It’s Not All Mary Poppins

How not to find childcare

A former client is looking for care for her second child.

This was never a favourite client. This was a client who I was happy pleased delirious with relief to have placed, once and for all, into the “former” category. We got through our tenure together without direct conflict, though there was, at least from my perspective, fairly constant abrasion. The kind of client you are very happy to see the last of.

Yes, I do have that kind of client, though not often any more. After all these years, my “probable pain in the ass” filters are finely-honed. Still, every so often, one gets through, and this family was one of them. Well, not the child. But the parents? Annoyed the ever-living daylights right out of me.

So. Former client. Yay!!

I have bumped into Former Client Mom (FCM from now on) a couple of times. She’s never come out and asked me directly if I’d take on her second child, but her hints are not subtle. She probably thinks she’s being subtle, but, um, not so much. “Subtle” is not in her vocabulary.

I have told her that I’m full. — “But that could change, right? You don’t always know. Things can change.” — And that though, yes, things can change, at the moment I don’t have any spaces for the spring. I’ve told her that for her situation, I think a nanny would be the better option, anyway. (And I do. Sincerely. This would be a win-win situation. She gets the care best suited to her work/family situation, and I don’t have to put up with her for a second three-year stint!! Yay!) I told her I would talk to a couple of nanny friends I would highly recommend, and see if any of them are looking for work.

I did talk to the nanny friends. They know the family I’m talking about, so I didn’t need to explain my difficulties with them — which wouldn’t necessarily be difficulties for someone else — but I did say that they’re good clients insofar as they never quibble about pay or sick days, they pay promptly, they were always on time for pick-up. In all fairness, they are not clients from hell. I just don’t like ’em.

Before I tell you what my nanny friends said, I need to tell you another story.

The other day, one of my current clients told me that the FCM had approached her. Now, my current client has let me know that sometime in the next few months, her work situation might be changing such that she won’t need childcare any more. She’s not quite sure when this will happen, but has given me a loose time frame, which is the best she can do right now. (Isn’t that nice?? I will work very hard to accommodate a client who gives me this kind of honest, clear communication.) Anyway, FCM has somehow gotten wind of this and approached current client about it.

“I hear you’re probably leaving care before June or so.” Current client acknowledged this. “Do you think you could be done by April? I really need care for April. If you’re done by April, maybe I could have two part-time spaces.”

Current client’s sweet face crinkled in consternation as she told me this. “I, I just didn’t know what to say! First, I thought this should be a conversation she should be having with you, not me, and then, when she just went on and on, I just began to feel really… well, pressured! I’m sure she didn’t mean it that way, but…”

Ha. I’m quite sure she did.

“And another thing that struck me odd about it was that the last time I talked to her, two or three months ago, she asked me whether my son was toilet-trained yet, and when I explained where we were in the process, she talked and talked and talked about how the two of you had totally different philosophies about toilet-training, and she didn’t know why you wouldn’t just listen to the mother, who knew when her child was ready for training, and you just wouldn’t cooperate with her. She said all that, she was quite vehement, very negative. It made me uncomfortable.”

I’m sure it did, you kind, sweet woman, you, who never bad-mouths anyone. And oh, the history of that short paragraph! FCM was quite, quite sure her child was ready at 14 months. When I explained that the child almost certainly didn’t have control over the muscles involved so early, she persisted. So, to humour her (and because, hey, you never know!), I did what I always do: I focussed on the task, gave it my full-on, vigilant attention for a week. For a week, we stay in the house, we hover round the potty, we sit, we praise, we clap, we sing, we drink lots and lots and LOTS, we eat, breathe, and sleep potty. At the end of a week, I know whether there’s any point in continuing.

There was NO point.

This child was not in any way, shape, or form, anything like ready to be toilet trained. I explained this to mom. She said “Well, would it hurt to keep trying at home?” I said, no, so long as the child wasn’t balking. You don’t want to create long-standing power struggles. But as long as it’s a fun game, there’s no harm in it. Pointless, but harmless. As my friend Cindy would say, “Fill yer boots.”

Me, I would call that cooperating. I gave it a sincere attempt, observed the results, gave her my considered (and highly experienced, ahem) feedback. My conclusions were not the same as hers, is all. But FCM, she’s the type who, if you disagree with her, you’re just “not listening“. Because if you WERE listening to her, you’d HAVE to agree, right, because there’s only one perspective, you see. Hers.

Oh, yes, soooooo glad she’s a former client.

Current client continued. “I’m not one to talk about people, so I didn’t mention the whole potty-training conversation before, but I thought you might like to know what’s coming your way. If she does approach you for care, well…” She shakes her head, clearly feeling awkward with the whole situation. “Well, I just thought you should know how she’s been talking about you, just so you can take that into account if she talks to you directly.”

Okay. Back to the nannies. I approached a couple of nannies, nice women, caring women, supremely skilled caregivers. I said what positive things I could about the clients — and, logistically, practically, they are not bad clients. I said positive things about the older child. Obviously, I don’t know the baby.

And the nannies? Wouldn’t touch the family with a ten-foot pole.

“Her? Not on your life! That woman has sat on this bench, surrounded by caregivers, and bad-mouthed other caregivers. She said [name of caregiver] only ever sits the kids down in front of a television all day.”

(This, I might interject, is the most outrageous libel. I see this caregiver out and about all the time. She puts the television on for 20 minutes a day while she prepares lunch. That’s it, that’s all. Odd how she can manage to have them in front of the television and out at the park, at playgroup, at the museum, at the farmer’s market, all at the same time. I don’t know how she does it!)

“She’s bad-mouthed, you, too, you know. Said stupid stuff, stuff nobody would believe, talked about you being unsupportive of parents. [Unsupportive, huh? I’m betting it’s that whole potty thing again…] So, work for her? I don’t think so. Who needs that?”

Well, then. You sit on a park bench, surrounded by nannies and other caregivers and loudly bad-mouth a couple of caregivers… all while you’re looking for a caregiver?

This would be called “Shooting Yourself in the Foot”. And now nobody wants you as a client. That would be “karma biting you on the ass”.

You know, I’m kind of looking forward to telling her that…

September 28, 2010 - Posted by | daycare, parents, the dark side | ,


  1. Oh, I love it!

    I work in a daycare with MANY lovely families. The kind you just want to keep in your pocket because they are so great. But every once in a while you meet this type of family and want to growl! (Of course I don’t, or at least only at home!)

    Imagining your conversation will be quite therapeutic!

    Comment by Chelsea | September 29, 2010 | Reply

  2. Oh, it’s not often you get to see karma in action so directly! Tee-hee!

    Comment by Ms. Huis Herself | September 29, 2010 | Reply

  3. Please, PLEASE do, tell her. And then let us know how it goes!

    Wow. This lady is a real piece. Have fun!

    Comment by MJ | September 29, 2010 | Reply

  4. So a day care center asked a parent to remove her child from the program after the parent refused to get help or an eval for the child. The parent’s last words to the director were “I’ll get you fired and shut this place down if it’s the last thing I do.” Guess who tried to enroll child number 2 in the program a couple of weeks ago. Sometimes it makes no sense at all. Be strong, say no.

    Comment by jwg | September 29, 2010 | Reply

  5. Honestly, some people are so dumb. I am sure you haven’t heard the last from her. Good luck.

    Comment by Marci | September 29, 2010 | Reply

  6. I don’t often comment, but I have to de-lurk to say I sincerely hope you DO tell her. She was more than gossiping about you and the other caregiver–she was potentially harming your ability to find work. She needs to know the seriousness of what she was doing, and why it is COMPLETELY unacceptable. It’s on a par with you running into FCM’s boss and telling him/her that FCM is unreliable or incompetant.

    Of course it will probably make her talk about you, but at least no one believes what she says…

    Comment by Leigh | September 29, 2010 | Reply

  7. Stay firm–don’t take her back. I currently have a parent in my daycare that is like that. Last month she had a major fit in front of my daycare kids. She bad mouthed me to other parents in the daycare and tried to get them to remove their kids from my care. Most of these kids I’ve had for more than 3 years! I asked her to give me her notice. She did. Two weeks later she called me and said she wants to keep her child here?? Tomorrow is supposed to be their last day!! She wants to meet tonight to talk!?!? After 5 years I think its time to move on!!!

    Comment by Theresa | September 29, 2010 | Reply

  8. So are you really going to tell her? Wow, what a conversation. Good for you if you do it (as nicely as possible, of course)!

    Comment by Emily | September 29, 2010 | Reply

  9. The sad thing is you could tell her everything & it still wouldn’t register. Then she would have a chance to be the martyr on top of it all. Big bad Mary picked on me & said mean things to me!

    Comment by Bethany | September 29, 2010 | Reply

  10. Stay firm! There’s just no room!

    Comment by Bridgett | September 30, 2010 | Reply

  11. There are just no words….

    Comment by Jess | September 30, 2010 | Reply

  12. Is this the family who wouldn’t sign a contract? Sounds like you are well quit of them.

    Yes, indeedy. Thing is, she can be quite personable when you chat with her, lively, funny, pretty smart. But then there’s this whole other side of her character, which isn’t appealing at all. Odd mix.

    Comment by barneyneuberger | October 3, 2010 | Reply

  13. mwahahahaha! awesome. awesome. yes I know Im late..but better late then never. You forgot a part…where a mum out right calls the former client a gossip infront of everyone!! grumbles…never ever EVER. phew!

    man I miss our chats;)

    ‘i. You`re

    Comment by Wendy Darling | October 22, 2010 | Reply

  14. […] 6. 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, but don’t be naive: if they bad-mouth other caregivers, they will bad-mouth you. […]

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

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