Thursday, December 29, 2011

Break-ups and daycare relationships...

Breaking up with anyone is not an easy thing to do... you have a relationship, and no doubt there have been some great things you've experienced with that relationship, but some relationships change, circumstances change, people change, expectations change... and before you know it, you're headed towards a break-up.

And let's face it, break-ups are awkward, and uncomfortable, and hard to do, but when its done, the feeling of relief, and new beginnings is enough to assure you that you did the right thing.

Back in November, we had to break up with our daycare provider. It was not an easy decision, but in the end it was the right decision for the boys and us.

We had a relationship with our daycare provider since October 2009 and it was one of those situations that went swimmingly good for a while, but then, as time elapsed, we got a little too comfortable with each other, and before you know it, things derailed quickly, and the business side of things lacked a lot of professional courtesy in the end.

Deciding it was time to cancel our daycare services was probably one of the more stressful mothering experiences I've had to date... and ending the relationship has since left a lasting impression of what not to do in future daycare relationships.

I write this post as the conversations on Twitter regarding the number of people who are switching daycares seems to be more common than not.  From talking about my experiences, I've learned that many people change their childcare arrangements from time to time, and while circumstances differ, I think there are a few pieces of advice I can pass onto others who may be in a similar situation.

So here's my personal opinion... and its speaking from my own experience on how best to keep a daycare relationship going strong.
1. Don't mix business with friendship. Daycare providers have hearts of gold and are extremely friendly, but at the end of the day they are a running a business. You are the client, they provide the service. You can have a friendship with the daycare provider, but it is in your best interest to keep your relationship business oriented, much the same way a real estate agent would do with a couple trying to sell their home or purchase a new one. You can send Christmas cards, or buy them something special here and there (or vice versa) but you're still the client and there still providing you a service for a fee.

2. Speak up. Relationships with daycare can be great one week and make you doubt your choice the next week. If you don't like something that is happening at your current daycare, whether it is meals, activities or lack their of, tv consumption, discipline, travel arrangements, etc. the best thing to do is address it the first time you feel uncomfortable so that you don't come off as too easy going or accepting of the procedures at the daycare. If you are up front with what is important to you from the start, then it will be less likely that any major surprises will be thrown at you as time elapses.

3. Be respectful. If you have an issue with the daycare provider, address it in a respectful manner and in person.  Sending emails is an easy way to get out of the face to face interaction, but conversations in person or by phone can resolve issues much easier than by email.  Often times you don't see your daycare provider long enough at drop off and pick up to bring up a difficult issue but find a time that works for both of you to discuss things in person or over phone so that the tone of each others words are heard and not implied.

4. Get it in writing.  Its nice to think that your friendly nature with the daycare provider is enough to be able to make little adjustments to the contract here and there without having to get things in writing (and sometimes that is the case), but for the safety and protection of all parties involved, you should really work to negotiate the contract so that both sides are comfortable and neither side is being taken advantage of. If things come up throughout the relationship, and it isn't in the contract, don't expect special treatment (and that goes both ways).

5. Stick to the contract. As with any business relationship, a contract is in place for a reason. If you've agreed to something, and its in writing, stick to it. If the contract specifies late fees for every 5 minutes you are late, and you show up late 4 times in a month, offer to square up with the daycare provider at the end of the month, don't wait for the daycare provider to get annoyed and feel taken advantage of. Vice-versa, if the daycare provider is allotted special paid holidays or sick leave in the contract, and exceeds it, bring it to the provider's attention and seek reimbursement before the month is out so that you aren't left keeping a side tally of freebies you are owed.

As mentioned above, this is me speaking from my own my experience with our recent daycare provider. Yes, there are many daycare relationships that last for the entire duration that you require daycare services, but there are also many relationships that only work for so long.  I have come to realize that sometimes its not so much about the daycare provider as it is what you want from a daycare.  What is right for one year, may not be the best thing in subsequent years, but with any luck, you'll develop a fantastic relationship with your care provider for the duration of your needs, and have a lasting, respectful, business relationship, with a little friendship on the side!

Good luck to those Mommy's (and Daddy's) out there who are contemplating switching daycares.  If your on the daycare search I can assure you there are options... and just when you think you've exhausted every avenue, something fabulous will turn up! Hang in there.

As a side note... we completed an extensive search for a new daycare provider, and we have found something that suits our current needs and that we are very happy with! Based on the trial days, the boys have both come home happy campers and with CRAFTS!!! Looking forward to having them start full-time in the New Year.

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