It’s Not All Mary Poppins

More interviews and a red flag

redflagI’ve had two so far this week, and another on Thursday, looking to fill a space for January. By then, I hope, I’ll have one or — even better! — two offers, and I’ll be in the happy position of choosing. Love that.

(The last interview I wrote about didn’t pan out. I never heard back, so I don’t know why, but that’s okay! I’ve had another since then, and filled the space from August – December! Yay. Now I have a January opening.)

I know which of the two so far I’d prefer. Let’s see if you can guess:

Candidate A:
– nice couple, soft-spoken, well-spoken
– cute baby (but since I wouldn’t be caring for her for another five months, that’s mostly irrelevant yet)
– asked all the usual questions – schedules, outings, discipline, food…
– asked me if I had any questions (you’d be surprised how rarely that happens)
– asked for references (again, you’d be surprised how rare that is)
– wandered through the entire house, chatting and asking questions. Well, the portions that their child would have access to, at any rate.

Candidate B:
– nice couple, etc., etc
– cute baby (etc., etc)
– didn’t ask for my questions (which makes them normal)
– didn’t ask for references (again with the normal)
– asked all the usual questions, and also
– asked if parents could drop in unannounced (answer: yes)
– asked if parents could stay and hang out for a couple of hours (answer:yes)
– asked if I took phone calls from parents during the day (answer: it depends)
– asked how I communicated with parents (you’d be surprised how infrequently this question is asked)

And the preferred Canadidate is… A.


It’s those last four questions from Candidate B. While I have practiced answers to those questions, based on my personal parenting/childcare values, they do raise a certain red flag.

My parenting/childcare value in this situation is that parents have a right to free access to their child. I have an open door policy. Parents can drop in unannounced. Unless I have a wanderer in the group, the front door is always unlocked, and parents simply knock and enter, without waiting for me to answer. (During business hours, of course.)

However, and as I told this parent, while they have a right to do this, and should be confident that they will never be prevented from seeing their child… having a parent around changes the dynamic. It generally makes my job more difficult. The children react differently, and (here’s the bit I don’t say to the parent), 90% of the time, their child’s behaviour deteriorates.

And then there’s the whole leave-taking part of dropping in. If the parent drops in, but will not be taking the child when they leave, the child will be upset. Of course. So there will be tears. Not hugely disruptive for me, really, assuming the parent leaves promptly in the face of the tears, but another small hiccup in my day. And if (despite my guidance prior to their visit) the parent insists that the child be happy before they leave? Hugely, HUGELY disruptive. Because, of course, if the parent lingers when the child is upset, the child will continue to be upset. Only stands to reason.

So. Parents dropping in can be mildly to severely disruptive, depending on the parent. And, to a lesser degree, the child.

And parents hanging out? Oh, I really hate having to say it’s okay. My principles demand that I allow this. It’s right, it’s fair, it’s appropriate. But…

Sometimes it works just fine. The parent is delightful, we mesh perfectly, they fit right in to the activities, their child behaves well, proud to have mummy or daddy there. Sometimes.

Mostly? Mostly their child acts up, doesn’t want to share, lobbies to get mummy/daddy to change Mary’s rules. Mummy/daddy don’t deal with these things the same way I do, so the other children get confused. I can try to assert my authority, but most kids are happily confident that parents out-rank Mary, so the effort can end in me looking ineffectual to the parent, who doesn’t realize that this is atypical behaviour for their child at my home. Who doesn’t realize that their presence has greatly altered the usual dynamic.

Not good. Bleah.

And while I have, over the years, developed various responses to all this which keep these occasions pleasant and happy events, it’s still a nuisance. Adds considerably to my workload. And Candidate B sounds like someone who intends not just the occasional short visit, but regular half-days hanging out. Not quite sure how they’d manage this and hold down a job, but it certainly seemed to be the intention. Goodness.

So. Candidate B? They sound like High Maintenance parents. Parents who would hover over the daycare. Parents who would make daily half-hour phone calls. Parents who would be ever-present micro-managers. Now, in all fairness, High Maintenance parents usually only stay that way for the first few weeks, as they make the transition and become comfortable and happy with the new situation. (Much like their children, only the kids do it faster…)

But given the choice between Mellow A and potential High Maintenance B? A, no question.

They should let me know within two weeks. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

July 7, 2009 - Posted by | daycare, parents |


  1. Kind of defeats the purpose of daycare as well, doesn’t it? The point is you care for the kids while they go and do something else. Right?

    I liked my son’s creche because the minders would often chat for a while. We knew about each other’s children, would talk for a bit about my son. Sitting there for two hours? Not comfortable for anyone.

    Because mine is a home daycare, it has a home atmosphere. I often chat to parents in my front hall and on the porch, but really, I would prefer they didn’t move in…

    Comment by Mwa | July 7, 2009 | Reply

  2. My favorites were the ones who came by during naptime, woke the kids up to visit, then left. We had a motto-“You wake ’em you take ’em”. Hard to enforce but it made us feel better.

    Oh, ghastly! I’ve never had that happen. Perhaps, though I’ve never made it explicit, I’ve managed to convey that naptime is sacrosanct and NOT TO BE MESSED WITH. I like your approach. Honestly, what a rotten thing to do to your child!

    Comment by jwg | July 7, 2009 | Reply

  3. I often wonder about this: When a child is in daycare/nursery in my case/school, do parents enforce their own rules (when they are there?) or is the daycare provider/teacher in charge?

    I got annoyed a while back with a Mom, who told her child that if the teacher is not happy with something, the child should tell the said teacher: talk to my Mom about it. I feel she does her child no favours. My daughter knows the teacher overrules me while in school. I wonder if I am wrong?

    The teacher is in charge. Can you imagine the chaos that would ensue if every child was accountable to a slightly different set of rules and expectations?

    The mother you mention is teaching her daughter a truly incredible degree of arrogance. The child doesn’t have to fit in to the classroom: the teacher has to adapt to that one child’s particular patterns. Outrageous!

    This applies to homes of friends and family, too: when your child visits a friend, they behave according to the standards of that home. (Which means that if there are things allowed in that home that you really, really disapprove of, you don’t let your child go into that home — you don’t try to get that family to change for your sake.) The only exception I can think of just now is spanking. No matter what the family policy on that one, you don’t hit someone else’s kids.

    Comment by Nat | July 7, 2009 | Reply

  4. It’s possible, I suppose, that they were asking those questions just to test your reaction – that is, that warning bells would sound for them if you had said no to those questions – but then you’d think that a parent as astute as that would ask for references. So I agree with you, they sound like hard work. I hope parents A want you!

    I am sometimes asked about what interview questions parents should ask, and one of them is just that: Do you have an open-door policy? Can parents drop in unannounced? The answer should always be ‘yes’, because, you’re quite right, it’s a warning sign when a care provider wants to restrict access, even though there are perfectly benign reason she might prefer to do so.

    Comment by Z | July 7, 2009 | Reply

  5. Red Flags all the way with Parents B. I would have chosen A also!

    I’ll choose them if I get the option!

    Comment by Me | July 7, 2009 | Reply

  6. Goodness! When my kids were in daycare, I never asked the questions that B did. I assumed that I could access my child at any time if need be (its not jail), but only used that access to facilitate doctor or dentist appointments (but I would warn them in advance that I would be coming at a certain time so that child was not out on a walk or some such thing).

    While I knew I was always welcome to ‘drop in’, again I did not drop ever! How disrupting for the child and the caregiver once you leave!

    I am curious about the phone call question. Do they think they will be calling you hourly for a report?

    Comment by Diane | July 9, 2009 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: