I bet if your a family child care educator your wondering where did all of the holiday vacation days go? Or were you even able to get a few days off? It can be a tough decision to close at any given time, especially during the holidays. We have families that depend on us that still may have work obligations. Did you have to explain your policy for tuition still being due? Even though you gave a written reminder and it's in the contract?! I certainly hope "Provider Anxiety" has not come your way. You know the feeling when you called a parent to pick a child that you strongly feel they are not themselves and the parent may not believe the symptoms because they were fine when they dropped them off, or a late payment that has not been made and has you feeling like the family isn't coming back. These are just a few examples of what causes "Provider Anxiety", unfortunately the list is rather long.
The beauty of a new year is that it gives us the opportunity to reflect on our past year, set new goals, and persevere through current goals that may not have been able to be accomplished just yet. As, a family child care educator I took some time to reflect on what has worked for me and what did not work. It comes down to three things that I did that made 2019 one of my best years I have ever had as a family child care educator!
1. Professional Development
My greatest source of inspiration was all the training that I received from obtaining a CDA. I can't tell you enough how everyday I was pumped up to learn more, and looking forward to implementing what I had learned the night before. It was like I always had built up energy while going through the training. Preparing for the Observation Visit was like a culminating experience. It took me more time than it actually would have taken to acquire the 120 hours, but seeking the CDA also lead me into self study. I learned so much about myself, which was not what I expected, but inevitably this is what took me to the next level in operating a well run childcare program.
Many professional development courses are available online which makes it easy to accommodate your work schedule. To get started find a workshop, course or training that you may be interested in. If you feel you need more knowledge in a certain area, let's say professional business practices, then enroll in a training that is designed to improve your professional business practices. Even in this past decade I closed my licensed childcare that I had operated for 10 years in 2012 and then reopened in 2017. A lot happened in between, but. It is now very clear to me that if I sought out Professional Development in 2012, I might not have closed my doors back then. Professional development is refreshing, inspiring., and the best part is that the children benefit from what you learned. There is plenty of research that supports positive outcomes for children who are in the care of an early childhood teacher who seeks and obtains professional development on a continual basis.
It is especially important for In Home Childcare Providers to set intentions to socialize with others outside of the home. How often do we get to have meaningful conversations with others about our work? Or about what is going on in our personal lives with our own children. With parents coming and going adult interactions are minimal. We love children, but we as adult humans need adult human interaction, especially on the really tough days. Search for your tribe of people who can help guide you, inspire you, and affirm you are not alone. If your an introvert like myself try joining Early Childhood Education Facebook Groups. I have met some really neat, authentic family child care educators in real life that I first interacted with online. Join memberships to early childhood organizations so you can stay informed when early childhood conferences are being held. It is very important that we network, and collaborate with Early Childcare Professionals. Collaborating with others has helped me to recruit nannies and babysitters, fill an open spot in the childcare and made aware of when various early childhood organizations were offering discounts on their memberships. I have also been able to support them using my "gift". Imagine a group of people breathing life into one of the projects that you visioned or vice versa, and the impossible is now possible.
3. Self Care
Self care has a different meaning depending on who you may be talking to. I am talking directly to the childcare/preschool business owners, and if your an In Home Childcare Provider lean in a little closer. Self care for us, begins when we establish professional boundaries with the families that we work with.
We can establish boundaries by enforcing that well written contract, despite the love we have for the family. If pickup is 6pm for the sake of self care stop allowing pickups after 6pm!
When I realized a- no -call late pick up affected my energy I knew I could never tolerate that happening again on a regular basis and established this specific policy from the beginning with the families when I reopened in 2017. Self care wins! Here I am loving what I do,
Self care for the family child care educator is totally ignoring the phone after business hours. Literally, say out loud "Not now" when the phone rings as you bite into your first taste of dinner.
You can and should take a vacation or two, add in trips to the salon, a shopping spree (no toys can be purchased, okay only one) as part of your self care routine, but it should include establishing professional boundaries with the families that you work with.
A self care activity that I have started is writing daily in a reflection journal about the interactions I had with children, assistants ,and families that day. It has made me feel so grateful and filled with purpose. A great way to end the day.
When things seem a little off track it is important to remember your "Why". Why are you a family child care educator, or a child care business owner. Once you remember why you got started you will then begin to search for understanding (professional development), collaborate and network (because no good thing can be done alone), and you will put self care first... who else is going to get the job done ?! Let's make 2020 the best year yet for all early childhood professionals!
Happy New Year!