A day in the life of a child minder

I have been filled with a lot of moral outrage this week and had no place to vent it all given that my internet has been down for days. Thanks Talk, Talk – cause number 3 of my rage.

It started on Tuesday when I read about the ridiculous change in childcare ratio and how Lynne Truss though that this would reduce costs and increase quality of care for children. Clearly, she does not live in the same world as those providing the childcare.

For this, I want to take you through an average day as a childminder:

6:30 am – Get up, get son up, get both of us dressed and fed. Prepare bag for the day including snacks and water in a bottle that WILL NOT LEAK. Last week the change bag got soaked and stank of rotten fruit for days.

7:40am – force toddler into coat and then sling, ignoring the regular house-leaving tantrum, grab keys, wallet, phone and oyster card and hot foot it down the road to collect kids for a school run.

8:30 am – Get 3 kids on an over-packed bus, get two of them to sit down together in an appropriate place and not to kick me or bounce off the seat. With my own son tied to my front or back, make sure he doesn’t get pushed or squished by commuters while holding on to the pole for dear life to not fall over.

8:45 am – get 3 kids off the bus, which has decided to stop next to parked cars. Explain that if we stand and wave goodbye to the bus they will be late for school. Throw 6 bags over my shoulder, grab two hands and keep track of three separate conversations coming from each of them. Drop at school.

8:50am – get back on bus, head home.

9:20 am – Clear up the house and do daily risk assesment checks as required by OFSTED. Get out toys and plans for the day. Get son back out of the house and take books back to the library for renewal.

10:00 – get to library, change nappy, chase small toddler around and talk to other parents.

11:00am – head to shops for lunch provisions and snacks.

11:30am – head back to school to collect younger child from pre-school.

12:05pm – pre school was late in unleashing children, making me late for next collection. Rush two toddlers onto a bus, off a bus and to collect next child.

12:20pm – placate all children, get them into soft play centre, remove 4 pairs of shoes, 4 coats, pay for entrance, order drinks and get 3 children sat down and eating before charging around soft play.

2:20pm – parent of one child comes to collect their child after work.

2:30pm – head home. 3 year old decides she doesn’t want to walk, 2 year old refuses to sit in the pram or walk. Have a 20 minute debate about who goes where and tantrums all round.

3:00 pm – get home, get two toddlers into the front door, get pram through the door, unload 4 bags, 2 teddies and various sticks, plus rubbish.

3:10pm – after carefully getting children up set of stairs, while arguing that both can walk so neither need to be carried, herd both children through the front door and take a deep breath as their muddy shoes trample over the clean carpet. change nappies, wait while toilet trained child need to wee.

3:15pm – remove all shoes and coats, get children sat at a table, prepare and feed them afternoon snacks and drinks. prepare next activity which lasts a total of 3 minutes while I shove down a cracker – the first thing I have eaten since 7am.

Repeat various activities, games and stories while collecting up toys discarded.

4pm – quiet reading time and tidy up.

5pm – prepare evening meal with children ‘helping’ or shouting that they need to be picked up, so stop preparing meal for 10 minutes.

5.30pm – place food in front of two toddlers and debate about why they need to eat it.,

5:40pm – remove two full paltes of food and listen to how two children are hungry but want something else. Preferably bread. Use last of bread to fill them up.

6pm – receive text from parent explaining they will be late to collect their child. Collect up all drawings, socks, shoes, discarded clothing, teddies from child and bag up.

6:20pm – parent arrives to collect final child. 20 minute chat about the day while said child charges around the flat getting out more toys.

6:40pm – get own child undressed and bathed.

7pm – bed time routine for own child.

7:20pm – clean entire flat, refresh loo roll, risk assesment of flat, washing up, paperwork.

9pm  – finally sit down to eat a proper meal, contemplate sorting out books and invoicing.

10pm – hang up a load of washing to be taken down before children arrive at 8.30 next day.

10:30pm shower and bed.

Now this is just a snap shot of my day. I start my childminding work really from the moment I get up and start preparing for the day and do not finish until around 9pm. I do not get paid for paperwork and admin, that time is not covered. Nor is food preparation, cleaning, baby-proofing or planning. That all comes out of my evenings and weekends. Not to mention recruiting, policy planning, settling-in, interviews which are all unpaid and all taking time out of my family time.

People think it is okay to just not show up to see a childminder if they have a place. I don’t know why. Waiting around for a potential parent to not show is a complete waste of my time and I don’t get to do my planned activities with my son.

I work 5 days a week, doing a physically demanding job for long days. I end each day exhausted and I get a lot of help from my husband who does a lot with our own son. Yet, I struggle to make rent.

I requested that OFSTED reduce my child ratio because there is no way at all I could look after 3 children under 3 and 6 in total. I have two under-3, including my own. I rarely take on babies because they demand all your time. I really cannot see how one childminder can take on two babies, another two under-3 and do a school run. I would worry if I was leaving my son with a childminder at capacity.

You can also guarantee that no one will reduce their fees. I charge £7 per hour, which is about average for North London. I don’t know anyone who will take on the extra work and paper work of additional children and think that the obvious thing to do is reduce their fees. Not a chance.

At a nursery, I cannot see why they would reduce fees to parents, people are willing to pay for it. If one nursery doesn’t increase their ratios then you can be sure that it will be in more demand for its places than one which does.

Quality of care for children diminishes when there are more children there. One person can only stretch their attention so far.

There have been moments this week, when caring for only two children, that I have sat and needed a few minutes of quiet to myself. This is a very challenging and demanding job, where you don’t get to have a cuppa, go to the loo on your own and have any food sitting down. You are lucky if you get to answer your phone. And I am just talking about the things which affect the caregiver. Imagine how it puts upon young children to have their time share with so many other children.

Thankfully, there seems to be some back-peddling on this idea. The answer to the childcare problem lies not in the ratio of adults to children but in the availability, training and costs of the care.

People who are parents already have the existing skills for the job, whether they realise it or not. Although that shouldn’t exclude people who are capable otherwise. I know many people who would make wonderful childminders, educaters and carers. Let the pay reflect the value of the work being done but don’t put all the onus on the parents to pay. Remember that for more women returning the work, more tax is paid and a great example is set for children that you need to work hard to acheive in life.

It seems that this policy is an attempt to win the vote of women. If a party wants to win that vote then bring in a scheme where working parents receive free childcare for the hours which they work. That way you will not have people abusing the system to get free time off bringing up their children but you will get more people back into work, spending more, saving more and bumping up the economy.

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