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For many years before I became a stay at home mom, I worked as a teacher (and later a manager and then an owner) in several different daycare centers. Though each childcare center is certainly different, there are a few universal truths to which anyone who has ever worked in one can attest. Here are the big ones:
1. We actually do love your children like our own (but we swear we’re not trying to replace you.) Despite what you may think, childcare workers make terrible, scary-bad money. In addition to being grossly underpaid, we are often short-handed and typically don’t get the respect that our colleagues who teach in the higher grades do. So trust me when I say that we’re there because we really, really love kids. And glitter in our hair. And bleach stains all over our clothes. Plus, there’s a certain bond that forms when you willingly extract the boogers from the nose of a person to which you did not yourself give birth. But, we know our boundaries, and, at the end of the day you still hold the title of the lifetime nose-pickers, mom and dad.
2. We really wish you’d keep your sick kid at home. Trust me, we get it. Your boss is an asshole who doesn’t have kids and can’t understand why you need to take a 12th day off this month to tend to your perpetually-sick offspring. Or your child was vomiting Exorcist-style all night but she seems 100% back to normal this morning, so why not send her to school? Because, even after working for years on end around children, some childcare workers still get every single illness that passes through our classrooms, especially since we are the one constant in the room. Yes, we do understand that it’s daycare—kids are going to get sick and so will we; it’s inevitable. But, if there’s any way you can contribute to the general health of the class, we’re begging you to please do it. And don’t send your feverish kid in hyped up on Tylenol. You know we’re just gonna call you in 2 hours when it wears off.
3. We LOVE when you tell us how much you appreciate us. The days are long when you’re responsible for wrangling 20-something paint-smearing, diaper-soiling toddlers who can’t verbalize their love for you through anything other than sharing their bodily fluids. Don’t get me wrong—the work is fun and rewarding and some days it feels like the best job on earth (who else gets to color and make Play-doh at work?) but it is also incredibly demanding and sometimes thankless. When you go out of your way to give us kudos for the work we do, it really means the world to us, whether you realize it or not. And if you bring us snacks? Well, we just might follow you home.
4. We sympathize with you when your kid gets bitten/scratched/pinched/kicked by another kid (and when your kid is the biter/scratcher/pincher/kicker.) I can’t tell you how much it sucks to have to relay the message to a parent that some harm came to his or her child while under our watch. Even though we’ve done it countless times and it may seem like business as usual, we feel horrible (and responsible) for every incident that we weren’t able to prevent. And, if your child happens to be the perpetrator, we feel for that too, because many of us have children ourselves and we know what it’s like to be the recipient of that information (sometimes it’s worse.) Just know that we don’t relish the task of spoiling your pickup with bad news—we truly hate saying it as much as you hate hearing it.
5. We want to know you, too (and for you to know us). While we’re always happy to talk about your child at drop-off and pickup, we also love the occasional chitchat about life outside of the four walls of daycare. We know everything there is to know about your child (her favorite story at circle time, the exact temperature she prefers her mac and cheese, the way she naps with her finger twisted in her blankie) but we want to get to know you too. Some of you aren’t talkers and that’s OK, but we love it when you open up to us about yourselves and your lives because your children are such a big part of ours. And when you ask about our lives? That’s pretty cool, too. We swear we have hobbies other than fingerpainting and reading Llama Llama in sing-song. After your kid graduates, go ahead and call us up for a drink. Trust me, us preschool teachers really know how to unwind.
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