It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Looking for Ms. Right

You recall I had a very, very early start to yesterday morning? Happily, the day went well — no screaming, no hitting, no tantrums — because, you know, it only seems right to practice what I preach.

And then, midway through the afternoon, I remembered: I have an interview tonight!

Because you know? When all that nonsense was happening with the parents who don’t communicate? The very same day I found out the first mother was five months pregnant, another mother told me she was pregnant! So that means I had TWO spots to fill. This second mother, though — the one who didn’t have to be asked?? — she told me when she was ten weeks along. (Ten weeks, ladies and gents. That would be normal. Ahem.)

Interview tonight means a bunch of logistical things. I need to tidy the house more than is standard after a workday. I need to organize dinner so that it’s consumed and tidied away before the parent arrives. I need to make sure my interview paperwork is in order.

I’m pretty practiced at this by now, but still, it’s a push of energy at the end of what was already an awfully looooong day.

But it’s not so bad. Interviews only last 45 minutes. (I don’t know why. I don’t set a timer, I don’t even watch the clock. I let the parents set the pace… and, over 15 years, it’s something I’ve noticed. Interveiws take about 45 minutes.)

This is, as it happens, the second interview I’ve had for the position, which opens up August 1.

And, in comparing Candidates A and B…

I think I want Candidate C.

Let’s see…

Candidate A.

– this is her second child. Second-time mothers tend to be less… fraught, less intense, less earnest than first-timers.
– she’s had her child in care before, and so doesn’t worry overmuch about transitional tears.
– she can obviously afford me.

– I didn’t warm to her. There was no meeting of the minds. Now, there was no discord either, but that certain spark was missing. She was… cold. No, that’s too strong a term, making her sound disdainful. Nothing like that. She wasn’t hostile or unfriendly, but sort of aloof. Distant.
– She’s a bit negative, a bit stern. From time to time I got the impression she disapproved of me. I don’t think she did… but she made me feel that way.
But the kicker:
– Her child is a maniac. Now, this is going to come as a shock to many of you lovely mothers, but normally? Normally I am not all that focussed on the child during the initial interview. In fact, to my mind, the child doesn’t strictly need to be in attendance. Recall that I am often interviewing parents of 4-month-olds for a spot they’ll take when the child is twelve months old. There is a world of difference between a four and a twelve month old. The bundle in mommy or daddy’s arms will bear little resemblance, behaviourally, to the small person who will toddle (or crawl) through my front door six or eight months later.

No, I want to meet the parent(s), I want to get a feel for them, for our compatability, for their style. Because children? They can be trained. Parents? Much more set in their ways.

Thus, I can work with just about any child. I cannot work with just about any parent. But this one…

This one was ten months old, looking to start at 16 months. And this child? GO! gogo!gogo!! GOGOGO!!GOGOGOgo!go go!!!gogo!gogo go!!!gogogo GOGOGO!!Gogo!gO! GOGOGOgogogogooooooooooooooo…

“Active” does not begin to describe the energy level. Phew. I’m really not sure I’m ready for this child … AND four others.

Parent B:

Um… I can’t think of any. Okay. That sounds like I HATED her, and that’s not true at all. It was a perfectly comfortable interview. The chat was easy and, for the most part, flowed like water. But there just wasn’t anything I could point to and say “THAT was nice!” Which, I suppose, is sort of a “con”, isn’t it?

– A total fanatic about hygiene. Hand-washing and hand-sanitizing and did I wear gloves and how often did I disinfect the toys… Not that any of those questions is unreasonable, but the focus on this area was intense, to say the least. Though my answers seemed to satisfy, I did warn her that I was not as neurotic obsessive careful about all this as she evidently was.

In fact, I am of the “a little dirt is good for their immune system” school of thought. Which I did tell her.

Strangely, she thought my house was acceptably clean. Me, I tend to think my house typically squeaks into “clean” by only the narrowest of margins, and its tenure there is an uncertain thing. Maybe it helped that I let her keep her shoes on…

– She has been interviewing since early January. It is now mid-March. I’m thinking she’s probably awfully picky…

– She was very negative about some of the other caregivers she’d interviewed. (And the list is obviously a loooong one.)

In my mind, it is bad form to bad-mouth people to a stranger. Moreover, they’re in the same profession as me: some of them could be my friends. And, I wonder, what will she be saying about ME to the next interviewee?

– (Nor did I agree that all the things she was so very appalled by were all that awful. Yes, it is possible to safely manage a kiddie pool with five toddlers. Make it a small pool, ensure that everyone is in arm’s reach, and it can be done. The sneering about how outrageous that was? Quite unattractive.)

– And the interview? I told you I don’t watch the clock, but I had an idea it was longer than standard. When she left, and my exhausted head fell back against the couch, I cast my weeeeary eyes to the clock…


A normally 45-minute event went on for TWO HOURS.

Holy Hannah.

But really, it was all the sneering about the other caregivers that really stuck in my craw. It’s not appropriate, and, really — I know I’m wonderful and all that — but realistically, how long would it be before I’m the one she’s sneering about? Not long, given how arbitrary and unyielding were her sneer points.


Given the choice between a rather stern and aloof, but easy-going parent with a maniac child…

And a sneering, judgmental hygiene-obsessed parent with a child I haven’t met yet…

I think I’ll keep looking.

March 11, 2010 - Posted by | daycare, parents, the dark side


  1. Having taught, and having a girl scout troop, I say all the time, “it is never the child, it’s always the parents that make me crazy. I can put up with any child, as long as the parent is ok.” But there have been two or three very obvious exceptions to this over the years.

    I think that in roughly 15 years of doing daycare, this is the very first time I have made a decision based on the child. I have a clearer idea of my own tolerances now, mind you; I think there were possibly two others down through the years that would have been the deciding factor had I been as attuned to these things as i am now. But three, max, in all that time.

    Which means we are in 100% agreement: It’s [virtually] never the child!

    Comment by Bridgett | March 11, 2010 | Reply

  2. Best of luck. Ms. Mr & Baby Right are out there – keep looking!

    I agree. All this means is that, for the first time in a few years, I’ll be actively seeking clients. Normally they come to me through word of mouth.

    Comment by Suzi | March 11, 2010 | Reply

  3. At least with this one you have the luxury of a little more time. Here’s to hoping the next one is just perfect.

    Thank you! I’m not worried yet. If I were, I’d have taken the first one.

    Comment by Dani | March 11, 2010 | Reply

  4. Yikes to parent B! She sounds horrible. Not so much the sneering, although that would be enough in itself to put me off, but the ridiculous standards she is setting. Interviewing since early January? She has impossible standards.

    You will find a good match.

    That was my feeling, too. If I took her on, sooner or later I’d trip over one of those impossible standards, and then it would be all around the neighbourhood, how awful I was. That kind of advertising I can live without. The search continues!

    Comment by Diane | March 11, 2010 | Reply

  5. Gosh, I wish you good luck! At least you’ve got some time. When do we find out who is leaving? Your current crop of kids is fun.

    I was wondering the same thing. When do I say who’s going? I’m not sure yet. Even with the pseudonyms, I’m uncomfortable identifying the one who really offended me… but then again, I wouldn’t want anyone thinking it was the other, absolutely lovely, family. Hmm.

    Comment by Sarah | March 11, 2010 | Reply

  6. I can’t tell you how much I have taken to your blog. I am a daycare provider in Massachusetts. I opened about three years ago and am surprised about how closed off other providers have been about how they run their business. You are so right, the kid part is easy, they so want to please you and learn from you while the parents are the ones who are usually aggravating as heck.

    Well, thank you! I’m so pleased. I’m also surprised. There are those caregivers who keep to themselves, for sure, but I’ve always found caregivers who are very open about their work, their feelings about the children in their care. Is there a caregiver association where you live? There is here, with each area of the city having a branch that organizes meetings. Sometimes they’re just for fun — often dinner at a local restaurant — and sometimes they’re for business/education. If there isn’t one, maybe you could start one!

    Comment by Kathy | March 11, 2010 | Reply

  7. […] Speak respectfully of you and others. If they bad-mouth the other caregivers they’ve been interviewing, proceed with extreme caution. You may be able to forge a decent working relationship with them, […]

    Pingback by Ten Nine Tips for Choosing Daycare Parents « It’s Not All Mary Poppins | June 27, 2011 | Reply

  8. […] to pick up. The client I interviewed a few years back whose interview with me was a long litany of vitriolic bad-mouthing of all her previous interviews? Wouldn’t touch her with a ten-foot pole. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she’s […]

    Pingback by A mystery… « It’s Not All Mary Poppins | November 27, 2013 | Reply

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