I want to be able to work, but I want to see my kids. And I'm just greedy."

And it's funny because I heard a lot of those echoes when COVID happened because everybody had their kids at home and we're working and we're like, "What the hell is this?" I'm like, "Yes," now I have people that actually understand because I felt like so many—I was still working full time. I had a lot of friends who were working two days a week, half days, and they had a little bit more of that ability. I was like, "I actually need to figure out something that's gonna work in the context of still working full time."

But it was a little chaotic, but at the same time, my kids are very comfortable seeing other people. It fulfilled what I wanted. And then when I came about and I moved to Miami and I really couldn't keep doing that because it wasn't my mom's office. It was someplace I didn't—and they were old enough that we could have someone that would pick them up from school, they were in school. But I have to tell you, it was really helpful because—So this person, we found her on care.com and they do [inaudible].

Cecile: It's a great resource, yes.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Right. We ended up finding a couple of people through care.com and interviewing them. Within five minutes, you get a sense, like, "Okay, this person is—"

I think that one of the things that I would emphasize when people are interviewing the other person is that you want somebody that—because invariably, even though they're taking care of your kids, they're also taking care of you. And the way they take care of you is that they listen, but they also offer advice to you, for you, but they also care for you. I know it sounds weird, but they want to listen to what you have to say and you feel like you want to listen to what they say. I occasionally have situations—

Cecile: Back to the trust thing, it's also a trust that they know what they're doing. Not so much of like, are they going to do something bad? But also how much can they bring? And you're right, also to you as a parent because it's nice to have another set of eyes and insight about your specific situation. You can listen to podcasts or whatever on parenting but until somebody who knows your kid says, "Hey, why don't you try this?" or "Why don't we try this together?" and have a little bit of skin in the game, then you're more open to listen. But you have to trust that this person is coming from the right place and not trying to patronize you or something like that.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Absolutely. Just as I felt like my job as a pediatrician was taking care of the kids and the parents, I feel like when you have a person who is willing to—I have sometimes people say they're wonderful with the kids, but they are so mean to me. You hear this every now and then someone says that. And I'm like, "What are we talking about?" [laughs] That doesn't work. This is someone that you're weaving into your family.

I think that when I really look back, I think there's a lot of people who know how to take care of kids. Kids are actually pretty easy. Kids are pretty great, But when we really talk about weaving somebody into the fabric of our family, it has to be someone that helps us as much as they help the kids. And it sounds weird because we're saying like, "Well, that's not what we're hiring them for. We're hiring them to just take care of our children."

But in the end of the day, it is their ability to listen and work with you as a team member, because that's what I mean when I say taking care of you. Listening to you. It does affect the effectiveness they have in really being able to care for your children. You have to open this phase because I hear a lot of people say like, "Well, I have ten things that they had to do and they didn't do it. I have a list for them." It's like when you're working with a partner. If you're that person that is constantly barking orders at your partner and never saying, "Hey, well, what do you think would be good for the kids?"

And it may not be exactly what you would want to do, but you're weaving them into the fabric. It's not you just spitting out orders. You're asking for them to contribute to the life of your children and to give them a perspective.

Cecile: So in a perfect world, that would be a one-on-one relationship, a single person, but when it's speaking like a daycare where you don't talk to every single person and it might be one administration, two or three people in the class or the nursery or whatever, how do you think that can be established as well? Because you're not going to weave five people into your family. [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: I think that you would have to evaluate the place as an institution to itself. The people they hire is the face that they present to you. And if you go up and they're like, "No, that's not my job. No, I don't know. That's another person. No, I don't know who took care of your kid." Like that? Nah, we're good. Honestly, you can really find better places.

It's that kind of thing where I find that a lot of people will say, "Oh, this person seems to always take care of my kid in the center. So my stream of communication is mostly with that person and they seem to know what's going on and they can help." But I think for me, if you are able to find a more intimate setting within the first three years, kind of like the way that you guys were friends taking care of kids, like two aunties taking care of the kids, I enjoy that for me a little bit more. And again, that's just my preference just because I feel as they get older, they're 3 years old, 4 years old, who's taking care of them is other kids too. It becomes like a stream. It's not as one-on-one.

And I feel like it's a little bit more developmentally appropriate in terms of having—if you can afford it. It's not always affordable to do it that way, and I understand that. But I do think that it does give you a little bit of understanding that—That's why I said it's really important to have a flexible situation because kids need change. You might find that your 9-month-old, really doesn't like to be home by themselves, really love to go to the park, they love to see other kids, that's the kind of kid that may want to go into a larger setting earlier.

I felt like my first one was perfectly happy being home, being with us for two years, and like, "Okay, fine, I'll go." My second one by 18 months was like, "Why am I still here with you?" [laughs] "Can you please show me the other kids? I think you're nice and everything, but it's not doing it for me." So it's that kind of thing where you have to be—So many times I feel like in parenthood, we feel everything is a linear path. And I can't tell you how many times I feel like I try to get onto the path, and then something comes up that pushes me, like a freight car, off the path, and I'm like, "Oh, I was trying so hard to do what everyone else was doing. [laughs] I guess I'd rather do it my own way."

Cecile: Yeah. It is more challenging now with all the social media where it feels like the path is a one way, like you don't have other options. But it does feel like one thing that strikes us when we had our kids was that it's very common in Europe—at least in France, I don't know all about Europe—for multiple families to say, "Hey, let's look at a caretaker together." So people who live in the same building or in the same neighborhood or the same village, and they're like, "Okay, we're gonna have one person coming," and then the person can rotate. On Monday, they're going to your house and then you drop the kid there. Then on Tuesday, they go to that house and they do two or three houses.

We haven't found that as common here, at least in Florida, in Miami, I don't know how it is for the rest of the US. If somebody wants to comment about their experience. It's something that does allow to have a smaller setting yet to share some of that cost too, because as you said, also, it depends on what you can afford. So get the village a little bigger too.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: I think that that village idea is always better. I will say that I wonder if there's a little bit of more rules because of the US having more rules in terms of being a care center or being validated or accredited. I don't know if that scares people away from being in that situation. But if you can find somebody that can share a caretaker with you and split some of those costs, I think that makes some more sense than necessarily putting them in a situation where they're in with a lot of kids and everyone's getting sick and it becomes a lot.

I think a lot of people are like, "Oh, well, my kids are supposed to get really sick the first year of life." And I'm like, "Not necessarily." The first year is tricky and for them to get sick so much when they're 4 months old is a lot. And I think that we found that with COVID and people just became more attuned to that idea that like, "Wow, when I had my kid at home for the first year and they didn't see 30 kids coughing all over them, wow, they didn't get sick. Is it possible?" And it's like, yeah, they still get stuff all over the tables and everywhere, but for them to acutely get sick each time, all the time like that, it's not easy for them. It's not good for their system.

So I think that there's a big difference when I say kids should be exposed to kids should be sick every month. Do you see this? I think that difference is not very clearly understood. People are like, "Isn't that fantastic?" No, it's not fantastic. You get chronic sinus issues, you can get chronic issues with your lungs, that's not fun for anybody. But do I think kids should live in a bubble and never see anybody? No. So it's that kind of thing that we have to see that middle ground.

There are a couple of books that I think helped me a lot. There was one called Mommy Wars and the other one called Finding Mary Poppins. And the Mommy Wars, I think that what I got from that book was the idea that every single person does it differently.

Cecile: That's important to acknowledge though because it feels like yeah, we're nodding, but we have to let that sink in for a second. [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: It was interesting. It was a person, she was a writer so she worked at home, worked outside of the home as well. And so she got to see both worlds. And her own mother stayed home with her, but she's like, "I wish my mom would have gone to work. She clearly resented us. She didn't want to be there. It wasn't what she wanted." But there was no other option when women were that age or whatnot. And her whole thing was like, I don't care if you stay home. I don't care if you work outside of the home. I don't care who you have. But in the end of the day, you have to feel good about it. You have to have made a decision that you wanted to make.

She makes these wonderful descriptions of—I think that came up with the Finding Mary Poppins where this woman, she was a very well-known neurologist. She was obviously really successful in her field. And she had five kids. And she had this wonderful woman who took care and then taught them table manners, taught them how to cook, taught her kids. And she's like, "These are all things that I would have never brought to my child's life." So she was part of my village.

I think you make a great point. Why does it have to only be one caretaker? Take the village. Take the village when you can. Add them to children. You're adding people and experiences to your life, your kids' life, that are invaluable and allow them to learn how to be with different people even people with different ethnic groups or different languages or even different homes. It doesn't have to be culturally different. But it's that kind of thing where more people really do give your kids insight as to how the world works and to socialization.

Cecile: And unless it's one of those extreme situations like you experienced as a kid, but I wouldn't think—you can confirm with your professional experience—that there is any confusion for the kids of who their mom is. Because I know maybe I'm going to speak from my own insecurities, but my fear would be like, "Oh, someone's gonna take over and then my kids are gonna prefer them over me," [laughs] a little bit of an ego. But you would remain mom. There's only one mom.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: So something that I say all the time, and it's funny because I didn't think that it would find itself here, but I always tell people that they have two parents if they're lucky, and they have thousands of friends. You don't need to be their friend. You hold a very distinct space in their life.

And honestly, I don't want to always—I don't know how this would go out, but you are required to love your family members, but you don't have to like everybody. And I know that sounds weird. Why would I say that? That's so strange, right? And I say that because, yes, they might like to play with this other person more or like this person. But in the end of the day, they love you because you are their mom. Do you understand?

And I think that sometimes we confuse that. "Oh, no, she always wants to go and play with this other person. Oh, she must think that that's her mom." That's all in all unrelated. Not related. Because in the end of the day, you love your parents. Now, you may not like them all the time, right? I don't always like my kids. [laughs] I love them. They do something and I'm like, "I'm not liking you right now. I don't like you." [laughs] I am allowed to do that. So if I'm allowed to do that, they're allowed to sometimes not like me. But I'm never not their mom. I'm always going to be their mom.

Cecile: I think that plays a big role for women who just had a baby to recognize that some of that trust issue and some of that fear of letting go is that. I guess, what if all of a sudden they only knew me and they like somebody better, right? I know it coming from me. I don't know about you.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: That's okay. Again, I don't need my kids to always like me. They like their friend down on the street more than they like me. That's totally appropriate. You cannot, you should not be. I actually sometimes get uncomfortable when grown adults are my best friends or my parents. And I'm like, "Hmm. [laughs] That's interesting." Your best friends should be people that live with you and live in your life. Your parents are your parents.

And there are ways that my parents have incredibly been helpful to me for me to understand where I come from, what's important, but there are many ways where I completely 100% disagree with my parents, not even kind of, a lot. Does that mean that they're not my parents anymore? No, that's just the rope of love, that sometimes I like you and sometimes I don't, but the rope still exists between us.

Fanny: Yeah. I think it was a week ago, I remind Zoe because sometimes kids can be tricky about the attention and the affective stream that you have with them. And last time, I think I was strict about something and I don't know if she was mad at me and she said, "I want my teacher, Ms. Fernandez." So I was a little bit upset and I said, You know what, Zoe? You love your teacher. I'm absolutely in love with that because that's fine. I like that you love to go to school, but who is home every day? Who cooks meals every day? Who takes care of you every day? Who reads your stories every day?" And she was like, "It's you, mommy."

I was like, "Yeah, I'm here every day for you by law, but I'm here. I'm the one who takes care of you for every booboo, every night, everything. So just a little reminder." And she was like, "Yeah," and she gave me a hug. But sometimes they are tricky. So I took it personally in that moment. I shouldn't, but I was like, "Hey, don't play that with me. That's kind of off."

Dr. Varisa Perlman: And she played it. She knew that it would [inaudible]. Most kids know that. I want to say unfortunately, but a lot of women, we have some deep, deep insecurities when it comes to this. We have this strange trauma that we are carrying, this whole idea of incredible amounts of guilt. And I don't understand it because I do think that it actually makes us very ineffective as parents because we'd be so easily manipulated. So when I spend this moment saying, "Listen, your job is not to make your like kids you. It's for them to continue to love you whether they like it or not." I will have to love my kids whether I like it or not because they're my kids.

But it's that kind of thing where we feel this need sometimes to buy their likes. [inaudible], you know? And that's why discipline, sometimes it sounds terrible. But I will turn to perhaps the male if it's a heteronormative relationship, and I will say like, "You're going to have to be the one that puts down the discipline because she's dripping with guilt." Literally, the kids, like "No, no, no, I know you don't mean it. Whatever. Do your thing." But when dad does it, for some reason, they're like, "Oh my God, for real? I'm supposed to do that?" And you're like, "Why did that work so much better?" Because he walks in it without that guilt. He doesn't feel guilty about discipline. He knows that that's actually really important for them.

There are a lot of ways. I watched other generations, and through that guilt, they think that they're helping, that they're protecting their kids who are now grown adults, but in the end of the day, they're only making life harder for them because they're not really teaching them how to live within this world. And this world is very difficult. And sometimes to succeed, you have to be able to do things you don't want to do.

Fanny: Yeah.

Cecile: That's a hard one. I feel like the new generation is not—we're deviating from the caretaker thing, but it is a big—maybe we should do an episode about that.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah. [laughs]

Cecile: Why don't we do that? That's our next topic.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah, that's our next topic. [laughs]

Cecile: So back to caretaker. If we expand a little bit, how would you—because part of the caretaker is also finding a medical provider, right? And you happen to know a thing or two about that. So what would be, you think, the fundamental of finding somebody? And is it important to find the right caretaker or should we just look at Google and be like, "Pediatrician around me," and pick the first one that comes in? What do you have to pitch in onto that conversation?

Dr. Varisa Perlman: You know, I think that there are many ways that I—Let me see how I'm gonna say this. [laughs] I'm just gonna take a moment. I come from parents who are from third-world countries who are pediatricians. And I say that because maybe some people look down on that or whatnot, but for me, it gave me a very idealistic view of what a doctor should be. Where they come from—my parents are from Thailand—everyone is like, oh, doctor this, doctor that, doctor that, because the doctor is a part of the community. And they know that that doctor is there to take care of everyone in the community.

My uncle, who was a surgeon, trained at Case Western, went back to Thailand and people would say like, "Why did he go back? He could make so much money in the US." And he would say, he goes, "I don't mind getting paid in chickens." [laughs] There was a line for hours outside of the temple waiting with people coming to pay respects because when he says he took care of the community, he took care of the community. This model does not really exist very much in the United States anymore.

Cecile: Unfortunately, yes.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: So we are at a space where there have to be choices. And I think this does delve into the caretaker space because what you need to do, at least what I would do as I sat looking at my options of what to do, some people have a large extended family where this sister takes care of the kid this day, this brother takes—That's how they—and so they don't really—this conversation is not so much—being able to communicate well with other caretakers is really important.

For a doctor, I think it's somebody that you need—you need to know what you need. There are some people that are like, "My number one need is convenience. I don't really care who I see. I want to be able to see someone at my convenience." Fine. I think a big practice is fantastic for that. Some people are like, "I have a lot of questions and I really want to make sure that when I walk out of the room, I feel like I have peace of mind." You need a smaller situation. I think that you can find some private practitioners around.

But as someone who unfortunately has left that system, I feel like it is hard because even in a small practice, you're expected to see 25, 30 patients a day and half the patients are there just for paperwork. They don't even know why they're there. I don't know why they're there. The insurance company knows why they're there, [laughs] but nobody else knows why they're there.

And so I think that the more that you can figure out what will meet my needs is the most important. I think I really enjoyed my conversations with a lot of immigrant parents too, or people who had smaller communities because they did enjoy having a little bit more of that conversation. They need a little bit more context. Because when you're alone and when you're not here with all of your family—If you're here with all of your family, you don't need more conversation, right? [laughs] You're like, "I've got everybody [inaudible]. I don't really need more of that." And I would recognize that.

But for people sometimes that were like, "Listen, we're the only people in the US. Yes, I have friends and stuff, but I don't really have a whole community. Can I ask you some questions? I'm a little confused about this and that." That may not be under what my job is as a pediatrician, but I enjoyed that part because I feel like so much of raising children is figuring out what you need as their parent. And that goes back to the original thing. When we talk about figuring out a caretaker, we have to go back to what [inaudible] and you have to know your needs.

I think the thing that I was very upset about with my mother [laughs] when she had that whole situation is that her needs changed and things were changing but at no point did she say, "Hey, that doesn't work with me. I need you to do this, and I don't need you to do that. I don't want you to do that." But she felt almost like she was doing something bad by working and, "At least this person's taking care of my kids. I may disagree with her with everything that she's saying, but at least she's taking care of my kids." And I felt like that's just not true. No. Then find somebody else.

I don't believe that someone should make you feel awful about who you are and what you do in exchange of taking care of your kids. My mom would say like, "Oh, I'm not good at playing with you. She's better with playing with you, so I'm gonna go wash the dishes while she plays for you." I would have wanted my mom. [laughs] I would have wanted my mom. [inaudible] Even if she's not good at playing with me, but I would have wanted that time with her. But she was made to believe that she was inadequate by having a caretaker.

Actually, I'll be honest with you, I sometimes have people when they originally—they have night nurses, which is really common. A lot of people have that. Be careful who you find. Well, I mean, it's not be careful, but talk to them. Because if they're like, "No, lady, you don't know anything you're talking about. I'm gonna take care of this kid. You don't touch your kid," that's a big red flag to me because what the hell? What is that? You have to be able to voice your concerns, be able to be flexible and say, "Okay, this is working for me. This is not working for me. I'd love for you to do this, but this would help. Oh, that's a good point. Okay, maybe, yeah, if you guys do that with that, that would be fun."

Cecile: What we hear you saying is that you need to find people in your village that empower you. It's a team member, right? Just like you wouldn't play a sport with someone who just wants to play solo or someone who don't—You're looking for people who can bring value and then solidify the strengths of each one of the team member, whether it's you, whether it's your partner, the kid as well, because they are a big part in that team. So finding people who pull you up and you can pull up as well.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah. And I do like family members. I mean, you guys became practically family [laughs] at this point, right?

Cecile: Very much so. [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: I kind of come from that. When I grew up, everyone was auntie and uncle. [laughs] It doesn't matter. And it became a situation where my parents were constructing the village as much as they could, And the people that took care of my kids, they became part of our family. So that was really important for us to include them. Some people say, "I want more boundaries," like you come from 9:00 to 5:00, that's it. And that's fine. Again, whatever feels right to you, but know that this is somebody that you're weaving into your life, and that you have to be just as comfortable with them as your kids are.

Cecile: And this person doesn't have to do also everything. I feel like sometimes we have a tendency to say, oh, I want a caregiver who can do the mom job, they can clean the house, they can play with the kid, they can teach them Japanese, they can blah, blah, blah, but it's more than one person can do. So maybe focusing on what exactly is necessary so that you have time maybe to add what you can add best and then the TV can teach them Japanese. [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah. I almost see almost two extremes and I think that somewhere in the middle is the best. I have people who are completely not able to really speak up for themselves, so they're not really creating—They're like, "Okay. Well, whatever. Okay. Yeah. Okay." Almost really like a low self-confidence about it And then you have people who come in and they're like, like you said, "I want you to do 25 things and when you don't do one thing, you're out." That's not a really nurturing environment.

It's funny because I think that's good to specify. When I say that I want someone who cares for you as well, I'm not necessarily saying that like, "And when you're done with the kids, I want you to give me a back rub." [laughs] I didn't say that. I'm not saying that. And if they do that, great. I remember my husband was so mad at me because our kids were getting older, they didn't really need a nanny as much. But she was great because I would come home and she would have cleaned something and put a candle out. The candle got me. If I came in and she had a candle, I was just like, "Oh my God, this is wonderful. I was so tired." And I was like, "Someone put a candle." I don't know why. It would just get me every time.

She had to move on and whatnot. I was like, "But who's going to take care of me?" And he was like, "Okay, this is not—Let's just be clear. Really, you're going to miss her, but that's not really why we hired her. So let's just [inaudible]." And so I think that it's important. Again, when I say that someone cares for you, it means that someone that actually says, "I'm going to be a team member. I want to hear what you have to say. I'm going to contribute as well. We're going to work on this together."

Cecile: It has to be a choice on their part, ideally, as much as a choice on you. You have to feel like they also actively want to be in that relationship, partnership with you, which you can find in a daycare. It does feel that okay, they have the kid's interest at heart, they want to talk to us even though sometimes the communication can be hectic, but that intent for them to be in that with you, as you said, together is very key.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: While I want you to be able to voice yourself, so here we are talking about—For some people who have very low self-esteem, to be able to say, "Yes, I'm going to be an active participant in this relationship." That's a big step for them because they don't have a lot of self-esteem about how they raise kids. But on the other hand, if you were like, "I am the boss, and you are my servant," that doesn't really say team member. [laughs] And what you're gonna get is somebody that's working, but not necessarily investing in your children.

And so I think what you want to sense is that they want to care for your children and they want to care for you. But if it's a situation, they're like, "Okay, where's the list? I'll check off the list." It's a funky situation. You're not going to get what you're—I think in the end of the day, trust is built when you see your kid thriving and someone can look out for your kid.

But at the same time, you have to understand that if it's somebody that's taking advantage of the situation, it may not be a good fit. And if not a good fit for you, then it's not a good fit for the baby or for the kid. And it's a whole unit that you're creating.

Cecile: Which you're gonna repeat. I mean, spoiler alert for people who have kids, either pregnant or babies, you have that when they start school as well because in that case, you can pick the establishment, but you're not going to pick the teacher, you're not going to pick the aftercare staff, you're not going to pick the school cafeteria lady or whatever. So it's also preparation, as we talked before, that every step that we go through is preparation for the next step. It is very forming as a parent to say, okay, I need to start building that trust.

Because one of the comment that we have that somebody watching who said it's hard to trust. If you don't trust when they're 1, it's not gonna come up when they're 5 and all of a sudden you have to really let go because it feels at some point in school, you let go or you don't really see what's happening. So if you haven't built those elements of trust before that, it can be pretty traumatic.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: I don't know how the conversation goes with yourself, but if you're someone that has a really, really hard time where it's almost debilitating, where you just don't trust anybody, that's a conversation that's a little bit more about what's wrong with you. Because often we'll carry on traumas and maybe something happened and something built up or you saw relationships that were perhaps really unhealthy.

And I think that even for myself, when I came into choosing a caregiver, I still had trauma from what I saw happen to when I was growing up. And I think that really did color how I wanted to have a caretaker because I almost was in a situation where I know who I am, I know I'm not a very out—I'm outspoken here, I talk a lot, and I talk a lot about speaking up for yourself, but my basic energy is like, "Oh, okay." I definitely will fold onto myself quicker than I should. And I think that I was afraid, knowing myself, that if I came in with a very domineering personality, that I could be talked into feeling pretty bad about myself pretty quickly.

So it wasn't a matter that I didn't trust other people. I didn't trust myself to be able to hold my ground and be like, "Yo, that's not working out." [laughs] And there were even moments when I even brought the—I remember there was one lady at the office who was like, "No, go work. Don't touch your baby. I'll take care of your baby." And I would literally be like, "I just saw 30 patients and I haven't even seen my kid all day." What was the purpose of this? That wasn't the purpose. I wanted to see my kid.

I remember I came home to my husband, and I'm like, "I'm not happy. This is not working out." And he's like, "What's wrong with you? She works in your office. You can just ask her to like—it's okay." And I was like, "I can?" I'm not good at that. It's not within my nature. I will just go along. And I remember I came in the next day, I'm like, "Thank you so much for taking care of my kid. And this way beyond, but we're good. You're good, and I'll just take breaks."

And I had to kind of, without being aggressive, like, "What are you doing?" But I had to create my boundary. And I think that it becomes difficult. I think with my mom, I'm actually more empathetic to her situation because the person was living with us. So it wasn't a situation where like—

Cecile: And there is so much also that you have to deal with as a parent that when something is working, or at least you feel like you've established that, it's hard to challenge it. You're like, "Oh, I have to readdress this topic again?" [laughs] Which is what we've been talking about for all kinds of things—the sleeping, the potty training, the eating. It's really like, "Oh no, I got it." And then if I challenge you and send you sideways, you're like, "Damn, again." [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: And I tell this to people. I'm like, "When stuff is going smooth, I'm so nervous." I'm like [inaudible]. Because I know that that is not nature. Nature is chaos. Honestly, it's not that you get better at the chaos, you just get more used to it. [laughs] It's always up in the air. There's always. I think that when I look back on my life, with my kids at least, the more agile you are and moving back and forth and up and down and just going with them, it's fun. It's actually incredible to raise children, right? But the minute that you try to import specific rules like, "This is how it's gonna go. And I know," oh my God, it's like walking through quicksand. It's just like you just never can seem to get out of it.

So you have to just go with it. You have to just go with the nonsense. And I mean, listen, my kids are in college. I still have nonsense. I still have where I'm like, "What the hell is this? You are a grown person. What is this nonsense?" Sorry, it doesn't get better. It just gets—But I think that the one thing I would take away, you have to have your skin in the game when you're choosing someone and you have to have a situation that you can be a part of, that you can come in and out of, that you can say, "Hey, this works." "This doesn't work." You have to have a fluid arrangement.

Cecile: So work together, having this back and forth of collaboration. So you're looking more for a partner than for a caregiver because you caregive jointly. So you still caregive, [laughs] they give care, everybody gives care, but you're just adding a team member to your team.

Fanny: Yes.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: That's it. I think that that is a better context.

Cecile: So let's hope this helps you guys watching. It was a pleasure to be with you, Dr. Perlman.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Always.

Cecile: And then we'll see you in two weeks for another episode of Mom Talks with a French Accent. [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yay.

Cecile: Bye.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Bye.

Fanny: Bye.


Watch other episodes here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1dpfz3OiZoOwHuST-GmH9sTD0TfF3rIp

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