Partnering With Your Childcare Provider
For many moms, going back to work after maternity leave is a major adjustment filled with a range of feelings including sadness in anticipation of being away from baby for long stretches of time, and for those moms who are using a day care provider that they don’t know, anxiety of leaving baby with a “stranger”.
Once you've made the decision about what childcare option works best for you and have selected a provider, don't be surprised if you still feel unsure or ambivalent. Many new moms going back to work after maternity leave report feeling overwhelmed with the idea of leaving their baby for long stretches of time with someone they don't know. Keep in mind however, that with time, you will come to build a relationship with your day care provider, and it won’t be long before they/she is no longer a stranger.
Building a positive relationship with your provider will not only enhance communication between you, but is also crucial for your piece of mind. The basic ingredients for a good partnership are shared child-rearing values, mutual respect, and a willingness to speak openly and listen carefully. Some things to keep in mind…
•Be warm and respectful. It’s important to convey to your provider that you value and appreciate her work, and her time. If this is your first baby, it’s normal, especially when you are first back at work, to want to call and hear how your baby is doing and what her day is like. If your provider is also caring for other children, keep in mind that she is juggling your child and other children’s care and needs while she is also on the phone with you. Keep your check in’s brief, to the point, and she will appreciate it. Treat her as a professional.
•Be direct, open and honest. If you establish a comfortable daily pattern of communicating, it will be easier to discuss little matters before they become larger problems.
•Ask for advice and share ideas. You know your child better than anyone, but she has training and experience working with children your child's age. She can offer suggestions on everything from how to introduce a sippy cup to what kinds of toys interest a certain age level. Show her you value her experience and opinions, and she will be more likely to be receptive to your input as well.
•Share information. Let your provider know of changes in your child's sleep, eating or developmental milestones. Baby's change and grow so quickly. Keep her up to date with all that's going on!
•Keep your end of the bargain. Be clear on a payment schedule and pay on time. Pay attention to drop-off and pick-up times, and don't be late without a good excuse. If you are occasionally late, apologize and offer to pay for the extra time. If you are habitually late, discuss with your provider the possibility of working out a later schedule.
No matter how good your care is, there are still sometimes issues that must be addressed. Figure out what issues are most important to you, and what things you can let slide. While you do want to express your opinions and ideas, it may not be realistic to expect that things will always go your way.
When there are issues that do need to be addressed, arrange for a time to sit down or have a conversation by phone. At day care centers or family day care, pick up and drop off is often a very busy time with providers juggling multiple demands, and not typically a time for a focused discussion with you. You can say something like, “There’s something that I'd like to talk with you about. I realize that now is a busy time, but is there a good time for me to reach you today?"
Plan how to begin the conversation. For example, "I wondered about something that happened yesterday", or "What did you think about....." Listen to your provider’s response, and acknowledge her perspective. She may have more information that you weren't aware of.
Keep your cool. Instead of getting defensive or argumentative try to stay calm, and engage with her in a constructive approach to resolve the issue at hand working towards a solution that's mutually agreeable.
Like any relationship, building a partnership with your provider takes time and effort. It won't take long before the "stranger" that you are leaving your baby with, is a trusted partner. At the same time, it's important to recognize when a relationship just isn't working and when it's time to move on. Your child's well- being, as well as your own depends on it.