It’s Not All Mary Poppins


Last step in the process: Inform the Parents.

It’s been a long-ish haul, from my first inklings that one couple wasn’t dealing straight with me, through further nigglings, to confirmation of my suspicions. The past month has been a whirlwind of interviews. The universe was sympathetic to my plight: I’ve never had so many interviews in such a short period.

And this week, I signed a contract with a lovely couple. Lovely, I think. So far, so good, anyway. My first impression is positive — that counts for something, right?

Yes, it does. Though I’m not 100% — goodness knows this current situation proves that! — my intuition has been honed down the years, and I’m a decent judge of who will be a good fit.

So. All my ducks are in a row. Now to deal with the one remaining detail: the conversation.

She’s due “in June”. I don’t know when her due date is. The new couple wants to start in the third week of June. So I can give Outgoing Couple till the end of June, maybe even a week past that. Let’s hope she’s due toward the beginning of the month!

But how to tell them? Where to have this conversation? I worried this one over for a couple of days — coffeeshop? my home? theirs? — before my husband made his observation.

“You know, it doesn’t have to be a Big Conversation. In fact, I’m not sure that it needs to take more than 15 minutes.”

And I thought … he’s right. If I set it up as if it’s a Big Deal, it will become a big deal, and I really don’t want that. How about I deliver it in a matter-of-fact way. In fact, how about I deliver it to them as they delivered their news to me: as if they were in the loop, as if they knew all along what was happening, as if it’s no big deal at all.

Brilliant. And all because of that “15 minute” comment from the Wonderful Husband.

So I mulled it over and came up with my starting sentence. (Do you do that? It’s hugely helpful in starting a difficult conversation. I actually memorize and practice my first sentence.)

It’s a good thing she’s usually the last parent to arrive. I don’t have to worry about a private conversation being interrupted by other parents. When she arrived, we chatted for a few seconds and then I smiled brightly and said,

“So I just thought I’d bring you up-to-date about what’s happening in June.”

And she smiles back and says, “Oh, yes.”

“I’ve found another child to fill the space. He’ll be starting June 16. I’m not sure when you’re due, but you can certainly have till the end of the month.”

“I’m having a section on June 12.”

[Section? This baby has been scheduled! She probably knows to the hour when her baby will be born, and she hadn’t bothered to tell me??? Oh, why am I surprised any more?]

“So we can send her till the end of June?”

“Yes, and if you wanted the odd day after that, we could arrange that at the time, and do pay-as-you-go.”

Her face moves from smiling to puzzled.

“But we can’t have full-time in July, even if we wanted it?”

[Oh, so that was an option you were considering, then? And it didn’t occur to you it would be wise to run it by me?]

“No.” (Oh, that felt kinda good…) “Not after the end of June.”

The puzzlement grows.

“But we haven’t given you your notice yet.”

And now it begins to feel really, really good, so I can smile gently as I say, matter-of-fact, gently, calm,

“No, I’m giving you notice.”

There is a moment where her face goes totally blank, blind-sided as she is by this completely unexpected turn of events.

“Oh.” There is a pause. Her mouth opens, then closes. She’s still processing, but she’s taking it very well, really, given it’s such a radical and completely unpredictable outcome. She nods. “Well, okay then. I guess I can work with that.”

I guess you can. And you’re getting… April, May, June, end of June… over three months’ notice. Much more than you intended to give me.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was that. Bring on June!

March 5, 2010 Posted by | daycare, parents, Peeve me, the dark side | , , | 27 Comments

Happy Family Day!

A couple of years ago, the provincial government here instituted a holiday — “Family Day“, to be celebrated on the third Monday in February.

This year, it is today. My birthday! Schools are closed, so my kids are home for the day, which is always nice.

And I am working. Boooo! I have no one to blame but myself, either. I intended to put it in the contracts for this year, and forgot. Though large segments do have the day off, it’s not yet universal for all employees throughout the province. I guess it has to be negotiated into labour contracts, too, as they come up for renewal.

However. A day off in February sure would be nice. It’s a long, cold, dreary haul from Christmas to March Break. It would have been doubly nice this year, it being my birthday and all. (Booooo. Oh, I already whined about said that already, didn’t I?)

My husband just came downstairs. “I just heard on the radio that all the daycare centres in the city are closed today.”

Well. That does it. I’m amending the contract template right now!

February 16, 2009 Posted by | Canada, holidays | , , | 12 Comments

Yes, yes, no: Picking a daycare family

I’m interviewing again.

778240_little_matheus_5In September, Timmy, Anna and Emily will be old enough to go to Junior Kindergarten. Imagine that! My babies are heading off to the Big World Out There! So teeny to be going. School starts TOO YOUNG. I will miss their little faces.

I have three spaces to fill. Three. Sixty percent of my income heading off to JK.

So far I’ve met with three families, representing four children. (Emma is so excited about the possibility of “Twins, mom! So CUTE!”) I have another interview schedule early next week. By then I should be in a position to offer a position to an interested family. Or, if all goes well, two families!

Let’s recap:
1. Family one. LOVELY people. Soft-spoken, easy-going, sort of granola (as am I — “sort of” rather than “fervently”). Warm smiles, apparently respectful and affectionate marriage. Introverts, (as am I). Both of them interacted equally with the baby. I just got a good, good, good feeling about them. We “clicked”. I hope they felt the same way!

2. Family two. Nice enough people. Mother wants long, long weaning-in, assurances about the number of other same-age children I’ll be taking on, assurances that I will pick up her child when she cries. Mother came with checklist on a clipboard. I don’t recall if dad spoke during the interview.

3. Family 3. Only met the mother, in fact. Dad was home with the twins. LOVELY woman. Warm, ready laugh. Extrovert. Anxious about finding care, but sensible, balanced, relaxed. A slightly irreverent sense of humour when it comes to her kids, a thing I love to see.

My preferences are, in this order:

Family 1, Family 3, Family 2.

Family one is just a good fit. The parents and I are on the same page about any number of things, beyond child-rearing. This is what I look for. It just felt right, and I would have no hesitation at all in offering them the space.

Family 3 is lovely, but they’re my second choice. Not because of the twins, but because there’s a bit of a mystery surrounding how she came to me. She needs care SOON, as in, five or six weeks, and with year-long maternity leaves, people just don’t leave it that long.

I get the impression, based on something she didn’t quite say, that she had someone lined up and bailed on them. (Or, worse, she has someone lined up now and will bail on them if she finds something better.) While I totally understand why a parent would feel the need to do this, particularly a parent of twins, who has much more difficulty finding a spot, it makes me a smidge uneasy. If she’d do that to someone else, would she hesitate to do that to me? Obviously, if I decide to take her on/she decides to go with me, I’d have to ask the direct question.

They may not opt for me anyway. It was clear that my closing time is an issue. Nothing she said, but she sorta winced when I told her. So I may be excluded on that very pragmatic logistical basis.

And Family 2? I will not take on Family 2, even if the others don’t opt for me. Now, the mother seems to be a nice person. Our child-rearing styles are not too dissimilar.

By the end of the interview, though, there were just too many red flags.

She’s too Earnest. Now, almost all first-time parents are Earnest, so in and of itself that wouldn’t be sufficient to exclude her from consideration. However, she’s Earnest with a large side of Controlling.

Not because of the clipboard and checklist. I have a terrible memory. My home is rife with checklists. Checklists are my friends, and I’m not about to deny one to the sleep-deprived mother of a brain-sucking 5-month-old.


– The so-lengthy weaning-in, where she’d be in my home for part of the day for weeks on end? Not happening. It’s a huge imposition on my autonomy. Yes, I will wean in if the parents want, but for a week or two, not months.

– The expectation that she can tell me how to respond to her child — not that what she wants is unreasonable, but the point is it’s my decision to make on my time. (She can find out what my philosophy on these things is, looking for a good match to her own. She cannot dictate.)

– The request for assurances that I will limit the number of other year-old babies in my care? Well, I’d like to. Three year-old babies is a PILE of work. However, the reality is that I have three spaces opening simultaneously, and that most parents looking for care are bringing year-old babies.

In short, she wants too much control over my work environment.

She also doesn’t understand that the interview is a two-way evaluation, she of me, and me of her. Though she is continuing with other interviews, she requested that if anyone else expressed interest in this spot, I would let her know so that she could have it first. No recognition that the spot would have to be offered to her, that there are two equal parties to the decision. This is the woman who perceives her caregiver as her employee, not (as I am) an independent contractor. This perception of the balance of power matters enormously.

Moreover, she’s not the best communicator. (Not, that is, if you understand communicating as including listening). When I underlined that I could give no such assurances re: ages of children in care, it obviously didn’t ‘take’. In her re-capping of the interview, she listed that as something we’d agreed upon.

I didn’t correct her, because I’d already decided I wouldn’t take this family.

Most of these are things I would not have picked up on 15 years ago. Even if I had, I’d not have seen the significance of them. But now I know that it’s these emotive, relational things that make the caregiver-parent relationship live or die. I can predict with some assurance that within six months, this mother and I would be driving each other nuts.

So, no.

But either of the others? Yup! We’ll see.

January 14, 2009 Posted by | daycare, parents | , , , , , , , | 22 Comments