My friends have pointed out to me lately that I need to have less stress in my life. Natalie said, “Amy, you need less stress.” Michelle said I have too many nightmares. I told my mentor Lynne that I was worried about one of my day care kids and she replied, “This is the extra stress of this job – that we’re always worrying about kids even if they’re not our own.”
So there are a lot of good reasons for my stress. I had a really tough time getting the kids to school today because last night was UConn’s championship game against Butler. We taped it and they were watching it all morning (and I was trying to watch too, while filling cups, greeting clients, setting up cribs, finding clothes for school, serving breakfast, etc). The boys were adding to the chaos with all the high energy that comes first from watching a basketball game, and then realizing that your team has just won the national title when there really was no logical way they should have (yeay!).
It was time to go to school but we were running late. Because of the boys’ excitement it took extra nagging and convincing on top of the usual amount of nagging and convincing to get out the door (and I of course wasted time by trying to find UConn shirts for them to wear). We pulled up to school just as the bell rang. At that moment it dawned on both Older Son and I that he did not have his backpack. He’d left it sitting in our driveway (in the rain). So I yelled at him good for that in front of all the other parents who were dropping off their kids. And I didn’t even care if they gave me dirty looks (but yeah, that’s stressful too).
I go home, pick up the soggy backpack, and bring it into the office. The school secretary was there talking with an aide. The aide offered to bring the bag to Older and I was so so so so grateful. A simple kindness like this was enough to give me hope on a day like today.
In that moment of watching the two women chatting it hit me: I’m alone. I have no support and no one to talk to (oh woe is me – keep reading I stop complaining eventually). I can call people on the phone but there’s something about that simple human contact that other people get, but I don’t. When you go to a normal job there’s another person there and they may say, “How’s your day?” And you can go, “AAAAAAA!!!!! Older forgot his backpack and we were yelling at each other and I yelled at him in front of all the parents at school and I feel so guilty about sending him off to school that way but I’m still so angry at him and he was blaming ME for forgetting HIS backpack and we’ve done this every day for five years and when is he going to get it and what the hell!?!”
And that person will listen, and they might say, “I know, it happens to all of us,” and you will feel better.
Your world becomes very small as a home child care provider. You can have one little incident happen and be panicked about it all day, simply because there’s nothing else going on. There’s no one to bounce it off of, and you can just become obsessed. The world is moving on out there – there’s more to life than your crisis of the moment. If you had an office job you could get a cup of coffee, or go for a quick walk, or find something to do to de-stress yourself. And then the next project or phone call or news flash would come in and you’d all have something else to talk about.
Here, it’s just me and the kids, and they don’t process much with me. In fact, they just demand a lot from me.
I’m not saying I don’t love my job. I do, as I’ve clearly said before. But on days like this, the fourth rainy day of April after the first SNOWY day of April (I thought March WENT OUT LIKE A LAMB, not March left its dirty laundry for April to deal with) and most of March was too cold/windy/snowy/rainy to get outside, and that was after a winter that got so cold (and the four-foot snowdrifts, don’t forget those) that we stopped going outside in November and really didn’t get out much after that… I’ve kinda had it. I’ve been inside four walls for almost five months and that’s just too long to be here alone with a whole lot of little kids.
So that gives you a peek into the stress I feel at this very moment, but there’s plenty of other stress on this job. And the worry I mentioned before. I worry about taking them in the car. I worry that they’ll stop breathing in their sleep. I worry about walking them to school. I hear babies crying in my dreams. I worry that parents will find a stray bruise and suspect me of something. That my licensor could show up at any minute and make a list of everything I’m doing wrong. I worry when I take them out in public that someone will see something they don’t like and call the police on me. I worry that, God forbid, if something bad happened - and I know it never would – but life is life and bad things happen, that I could be sued and lose everything. My husband would tell me to calm down and then quietly call the insurance agent to up our coverage.
So, yeah, I know I’ve just convinced a whole bunch of you to go ahead an open your own home day cares! Doesn’t it sound awesome!? But for those of you who are already there, and are feeling as crazy as me, just know that you are not alone. We are natural worriers, I guess that’s probably what makes us good at this job.