We all have our own personal values and beliefs that affect many of our day-to-day decisions. They start to develop when we are babies and continue to develop throughout our lives. Our family, friends, community and the experiences we have had, all contribute to our sense of who we are and how we view the world.
It’s no surprise then, that my own experience prior to starting school has had a big influence on the decisions I made about childcare for my own kids.
I spent the first 5 years of my life with my Mum. My mother was a ‘stay-at-home’ Mum. She didn’t go back to work until my younger brothers and I were all in school. I don’t remember a lot about those years. But I do remember I was loved.
Genuinely, unconditionally loved.
I remember intimacy, there being lots of cuddles. I remember waking from daytime naps and finding my Mum ironing. She’d sit back and take me in her arms, still waking up and feeling all sleepy and drowsy. She’d tenderly stroke my hair and kiss me on the forehead. And she’d just sit with me, snuggled into her breast until I was ready to jump down from her lap and run off and play.
Mum was an avid reader of children’s stories. She read to us a lot. And she sung. I remember her singing to me in the bathroom as she dressed me for the day. I even remember the song and every word of the song. It was her special song.
There was lots and lots of music, nursery rhymes, children’s songs and other mainstream styles of music being sung and played in the house from one day to the next.
We had a cubby house in the backyard, bikes we would ride along our long verandas, a park with a slide and swings across the road, dirt to play in, chickens to feed and enough cousins to form a small army. Mum used to get together with her sisters and their children, my cousins, at least once a week.
I was really very lucky. What more could a young child ask for? We weren’t wealthy by any means but rich in ways that mattered. Mum and Dad made many sacrifices so that Mum could be at home with my brothers and I. I believe that spending that time with my Mum is one of the greatest gifts I was ever given. And it is something that I truly value.
As I grew, there was never any doubt that I wanted to have children of my own. I played with dolls long past the age when it was considered cool. Ha! And when children did come along, I was in my 30s. My husband and I would have liked it to have happened sooner, but that’s how it panned out. By that time I’d invested 18 years into my career in rural industry and was enjoying a generous salary and climbing my way up.
But I had a yearning in my heart to be at home with my babies.
I did stay at home for the first 12 months of my first born’s life. Then when my paid maternity leave came to an end our financial and lifestyle commitments meant that I had to go back to work. And so I was faced with a conundrum. Who was going to look after my baby? If he couldn’t be at home with me, I wanted him to be in someone else’s loving home. My husband was of the same view, having spent his own early years in the care of his Grandmother who as it happens, ran an approved childcare service from her home. So there was never any question for us. It had to be Family Day Care.
Enter our beautiful Family Day Care ‘Mum’, Francie.
A high profile businessmen once gave me the tip, that to set a small business apart from all of the rest you must ‘exceed expectations’. And that is exactly what Francie’s Family Day Care service did for me.
I didn’t expect my son to be coming home with art and craft. I didn’t! I thought that started at school. I didn’t expect Francie to be taking him to the library or preschool music classes at the Conservatorium of Music. I didn’t expect he would be going to play sessions and socialising with other preschool children outside of the home. I didn’t expect that Francie would develop a play-based learning program for my child. I didn’t expect the positive influence that Francie’s own school-aged children would have on my child as role models. I didn’t expect to make a life-long family friend in Francie. I didn’t expect the sense of community that I felt by getting to know the other parents who used the service, many who I continue to call friends some eight years later.
I didn’t expect any of those things, but that’s what happened. I just wanted my child to be loved and cared for by someone who is kind, patient and loves kids. Oh, I got that alright. And so much more. So much so that I decided that I wanted to do it too.
So I resigned from my job and started my own business in Family Day Care. When my second child came along I was in two minds about whether she should be in care or be at home with me. In the end I conceded that some separation from Mum helps to build a child’s resilience and that certainly would help when it came time for school. So off she went to Family Day Care when she was 18 months old, this time to the wonderful Natalie, just for a couple of days a week.
I wouldn’t be able to use Family Day Care now, believe it or not. Women working in Family Day Care can no longer use another Family Day Care service for their own children. But they can send them to a child care center. It is ludicrous to think, that had I had my children a couple of years later, I would have been denied my right to make a choice. All thanks to a few fraudulent individuals in Family Day Care who rorted the childcare benefit payment system.
I have nothing against child care centres or those who use them. Many of my friends and family have had wonderful experiences with centre-based care and many of my good friends actually run them! A centre is the right fit for many families. But I do feel sad for those Mums working in Family Day Care who are having their options for their own child’s care, dictated to them. It’s outrageous that they should be discriminated against in this way, simply because they have chosen Family Day Care as a career.
So I’m thanking my lucky stars that I was able to use Family Day Care for my own children while working in Family Day Care myself.
Because I believe in Family Day Care. Of course I do. 😀
I don’t know another mother who hasn’t been torn to some degree over the decision to leave her child in someone else’s care. It is one of the hardest things to do. My advice for first timers is to write down the things that matter most to you. Make a list of your beliefs and values and what you expect from a service, whether it be Family Day Care or otherwise. And when you go to check out what a service has to offer, take that list with you!
Don’t be afraid to ask the awkward questions.
One of my clients met with me five times before she made her decision. Kudos to her I reckon for putting me through the ringer. Finding a service that fits, not just with your needs but with what you value, makes the whole experience of returning to work so much easier, knowing your babies are in the best place that they can be.
Have you ever struggled with leaving your child in care?
Maybe you’re a Family Day Care Educator too? Or a stay at home Mum?
What’s your story?