Concerns about Childcare Owner/Staff

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Daycare staff complaining about owner's new boyfriend

June 2004

Recently some of the teachers at my son's family daycare have confided in me that they are very unhappy with ''their boss'', the woman who runs and has the daycare in her home. After staff and owner have been working together for many years, the owner now has a new boyfriend and this boyfriend, although a nice guy, is not very sensitive. He has been fingerprinted, etc. He interacts with the children some, playing ball and offering them snacks (some inappropriate, like peanuts) that he is eating. He is around the house a lot during the day. He does not seem to respect the daycare staff; they have confided that he leaves a mess and expects them to clean up, that he is noisy during naptime, and generally seems to consider himself their boss. They are so unhappy that they are considering leaving their jobs at the daycare. This really worries me, because my son's bond is entirely with them. I was planning to have my son stay another year at this daycare (he just turned 2), but now am not sure how to proceed. I am thinking of talking to the daycare owner, but don't want to get the staff in trouble. Since this boyfriend arrived, she has tried to get them to sign a contract (first one ever) saying that they will not talk to parents about things going on at daycare. This seems odd to me, too. In general the owner tries hard to address parent concerns, but also tends to get defensive. It seems to me that she is not setting appropriate boundaries for her boyfriend in her home daycare business, but this is a hard thing to talk about with her! My main concern, obviously, is for my son's well being and happiness. The daycare staff are wonderful loving women and he is very attached to them. What is your advice on handling this situation? Want a win-win solution

Oh boy, this sets off all my warning lights! I would want my child away from him! If the staff go, I would definitely leave, and I might even leave if they stay and he does too... Many preschools do start children at 2, and there are often last-minute spots available when parents decide not to send their children for whatever reason. Karen

Get your child out of the daycare NOW! The situation sounds unhealthy and potentially dangerous. ''Boyfriend'' has no business being around the children being cared for. And indiscriminately handing out food to young children is unacceptable. Your child is 2 and will quickly adapt to a new situation. We were in a similar situation and we moved our daughter out before the situation became too untenable. ACT NOW

Similar questions were raised at our daycare. Would you be willing to email me?

I think you summed up the problem when you said ''It seems to me that she is not setting appropriate boundaries for her boyfriend in her home daycare business.'' Difficult as it is, you need to have a frank discussion with the director about this. If she puts her new boyfriend above what's best for the children, then this certainly is not where you want your child.

I would strongly suggest you find another day care now for your child. He is almost old enough that a transition to another day care wouldn't be so ! hard. Having your daycare provider make you sign a contract that you wouldn't talk about this situation sounds very illegal to me, and I would even report incidents to the appropriate authorities. I wouldn't trust a daycare in which I didn't trust even just one member. mom of a 19 mo old

Have you noticed if your son acts differently or wierd when the owner's boyfriend is present? If so, I wouldn't trust it. The fact that all the workers are thinking about quitting has to mean something to you. I wouldn't let my little girl keep going there. The boyfriend seems like he's not kid-friendly. I know you want a win-win answer to this problem but I don't think that's possible. Daycares shouldn't have people there that are not qualified in childcare. You can't confront her about it because the workers confided in you, but you can talk to her and ask her questions about him (like is he qualified in childcare). I hope this helps. You were going to take him out anyway, right? Good luck. I hope everything goes well. zena

This sounds EXACTLY like the daycare I had my daughter in. A number of parents took some steps, but then efforts to restore harmony fizzled, and pretty soon the children graduated to preschools and left the daycare altogether. I spoke with the daycare owner a few months later when I decided against using her daycare for my younger son. I told her I was not comfortable about the presence of her ''boyfriend.'' It was not an easy conversation to have, but I was very glad I brought it up. What I learned is that all the parents had been talking amongst themselves and no one had every talked to her about the ''boyfriend.'' She believed that everyone was perfectly happy with him. I am also still in touch with the caretakers, and I hear a lot from them. It's a complicated situation. If you would like to talk on the phone feel free to email or call me. Even if it is not the same daycare, I can tell you what the families I knew tried to do to improve their situation. Been in your shoes

Caregiver is competing with me for my son's affection!

Feb 2003

I need advise! My 15 month old son is in daycare and has been since he was 4 months (part-time the first year). He loved his daycare and gets lots of positive love from caregivers and peers. He is very bonded with one caregiver. Let's call her Dee. I have been alarmed about a certain behavior for some time but I keep putting off having a discussion with her about it. I want to make sure I own my part of it and calm down first. I visit my son every day at lunch and I treasure these visits. He is always exceedingly happy to see me. Many months ago, I noticed that quite often she would hold on to him after I arrived while he struggled to get free to run over to me. She would joke that about him hurting her feelings, or say things like ''oh now that ''the mom'' is here, you forget about me.'' Or, I would arrive when he was crying and rather than pass him to me, she would totally ignore me, snuggling him so he couldn't see me while I stood directly in front of them. I had to ask her to pass him to me.

Lately (I went full time three months ago) there is a new tone to things. Maybe it's harder because he is getting more and more bonded with her the longer he is in full time care and he is asserting his independence more as well and of course that hurts me-- a little. Mostly I want him to be healthy and happy and however that happens is fine. But this doesn't seem healthy. Yesterday, I had just arrived and she was on the other side of the room with another baby while my son and I played with a train set. We were just about to go on our daily walk that we both look forward to. She suddenly came across the room and started to cuddle up to him from behind and pull him on her lap.

I only have 45 minutes all day to be with him and she knows this. With the other caregiver, I feel like a collaborator, and when I talk to her about my son's day she gives me info about him. (I don't have anger in me when they are being close. It makes me happy.) Dee on the other hand will give me only one type of feedback: stories that show how much he loves her, like how much he cried when she went on her lunch or left for the day, etc. I try to validate her relationship with him all the time. I say things like ''Yes, he loves you very much'' and ''there's your beloved Dee'' etc., telling her how I show him the class picture and point to her when we are at home, thinking that she just needs this acknowledgement and validation. But now I don't feel so disposed and plus it doesn't seem to be enough.

Not only does it hurts to have someone else spend her days with him and not me, but she seems to be in an active competition with me for his love. I expect her to support my relationship with my son, not interfere with it. Yes, I am jealous of the time she spends with my son, but she seems to have an agenda of making him love her more and seems totally unconscious of there being problem with this behavior. In fact, today, she totally denied her behavior, when she interrupted me by taking him in her arms while I was trying to wash his hands. I kind of lost it and said, ''do you want me to leave?'' She said, ''No this is prime parent time, no no.'' But her behavior said something else. I can't have these sorts of interactions going on in front of my son again. Help. the mom

When I read your post, it reminded me of what pediatrician Dr. T. Berry Brazelton called ''gatekeeping''. If I remember correctly, the mother is usually the gatekeeper and other adults (like Dad) have to compete. I found a little blurb on it here (about 1/4 down the page): ''We have a program called Touchpoints here at Children's Hospital, where we're looking at what it would take to get child care providers to work with parents, rather than excluding them. The first thing arising is always the natural competition for the child, which I call gatekeeping, which goes on between any two adults in love with a child. It's inevitable, but should be valuable, rather than letting it be a threat. Then the parent and the childcare person become a team, to foster that child's future. '' Maybe you could get some of his books from the library and learn more on this issue if it sounds relevant to you. I hope this helps and I wish you the best. J12

In my opinion this woman appears to have a very unhealthy attachment to your child. If it were my son I would not let the situation continue. I would remove him from the daycare immediately. I would also report the behavior to the owner of the daycare. If a pattern is discovered, this woman needs to be removed from employment situations where she is in contact with children. anony

Speaking as a childcare provider (administrator) and parent, I can tell you that a lot of people who work in childcare are wonderful, creative, etc., but may not be able to see the big picture. Clearly you understand the most important thing, that your son is safe, happy and loved, but that doesn't matter if ''Dee'' is driving you so crazy that you end up resenting her and the program every time you are there.

My advice is to scedule some time to talk to her one-on-one away from your son and the other children (even for a few minutes). Try telling her that you NEED HER HELP to make you feel comfortable leaving him there for such a long time. Then, without necessarily telling her to stop doing something, give her examples of exactly what you would like her to do (i.e. ''As soon as I arrive, please encourage him to give me a big hug.'')

You want her to understand that it's difficult for you and that since your son has such a special relationship w/ her, that she is the one who can best help. When you ask for her help, you are again validating her need to feel important, but this time you are telling her that you are the one who needs her help, as well as your son.

I hope that this works, but based on her previous reaction, you may need to get help from her supervisor. If this is the case, try sitting down w/ both of them and, again, asking for her help. When it comes down to it, you are the parent and you get to make the decisions that affect your child and his relationships. If they cannot support your needs, then maybe that school/program isn't a good match. Don't feel bad about asking for what you want. Good luck. paula

I don't know if you projected any uneasiness or guilt upon leaving your son at first, but I know that sometimes daycare providers tell the parent how much the kid loves the daycare provider so that the parent will feel better. It's almost as if by saying, ''Oh, he loves me SO MUCH!'' and so on, they are reassuring you that the child is happy. Perhaps Dee has gone a bit too far (her behavior does sound weird to me), but my daughter's preschool teacher is always telling me that my daughter told her that she loved her, or wanted to sit only in her lap, or cried when she went on break, and so on. She does not do this as a form of competition, though. She really seems to want me to know that my daughter has bonded with her, and she is proud of that fact and wants to share her feelings with me. I think the difference is that she does not make me uncomfortable, and Dee does make you uncomfortable. I would have trouble leaving my child in a place where I am not comfortable, despite the fact that he is. I know that what really matters is that the child is happy, but I think too often we as mothers ignore or playdown our instincts that something is just not quite right. Tuned In