It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Ditherers and Decision-Makers

I told you yesterday of the my two interviews. Two interviews, two very different family styles. One couple, soft-spoken, a little reserved, cautious. The other high-energy, cheerful, gregarious. One couple dithered and dithered and could not come to a decision. The other took a day to think about it, then decided!

Yay for people who can make a decision!

We agreed to two probationary weeks, because of their child’s difficult experience in her first daycare. During the first week, mom would spend part of some days with us. Two hours the first day, half hour the second, then a regular drop-off (2 minutes) the third and final day.

During those visits, I am reminded that mom is loud, which, as long-time readers know, I find wearisome. But she’s so full of positive energy, I can put up with the loud. What is harder to take is that she interrupts constantly. Not only is that rude/aggravating, but she’s interrupting me while I’m answering questions or passing on information, so she’s only getting half the information she has requested and/or needs. Then she’ll ask me a follow-up question. A follow-up question which would have been answered already if she hadn’t interrupted me in the first place. She also doesn’t remember things we’ve agreed to, because, I suspect, in her head she’d already raced on to the next thing and had ceased to listen to me even as I was speaking.

People like this are exhausting. I make a mental note to follow up any conversation with an email, so we have necessary information in writing.

Eesh.

But that concern aside, the week goes well. Her little girl is a charmer — interested, easy-going, easy to soothe, curious, prone to smiles and laughter even when mummy isn’t around. She’s going to be fine. I’m really looking forward to having her in the group!

At the end of the first week, I get an email from the ditherer. The one who’d interviewed with me a month before, who now has a little over two weeks before first day at work. She’s wondering how the probationary weeks went with the other child.

Why? She still hasn’t signed with anyone! I am flabbergasted. This woman really can’t make a decision! I’m flabbergasted, and also a little concerned for her. I reply, explaining that we’re only partway through the probationary weeks, and suggesting with as much tact and kindness as I’m capable (not to worry, I’m good at tact and kindness!), that she needs to choose from amongst the available options, or she may find herself with no daycare at all.

Wow. Decisions are so hard for some people. Thank goodness for my almost-signed-on parents, and their ability to come to a quick, firm, decision!

A day later, I get an email from the probationary parent. Over the weekend, their child had been to the emergency ward with trouble breathing. It turns out she has cold-induced asthma. Alarming, to be sure, particularly that first time, but not something that can’t be safely managed. I’ve had kids with this condition before. For some it’s more intense than others, but it’s always been manageable.

Except.

Except, these parents, the ones who, you know, can MAKE A DECISION!!! Well, they’ve made one. Another one. They have decided … that they will not put their child in daycare at all.

Boom, done. Guess that’s the flip side of all that decisiveness, huh. Could they not have dithered, just a wee bit?

But, wait! I still have the ditherers, the ones who told me “I kept coming up” in their discussions of caregivers, the ones who, only the evening before, had not yet chosen a caregiver!

Feeling a tad sheepish, I send them an email. Are they still … ?

Guess what? The ditherers finally made a decision. In less than 24 hours since our last email exchange, they have signed on, paid up, and have a start date.

I am impressed by the dark humour of the universe.

Sigh.

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November 29, 2013 Posted by | daycare, parents, the dark side | , | 4 Comments

Tale of two interviews

I have two interviews a few weeks back.

Couple A:
Lovely, lovely baby boy. Smiling, cheerful, not at all shy, attended (as much as you can expect of a 10-month-old) to his parents. Dad was cheerfully friendly. Mom was harder to read, but I judged her quietness to be shyness/reserve rather than unfriendliness or hostility. The interview was quiet, calm, measured, but, I thought, friendly enough.

They needed care to start mid-December, a mere six weeks away. In this neighbourhood, that is as last-minute as it gets. With 12-month maternity leaves and a mostly professional clientele, spots fill up 4 – 6 months in advance, typically, often even more. These people should have been in a panic.

They weren’t. At all.

We interviewed, it seemed to go well, though, as I say, mom was reserved and hard to read, and it’s mom who matters. The vast majority of the time, she decides. When it’s a joint decision, she casts the deciding vote. I don’t know that, in 17 years, it’s even been the dad who made the decision. But even so, I thought it had gone well.

Days go by. I hear nothing. Given their deadline, this surprised me. When there are months to look, I might wait two weeks to hear back. With only six weeks till she’s back to work, I expected a quick turn-around. Maybe they’ve found other care? They must have found other care. (No, parents rarely call to let me know, so if I don’t hear, that’s my assumption.)

A week later, she emails. Can she have my references, and can she come and join me one morning, to see the other children?

Oh. Guess they are still interested. I reply to her email immediately with reference and a suggested time for a visit — in two days.

She comes. We spend the morning. She says some complimentary things about the children, their behaviour, my demeanor with them.

More days go by. I arrange an interview with family B. They want part-time care, though, and I’d prefer full-time. Family A needs full-time. Hoping to nudge mom A, I send her an email, letting her know I’m interviewing other families. (Yes, there was only one interview. I thought a plural might add a bit of urgency. Urgency which, I’m now realizing, she utterly lacks. Which is bizarre, people, bizarre. SHE NEEDS CARE IN FIVE WEEKS!!! She should be frantic.) She replies, saying she’s not surprised someone as warm and skilled as me has other opportunities.

Another week. Hm. Guess her “not surprised” email meant she’s moved on. She’s found something else, and she’s happy she hasn’t left me in the lurch. I didn’t nudge her as I’d hoped, I’d only eased her conscience. Well, poop.

But I do have another interview! And yes, they only want part-time, but I can get by with part-time. And their daughter is adorable, mom and dad are nice. We have a very lively, friendly, cheerful interview. Completely different style than family A. Family B was the one of the previous failed daycare, though, and they were a little gun-shy. Would their daughter adjust to daycare here? Even without the larger information I eventually received about the previous daycare, I was reasonably confident she’d be just fine, so I offered them two probationary weeks, at the end of which they could decide whether to sign on.

The next day — the next day! — they call back. They’d like to leave their daughter with me!! Our two probationary weeks will start the week after next.

I inform Family A that the space has been filled, probationarily. “Oh, that’s too bad. We were just thinking we were ready to begin to make our decision, and we really liked you. That’s what we get for waiting too long, I guess.”

Blink. Blink. Blink.

You were thinking of beginning to make a decision? Beginning? Thinking of? How many stages are there to this process?? How long were you thinking of taking … given that you have four weeks now before you have to be at work? I had a choice between a full-time child of ditherers, and a part-time child of decisive people. Well, maybe I did. Potentially, whenever they got around to making up their minds. Maybe.

Yes, I really needed to go with the client who could make a decision!

So, that’s that. But honestly, folk are strange!

November 28, 2013 Posted by | daycare, parents | , | 5 Comments

A mystery…

I had an interview a while back with a family who was looking for care because their previous arrangement had not worked out.

Now, if you’re me, that’s a red flag. Or at least an orange one. There are many innocuous reasons why daycare arrangements might not work out, of course. Maybe someone’s work hours changed such that they no longer meshed with the daycare’s hours. Maybe the daycare provider became ill, or had to move out of the area. Maybe another child at the daycare was over-the-top aggressive and the caregiver wouldn’t give them notice. All sorts of things.

Or maybe, maybe this client is hard on daycare providers. Maybe they have the outrageously aggressive child. Maybe they’re prima donnas whose expectations of caregivers are extreme and unreasonable.

Sometimes that’s really easy 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 chewed through half a dozen caregivers in the intervening years, utterly convinced of their unworthiness and her superiority.

But more often, it’s not. I always ask what happened with the last caregiver, but the answers don’t necessarily inform. “She wasn’t invested in the kids. She didn’t really connect with them.” What does that mean, really? More important, what hat does that mean to that parent?

I’ve seen uninterested, disengaged caregivers. I know they’re out there. It could be this parent has a valid concern. It could be their child was with someone who supervised only for physical safety, and otherwise ignored the children. It happens.

Or it could be I’m chatting with a complete helicopter parent, who doesn’t understand that not only is it not “neglectful’ to let your child play on their own and sort out small problems unassisted, but is actively good for them! The sort of parent who sneers when they see the nannies chatting together on the park bench, instead of scrambling about on the play structure with the children — the children who are perfectly happy playing with each other. Who imagines that a ‘good’ parent spends each one of the child’s waking minutes in close, enriching contact with their precious child.

It’s hard to determine what I’m looking at, when sitting in my living room.

In this case, though? None of the above.

Their child had been in a cooperative daycare, organized amongst five sets of parents, and including only the children of those parents. The little girl had just never settled in. Would cry the entire day. This went on for … well, I’m not sure how long. This parent’s tolerance of crying is extremely low (another cautionary flag), and I didn’t think to ask. If it was just a week, they moved too quickly. If it was a month, well, yes, time to look elsewhere.

I did explain that transitional tears are normal — though they very rarely continue all day long! I talked about how much crying, and how long, was within normal parameters.

“Maybe it’s because there were too many kids all the same age, all needing the same amount of care?” she mused. It could be. I gather there were 4 one-year-olds, all new to daycare, plus a couple older pre-school kids. (Which puts the enrollment over the legal limit for a home daycare in this province (5), I could have pointed out, but didn’t. Maybe a co-op daycare has different regulations? I don’t know.) I’m also surprised they could find a caregiver who was willing to take on that many one-year-olds, but then again, with the daily assistance of a parent, it could be do-able. Still, a handful, even so.

It was a few weeks later, talking with other caregivers, that I learned more about the previous daycare arrangement. From the other provider, I got a lot more details that I’d asked of my parents.

Five families had clubbed together to provide care for their children. That’s fine. However. They had not, as I had assumed, hired someone to care for the kids full-time, with each parent scheduled to assist on a rotating basis. I assumed it, because that’s how every co-op daycare I know works: full-time, professional, experienced staff, assisting (willing and motivated, but generally group-care-inexperienced) parents.

No. Each parent had signed on to care for all the children for a full day, in rotation. On their own. Solo. Ten parents, so each parent took one day off work every other week. The children would rotate with the adults, so that each parent would care for the kids in their own home.

I’m sure it looked good in theory.

With no paid staff, the costs would be non-existent. Any costs that did emerge would be split amongst five families. Ten heads for brain-storming problems, to offer support. Best, the children would be cared for by their parents! The kids would have the comfort of their mommy or daddy, in their own home, two days of ten.

But.

From the kids’ perspective?

A strange environment, 8 days of ten. A different environment every single day of the week. A strange adult, several days of ten. (Some of the families knew each other socially, but not everyone knew everybody.) For the one-year-olds, three other one-year-olds.

Lordy.

I can only imagine the chaos. Ten people, with ten different interaction styles, expectations, rules, standards, tolerances. A new one EVERY DAY!!! Six or seven kids, heads whirling with all the strangeness: strange playmates, strange caregivers, strange homes, new toys. Perpetual strangeness, every day of the week. Had they kept it to one location, that would have been better, but the steady rotation of staff would still have doomed it to failure.

I’ve found it takes a 1-year-old three to four full weeks to become fully comfortable in care. (Usually three, four for some kids, more if the child comes part-time.) Three to four full weeks when every day is the same. Predictable. Consistent. Same people, same place, same toys, same rules/regs/expectations. A full month.

So. When none of those things are the same, day to day?

Chaos. Unending chaos. Only the most socially hardy could survive. Thrive? I’m not sure any kid could thrive in that.

All of this, moreover, managed and supervised by a parent completely inexperienced in caring for groups of children. (Of course they were inexperienced. Anyone with a breath of experience would have seen immediately that this wonderful idea was a disaster in the making, and refused to have any part in it. My assumption that there’d be two adults working together every day, I now saw, was an assumption made by a woman with a ton of experience tending groups of children.)

Picture it: A room full of disoriented, unhappy, overwhelmed babies and toddlers, supervised by a disillusioned, confused, overwhelmed adult.

Oh, my.

So, no, I’m not surprised they ended up looking for alternate care.

I suspect the daycare tanked. How did I find out about this? Because the caregiver who told me the story had interviewed a different family from the same set-up, whose child “had just never adjusted to daycare”.

And they didn’t really know why…

November 27, 2013 Posted by | daycare, parents | | 3 Comments

Oh, just stop it

Being a sex-positive sort, I am drawn to people who write intelligently about sex. (Sometimes it’s me! This post remains a favourite.) Dan Savage? Love him. Read him every week, follow him on Facebook. Laura Kipnis? Intelligent and provocative. Mary Roach had me in stitches with “Bonk!” (Lest I appear too pure/intellectual on the subject to be credible, I read a fair amount of lower-brow writing on the subject, too. There is a discreet shelf in Mary’s library that under-teens don’t have access to.) More recently, I’ve been enjoying Marina Adshade, whose slant on the subject — sex and money/economics — interests me.

So when links to a recent article in the Globe and Mail appeared in my Twitter feed, I hopped over to check it out.

Hm. Another salvo in the mommy wars. Oh. I am not enthused with the mommy wars, but maybe she has something useful to say? The title was not promising, however. A bit early-adolescent edgy, no?

I went through the points. Some were absolutely valid. “Someone actually said that to you? With a straight face? Unapologetically? Outrageous!!” It never ceases to amaze me that people feel it is their right to make unsolicited negative assessments of someone else’s life choices to their face. Bizarre. Who asked you? Rude, rude, rude.

A couple of the other points, though, it seemed clear to me she was misinterpreting, or likely misinterpreting, the intent of the person making the comment. They read to me like completely innocuous comments she’d received badly. And on one of the comments, I disagreed entirely. “No, Ms. Adshade, that really is a negative consequence of your life choices; you just have to own it.”

Moreover, and regardless of the validity of her personal list of slights, I was aware that each and every SAHM could come up with an equally valid, equally convicting, equally meaningful list of slights received at the hands of mothers on the other side of the income divide. No group of women has the corner on insults received — or dished out.

And by the time I got to the end of the article, I was primarily struck by the sheer defensiveness of the thing. This isn’t a well-reasoned, intelligent article. This is just a short shit list, adding nothing of substance to the debate. It’s same-old, same-old griping, stuff I’ve heard and read a thousand times before. Poop. I was disappointed.

Maybe the complaints are entirely valid. Maybe the sting of those comments is intended. There are bitchy, judgmental people out there, who are only too thrilled to trip through life sprinkling rancor wherever they go.

Maybe they’re not valid. Maybe the comments are innocuous.

The “I don’t know how you do it!”, for example, that comment which so annoys Dr. Adshade? I get that comment, too. A lot. Sometimes it’s pretty clear that the speaker can’t imagine how because the “it” she perceives revolts her. Whining, bickering, snot and shit all the live-long day. Why would any woman with a brain in her head, with the education to have other options, want to do that?

However, most of the time, unlike Dr. Adshade, I’m quite confident the comment’s sincere. They admire what I do for a living, and genuinely don’t think they could do it. I often suspect the “it” that people imagine I’m doing doesn’t bear much resemblance to the “it” I’m actually doing, but I also believe that yes, I do a great job, and that few people could do it as well.

I’m confident that a certain percentage of the people who’ve said this to Dr. Adshade genuinely meant it as a compliment. There are only so many hours in a day, and if 8 or 9 or more hours of your day are filled with a career, how do you do it all? Maybe they’re impressed by her energy, her efficiency. Dr. Adshade’s point that, with the income you make in those hours, you can hire out a lot of domestic tasks is well taken … but was it necessary to turn that fact into a shot at the stay-at-home moms? With that shot, she becomes the woman she’s objecting to, except on the other side of the war.

If you’ve complained about this comment, the question is, why does it bother you? Could be be the sting is not because the comment is barbed, but that the sting is, rather, entirely a reflection of your own insecurities?

No choice is without its downside. Whichever choice you make — work from home, stay-at-home, work away from home, work full-time, work part-time, whatever arrangement you devise — has benefits and disadvantages, strengths and weaknesses. I accept the downsides of my chosen career. I don’t deny them. I don’t pretend they’re not there. I don’t get angry when other people notice them. I accept them, because I think the benefits of my choices more than make up for any downsides. I own my choices, the pros and the cons.

Other people will see it differently. Other people will see the same set of variables and make different choices, because the variables carry different emotional and practical weights for them.

That’s fine. Their different choices don’t devalue mine. Not in my mind, anyway. If they want to believe that their different choice is superior to mine, or (worse) makes them a superior person/mother … well, okay. They can believe that. Doesn’t change how I view my choices. Or how I feel about my worth.

Generally, I believe, insults are unintended. “I was so surprised when I found out you do daycare!” said a new neighbour on our second meeting. “You look so …” She waved her hands up and down, indicating … what? My demeanor? My outfit? My radiantly intelligent face? I dunno. “You sound so well-educated and articulate!”

Yes, well. I am. I am also very happy with my chosen occupation. So the fact that she assumed only slovenly half-wits do it is … hugely offensive to me! How dare you demean me so! I am Outraged!!!

No, I’m not.

And I get that a lot. It’s not an occasional thing. It’s undeniable that there are some half-wits doing this job. I’ve met them. I have no idea who leaves their children with these women. Other half-wits, I suppose. It doesn’t matter. I’m not one of them.

What did I do about that comment? I laughed. I laughed that she honestly thought she’d given me a compliment. She genuinely meant well. I laughed that she could be so obtusely tactless, drop such a bomb into a conversation and have no idea she’d done so. And then, apart from a funny story to tell family and other caregivers, I forgot about it. It’s not a barb under my skin, constantly abrading.

But what if the sting is intentional? My working assumption, when someone is being deliberately insulting, is that that person’s insistence on making you feel bad about your choice suggests a level of uncertainty/ambivalence about their own choice. They can’t believe that their choice is a sound one without believing yours is inferior. Foolish, true, but human nature. At least, an insecure human’s nature.

The point is, I like what I do, I’m excellent at it, it makes good use of my skills, talents, and training, and I think it has value. That’s it.

Bottom line?

Who cares? Who cares what my new neighbour thinks of my occupation? Who cares what that random woman at the bus stop things of your life choices? Or the other mother at violin lessons, or the swimming pool, or the soccer field?

Why do you care?

I am weary of thin-skinned women, on both sides of the income divide, who insist that everyone else admire and respect them at all times. Who see slights where there are none, who toss insults back when insults are perceived, and the whole thing just goes on and on and on. Endlessly.

Are you really such a precious snowflake that everyone else on the planet has to agree with your choices? They could — and yes, should — have the common courtesy to keep their critical opinions to themselves. But even if they won’t … so what? That only makes them rude, and even more deserving of being ignored.

If you’re happy with your choices, then someone else’s opinion/judgement on it, real or imagined, is irrelevant and will not sting.

If we all just let it go, stopped fretting about other people’s opinions, and got on with enjoying our lives, appreciating our own choices in all their good-and-badness, the mommy wars would die a quiet, and very welcome, death.

Please?

November 26, 2013 Posted by | controversy, parenting | , , , | 3 Comments

Menu Monday

Monday:
First course: salad
Main course: black bean enchilada bake
Dessert: gooey cranberry squares

Tuesday:
First course: corn niblets
Main course: toad in the hole
Dessert: cantaloupe

Wednesday:
First course: cooked carrot sticks
Main course: lentil soup and baking powder biscuits
Dessert: clementines

Thursday:
First course: winter vegetable salad
Main course: Cuban shredded beef on rice
Dessert: cantaloupe

Friday:
First course: cauliflower au gratin
Main course: stuffed green peppers (vegetarian version)
Dessert: Timbits

As always, if there’s a recipe you’d like to have, just ask!

November 25, 2013 Posted by | food, health and safety | , , | 1 Comment

What have I been doing, again

Witness one chair. In fact, we own two, and they’re equally unappealing. Disreputable, even. Stained, boring beige. NOT FOR LONG!!
vmp1
Taking the cushion off was simple. Then I used the cushion as a template on the ‘oilcloth’ — really a vinyl fabric — I’d purchased for a different project. There was just enough left over to cover these two chairs. I fiddled a bit with the placement to get the pattern arranged nicely, and made the outline a few inches larger to allow for wrapping the fabric around the sides to the underside of the chair.
vmp2
Once it was cut, I just stapled the heck out of it and, ta-dah! A pretty, wipe-clean new chair!
vmp3

So much better!

November 5, 2013 Posted by | crafts | 4 Comments

What have I been doing lately?

You might well wonder.

For starters, I’m fine. My life outside the computer has been occupying me, and not in a bad way. No crises, no worries. Just life. It may be because I’m in a bit of a creative surge at the moment, creativity which is being expressed outside the computer.

But it’s only fair to let you have a peek, I figure. So here’s the first project, which was completed a while ago, actually. My dining room table, location of much crafting, spillage and general mucky-ness, was a mess. So I stripped it down — first time in my life I’ve attempted such a thing, stencilled it, and varnished it.
table 005
The stencils are Martha Stewart. The paint is leftover from the front door.
table 005

Pretty, huh?
table 006It’s my first attempt. There are imperfections. The bevelling around the edge got sanded more profoundly than the rest of the surface, so it’s a bit paler. There are some bubbles in the Varathane which I didn’t spot at the time, proving the imperfection of my sanding technique.

table 008But it’s 1000% better than it was before, and I couldn’t be more pleased!

November 4, 2013 Posted by | crafts | , , , | 3 Comments