SHARING THE CHILDCARE RESPONSIBILITY
Parents who have highly demanding jobs must rely on someone else to take the major responsibility for child care. Taking sole responsibility for parenting (child care) while holding down a full-time job is like trying to light a candle with just half of a match–it’s a lot easier to get your fingers burned. And the chances of lighting the candle properly are just not as good. Sometimes it works–if it’s a fairly easy candle to light or if the candle is older & has been lit before–but sometimes it does not. Some candles are just harder to light than others & require more time, & it’s the same way with children. Some children are more difficult to rear & they simply require more time from one or a variety of caregivers.
Qualifications of the Caregiver
- The caregiver should be supportive of the parents. Leslie, the mother of three small boys, was going through a very difficult period in her life. She was forced to keep a demanding full-time job because her husband did not have a regular job & was very irresponsible about his family obligations. Leslie had searched for the right type of care for her children & finally found another mother of three who was willing to watch her boys for a reasonable rate. Leslie promised to pick up her children before suppertime each evening. But she was not able to keep her promise on certain evenings when her husband took their only car & did not return on time. This, of course, infringed on the caregiver’s family because they wanted to have supper alone. The caregiver would put the three little boys in another room & feed her own children. When the boys would cry, “We’re hungry,” the caregiver would say, “I’m sorry. Your mother promised to be here to pick you up before supper & if she really cared about you & loved you she would be here.”
Such a seemingly innocent remark. But in reality this was much more painful to these little boys than a spanking would have been. When this was said every time Leslie was unable to pick up her children on time, it slowly destroyed the children’s belief that their mother really loved & cared about them. And in their confusion of feelings they began to reason that if their mother, their very own mother, did not love & care for them, then they must not be very worthwhile little people.
Do not let this happen to your children. Be very careful to communicate with the caregiver so she can support you & help your children understand how much you love them even though you must be away from them part of the day.
- The caregiver should be a master at combining love & discipline. Too often, babysitters allow the child to get away with anything. On the other extreme, they may dictate & punish the child into submission.
- The caregiver should be open & willing to learn. It is difficult to work with anyone who thinks that she knows all the answers. A caregiver should be open to new suggestions, & should not feel threatened when you disagree. She should be capable of making good decisions without having to ask you for detailed instructions. On the other hand, don’t abdicate your responsibility as the parent & take a back seat when it comes to child rearing.
- The caregiver should be the kind of person you want your children to grow up to be. Because children are master imitators, you want them to spend time with someone who has personality traits that you will enjoy seeing exhibited in your children’s behaviour. Look for a happy, enthusiastic, optimistic person who loves children. Next, look for evidence of orderliness, honesty, integrity, firmness to principle, & patience.
- The caregiver should be willing to teach your child. A good caregiver should be willing to teach whenever the teachable moment occurs. If everyone is sunbathing outside & your child is busy watching a line of ants & asks, “Where are the ants going?” you don’t want the caregiver to say, “I’m reading a book, don’t bother me.” Rather, you want her to put down the book, get up & say, “That’s a good question. Let’s follow them as far as we can.” Your children should have every learning opportunity that they would have if you were home with them full time.
Some children have a difficult time adjusting to new situations. Even though the situation seems ideal to you, your child may not be happy with the care that you have arranged. To ease your child’s adjustment, let him get to know the caregiver in your presence. Act confident & matter-of-fact about the decision that you have made. If your child perceives that you are hesitant about the childcare arrangements & feel guilty about leaving him, he is more likely to put on a good crying show for you & give you plenty of reasons for staying. If you feel confident, that attitude will help your child to adjust to the new experience.
Don’t be surprised if your child breaks down in a flood of tears when you return, even though he may have been happy & contentedly playing while you were away. This is natural. He has experienced many emotions during your absence & the sight of a familiar person will release all these emotions at once.
Questions about Child Care
1.How do you handle your own jealousy when your child seems to like the babysitter more than you?
Answer: Spend more time with your child. This is a sign that you have not spent enough quality time together with your child, so your relationship has not continued to grow. Be thankful you have found a person your child enjoys so much. If the caregiver is supportive of you, you have nothing to worry about.
- What guidelines should I give my school age children when I leave them alone? (Editor: It’s far preferable to never be faced with this kind of situation except in extreme emergencies. It’s much safer to make sure a responsible adult is with your children almost continually. However, these tips are helpful should such an emergency occur, & are also good to share with friends who may be parents of such “latch-key kids.”)
Answer: It is important to give them the following common-sense instructions:
- Keep the doors locked, even if you only leave the house for a short time. Keep an extra key holder outside the house in case you lose your keys.
- If someone comes to the door, don’t open it unless you recognise both the name & the voice. Don’t tell anyone that you are home alone. Politely ask them to come back later, or ask them to go next door if they need help.
- Don’t give your name when answering the phone. Don’t tell a caller that you are alone. Take a message & tell the caller that your parents will return the call.
- If you receive a crank call, hang up immediately.
- Don’t entertain friends without first getting parental permission.
- If in doubt about the safety or sensibleness of an activity, ask your parents’ approval first.
- Be predictable. Be where your parents expect you to be at the time they expect.
- Keep emergency phone numbers handy.
- Write down the procedure to follow in case of an emergency, such as fire, accident, or illness.
- Keep the house neat & do what you can to prepare for your parents’ arrival. For example: Finish your chores and your homework; start dinner if you have your parents’ approval; and think of something you can do to pleasantly surprise your parents.