I was having a great little chat with Famous Carol the other day about the state of family child care. She subs for several other women and shares my worry that home day care providers are a dying breed. Between us we know several home day cares in the area that are closing. Maybe more parents are choosing centers. But it might be that for some people the workload is starting to outweigh the rewards. Carol pointed out how sad it is that we’re becoming more and more institutionalized.
It really hit me hard when she said, “It used to be like dropping your kids off at Grandma’s house for the day.”
That just sounded so sweet, and I would love to have that kind of house. It’s getting harder to maintain that family atmosphere with all the requirements we have to meet. I have to admit that I barely skate by as it is, especially since I just started a four-month-old who needs to be held a lot (as all babies do). So I got into my usual funk of comparing myself to other providers and coming up short. Carol told me to stop being hard on myself (she knows this is what I do). She tells me if the kids are happy I’m doing a great job. Well, they’re happy a lot of the time…
But then the very next day a funny thing happened. My after-schooler went to girl scouts, two kids stayed home sick, and another got picked up early with a fever. I was left with just three girls for the afternoon and quickly realized I had a lot of time on my hands.
As we came home from the school pickup (I still had my own son to get, don’t forget about him) I said, “Instead of me making a snack for you guys, how about we bake our own together?” YEAH!!! They ran in the kitchen. “Amy remember when it was Miss A’s birthday and we make cupcakes?” “Remember I got the egg on my hand and I cried?” “Do we still have the Halloween holders?” (Cupcake wrappers. Yeah, it’s been a while since we baked.)
And in a strange twist, Older helped us while Younger played video games. It was delightful for me, first to see him bonding with the kids instead of being annoyed at them (his usual state), but also because I don’t think he’s made muffins with me since he was about five years old.
So when I don’t have a four-month-old plus five other kids plus an after-schooler plus my own two kids, I am really damn good. And it’s not that hard.
Today I was down to one at the end of the day with half an hour before her dad came to pick her up. I asked if she would be scared if I vaccuumed. She said yes but I tried it. She covered her ears and watched me. I said, “Do you want to try it?” An old trick to get kids over being scared of the monster.
She jumped at the chance. Of course it’s too heavy for her to push so I took the hose off and showed her how to magically suck up the cracker crumbs and popcorn pieces. She was delighted.
While she sucked up the snack detritus from under the table, I used the dustpan on the hardwood floor. We knelt side by side and she giggled hysterically every time the vacuum hose sucked up her dress. It suddenly felt a little old-fashioned to me and I thought, this is like grandma’s house.
Until she thought it would be fun to see if the vacuum would suck up her sock. That thing was whipped off her foot and up the hose faster than I could even blurt out one word in response. It was kinda funny.
Then it was more like Grandpa’s shop than Grandma’s kitchen, and the boys were back to see me doing surgery on the vacuum, and then they all played jump rope with the hose (which I had to remove), and Older showed me how they learned about waves in science class by sending jolts of different size and speed down the length of it, and Miss M had a chance to use the screwdriver, and I had to stick my fingers into the bag to fish out the sock. (Gross.)
But we got it straightened out. And the whole scene was something I don’t think you’d see in a center. Hang in there family child care providers – the children of the world need us.
Amy Pybus is mom to two boys and has been a family child care provider for eight years. She has a Master’s in Education and gives trainings with a focus on brain development and how it affects behavior. She is a newspaper columnist and blogs about child care and parenting at www.sittingonthebaby.com.
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