You see, the parents I work for now are used to how I run things. We are all comfortable with each other; we are all in agreement so to speak. These parents know that I am not the best housekeeper, and neither are they (or so they say). I'm not saying that there is food rotting in the kitchen (cause there's not, ever!), but I'm referring to the dustbunnies floating along the floor amongst the dried-up playdough crumbs in the children's play area, or the pieces of cut paper in the corner with crayon wrappers, or the constant (no matter how much I vacuum) massive amounts of dirt and grit greeting you at the front door.
I do clean. Occasionally. When the dirt screams at me. I don't feel the children are in any health-related danger, and since no one else has ever commented on the floors, apparently neither does anyone else.
I just hate having to constantly be on my guard when I am in this searching process. I have to always make sure everything is clean and presentable. And the hardest part is trying to make my daycare sound like it's so much more than it is. I don't lie to anyone. I don't tell them that we are doing hours of reading each day when we're not. It's not that. I mean that some parents want to know if the kids are doing crafts each and everyday, with circle time and worksheets and things. I feel a bit political when I have to make it sound positive that we're not. Because we aren't. I don't do that. Sure, we read. Sure, we do crafts. But (and this is how I put it to the potentials) I run a relaxed daycare, where the children are allowed to explore in their own way and able to develop their own self-reliance. It is kid-guided, where if the kids request a craft, we do one. If they request a story, we read one. If they just want to play all day, they do. Mix into that regular snack, meal and outdoor times, and that's how my day goes.
The other big thing I hate is the meals. Many parents want hot, healthy, four-food-group-low-sodium-low-sugar-non-processed meals. Sigh.
I totally get that. I want that for my own kids. But the reality of it is that it's just not doable.
#1. The kids don't eat it. I tried, when I first opened my daycare, serving vegs with lunch. Every day I threw them out. EVERY DAY. And then I thought to myself, why am I just cooking this, only to throw it into the garbage? It's a waste of food and money too. So I stopped. I stopped trying to be healthy, and just started giving them what they wanted while trying to be healthy enough.
#2. It's expensive. My grocery bill has gone up and up and up over the years. Do you want to know how much money I spent on groceries last year?
I haven't done this year's totals yet, but that number was up $1000 from the year before. So you see why I say it's expensive. That's more than $1000/month on groceries. And that is me trying to be as cheap as possible. When things go on sale, I stock up. I don't buy expensive fruit for the kids (like berries or pineapples or things). They get apples, bananas, oranges - the cheaper fruits.
#3. I don't have the time to cook more elaborate stuff. I don't know how other providers do it, serving the kids meat, veg and potatoes or rice. Those things take longer than ten minutes to cook, or take attention. I can't be in the kitchen for that long and leave the kids unattended.
So we have sandwiches. Mac and cheese. Pizza (to me this is healthy, ok? Tomato sauce, cheese, crust, those are three food groups right there! It's the only thing my son will eat that involves tomato sauce, plus I buy it on sale and I can throw it in the oven and come back 20 mins later). Grilled cheese sandwiches. Soup. Bagels. Sometimes pancakes with bananas on top (they LOVE that meal, but again, it takes longer). Maybe once a month hot dogs (I try to even it out with whole wheat buns and carrots on the side). Sometimes chicken nuggets (if they've been on sale too).
As parents become more and more
So here I sit and debate. I can do one of three things.
A) I can apply for a job that has been posted with the school board which involves me making and sending out a resume and cover letter along with a photocopy of several things including my non-existant up-to-date first aid/cpr certificate. I have a low chance of getting this job, as there are only a few available, and I'm sure, hundreds of ECE's who will apply for it. But it would be a nice change of pace, however I'd be making about what I make now and would have to add in the cost of transportation and daycare for my boys.
B) I can raise my fees (which I haven't done for a while) to ensure I can afford healthier, more expensive food which would probably get thrown out anyway, at the very least shunned and sneered at by the current children I care for. At that point I have to decide if I make the new kids the healthy stuff and the old kids the same stuff, which means making two different things (!) or the older kids have to learn to eat or starve.
C) I can continue on as I am and...what. Hope for the best I guess.
I think I'll be doing option A regardless, so I guess the real dilemma is between option B and C. What do you think?