Monday, March 14, 2011

Childcare providers

I was laid off in December. So technically, I'm no longer a "nanny". However, having been in the childcare field in varying degrees for more than ten years, this blog post really hit home for me.

I've been a babysitter, an after-school teacher, a summer camp counselor, a daycare assistant, a preschool teacher and a nanny. I've pretty much run the gamut of child care responsibilities, ending with becoming a parent myself. I am always disappointed by parents from a caretakers perspective.

I realize that it is tough to leave your children in someone else's care all day. The guilt is unreal, I know. I felt guilty when I was working, and I was leaving Lucas at home with my husband!!! It's a hard concept, to leave your child. It's even harder to leave your child to take care of someone else's. Talk about a conflict of interest. But, Mommy had to help pay the bills, so off to work I went.

Now being a nanny is hard work. I think it's even harder than any of the other jobs I had. You are incredibly close to your nannykids. I treated them as I would treat my own. I was stern, but fun. I was strict with the rules, but tried to have unrealistic rules. However, I felt like I was extremely under appreciated. At some points I definitely felt like I was a pawn in my nannyfamily's game. Let's see just how much we can get her to do, with no incentive. I mean, I went way above and beyond my job description.

I wonder if parents really stop to think about the people that take care of their children. I mean, we are people with feelings. We, as a general rule, genuinely care about your children. And I'm not talking about we care about their day to day safety and what we're "paid to care about". We think about their development, and their future. We worry, right along with you about their health, growth and quality of life. And just as Luna said in the post linked above, we reap none of the rewards of parenthood. When your child learns a new skill set, you get to beam with pride, while we have to silently celebrate so as not to offend you. We teeter on a very fine line. If we are too involved, it's inappropriate. If we are not involved enough we are not doing our jobs well. It's nearly impossible to juggle, and it is exhausting.

Now that I'm a mother, I can sympathize with parents, but I still don't agree with how most parents treat their child's care providers. I'll never understand why most child care providers are so underpaid. I have to say that I made a decent paycheck as a nanny. But I was fortunate to find a family that could afford to pay me as they did. It certainly had it's downsides - such as no health insurance or benefits at all. When I worked in a corporate childcare setting, I made just over minimum wage. What this tells me, is that Americans value the preparation of their fast food as much as they value their child care provider. They also, judging on pay rate, value athletes and celebrities more than their child care provider. It baffles me. If you can't pay us well, at least take care of us. Health insurance, for one, would be nice. We can't really take care of your kids if we have unresolved health issues.

Also, I think parents need to have realistic expectations of their child care providers. In every single child care job I've ever had, a parent has dropped a child off in my care that was either sick, or mid tantrum, and expected me to just "fix" the problem, usually with no information. I can't help calm, nurture or comfort your child if I have no idea what's wrong. Also, if you couldn't solve the problem yourself, (ie your kid is screaming and wont stop) what makes you think that I can?? While I understand that tantrums are inevitable at some point with kids, don't expect me to bail your ass out of every tantrum because you can't figure out how. (pet peeve, sorry).

I also don't like that parents often play "good cop bad cop" with their child's teacher, sitter or nanny. I have often heard parents say "Miss Nicole doesn't like when you do x, y z,". Well, kids, what you don't realize is that your parent makes 90% of these rules, but since I get to enforce them, I'm an easy scapegoat. I was designed for the role of bad cop. My psyche really loves it. Making kids upset is, like, #1 on my favorite things.

People, be good to your child care provider. It tends to come back to you ten fold.

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