From Venerated to Victim to Villain

I first opened Teachers' Tots Child Care in February, 2003, when both my girls were essentially babies. I cared for several children - the ones pictured here and a few others - over the next 22 months and enjoyed most of my charges, who ranged in age from just a few months old up to five years. Even so, circumstances led me to close up shop at the end of November, 2004, thinking my days as a full-time paid child care provider were over.

Abigail and Aidan - May, 2003
Abigail, Rachel, Ella - August, 2003
Ella, Blake, Rachel - September, 2003
Abigail, Olivia, Rachel - October, 2004

However, one thing led to another, and I made plans during the spring of 2006 to re-open that fall. I put out just one ad with the largest local school district, resulting in over 20 queries from interested teachers. Thus, I found myself in the enviable position of being able to essentially interview the parents while they concurrently interviewed me. And I ended up choosing two families I was sure would fit well with us.

And I was right. I decided on Hallie, who turned five in September, 2006, but who had missed the kindergarten cut-off date for that year by just a couple of weeks, and Anna Jo, who came to us in November, 2006, at just eight weeks old. Because of her age, we only cared full-time for Hallie for a year, but I have provided occasional care as needed for her ever since, and she remains one of my girls' best friends almost six years later. As for Anna, she's been with us for her whole life and has become like a niece to me and a cousin to my girls. Sadly, she'll be leaving us for kindergarten in the fall, but we'll get to care for her on an as-needed basis, too. And now we're blessed with her younger sister, Leah, and, in all likelihood, a future sibling as well. Having long-term relationships with those two families has been amazing.

Abigail, Hallie, Rachel - September, 2006
Rachel, Anna, Abigail - November, 2006
Anna, Rachel, Me, Abigail, Hallie - August, 2011

Among those I turned down was another family with an infant girl, N., because I wasn't sure I could handle two babies and preschoolers while concurrently beginning more formal homeschool academics. I hated to disappoint the parents, who seemed very anxious to have me watch their daughter, but I felt peace in my decision. That was April, 2006, and I looked forward with anticipation to the fall.

And then I got a frantic call from Tegen's mom. She had seen my ad, but hadn't initially contacted me because, while on a six-month leave after having Tegen, she'd set up child care with someone else. However, about a week before she was set to return to work the first week of May, her provider called and cancelled on her. With panic in her voice, she asked if there were any way I could possibly add another child for just six weeks, until the end of the school year. I'm sure she nearly cried when I explained that, yes, I could easily care for him during that time since I didn't actually have anyone else until fall. I couldn't keep him on after that because I did want to limit my numbers, but I could help her out.

And, thus, I became The Venerated - the provider who saved the day when another bailed.

Rachel, Tegen, Abigail - May, 2006
Rachel, Anna, Tegen, Abigail - September, 2011

Fast forward more than four years to November, 2010.

After fielding monthly calls from N.'s parents throughout the fall of 2006, I'd finally agreed to take on N. in January, 2007, when she was almost nine months old. That winter and spring were, indeed, hectic, but it worked out because N. was very sweet-tempered and placid. And then, once Hallie left us for kindergarten, I felt I had the perfect situation: Anna and N. were just seven months apart in age and loved each other dearly. Each provided the other with a perfect companion, and I was able to meet their needs really well while also continuing to homeschool my daughters. As an added bonus, we continued to watch Tegen every Friday afternoon, and, since he was only a few months older than N. and Anna, they became akin to The Three Musketeers.

But then, in November, 2010, N.'s two-month old brother, H., joined us and quickly upset the apple cart. I'd been looking forward to his coming because Anna's mom was pregnant with Leah, and I was envisioning Round Two of "The Perfect Daycare Situation" with the younger siblings. But that wasn't to be.

In a word, H. was "difficult." He screamed constantly while awake unless I held him and didn't sleep well either. I later discovered (by accident) that his mother had adopted the practice of babywearing with him. So it was no wonder H. was miserable unless he was held closely, but I don't babywear and couldn't hold him constantly. I tried desperately to show him that he was safe near me in a chair or swing, but that wasn't good enough; he screamed more frequently and more vociferously as time went on. To make matters worse, he showed no interest in learning to roll over even by six months old, though most children are pretty proficient at the task by around four months. That just made him fussier and set him behind with other developmental milestones as well.

I did everything I could as a professional child care provider over the course of four months to figure out how to make things better. I told the parents when he had especially rough days, but I really wanted to solve the problem on my own instead of appearing to be "picky." However, I reached a breaking point in early March, 2011, and requested that the mom meet with me one afternoon. I was pretty certain I wouldn't agree to watch H. past the end of the school year, but I wanted to find a way to make things better for three more months, so that N., who would be leaving for kindergarten at the end of the semester, could finish with me.

The mom appeared calm and rational during our discussion, and I felt a huge surge of relief at having fully explained the situation. She led me to believe she'd think through possible solutions and work with me to make things better for H. and for me.

Instead, she messaged me the minute she got home, announcing that neither child would ever come to  my home again. Then neither she nor her husband would take my calls the next day, even avoiding a scheduled call that evening until I insisted I wouldn't be strung along. And then the mother proceeded to rail on me, accusing me of neglecting both her children (never mind how she'd practically stalked me in the fall of 2006 until I took N. on, or that she'd regularly raved about the care I gave N. for over four years), and refusing to pay the termination fees they'd agreed to in signing contracts for the children. She wouldn't let N. see my daughters or me again, though her husband begged her to let N. finish the school year with us because of her bond with us.

So I became The Victim - wrongly accused and taken advantage of.

Needless to say, that experience left me more than a little leery when Anna's sister, Leah, started with me in  May, 2011. Anna had been with me from early infancy, and I even managed her strong-willed nature well. But perhaps I couldn't juggle the needs of a baby, a preschooler, and two school-aged kids. Maybe H.'s mom was right about me.

But God thought differently, and my experience with Leah - whom I first held and prayed over on her actual birthday - has been nothing but wonderful. Simply put, she's a gem!

Leah, Anna, Abigail, Rachel - May, 2011

So, with renewed self-confidence, I began, in the fall of 2011, to look into taking on another child to be Leah's long-term playmate. Before I placed a new ad with the district, I got two referrals and met with both families, hoping I could find the right fit without having to interview as many parents as before. And, though I didn't feel as secure as I had in my 2006 choices, I eventually chose the family whose daughter would be born in January, 2012, making her about 11 months younger than Leah. With Anna still here and with two little ones, I knew I'd have a hectic spring once Baby M. started in April, but I used my experience with N. back in 2007 to tell myself it would be manageable for 10 weeks. And I was confident things would then be great in the fall of 2012, when it would be just Leah, M., and my girls.

Unfortunately, that wasn't to be. M. was not as fussy as H. had been, but she was much needier than Leah or any of the other babies I'd watched in the past. She was sometimes content to be near me, but really preferred to be held, and that was very stressful, given that I had four other children to care for. But she and I found a sleeping and eating schedule that worked well for us both - and for the needs of the other girls - so, as I frequently worked to remind myself, more than half of each day was okay. And she started rolling at around four months old. So I told myself it would be better - that she'd be more content - in the fall when she could crawl. Thus, I issued a new contract to the family.

But then the mom and I had an email conversation about a week after M.'s last day of the school year a couple weeks ago, and I changed my mind. M.'s eating and sleeping schedule while here had been great, but M.'s mom (by her own admission) had never felt comfortable with it and had changed it back to an entirely different schedule immediately at the start of their summer vacation - a schedule I had never successfully used and didn't feel I could implement. But the mom wrote that she would "need" me to do it her way. Similarly, she wanted me to adopt a nap schedule for M. that I didn't feel comfortable with. Of course, I am a staunch supporter of parental rights (i.e., unless there's obvious abuse involved, the ultimate decisions concerning a child's life rest with her parents). But, by the same token, I know my own convictions about what works with babies and young children, and I have a particular aversion to the type of schedule M.'s parents want to implement. Thus, I made the hard decision to terminate our relationship out of respect for those differences and to avoid what I feared would be a repeat of the H. situation if we continued.

And, in the process, I became The Villain - playing the role of "bad guy" for the greater good.

Of course, in reality, I'm not a villain; I believe M.'s parents will eventually understand that. Nor did I deserve to be "victimized" by H.'s mom or "venerated" by Tegen's. I'm just a woman committed to living for Jesus...which includes as one of His primary calls on my life being at home to raise and home-educate my daughters. Taking on other children has been a way to help supplement my family's income while answering that call, and I've been pleased that, in the process, I have provided a safe, loving environment for well over a dozen children. Obviously, though, not every situation is a good fit - just as not every person any of us meets is destined to be a good friend.

And, as Solomon told us in Ecclesiastes, there is a season for everything under the sun. Thus, I'm convinced - just as I was in 2004 - that my time of providing care for children from multiple families is finished for now. I am delighted to continue watching Leah, as well as her planned-for sibling whenever s/he arrives and Anna whenever she needs me. In fact, I've told Leah's parents they can now consider me their "private nanny," and at this point, I expect (with great joy) to devote myself to them until all of the family's children reach school-age. In fact, regarding that commitment and, of course, my call as a mom, I guess you could call me The Vehement.
Leah - June, 2012


Conny said...

wow! bless your heart - you sure have been through your gamut of situations, good and not-so-good. Amazing how quickly a parent can turn on you - I've seen it happen for the years we worked in a Christian school. Parents who LOVED US, recommended us, etc came to an impasse situation and suddenly became irrational.
But such is life. Sounds like you're handling it all - with God's help! :)

Kimberly said...

Great post explaining what happened. I read about it on HSL and thought then as now that you handled the situation very well. May God bless you for watching other people's children. I would find that a hard thing to do, especially home schooling my own, as we parents all have different philosophies on child rearing.

Sara @ Embracing Destiny said...

I've often considered doing in-home daycare, but it just isn't right for our family at this time. Your post confirmed that for me! There is no way I could handle that kind of added stress. So glad you found a good match for your family with Anna and Leah, though! Sounds like an extended family. =0)

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