Hit the ground running

The Army used to say “We do more by 9:00am than most people do all day.” At the time, I believed that to be true, as the day started with PT, breakfast, barracks cleaning, showers and then off to some sort of training. Twelve years later my days aren’t so physical in nature, but I accomplish an awful lot by 7:30am. Since I woke this morning I have cleaned up the kitchen, ironed John’s work clothes, cooked cinnamon rolls, filled 1 bottle and 5 cups with milk, served breakfast to 7 children, prepared 3 cups of coffee (2 for me, one for John), nursed one child, dressed 2 children, changed 3 diapers, packed 2 lunches and one snack, reitterated the stranger danger discussion because I have a new daycare before/after care child today, and then finally sent my 2 big kids and one extra out the door with backpacks, lunches, and umbrellas with my husband – all by 7:25 so that nobody is late for school or work.

Now I get to sit down for just a moment before someone is screaming for food, fighting over a ball, needs a diaper changed, or some other “urgent need” that might occur with an 8 month old, 14 month old, 18 month old or a 3.5 year old. Just when things start to settle down, my part-time 7 month old baby will arrive, followed by an almost 3 year old…just in time for me to start preparing lunch while hungry littles cry at the gate or hang off my legs. Naptime brings a whole new set of issues…How do you keep one rambunctious, non-napping, no-inside-voice-having, jumping-off-the-walls, three year old boy from waking everyone up while you try to clean up the tornado that hung around all morning and still pay meaningful attention to him? If someone knows this answer, please let me know, as I’m still looking for a solution. Before I know it comes after school when the big kids bound through the door, ripping open their backpacks to show the 40,000 pieces of important junk they have brought home, tell about their day, tattle on someone for something, ask for a snack, beg for something else, chatter chatter chatter, play the new song they learned on the kazoo or recorder, and clamor about asking what’s for dinner.  Yeah, the Army might have been tough work, but I’d challenge anyone to step in my shoes for a day and at the end of the day I’d want to hear their answers to the following:

  • How many cups of coffee did you drink?
  • Do you want something stronger?
  • One a scale of 1-10, where do you rate your sanity?
  • Were you able to pee without someone screaming at the door, or crying because you shut a door?
  • Did you remember to eat?
  • After you got all the kids fed, homeworked and cleaned, picked up the house, put away the laundry, cleaned the playroom, supervised chores, and then put all the children to bed for the night, would you do it again tomorrow?

For what it’s worth, I love my life and wouldn’t change a thing…unless I was somehow able to hire a maid to do all the picking up and cleaning.

Advantages and Disadvantages

A few years ago I quit my corporate day job to work from home and raise my own children. Since then I have kept 3 or 4 children other than my own in my home daycare. I have the advantage of being at home, so during down time and naps I can toss in a load of laundry, make a bed, mop some floors, run a vacuum and start dinner. More importantly, though, I don’t miss things like “The First Roll” or “The First Step”. I get to see my children all day long. I get to be home when my big kids leave and get home from school, so I oversee breakfast and homework. I’m also the first person my kids run to when they get hurt or when they have something exciting to tell. I don’t need to pump milk for my baby to get fed and I don’t need to worry about what to do when the school calls because one of the children is sick. I’m here. I’m always here.

For all the advantages there are to working from home, there are a fair share of not so positive things as well. These are all the things I encourage people to really think about when they want to quit their job and do in-home daycare theirselves. One of the most obvious things is that you are still working, meaning you can’t plan to sleep in, wear jammies all day, or have a quiet cup of coffee. You will have to share your home with other children, which means you never leave the office. Your own children cannot be your primary focus by day, they will need to take an equal seat next to the children you care for. This can be particularly difficult if you provide care for children the same ages as your own. Your home will take a beating. You will have a parade of people coming and going. Something else to keep in mind is that you will seldom leave your home by day, there will not be playdates with friends, mid-day shopping trips, or lazy days where you do nothing. You will be around children A LOT, so if you don’t like kids that much and think it is going to be easy money, think again because this is the wrong job for you. It is a disservice to a child in your care, you and your children if you are a childcre provider but hate your job.

As a home daycare provider you see all of your children’s firsts, and you get to raise them, but you also will see many firsts for other children and you will be helping their parents to raise them too. For me, knowing that I provide an invaluable service to parents who work outside of the home is very rewarding. One of my general rules of thumb is to never tell a parent that their child started walking, talking, or any other milestone activity while in my care, with the exception of rolling. I will always tell a parent about rolling because rolling on the floor can also mean rolling off the couch or bed at home. The little kids in my care become part of our extended family. They are well taken care of and get all the advantages of being cared for, by day, by a mom…even if it isn’t their own mom.

Recently, my working hours have shifted, so I am finished working every day by 4:0opm. It is amazing what one hour does for me. Just in the last two weeks we have been able to go to activities at the library, run errands before dark and hit our Tae Kwon Do classes and I don’t feel rushed. I suspect the combination of Maggie getting older, Liam becoming more cooperative, Dustin and Dorothy being here more often and my early off time is going to make us a far more productive family. Another really exciting change for us is that John’s second job is transforming a bit, so he will also get to be home more often! This definately means that come spring, our yard will be nicely manicured, I will have gardens to plant and tend with the children, and that weekends can be spent with us and the kids relaxing in a van down by the river…well maybe not in a van, but if things work the way we plan, in a nice camper by a river.