Why I love doing what I do

I’m sitting at a coffee shop going over all the different topics I want to cover for my blog when I realized a lot them are about the nitty gritty greasy slimy parts of my job. The things that educators don’t talk about in open circles. We only address them sheepishly in small groups or with close friends, hoping we’re not judged for not liking every child that comes into our care, or for losing our temper, or for thinking things about certain families that aren’t kind. 

Educators are protestingly placed on this pedestal of tolerance. If you work in any education field, this is the imaginary pedestal we’re all placed on that tells everyone that you’re able to handle any child, any family, any frame of mind, and any negative situation with ease and forbearance – the unwarranted pedestal that’s scary to balance on. 

This total tolerance, of course, is a lie. So, since I haven’t seen any sites out there geared for child care providers/workers who know exactly what frustrations they’re facing, I figured I had enough venting in me that I could fill a blog with my thoughts on it. LoL

Today, however, I would like to steer away from that and explain to you why I chose to go into the education field, why I choose everyday to continue doing in-home child care, and what makes me love what I do.  Basically, I want to share with you all the shiny beautiful things that happen in between the diapers and tantrums that help me want to stay.

It all started before I started my own education. I always knew that I wanted to be in this field. I cannot explain to you how I knew that, but I absolutely loved pretending I was a teacher at her desk, teaching a group of children. It thrilled me to watch my teachers growing up, almost like they were secret mentors. I would watch how they explained things, how they handled tough situations, and how they tried to make personal connections with each child. I also watched those tough moments that no teacher wants to go through: The unruly student who talks back to the teacher. The destructive students. The students who wanted nothing to do with you or your passion. The students who hated you simply because you were a teacher expecting the same level of quality that you expected from all their students. I did not envy my teachers in those moments and it was those moments that really made me question whether or not I had the tolerance I saw in them to do this job. But whenever I thought of doing anything else, my mind would wander back to teaching.

I started my college career thinking Elementary school was where I wanted to teach but as I did my observations for various classes in nearby elementary schools, I didn’t feel it; it didn’t feel right. I had a complete panic attack after one of my observation classes had ended. It was the end of the semester and I was glad I didn’t have to step foot in an elementary school again until I had to take another class forcing me to go there. This stopped me in my tracks. Is this what “burn out” felt like? How in the world could I have burn out when I hadn’t even started my career? Maybe I was wrong and this career choice wasn’t for me.

It wasn’t until I took a job at a local child care facility over the summer (to earn some extra money for the Fall semester) did everything click for me. I absolutely loved it. I had never been around so many toddlers and 3-4 year olds in my life but there was something about that age that excited me. I couldn’t wait to go to work. I loved being around those kids so much that once Fall semester started and I had to stop working there, I cried. I would miss them terribly but those small little children helped me in the biggest way possible. That Fall, the first thing I did was change my major from Elementary Education to Early Childhood Education. I finally knew my place and it delighted me.

Still, after 20+ years of Early Childhood Education, it delights me. I am so glad I have found my place because even when I do feel the burn out (because I feel it a lot, I’m not gonna lie) I still know that I would miss this job terribly if I left it now. I decided to jot down some of the things I love about my job – from the perspective of working with both the kids and the parents and I had to stop because this is already a long post (yeah, sorry about that, lol). There were too many to count. The ones worth noting are below. 🙂 Enjoy.


  • Watching the kids grow up and seeing all of their individual personalities come together.

  • Their hands … I know this sounds silly but I love their hands. They’re so small, gentle, and innocent. Their tiny hands remind me how awesome it is to care for those little hands and all the trust they place in my huge hands.

  • Their laughter. I love it – the way it sounds. Kids’ faces are unique when they light up with happiness. Adults don’t have that level of trust/innocence that kids do. When little kids light up with joy, it melts me deep in places I thought didn’t exist.

  • Their innocent way of thinking. I love when I ask the kids questions. The way they think things through is so fun for me. They can see things and come up with thoughts and ideas that I haven’t thought of before. It’s wonderful to see things from their point of view.

  • Their trust when they come to me for help or if they just want to be held/snuggled. Kids at this age love to be touched (and okay, I know that sounds gross but I totally don’t mean it that way.) They build bonds and understanding through touch and I absolutely love it. Snuggling little babies/toddlers and laughing with my 3-4 year olds not only helps them bond with me, but it helps me bond with them.

  • Their kisses. Okay … now to be clear, I am not going around violating their personal space and bodies, kissing everyone. No. Just no. But there are so many times they’ll come up to me and kiss my cheek or hand and it’s the sweetest little thing. Just this week I was tying a 2 year old’s shoe and she leaned over and kissed my head. Ugh, heart melting.

  • When I look at little kids, I see their magic. I see their love, hopes, dreams, and their belief in magic all on their sleeve. They’re aren’t afraid to express it and they’re not ashamed to feel it. Seeing that every day gives me this understanding that I can still see the world in this way, if I choose to. There are so many adults that walk around with the world on their shoulders. I cannot tell you how cathartic it is to be around little humans who help you release that weight.

  • I love discovering wonderful qualities about each child and amplifying those qualities to help boost their self esteem. I give them opportunities to use those unique qualities in my child care and I praise them for their uniqueness. Every child has wonderful qualities. I love tapping into each child and finding them.  

  • I love seeing them connect with me over stories, books, things they bring in and are dying to show me, etc. I love that they enjoy me so much that they want me to be brought into their world. I love love love that. It’s one of my most favorite things about my job. 🙂


  • I love learning about their family traditions and sharing mine with them. I especially love it when either I or them adopt one of their traditions. It helps me build a more personal bond with them (I’m not adopting a tradition they do just so that I can build a bond with them, these families do some pretty cool stuff. Like places they like to go when it snows, or different kinds of foods that they eat. I haven’t adopted everyone’s traditions, only the ones that I know will work with my family.).

  • I love seeing good parents in action. As a provider it makes me feel good that I have parents in my care who are 100% authentic and into their child. I have met so many parents who could care less about those little humans I have grown to love that it’s heartbreaking. So it’s wonderful for me to see the good ones come through my door.

  • I love telling the parents about all the funny/sweet things their kids say/do throughout the day. It helps parents as they do that difficult thing called parenting. A lot of times parents are so focused on the “meat and potatoes” of parenting (or they’re feeling very frustrated as they parent their little ones) that they need those good moments to help them with the bonds between parent and child. The children love it when I share the good stories.  They love watching their parents face light up with laughter and the parents love seeing their children through the love and light of another adult.

  • I love seeing their kids through their eyes. I have to admit that I don’t like every child that comes through my door. Some are easy to care for and others are … a bit more difficult to say the least. I love seeing a parent’s love for their children. It helps me see the child in different way. It helps ease the frustrations and it helps me re-adjust the way I see and deal with them.

  • Offering parents support and praising them when they are down. Every parent needs that pat on the back and support and sometimes we don’t find it from our partners, who are just as tired and exhausted as we are. I love offering that to parents and to let them know that they’re doing a great job and they’re gonna get through those difficult times. 🙂

  • Giving parents a way to get time to themselves when they need it so they can be better Mommies and Daddies. As much as it irks me that parents drop off their kids on days they’re not working (in my mind they could be using that day to bond with their child by taking them to the zoo or just simply running around the house with them) I also love the fact that I can provide a way for them to have that time to themselves to regroup and reset. We all need that as parents and when we don’t get that, it makes parenting 1,000% harder. I’m very glad that when they need that time to refresh, they can drop their child off and have some adult time.

  • I like the sense of community I have with the families. I love bringing them together for parties, events, etc. and enjoying their community/support for my child care and all I do with their kiddos. Sometimes I see my child care as this dinky little thing that shouldn’t have any impact on anyone so it’s wonderful that I’m creating something out of nothing. I love seeing these parents, who wouldn’t have known each other apart from my child care, become close friends and watch their children grow together even after they’ve left my care and have moved on to elementary school.

My job brings a lot of hardships but caring for children and their families somehow still puts a smile on my face and I still love my job after all these years. 

I hope my list above helps you somehow. I hopes it helps you remember why you’re doing this. I hope it helps you regroup on those bad days and helps you to keep going strong. 

This job is tough but we’re all in this together and any way I can offer my support – even just by reminding you of all the good ways this job helps you and others – I’ll consider it an honor to touch your heart and recharge that spark that made you fall in love with this job in the first place. 🙂   


When Your Child is Sick: The Do’s and Don’ts

There are a lot of aspects in my job as a child care provider where it gets tough. So tough that sometimes I feel like rage quitting and curling up into the fetal position and crying. I don’t think parents understand how hard my job is and apart of me thinks they don’t want to know. I think it would horrify them just how mean their kids can be and just how mean THEY can be. There have been times when I have shared my horror stories with other parents and their jaws drop. Yes, there is something about the “child care provider” title that makes parents think they can wave the crazy stick at me and then in the same breath smile and singingly say, “See you tomorrow!” One of the biggest areas of contention I face with parents is fevers and sick days.

Like all child care centers and in home child cares, they place a rule that the child has to be fever free for 24 hours before they can return to care. It’s a state rule in my lovely state and it’s something that even my doctor repeats to me (as a parent) when I take my sick kids in to be seen. I go by what my thermometer says and that seems to cause a lot of issues in and of itself. Apparently, in the sarcastic minds of my child care parents, my thermometer is geared at creating fevers where none have existed before and their thermometers at home magically take them away. My thermometers have been “so wrong” in the past that parents have even bought me the same thermometer they use at home for me to use on their child because the one I have used on them (and every other child) is too unreliable. (Can I insert an eye roll yet?) Imagine their horror when their magic thermometer says that their child has a fever in my care! Then I have to answer additional questions about maybe the batteries in my thermometer need to be changed and whether or not I’m using the thermometer correctly. (Okay NOW I’m inserting an eye roll.)

Look, I get it. Everyone has their favorite method of taking a child’s temp that they swear is more reliable than the other methods: under the arm, rectal, ear, forehead, under the tongue. I cannot be excluded from that list because I, too, have a standard method that I favor. What’s funny is, no matter which method I use and which thermometer I use, I always hear the same thing. “So this is funny (insert parent passive aggressive tone), I brought little Johnny home and he no longer shows he has a fever.” I can count on one hand how many times a parent took their child home and returned to child care saying, “You know, you’re right. Little Johnny was pretty sick.” And before you start thinking to yourself “Well, yeah, it sounds like you’re totally doing something wrong.” Let me also say that in the 20+ years I have been doing child care, every staff member I have spoken to at meetings, classes, conferences, etc. have uttered the same words as I just have. It happens, parents, and not just at your child care facility. Every child with a fever at a child care center magically no longer has one once they’re home.

I could go on and on but I’ll stop here and move on to the list. I have had so many reactions when I call or text a parent about their child’s temperature that I figured I would write a do’s and don’t list based on real life reactions that seriously needed a redo. To be fair, I have had a lot of professional and mature parents in my care who have taken the news with the understanding that kids get sick and that’s why you have sick/personal days at work and/or back up care arranged. These parents not only understood my sick policies they agreed to when they signed the contract, but they respect them. They leave my child care in such a dignified way that I respect them even more and I further respect our working relationship. But let me be clear, this list below isn’t about those wonderful parents. No, this list was created with all of the other parents (who have behaved in ways that would make your jaw drop and say, “Oh my God” veerryyyy slowly) in mind.

I’m sure that other providers could add to this list (and please do! Comment below with your add-ons) but here’s the ones that popped into my head while I was steaming over a recent run-in with an already difficult family.

thermometer-temperature-fever-flu (1)

  1. Don’t throw a fit and yell at your provider about your child’s fever. Yes, when you get the text I’m sure a lot of swear words come into your mind as you think about everything you need to do in the office that day. But what you DON’T do is actually say those things to your provider. We’re just doing our job, parents, and unless your contract states otherwise, it is not our job to care for your child while he’s sick. That’s your job (or your back up care’s job).
  2. Do obtain back up care if you cannot care for the sick child. This is child rearing 101. After you decide you want to have a baby and you decide that you are going back to work after baby comes, the NEXT thing you should decide is who to watch little Johnny when he’s sick if you cannot get out of work that day. Like I said before, it’s not my job to care for your sick child so don’t chew me out that I won’t keep him while he’s sick because you can’t provide backup care for him. That doesn’t make me feel sorry for you. That literally makes my think in my head, “To the parents of Little Johnny, unfortunately this relationship isn’t working out and I feel that your family would be best suited for another child care facility.”
  3. Don’t yell and complain about how many sick/personal days you have left. This isn’t a countdown and when your child is sick, your child is sick. Illnesses don’t care how many sick/personal days you have left. What are you asking your child care provider to do with that information? Take an exception with you (and no one else)? Do you want her to say to herself if your child is sick, “That’s okay … they don’t have any more personal days left so I’ll just keep their sick child in my care … I hope the other kids don’t get sick … and I’m sure all the other parents won’t mind that I’m breaking policy for this family …” (insert another one of those eye rolls in here, too). Yelling and complaining to me about this isn’t going to help you. What it’s going to do is make you look immature and unprofessional. All the while in my head I’m thinking, “To the parents of little Johnny ….”
  4. Do act professionally. A rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t act like this in front of your boss, then don’t act like that in front of me. Complain all you want to your spouse, parents, best friend, etc. but with me, please act professionally. You pay me to watch your child and act in a respectable manner to both you and your children. You don’t pay me enough to walk all over me and treat me like trash. I’m not a doormat. I’m a professional. I expect you to act the same with me.
  5. Don’t snap at your provider via text, email, Facebook messenger, or in person. Passive aggressive behavior/tones just shows me just how immature you can (and will) be and just how well you can’t control your anger.
  6. Do acknowledge that your provider isn’t just wanting a day off and making up a fever. (I think I heard some of you sarcastically shout “HA!”) In the midst of you being frustrated, upset, panicked, I want YOU to pat me on the back and give me reassurance that I’m doing the right thing?! You darn right I do. It’s part of a professional working relationship. I tell parents all the time how I understand how hard it is to be a working parent. How hard those temper tantrums are. I am constantly telling parents that they’re doing a good job when they are down. It would be nice that in the midst of a frustrating situation you can look at me and say something along the lines of, “I totally get it! You’re just doing your job and I respect that!” W-O-W I cannot tell you how far that simple message of appreciation can take me. A little acknowledgement goes a long way. Why? Because I DO get it. I DO understand how hard it is to leave work and care for your little one. I DO understand how much you need to get done. Please don’t think I don’t. I don’t make up fevers because I want a day off (and if your child is at a center or in-home daycare with other kids, then you know that having your child home doesn’t mean your provider gets the day off. It’s the same day for her regardless). I have children of my own. I know how hard it is to take off work to care for them. I can’t simply call into work and say, “Sorry, boss. My kid is sick so I can’t come in today.” I am the boss. If I can’t work, I either have to pay an assistant to work in my place or I’m closing my door to 10 families who are planning on dropping off their well children for me to care for. It’s not easy for me to care for my sick children either but you never hear me complain to my daycare families that their presence is making it so that I can’t care for my sick child. You don’t hear me complain that I now have to pay someone to work for me so that I can take my child to the doctor. And you don’t see me taking my frustrations over my sick child out on my daycare families. Instead, I act professionally, roll up my sleeves and take care of what needs to be taken care of in the best way I can.
  7. Don’t complain about your provider on social media. Of course, it’s totally okay to say something like, “Caring for little Johnny today because he’s sick” but something along the lines of “I’m pretty sure my daycare provider is a total bit** and is making my kid sick just so he stays at home.” is not okay. Guess what? If I follow your social media, I read your stuff. Like I said before, anything like that just shows how immature you can be and has me thinking, “To the parents of little Johnny …” If you need to vent, do so away from my eyes and ears. I’m not making your child sick and I’m doing nothing wrong when I follow policy by asking you to pick up your child and have him return after being fever free for 24 hours. I’m not the bad guy.
  8. Do talk to your provider politely if there is a temperature discrepancy. I have had parents in the past call me up and very sweetly and politely talk to me about the temperatures. I remember when one of my parents took their little Johnny home to find that his temp was normal and remained normal all through the night and into the morning. They called me up and asked if it was okay if they return based on that information. I was absolutely willing to do that but also explained that if little Johnny developed another fever any time during the day then he would have to go home again. The only time I have said no to that is when other kids in the facility were sick and everyone was coming down with the same symptoms. Then I have said, “You know, it might be best to keep him home.” and those parents took the news wonderfully. They understood, they were professional … yes, they could have been chewing me out behind my back but they kept my relationship professional in that they didn’t involve me in their anger rant.
  9. Don’t think you’re holding all the keys because you’re paying me and therefore feel like you can treat me like trash. Newsflash: No, you don’t pay me enough to do that. You expect me to remain professional at all times so I absolutely expect the same from you … at all times.
  10. Do understand that providers note all unprofessional behavior from you, discuss it with our staff, and also use you as an example in our conference meetings with other educational professionals, (and yes, write about you in blogs) and also highly consider handing you a two week notice when you exhibit said behaviors. Bottom line, it’s just not okay to do to us. We don’t deserve it, you don’t pay us to use us in that way, and if you wouldn’t do it to your spouse or boss, don’t do it to me. It’s just that simple.
  11. Don’t take 2+ hours to pick up when your child is sick. I understand when parents say they have to take care of a few matters at work before they leave but that shouldn’t take 2+ hours. When your child is sick and you cannot pick up within an hour, please arrange another to come pick up your child. I once had a parent who dropped off their child with a 103.5 temp (knowingly). They ran off to the bars to get drunk on their day off and couldn’t come pick up their child. Mind you, I called this parent no less than 30 min after they dropped off but they still ran to the bar to drink rather than pick up their child. I ended up having to call their emergency contacts in order to pick up the child (the emergency contact also had to pick up the parent from the bar). (Side note: as a child care professional, I am a mandated reporter and I did call that in.)

So what’s the bottom line? Unprofessional behavior towards your provider when she is simply following policy will never help you.

It will never make you look good. It will never better the relationship between you and the caregivers. It will never make your provider cower.

It will always portray you as an immature 30-something year old who never learned how to control their anger (even those passive/aggressive remarks is a sign of uncontrolled anger).

You are most likely causing your provider to think about whether or not they want to keep you in care. Remember, you will be seeing this caregiver in 24 hours. You can’t dish out negative behavior/remarks, apologize via text, and then give a sheepish “see you later!”. Well, you can but that also shows how little respect you have for yourself and for your caregiver. You owe it to everyone who has to deal with your outbursts – however big or small they are – to work on your anger and your responses.

Simply put, don’t treat us like trash. We’re not trash. You’re not trash. We’re all apart of the same team: your child’s team. Treat us with the same respect you want to be treated — especially when we call saying little Johnny has a fever and needs to go home.

What I Like About You

I know that a lot of my blog posts are about the nitty gritty grimy things that no one wants to talk about. When I scour child care sites, it’s all about happiness and fun; bubbles and lollipops. And yes, that’s what I want child care to look like 24/7. I want to wake up everyday and rush to work and be in a state of bliss for my entire day. But jobs aren’t like that and child cares are not an exception. So in writing about the things that providers don’t want to talk about, I feel a sense of relief that someone is at least talking about it (even if it’s just me addressing it to an absent audience. Anyone out there? Hello? Echo … echo …). 

Today, however, I’m stepping away from that spiel to talk about something I do find joy doing at my child care: a game I call, What I like about you. 

How do you play: When serving your children one of their meals or snacks, tell them one thing that you like about them. 

That’s it. It’s that simple. And they love it! They love hearing what silly thing I like about them. I don’t do it every day because I don’t want the kids to get bored of it. So when I do start it up, I can see their eyes light up and the giggles begin to form deep in their throats. They’re gearing up for me to say something silly and funny and I love it, too. It brings a smile to my face to see that I’m bringing them happiness and laughter. Most of my job consists of getting things done. Paperwork. Dishes. Meals. Diapers. Clean up. School work. Something always needs to be done. Sometimes I feel like I do nothing but herd cattle from one thing to another. Sometimes I feel exhausted and I’ve accomplished nothing. Little do they know that this game is just as much for me as it is for them. 

Here’s a list of some of the things I’ve said I liked about the kids in my child care in the past two weeks:

Your Elsa band aid

Your smile

Your lips (they were chapped and the child was putting chap stick on them)

Your giggles

Your eyes

Your silly dance moves

Your stories

Your heart

Your singing

Your imagination 

Your hair

Your missing tooth

Your snoring

The way you kick the ball

That you like to swing with the teachers when we’re outside

Your sand castle making skills 

Your silly smile

The way you say goodbye to your Mom and Dad at drop off
And the list goes on and on. I pick something that has happened that day so it’s fresh in everyone’s mind. I pick things that they can feel good about. I pick things that help me see the beauty inside of them, too. 

It helps me see them as precious little souls growing up into adults. One day I want to see them at the store or at a school event and I want them to remember that I took the time to tell them what it was I liked about them. That I saw them – truly saw them. Their silliness, their love, their solitude, their awkwardness. I saw it all. 

And I liked it. All of it.

 (I always will.)

Preschool Reinforcement

creative-desk-pens-schoolThis year we’re going to be implementing something for our preschool children that we haven’t really done before unless a parent asks. First off, an explanation of terms: because I am an in-home child care facility, I have school aged children beginning at two years old and going until five. So my assistant and I divided our children into three age groups: 2 year olds are in pre-school, three and four year olds are in pre-k, and finally older 4’s (who are turning 5 and can go to Kindergarten before the cutoff date) and five year olds (who have missed the cutoff) are in “Kindergarten”. This helps both my assistant and I funnel what they need to know for their age group while then being able to plug in more advanced lessons when they’ve shown they’re ready to move on.

Normally, we usually only give very specific feedback to parents of late three’s, four’s, and five year olds. They are the ones that will be Kindergarten bound within a year or so. Pretty much everything we tell them (where they meet the standards for their age group and where they are still struggling) is provided in the assessments that we do three times a year. Up until this time, we haven’t done it with our pre-schoolers (two year olds). There are several reasons why: first, parents of two year olds aren’t extremely concerned about their child’s academic progress until they’re ready for Kindergarten (which is understandable). Second, two year olds have short attention spans and in my honest opinion, they’re too young to be doing school work for long periods of time each day. At that age, it’s better for them to be learning through play.

My assistant and I are noticing a problem, however, that has caused me to rethink how we do things. It used to be that when we first started, parents would come to me and say, “She’s two years old and she already knows her colors and how to count to ten.” Great! But now, they don’t. Tablets have taken over and parents aren’t sitting down and spending time with their children like they used to. Children used to sit at the kitchen table and color or draw. They used to cut things with scissors or work on their fine motor skills in other ways, like putting stickers on a piece of paper. That’s not the case anymore. Now, children are watching TV or playing on a phone or tablet. That important time where they were working on the building blocks of their academic life have been taken from them. (And before I get any comments, I know that a lot of apps are educational but phone and tablets do not help them with fine motor skills. Children are struggling with holding/grasping pencils, crayons, and scissors. We have had some kids who were entering kindergarten and still struggling with their fine motor skills).

At this point, we have to reach children when they are younger because we’re seeing so much damage being done starting at a younger age. That is why I am going to start working my two year old families a lot more than I have done in the past. I will start assessing the two year olds and start asking the parents for some afterschool help. Meaning, if the child is struggling with specific colors, then I’m going to give them some play dough to take home so they can sit down with their child and talk about the color while playing with the dough. If they are struggling counting to ten, then I am going to give them some fruit to take home (like blueberries) so that they can sit down with their child and have some fun counting and eating yummy fruit.

The point being, I am going to start asking parents to take the tablet out of their child’s hands and start bringing back that special time between children and parents. I cannot do everything, contrary to belief. I once had a parent who was an elementary teacher (of all things) tell me that it was MY job to educate her children because she’s been doing that all day. Someone else can do it for her kids. No. Just, no. It takes a village, yes, but parents are also responsible for reinforcing what their child is learning at school. And if they’re struggling, a parent’s help at home is vital in making sure that their child understands and retains what they’re learning.

A child’s education doesn’t start in Kindergarten. It starts with me. It starts when they’re two years old learning their colors and counting to ten. It is imperative that parents stop saying to me, “But they’re only two …” because two becomes three and three becomes four and so on. Of course they’ll eventually learn their colors and they’ll eventually learn how to count to 100 but instead of worrying about all of that at three or four, I’m going earlier and asking parents for their help in reinforcing what we’re doing during school work time.

To clarify: No, my two year olds won’t be writing dissertations or coming up with science fair projects. Parents will be asked to reinforce what we’re teaching by playing with play dough and counting blueberries – Fun things they can easily do at home so the parents can help pitch in.

This is vital parents, I cannot stress that enough. I need parents to understand that yes, at two years old their children are still “babies” but this is the time when we are planting academic seeds. We need that reinforcement. We need parents to become active in their child’s early education. It doesn’t have to be horrible and excruciating. It can be fun – filled with giggles and squishy play dough. You can count flowers and fruit and draw things on paper while you’re going for a walk. You can sing the ABC song while you make dinner or dance silly to the song in the living room. There are so many ways to incorporate learning into a two year old’s play time.

It really does take a village and your reinforcement is significant to your child’s success! I’m not asking you to do my job because it’s not just my job … It’s our job.

Farewell, Vacation

I’m coming off of Christmas break, where I usually take a good week off because of both Christmas and the New year being a week from each other. It’s healthy for every provider to take a break every now and then, if you can afford it. And even if you can’t, make sure your taking some time to yourself in some way, shape, or form. A burned out provider is a disaster to your business and the kids you’re watching.

For me, I try and make sure that between holidays, vacations, and personal days, I’m taking a day or two off every two months. These aren’t days that would normally be an inconvenience to my child care parents. Over the years I have watched when they were taking their days off and I simply matched them. For instance, the Fridays before Memorial and Labor day. Usually, parents were taking those two days off so when I made up my personal days for the year (I only take 4 or 5 personal days) I made sure they were usually tied with a holiday, when parents were taking days off work themselves.

Every group of parents are different but for mine, they all typically have between 3-6 weeks off each year, including personal and sick days. A lot of them don’t take vacation weeks. Even for the weeks that I’m on vacation they’ll usually either divide the week up between both parents (Mom will take Mon and Tues, Dad will take Wed and Thurs and Fri is for which ever parent wants it) or they’ll have grandparents watch the kids. For the longest time I felt so guilty taking vacation/personal days and then it hit me, why? Why should it? My child care parents take use their days and still bring their kids here (not a jab to the parents at all because EVERYONE needs that time away). They don’t seem guilty at all. In fact, they are very verbal about needing that time off and being thankful for it because helps reduce the stress they’re feeling; they simply need a breather from work and kids.

I know it’s easy for providers to feel guilty about taking that time off. For me, I hate the fact that I’m inconveniencing so many people just to simply have time to myself or with my family. In other people’s line of work, if they take off, the office still runs, the stores are still open and customers aren’t inconvenienced. But that’s not the case here and that’s enough to make one feel the guilt big time. But I also have to close my eyes and think like a business woman and a mother/wife. I need that time just as much as the parents need those days off from their work. My family needs me to have that time, too. I need to stay physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally healthy for everyone in my circle and that means taking those days off.

One thing to remember if you’re feeling that guilt is that if your child care parents were so insulted that you were taking that time off, they would leave. They’re staying with you because they know you’re good and while they might sigh or show distaste that you’re taking a day or two off every two months, deep down they understand the reason. They’ll understand when they’re off playing golf or going to the wineries with their friends on a Tuesday afternoon. They’ll understand when they’re the ones taking off because they simply need that “me” time.

The one thing I laugh about when my child care parents look at me and say, “I don’t know how you do what you do.” as they watch the chaos of sounds that ten children can bring into a room and I just think to myself, “And this is why I need those days off, parents. This is so very much why!” LOL

So remember: Don’t have guilt! Enjoy the peace and the healing on those days off! I know I did this past week. I enjoyed every stinking minute of it. I appreciated my quiet house, the sleeping in, the time and attention I could give to my family, and all the errands (and fun errands) I could do during the DAY! 😀

Enjoy them, providers! Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy! 😀

The Fine Line

This week I was enjoying some time with my family when they asked about work and I had to be honest with them. It’s been much easier since I let a certain family go. This family brought me a lot of stress. Which is why in my previous post I say that you need to learn as much about a family as you possibly can before taking on the child and the family.

Without getting too specific, this family (whom I have decided to call the Smith’s) were great. The Mom and Dad were charming, involved, and darling. Their son was wonderful, too. Their other child however, “Terry” was a nightmare. I have been involved in children’s lives for 20 years and NEVER have I seen a child act out like this one. I didn’t suspect anything on the parents part (meaning abuse) but I did wonder if Terry was suffering from bipolar disorder because Terry’s moods were so erratic.

The other thing I noticed was that Mom was absent more during Terry’s preschool years than her older son. She got promoted at work which meant she was working longer hours. She was getting home well after the children were in bed, leaving Dad to do everything.

Now, something like that shouldn’t spell disaster on a family environment but for Terry, it did. Terry reacted to the change in a very harsh, outspoken way. The fits were constant and as Terry grew up, the verbal tirades were wearing on me. It got to the point where I was dreading going into work. I wish I could go into detail but I want to keep this family’s struggle as non specific as I can because I love this family and the last thing I want to do is name and shame them. But, because this is a child care blog, sometimes you have to write about the harder subjects: When you have a child who is an out of control terror.

I had several conversations with both Mom and Dad and it always left Mom feeling horrible. No matter how I worded it, Mom always heard that she wasn’t good enough (what Mom wouldn’t?). But the biggest thing she shared with me was that she didn’t really want to spend time with Terry because Terry was aggressive and mean (and we’re talking mean in the ugliest ways possible). The problem was, Terry wasn’t feeling as loved because the parents were closer to the older brother, who acted “perfect”. The anger and the abandonment that Terry felt was then demonstrated on everyone, including me. And while they tried to deal with the problem, Mom typically stuck her head in the ground or let Dad be the one to handle it because she was too emotionally overwhelmed to do so.

So I worked with this family longer than I should have. Two years. During those two years, I counseled the family and offered many suggestions: have one-on-one time with Terry. Make it a weekly thing. Bring Terry to Mom’s work as a surprise. Terry needs to feel loved and special and most importantly, part of the family. Stop seeing your friends as often (because, as a family, they were spending time with friends nearly every day into the wee hours of the night instead of being alone as a family and bonding together).

The suggestions kept coming and coming and each time I was met with a loving and supportive reaction but little to no follow through; Mom was too scared to be confrontational and Dad, who was doing everything, was exhausted.

Now, as parents, they have EVERY right to NOT take my advice. They have every right to not listen to me at all. They are the parents, after all. Does that mean that every decision they make on behalf of their family is right? No. Of course not. We, as parents, aren’t perfect. But that does mean that as a child care provider, I have to step away and allow the family unit try and be the family that they were hoping to have. Rome wasn’t built in a day and a family struggling to be something they have dreamed about takes just as much time to build as it did Rome.

I have to be honest here. As much as I wanted to be apart of that family’s ultimate dream, as much as I wanted to see them through to the point where I was hugging Terry goodbye and watching those little feet step into the Kindergarten building, as much as I wanted to give my all to Terry and the Smith’s, I couldn’t. I had reached a breaking point and as a provider one of the healthiest things you can do when you realize you’re at that point is to say goodbye.

I cannot tell you that it was easy. The family was angry and embarrassed. I did it as professionally as I could. I didn’t put blame on anyone – including the child. I just simply said that it was probably best for the child to go somewhere else; possibly a center, where they have more access to better resources than I do. In the end, the family understood. They told me that they’re having a hard time dealing with Terry’s emotional outbursts and that they didn’t expect anyone else to have to deal with them. Simply put, Terry wasn’t my responsibility. Terry is theirs.

After saying goodbye to the Smith’s, it took some time for me to regroup, find my balance and center myself. It also took a while for me to feel comfortable adding anyone else into my care because, even though you can ask a million questions and fall in love with the family, you never know what is going to happen to them while in your care that is going to reek havoc onto the child’s life and whether or not you’re going to be able to handle it.

As a child care provider, you have to be prepared for this. You have to understand and accept that your suggestions might not be considered (and might not work) and you also have to accept your limits, even if the family is working with you and is supporting you.

A good thing came from this, though. First off, after the dust cleared the family and I are still in good standing (which means the world to me). Second, they took my termination of care as a wake up call. They knew that they needed to do something or else they would be in the Principle’s office all the time. Thankfully, they have a lot of time before Terry has to go to Kindergarten and they finally talked to their doctor and is getting Terry the help that’s needed – for Terry and the whole family.

I’m writing about this for two reasons. First off, as a message to the parents out there reading this. Child care providers are a lot of things to you and your family. We love everyone we care for. It is an honor to care for so many families and to be apart of their lives. We are, quite literally, and extension of you. But, we can’t handle everything, especially when things reach our limits nor should you ask us to. Meaning, please don’t assume that because you’re paying us that we have to put up with every negative thing your child throws at us. When we’ve had enough, we can simply walk away. I know that you can’t – it’s your child. But if your provider is telling you things that are concerning them, please listen and please take action. Don’t stick your head in the ground and don’t throw all the responsibility on your spouse. Look at your children. Listen to what they’re not saying and respond appropriately.

As a message to any providers reading this: Remember to know your limits. Respect them and, when you see that you’re not in a good place because of a family’s discord, sometimes the best thing you can do is to walk away. I hate saying that because I’m a completionist. I like seeing things through to the end and I also love seeing children, who are difficult at first, grow up into strapping young boys and girls and head off to school knowing you had a part in who they are when they step into that Kindergarten building. But sometimes, you have to turn down families to focus on your health and the health of your own family (and your business). You never know. Just like in my situation, you saying goodbye to a family may just be the best thing they need at that time. It’s not just the children who are growing up, it’s the parents as well and sometimes parents need to see just how serious a situation is before they understand its future consequences and do something about it.

The Interview

Whether it’s the initial phone call or you’re meeting your potential child care provider at their home facility, there are loads of questions you should ask so that you know as much about them (and if you’re a provider: so you know as much about the family) as you can.

There are the basics: What are you hours of operation, what are your discipline policies, what is your daily schedule, and there are some questions that go into more depth that should be asked – for both the parents and the provider. So I’ll start with the parents first and then I’ll move into the providers because as much as parents want to make sure their children are protected and that they’re in an environment that is safe and healthy, the provider as well wants to make sure every family they’re bringing in affords her – and the children she’s currently watching – the same courtesy.

Parents – most important questions you should be asking potential providers:

  1. Do you have a copy of an up-to-date (within the last year) background check on you, your assistant/volunteer, and any family members 18+ living in your home. (This is a must. If they decline your request to see it or they get insulted that you should even ask for such a thing, hang up. You DO NOT want to associate with a provider who will not produce this VITAL information).
  2. If the facility is unlicensed: How many exits are available to the children (in the area where the children will be staying in the home) should a fire or some other emergency occur and they need to get out quick (there should be at least two and they cannot be within 5 feet of each other)?
  3. What is your emergency protocols? Do you do fire/tornado drills (how often)? What happens if there is a fire – what is your Emergency preparedness plan? Do you have a temporary location to take the children (i.e. a neighbor’s house) should an emergency occur and the children need to leave the house immediately?
  4. What is your illness policy if our child is sick? What is the policy if you or a family member is sick?
  5. What is your philosophy about children and child care? This, to me, is very important. Your provider’s philosophy on children will show in how they teach, how they interact with children, and how they interact with you.
    A good teacher will act on their philosophy. I don’t think there is a parent in my care that doesn’t know what my assistant and my philosophy is. Not because we told them (well, we did – lol), but because they can see it in the way we treat their kids and what we do with them (crafts, school work, etc.).

Providers – most important questions you should be asking potential parents:

  1. Where is your child at academically and socially? Get to know this child. Parents talk their child up during interviews but you will be teaching this child socially and academically. There are a lot of children out there that are either too advanced for some providers and they don’t know how to teach them (sadly) or, the child is WAY behind and it will be an absolutely struggle for you to get the child where they need to be before Kindergarten starts. In either situation, are you up for the challenge? Are you equipped to handle both situations? The same goes with the child’s social skills. Are the children too mature for the children currently in your care (is a four – almost 20 year old – little girl going to be around a bunch of 2 year olds)? Do you have a parent on the phone (or at a face-to-face interview) with a child who’s socially going to be a struggle for you and your classroom? Are you prepared for the stress that can bring?
  2. Why are you leaving your current care? I know this one sounds personal but it’s really a must. I ask this (and I have no shame when asking) because I want to know if the family’s distaste (and ultimate reason for leaving) is something I’m currently doing in my care. If so, I can tell them, “Well, I’m sorry, but our rules are similar here.” It also helps me understand a family’s pickiness. If they’re leaving because the provider wouldn’t let them bring personal toys from home or go off menu and serve their child’s favorite foods, etc. then that tells me a little bit about this family’s respect for the rules that the provider has set up for all the families in their care. This also gives me an opportunity to explain certain rules/regulations so that there are no surprises later on should they sign up with me.
  3. What are your parenting styles like in the home? What are your discipline policies? Not all families discipline alike. What you are really asking when you ask this is, “are we on the same page when it comes to both of us raising your child during these formidable years?” If your child does something wrong here I want to make sure you’re going to follow up at home. If you’re not, then this child will constantly struggle with me. He will have two sets of rules to live by and will be in a constant conflict between school and home. This is something a provider hates to deal with.
  4. What is your child’s schedule at home and on the weekends? Is Mom and Dad family oriented? Or are they handing their kids over to grandma and grandpa every chance they get so that they can get some “me” time in with friends or each other. As a provider, I want to hear what life is like because chances are, if there is any hint that the family isn’t centered and focused on each other then the children will react to that here.

I know it’s hard for many parents to understand but sometimes their children don’t react well to their lifestyle and it always always always plays a huge part with me. When I take new children into my care, I am ultimately taking in the whole family – the good, bad, and ugly. Anything that can give me insight into their little world helps tremendously.
I know that many parents just think that I collect a paycheck and watch their kid for 10 hours a day but I don’t. I’m just as invested in their children as I am in my own, or my nieces and nephews. Kids are my business and they’re my business because I want them to be, not because they have to be. 🙂