There is one notable exception: daycare.
This issue has stirred up a firestorm of crap (at least on our blog), and I’ve been trying to make sense of why. The relationship between parents and daycare providers can be fraught with complication. But that doesn’t explain why so many people seem to immediately lose their sense of humor and get all stabby when this subject comes up. I found out recently that there are message boards all over the internet filled with the seething fury of daycare providers vs. parents.
I only sort of get it. My kids went to a home daycare. I walked a fine line for 2 years between adoring my kids’ daycare provider and resenting the power she held over my life. Not a day went by without me being acutely aware that if something fell apart with her, our family’s life would turn upside down. I considered her family an extended part of mine. As a matter of fact, she was kinder to me during a very hard time than almost anyone else in my life.
I thanked her every single day and told her how much I appreciated her. But I also lived in terror that she would retire. Or get sick. Because I was totally dependent on her. And she was caring for my children. My precious, rotten, stinky, adorable, most beloved babies.
And without her to care for them, I couldn’t work, and we couldn’t pay our bills. As far I was concerned, she could replace us in a hot minute with anyone on her waiting list. But to us, she was irreplaceable. And that did not feel like a relationship of equals. That sort of imbalance naturally leads to resentment.
It’s different when your kids are at a daycare center. But you still walk that line with the teachers, the rules, the director, the other parents. You may not have your life pivot on just one person, but that small team of people who care for your kids are critical to your family’s well-being and stability.
Flip side. After the birth of my third child, I decided to stay at home. After a couple of years, I found it hard to take the lack of respect my role as a full-time care giver received. I got comments all the time that implied that what I was doing wasn’t actually work. That I was wasting my productive years and education. That I didn’t even have a real job. It still makes me snarly.
All those comments led me to think about the experience of daycare providers very closely. There’s no question in my mind that taking care of children is hard work. To do it well takes ingenuity, boundless energy, the problem-solving skills of McGuyver and patience of a saint. There’s also no question in my mind, that the world is full of people who don’t get that.
I have tried to consider what it would feel like to be daycare provider. To work my tail off and know that I’m doing a great job. To have people generally not get at all how important and amazing my work really is. To have some parents actively resent me, no matter how well I do and how hard I try. That would make me sad. A few days a month it might make me slightly crabby.
After considering all of this and the very angry comments left on my blog last week, here is what I’ve learned. We all understand what’s really going on. But the problem is, there’s a lot we just can’t change about the dynamics of these relationships.
Parents: The bottom line is that unless you’re a total jerk or otherwise fried from stress, you’re probably already really appreciative of whoever is caring for your child. Because after all, THEY ARE CARING FOR YOUR CHILD. Why would you be anything less than effusively grateful? Of course, that assumes they are doing a good job, which I believe the bulk of dedicated daycare providers really do. For these folks, I think we should all try to give them a lot more recognition for their work.
Daycare Providers: You already know that many parents are going to be conflicted about their relationship with you. I think most parents really want you to be happy and to enjoy working with their family, if for no other reason than it means their kids will be in a happy and in a warm environment while they’re away from home. So when parents do something that makes your job harder and makes it harder for their kids to get the care they need — be open and honest with them about what’s going on. Tell them the truth and let everyone openly acknowledge moments of weirdness.
Then we can all try and laugh at those moments when they’ve passed. The connection we share is too important not to try to make that relationship as awesome as possible, right?
These are just my thoughts based on my family’s experiences and one day of blog outrage. What I’m curious about is the suggestions and thoughts you have on building a great relationship with your daycare provider. Or as a daycare provider, with the families you work with.
For tips on Daycare and Babysitting, check out Babble’s Child Care Guide!