We have a situation at our daycare centre that some of you may be familiar with. Due to the regulations surrounding licensed childcare facilities and the exorbitant cost of running such a centre, there are sometimes issues when it comes to dropping Everly off in the morning. The ratio of adults to infants/toddlers is 1:4 which means if Everly is child 5 to arrive in the morning, and that arrival occurs before the next staff member starts their day, the parents have to wait. It’s complicated. In an attempt to keep costs low, the centre works to keep staff levels to a minimum and not pay staff to sit there when there aren’t enough children. One of the ways they work to combat this is to have a staggered start schedule that combines the infant and toddler programs at the beginning and end of the day.
2 staff member start at 7:30am, one in the infant program and another in the toddler. That means there are 8 spots for children to arrive. On most days, 24 children attend total. At 8:30am, a 2nd staff member starts on the infant side which means we’re up to 12 spots, split between the groups. As long as there is space on one side, you can drop your child off and leave. But if you’re lucky #13, you’ve got to wait until the next staff member comes on at 9:00am. Don’t even worry about what happens if you arrive at 9:05am to find 16 kids already in attendance because then? You’ve got to wait until 9:30am.
While some days we arrive at 8:20am to find 2 staff members and 3 children, there are way more days when we arrive at 8:34am to 3 staff members and 12 children, and are asked to stay until 9:00am to retain the ratios.
If you’re doing the math that is 26 minutes of time I should be working or could have been sleeping, that I am instead standing in the childcare centre I pay $1224/month to, to essentially watch my own child. This can be infuriating. It has the domino effect of making me (and the hubs since we do drop off together) late for work, which makes me later to leave, which means she’s there longer in the day, which means the centre is deluded into thinking they need to back end load the staff to retain ratios. It’s dizzying.
This is a conversation that goes on and on with the centre. While parents understand that there are rules, they are also often in a hurry and being asked to wait over 20 minutes can feel like an eternity. Newsletter are sent out frequently, asking parents to adjust their schedules to reduce these complications. Unfortunately MOST parents take that as an indication that they need to arrive earlier, and the race is on. We’re all running it. Who can get there sooner?
Seriously it gets to the point where, if we’re in a particular rush and we see another parent coming, I stop and wonder if I should REALLY hold the elevator for them or not. The first in first out rule gets ugly when you’re trying to get to work on time. I would never be so rude as to actually race, but I’d be lying to say if I haven’t day dreamed about it. On the flip side, there are some great parents in the program with flexible start times (us included) who will offer to stay even though they were technically through the door 1.5 minutes before you and are technically allowed to leave. It even gets silly to the point where we’re all arguing who can stay, who should go and bartering for a trade off the next time.
On the days I have 100000 things to do, I am so frustrated with the system I want to scream. Why am I paying for childcare I cannot freely use during the open times? Why isn’t there a better system here? Don’t they know this is a waste of my precious time? Why am I standing here watching you do your job instead of doing mine? And WHY did I choose to hit snooze one more time because I KNOW if I didn’t HIS mom would be standing here in cold sweats as the prep time for her morning meeting slowly slips away instead of me…..
I know, it is kind of an awful to think that way. One of those working mom things you don’t like to talk about. I really am standing there, wishing the time away, holding my breath and trying not to take my frustrations out on the lovely and amazing daycare professionals. It’s not their fault, they don’t make the rules or the schedules and they sure as heck do enough but, sometimes you just want to SNAP! It isn’t because I don’t love my kid enough or because I want to get away from her or because I prefer working over mothering. It’s not that at all. It’s that this is our routine, I have plans and responsibilities, and while my employer is more than flexible and understanding I have clients, many of whom are located in a time zone 3 hours ahead of me, and none of whom want to hear “sorry I missed our meeting, I was playing with playdough.” (I try not to schedule anything until 10:00am PST but you East Coasters and your 6am starts!)
It just feeds into the guilt I already lug around. Shouldn’t I enjoy those extra minutes with my daughter in the day? Shouldn’t I just embrace that time, spend it with her while she gives me a tour of her favourite toys? Shouldn’t I just be happy that everything else at this place is amazing, and realize that parenting is a logistical nightmare, and that no matter my best intentions there are days where things just will not go according to plan?
Of course I should but sometimes, I just can’t. Mommy brain has to make room for Employee brain in the mornings. It’s a shared space, but when Employee brain is knocking on the door, Mommy brain runs and hides. Mommy brain is all sunshine and roses and toddler kisses, but Employee brain is a nagging hag of deadlines and task lists, and she is louder and meaner. Most of the time she waits until I’m en route to work, but on the days that we’re standing at daycare too long, she invades. She starts her psychological warfare and Mommy brain can do nothing but retreat and start up the guiltcycle in anticipation of 5:00pm, where she will prove to me that yes, she too can nag and yes, I am a terrible human being.
Does your daycare do this? How do you handle it? Are you able to just go with the flow and embrace those extra mommy minutes, or do you start climbing the walls and screaming inside your own head like SOMEONE I know?
ETA: The centre does keep track and make adjustments. Actually, since I originally wrote this, I emailed one of the directors and discussed my difficulties. She said they knew it was happening and were in the process of adjusting and have since had a staff member starting at 8:45am instead of 9am and it has made all the difference! I love and adore my daycare, and completely understand why this happens. It’s still frustrating but I know they do their best and are working on it.
Photo Credit: http://blogs.sacbee.com/ticket/archives/2011/08/hey-bloggers-fr.html