It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Whose business is it?

995748___network__2“And so I told her, ‘Now, I’m hiring you, not anyone else. I don’t want anyone else looking after my child.’ And that’s what you need to do, to give these parents the security they need.”

The speaker was very sure of herself. I was just starting out on this daycare venture, 14 or so years ago. A parent of a toddler at the time, it sounded like good advice. What a way to set myself apart, to underline my reliability and dedication!

What a way to make myself crazy.

Think about it. Who doesn’t get to leave their desk once in a while? Who doesn’t get to call in a substitute, hire a back-up, arrange a locum?

It turned out this wasn’t the best for the parents, either. If it was always me, only me… what happened when I had a doctor’s appointment? Was I to close down for half a day and have them all scramble for back-up care? Or maybe I could call a friend to stand in for me, ask my husband to look after the tots for a couple of hours?

Within a year, the parents who’d signed on with this assurance were perfectly comfortable with me popping out for the odd afternoon to run one necessary errand or another. Within a year of that, I was no longer making this assurance to incoming families. And within a couple of years of that, I’d put a line in my contract to allow for me to contract to other people.

Lesson learned.

Not too long ago, I was chatting with a younger provider about her desire to get a dog. But she was nervous about asking her parents: what if someone objected? Her kids would be so disappointed! Her husband would be upset. She’d be disappointed and upset.

My advice? “Don’t ask permission.”

Here’s the thing: Yes, I am running a business. Yes, I should do it in a business-like, professional way. But since when did professionalism require putting all business decisions to a committee? Even more to the point: when you run a business from your home, are you required to put your family decisions to an external committee?

So yes, find out if any child has an allergy to dogs. And absolutely abide by any regulations in your area. But ask permission? Of four or five or six different families? (Meaning, probaby, 8 or 10 or 12 individuals?) Hmm…

There are competing interests here, and different providers will draw the line in different places.

Of course there are times for compromise and accommodation. For my part, I have made commitments to certain parents that I haven’t made to all. I have respected opinions about who I get as my back-up. I have made changes to my routines: outings (more or fewer), napping (time, duration, place). I have extended my drop-off and pick-up times for parents with specific family challenges. I have accommodated special diets, cloth diapers, and (fairly rigorous) eco-friendly concerns. I have made commitments about which types of transportation I will use with the children. I have done all these things, and more. However: This is my home, and my business. I am not employed by the parent, I am an independent contractor. Sometimes a parent can accommodate me, as well. If I can’t, or choose not to, accommodate a concern or need, they are always free to take their business elsewhere.

My conclusion, after 14+ years in this business, is that the parents who sign on with me are expressing their confidence in the environment I provide and my ability to care for their child. Obviously. You wouldn’t sign a contract with someone you felt was incompetent.

Bottom line: If they trust me enough to leave their child with me, they can trust me enough to make decisions about what happens in that child’s daytime environment.

April 14, 2009 Posted by | daycare, health and safety | 6 Comments