Your childcare provider is, next to your spouse, one of the most important relationships you will ever have. This book is all about how to find a great provider and how to make her work her hardest for you. This is a manual for every parent raising a child with the help of a stranger.
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How to find and keep the very best of childcare providers
By Theresa J. Mulhern
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013Theresa J. Mulhern
All rights reserved.
The Primary Caretaker
If you have opened this book you are one of millions of parents who either are working or are going to start working while your child is under the age of 12. There's no shame in it. Don't ever let anyone tell you that because you choose to work you are cheating your child.
The truth is that with the right amount of effort you can be a great parent who works. It will require a lot of sacrificing on your part. There won't be a lot of volleyball leagues or girl's nights out for a few years, but there might be tea parties and sleepovers and other ways for you to be creative and use some of your hidden talents.
Parenting doesn't just change your schedule, it changes your universe. Some people find they had talents and interests they never knew about. I found out after having a daughter that I love to decorate cakes and bedrooms. I had never cared about either before. In addition my teenagers have taught me a lot about computers and introduced me to contemporary music that doesn't make me feel like screaming and smashing things. I have learned that instead of dinner out I can play restaurant using sandwiches with the crust cut off and tiny little cups of chocolate milk.
I chose to stay home with all of our eight children. In order to still contribute to the family income I decided to do daycare. I had always watched our friend's children for free and had helped raise my younger siblings, nieces and nephews. I think I work harder at home than I ever did in the corporate world. I know I work longer hours for less pay.
But we must get back to the subject at hand. Probably before you had children you chose someone to have them with. Maybe not and if you're doing it on your own then you really have to have a paycheck. But if you are lucky enough to have a significant other chances are good you didn't select them overnight or out of listing of neighborhood available bachelors.
When you choose a life partner you have time to become friends, date and get to know about each other. Before you have children I would hope that you talk about all that you want for them and how you plan on raising them. Will they go to public or private school? Will they be Catholic or Mormon? Will they be able to date at 15 or will they be locked up until 25? You definitely won't agree on everything but at least you have a jumping off point.
Unfortunately, you won't get the same opportunity with your childcare provider. Most people choose a daycare provider within 2 weeks of beginning their search. Imagine if you chose your spouse that way!
Your childcare provider is, next to your immediate family, the most important relationship you will ever have. This is a person who spends 8-12 hours of time with your child every day. They will have more time with your child awake each week than you do, and they will see a lot of firsts that you will miss. There will be times you will be jealous that your child leans out of your arms to go to them, or won't stop staring at them when you arrive and want to be noticed. There will be times you will be angry with them for presuming to tell you about your child. Sometimes you will wonder why they seem to have the magic touch. Your child will be happy for them all day and a crying mess for you all night.
Even after you hire this perfect person, at times you will totally disagree with the way they are raising your child. There will be problems that need addressed. Working out these problems can be a lot like marriage. You will have to learn how to fight fair, only bring up relevant issues and let things go when they are over. The following story illustrates how things can get out of hand with just a simple misunderstanding.
My son Nicolais is an avid reader. I have never been able to limit his reading. I would buy books I thought he would like and I would catch him reading my thrillers. I would leave my magazines down and he would bring me the latest information on organizing the kitchen (thinking I wanted to be organized).
Being a Mormon household, we don't keep inappropriate materials around. We do however have 8 kids and 4 of them are over the age of 14. Since we don't home school or lock them in the closet I assume they are exposed to things they shouldn't be. I was sure however, that my young children were not being exposed to nudity of any kind.
Confident in my supervisory capacity, I was unprepared for the angry phone call I received from Amy K. at seven on a Thursday night.
"I am truly concerned" Amy began "about Alan and Cindy and what they are being exposed to at your house." She continued "Your seven year old is a little porn king!"
I was immediately offended and upset. "I have no idea what you are talking about" I argued. "My son doesn't have access to any of that kind of material and I am sure you are misinformed."
"I am not misinformed and I feel that I need to give my notice. Alan told me that Nico showed him pictures of boobies while they were playing in his room today. I just want to know, are you even watching these kids?"
I was off the couch and headed for my son's room before she even finished her sentence. When I got there my son was on the floor building with his brother. "Matthew, leave the room so I can speak with Nico" I barked. Normally I would get an argument but he seemed to sense my anxiety. He headed out the door and I confronted my then 8 year old, who was looking at me with a look that clearly shouted 'I have no clue what I did'.
"Nicolais Alexander Mulhern, Have you been showing pictures of naked women to Alan or any of the other children?" At this point I wasn't even sure I wanted an answer. My eyes were scanning the room looking for copies of Penthouse or Playboy just laying out for the world to see.
"Are you crazy mom?" Nico still looked puzzled and upset "I don't have naked pictures"
Amy was already arguing, obviously able to hear the other side of my conversation with my son. "Alex said it's in a brown book and he has it hidden under his bed." Now I was in a panic. How would she know Nico kept his books in a plastic box under his bed so that he could read at bedtime?
I rushed over and grabbed the tote from under the bed. Without even realizing I was holding my breath I began searching for anything that looked menacing. The books were all the ones from the library and the books I had bought him over the years. I spied a brown cover and dug to get at it. It was an encyclopedia. I looked at Nico and held it up.
My son's face lit with understanding. He began laughing. I was still completely upset and confused. I asked Amy if the book had gold writing on it. She conferred with Alex and replied that it did.
By now Nico had opened the encyclopedia and was pointing to a picture. It was an illustration of the Sphinx. Not being a big follower of all things Egyptian, I didn't even know the Sphinx had boobies. But there they were and I must say she was very well endowed.
Now I was laughing. Amy was on the other end of the phone still going on about how she trusted me to watch her children and that she should contact social services.
"If you'll give me a minute" I giggled, "I can explain." I told her what book it was, and what the picture was of. I then put Nico on the phone and he explained that Alan was asking about the pyramids because of a book Nico read him about Egypt (my son even loves to read to the daycare kids: which is awesome for me!).
He pulled the book about Egypt from his tote and I read the title to Amy.
Nico apologized to Amy if he showed Alan anything he shouldn't have. I then got back on the phone.
"I am sorry if you are upset Amy" I began. I then heard
Excerpted from CO-PARENTING STRANGERS by Theresa J. Mulhern. Copyright © 2013 by Theresa J. Mulhern. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
The Primary Caretaker.................... 1
Choosing Your Child's Co-Parent.................... 9
Your Expectations of Childcare.................... 21
When Standard Options Cannot Meet Your Needs.................... 31
When Someone Else Pays the Bill.................... 36
You've made your Choice—Now do the Research.................... 44
Building a Trust Relationship.................... 53
Your Provider's Legal Obligations.................... 63
Your Parental Responsibilities.................... 69
Choosing to hire In-House—The Nanny or Au Pair.................... 79
Daycare Etiquette.................... 84
Addressing Concerns about Care.................... 90
Discipline—The United Front.................... 96
Oh that Pesky Paperwork—What to expect in a contract.................... 99
A Back-up Plan for Sick Days.................... 104
Save the Drama for Your Mama.................... 113
The Child and Adult Food Program.................... 117
Handling Emergencies.................... 121
When to Take Action.................... 127
The Real Cost of Childcare.................... 132
Summing it all up.................... 135