Here’s the search item/question of the week: “why your daycare provider always looks frazzled”
I just laughed and laughed when I saw that one, and I know any other day care provider would too. I could refer you to this post, or this one, but I’d also like to delve into the idea of a provider being “frazzled.”
There are many, many reasons why we are frazzled. If you spent your days in a house with several children of varying ages, trust me you would be frazzled too. If you’re worried that her hair and makeup aren’t done every day so she’s looking beautified when you arrive, it’s because instead of a 40-minute morning beauty regimen, she’s preparing for the kids. She’s pouring several cups of juice and milk, she’s finding art supplies, she’s digging toys out of storage, or picking new books for the bookrack. And if she has her own kids she’s getting them ready for school too, on top of everything else.
And if she happened to be exhausted and hit the snooze button one too many times, that doesn’t stop kids from arriving at their normal time. She’s late, and she doesn’t have the luxury of coming into work a little late. Work comes to her whether she’s ready or not.
Now let’s look at the different degrees of frazzled.
There’s the totally schizo, “I’ve had it up to here and can’t take one more thing or I’m going to totally lose it” frazzled. If your provider is at this level all the time, there is a problem. I hit it about once a month, and that’s about as often as I can live with (and that can be realistically expected of anyone unless they are, quite literally, a saint). Once one of my dads went home and told his wife, “Amy was so upset when I walked in. I’ve never seen her like that.” That would be when I hit schizo-frazzled.
If it’s the hair askew, clothes stained and snot-covered, bags under her eyes, shoelace-untied kind of frazzled: you’re fine. That’s every day.
The “this baby has been crying for two hours and making everyone crazy” frazzled is also normal. This can happen anywhere from 2-3 times a week.
You can also run into the “my own children are not listening and purposely, openly rebelling because they’re sick of my job and pissed at me” frazzled. You can’t do anything about this one. It happens a lot. It sort of goes along with the idea that your kids will be mad at you no matter what you do simply because you are their parent.
Even if you’ve given up a career to start a job in which you can be home for them before and after school every day instead of putting them in someone else’s care. Do you see the irony?
A cousin of this frazzled is, “I’m worried about how my kids are going to behave in front of you, and what nice words they’re going to say/teach to your baby, while you’re worried that your child is being properly cared for in a nurturing environment.”
Those are pretty common for me, and I’d guess for anyone who has her own kids in care.
There’s also this one, which happens most often: “I prepared four activities and not one child is interested, and the toddler won’t stop climbing on the table, and the baby needs to be fed but someone has a really stinky poo that needs to be changed first, and I just twisted my ankle because someone left toys all over the floor.” That’s your basic, garden-variety frazzled.
So why are we any degree of frazzled? And why can’t we just have every moment of our day be as nice and happy as the pictures on the brochures would have you believe? Well we do have those moments too, and they’re lovely. But for the most part we are meeting the many, many needs of several little children all day. Pottying can be a half-hour adventure, and by the time you recover from it you’ve missed arts & crafts time and have to move straight into making lunch.
We are also the only adult present all day. We make every decision, we’re in charge of every situation, we call all the shots. At some point your brain just reaches overload. We don’t get a coffee break (or even a pee-pee break for that matter, on some days) and it’s different than providers who work in centers. They have other adults to rely on.
There are providers who have reached a level of zen that amazes me. My friend Carol is one of them. She is in complete control of everything and everyone in her realm at all times. Then again, she was a provider for twenty-plus years (and, as she pointed out, it was after her children left home). So she is the pinnacle – it’s not fair to compare the rest of us mere mortals against her.
Keep this in mind: frazzled is different than apathetic. In fact, I’d be more worried if my provider had the “Everything’s cool! We’re all awesome!” vibe every day. You want her to be confident, but not necessarily picture-perfect. Frazzled means she’s working hard, doing her job. Trust your gut, and know that the kids really don’t care about the snot on her shirt, because they put it there. It happened when they were hugging her and that’s a very, very good thing.
I’m just adding a little more here a few months after writing this post. I drove past my friend Dee’s house and her stroller with the walking rope was parked outside. The walking rope is actually plastic and there are five or six little colored circles on it. It looked like the stroller had been attacked by Froot Loops. But it was also kind of weird seeing it empty, out of context, not in the schoolyard filled with three kids and a few others hanging onto the Froot Loops.
I thought how hard it is to have a conversation with Dee when she’s got that stroller, and how hard it must be to have a conversation with me when I’m working. And I realized that if a provider has six kids, her mind is in six places at all times (seven if you count trying to talk to you). We never stop thinking about those kids, and where they are and what they’re up to and if they’re safe. So that’s just one more very logical reason why we’re frazzled: our brains are split into several pieces all day!