If there’s one thing they don’t tell you when you sign up for this job, it’s just how attached to the kids you’ll become. It’s a double edged sword. You sign up for the job for the love of children, but it’s the love of children that makes you ache most. I love the kids who I work with as if they were my own, and that’s why when they inevitably grow up and they inevitably move on from you, it hurts your heart.
Imagine this: you’re very close with a child. You’re with them five days a week, fifty two weeks a year, ten hours a day (basically their entire day). You’ve seen them grow from a wriggly ball of not-quite-a-person to an independent, chatty little person. They’ve come to you with worries, upsets, tears and illness, and you’ve held them through it all. You’ve mopped tears, given medicine, worried for them, loved them…then when the inevitable birthday cake arrives and the candles have been blown out, all that is seemingly forgotten.
I’m not saying it’s the kid’s fault, of course it’s not. They’re a kid, their memory and their attention span is shorter than mine. They don’t understand that they were that important and that you’re there for them. After the few growing tears while they move onto school (or the next room, as it were) they’ll see you and not even give you a second glance. It’s hard and difficult and one of the hardest parts of the job.
But on the other hand, it’s heartwarming. It shows that you’ve given them the confidence and independence they need to thrive in their future. That’s enough of a consolation for me, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy the “Hey, I remember you!” cuddles that happen once in a while.
Something that one of my friends said recently made me reminisce about why I do my job in the first place. It definitely was one of the most important decisions that I have ever made in my life, so why? Why this profession? Why with children? Well, the honest answer is because it is the only thing I was ever confident that I could do, and do well. I never do anything unless I’m sure I can give it my all, and for as long as I can remember, I knew I had an affinity for children (look, I know that sounds shifty, but I can’t put it any other way).
Since I was young I’ve babysat for neighbours, friends, cousins etc, and I’ve always had the same comments “you’re so good with them” and all that similar stuff. I had no idea how to get into the job however. I’d just ‘wasted’ my time doing A-Levels that I was in no way interested in and I was in a professional rut. I knew I didn’t want to go to university because back then, and even know, I knew that it wasn’t for me. I thought you needed at least a NVQ to start. It turns out I was wrong. I applied for an apprentice position and within a few months I was interviewing. It was the scariest, most exhilarating thing I had done, and when they offered me the position there and then I almost cried and of course, accepted straight away.
This job had changed my perspective in so much, it has changed my perception of people as parents, changed my ideas of what kind of parent I want to be when I’m older, changed how I act around children just in general. I saw things in the way I was raised that I knew I wouldn’t do when I became a parent. Not to say the way I was raised was wrong, in fact, for me it was the perfect way to be raised, but being an adult and being in child care has made me have a professional perspective, and I guess it changes your outlook. I became a tinge judgemental of parents in public (although apparently, after speaking to the women I work with-that’s quite normal), for example, now a lot of the time I see a toddler acting up and I sigh and think “if only you would do this..”. It’s life changing in ways that I never expected it to be.
The children I work with are an extension of myself, and I love them as if they were my own. There’s not a single one in my room that I don’t know like the back of my hand and a lot of the time I can tell parents things about their child’s likes and dislikes that they didn’t even know. I think it takes passion to do this kind of job properly, in fact, I’ve had this very discussion with my (now ex) manager. We talked about how people only really do this job for one of two reasons: for the pay or because they want to. It’s not a dead end job. It’s not a cold, emotionless office job, it’s a ‘job in care’. It’s up there with nursing and it’s not something that you can do without reason. For me it’s for the latter. I don’t think I could ever do anything else now. I love my kids too much. I hope that brings anybody wanting to put their child into nursery some peace of mind. I know you hear about some rotten apples who do awful things and spoil the bunch, but please know that most of us do it for only the right reasons. To give your children a good childhood.
This is a day in my life. It might differ to your day but this is how my day goes on a ten hour, 8am till 6pm shift in the 2-3’s room goes.
6:45 – This is when I should’ve woken up
7:00 – When I actually got up
7:05-7:15 – Shower
7:15– Hair, makeup, get dressed into my uniform
7:40– I’m getting a lift from my mum today (she works down the road)
7:50 – When I’m meant to be at work
7:55 – When I actually got to work..you can see the recurring theme here.
8:00 – My shift has started!
In the morning we have breakfast club, and that’s my job today. I herd the hungry children who are chanting in a voice that sounds more than a bit like Gollum’s: “Rice Krispies! Weetabix! Miiiiilk!” And pour the cereal they want. While they chat I get the chance to sign in any children from my room who might’ve arrived while I was getting the flock fed. It also gives me a chance to do my opening checklist, and prepare for garden checklist too.
8:10 – We’ve had our first spillage of the day. Milk. And we’re out of j cloths. It’s that kind of day, huh?
8:12 – Spillage number one felt lonely, so one of the three year olds decided to give it a mate. Much obliged.
8:15- Now that I’ve got spillage under control, I’m sitting listening to one of my kids talking about their weekend. 90% of it is pure babble, honestly but seeing them so excited makes me able to nod and chime in the odd “oh my goodness!” and they’re none the wiser about me still being pretty much asleep.
8:25 – “Oh, dear!! Don’t hit him! That’s not kind!” And you thought that Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn were the only ones with serious politics going on.
9:00 – We’ve split into our rooms, and it’s time for circle time. We sing songs about the days of the week, the months, and then do some counting. Then we talk about what we’re going to be doing today and I ask the children what they want to do. They say they want to go swimming. Well..life’s full of disappointment, teach ’em young.
9:30 – The sky is grey why are we going in the garden?
9:40 – It’s pissing it down with rain. Fantastic. Messy wellies everywhere. Peppa Pig would be proud of the muddy puddles these kids have created on the carpet that was professionally cleaned a week ago ! !
9:50 – Is it too early to retire..? Asking for a friend. A friend who is dealing with fifteen two year olds who are cooped up inside.
At least at this point I can get on with my paperwork. The kids now have sufficient activities and are behaving. My manager is having an audit of our files today, and thank god I got mine done last week or I’d have a massive problem. A you-have-to-stay-after-work shaped problem. I get two important assessments done and am feeling very happy with my productivity.
10:30 – Now that snack time has been and gone, we’re basically burning time until lunch. I take one of our newest, youngest, and truthfully, most babied kids and tell them that we’re going to get beds set up for nap time. Now usually this child completely refuses to help. I don’t mean that as an exaggeration. They won’t help with tidy up, they won’t feed themselves, nothing. So I take them and with very little whinging, amazingly, they help and they do beautifully well. I can’t help but feel proud of their progress. Crisp high five for you, little bud.
11:25 – Lunch time! Today we have macaroni & cheese for lunch and I’m looking forward to it. Our cook makes really good mac and I’ve held off from bringing lunch today just to have some.
11:27 – Mid mouthful of mac & cheese, another member of staff from a different room appears and says they’re ordering pizza. Must. Resist. I am stronger than the carbs I eat.
11:30 – Have broken. Given £1 and am allowed a slice of pizza.
12:10 – Lunch is over. The kids have eaten, and are now fast asleep on the beds that I and the Little Bud put out before. Now I wait to see if I can go on my break now or in forty minutes. Of course in forty minutes.
12:20 – Oh my Godddd if I have to tell these kids to stop wiping their bogeys on pillows one more time I’m actually taking retirement.
12:50 – Finally, it’s time for lunch. I go and sit down and fight sleep. I start writing this post.
1:30 – No way was that forty minutes. Ah well. I go back and sign my phone back into the office and return to do the afternoon round of nappies. This takes about forty minutes on a busy day and fifteen on a quiet day. Either way, afternoon nappies is the second most awkward change of the day, as it’s when the toilet trainers have to get their underwear on and you have to constantly be on ‘poo face’ or ‘wee dance’ watch for the rest of the afternoon while simultaneously taking them to the loo every fifteen-thirty minutes. It’s hard with just one child, and we have about seven at the moment all going through this very process. My sense of smell has taken a much needed sabbatical.
Between 2pm and 3pm we have activity hour where we do some form of planned activity. We plan every day for our key children and cross reference to the EYFS (which I can, after just under two years of working in child care-chant in my sleep) to further their development. Today one of my fussiest eaters is in, and in order to help her feel more comfortable eating, I’ve organised a messy play activity where she can add pasta (dried fusilli) to a saucepan filled with red paint (pasta sauce) and ‘cook’ it for her friends. I know that might seem trivial, but hear me out-my key child is fussy because she enjoys sweets, but she also hates sauce. She doesn’t like it touching her food, and heaven forbid you put it anywhere near her rice. She will lose her mind. So gently introducing her to sauces in a play form helps her to understand that it’s not going to burn her like molten lava, which, judging by the way she shrieks at meal times, is what she thinks is going to happen.
3pm – Tea time. Focused activity did not work. Beans are now on the floor, key child is eating carrot cake. We’ll try again tomorrow.
Between four and six parents come to collect and we give them feedback based on how their child has been, how they slept, if they ate etc. This is also the time when we tell parents if their child has any bumps or scrapes, if they’ve been ‘cheeky’ and also when ‘fussy’ parents rear their ugly heads. I’ll make a blog post on what I mean when I say ‘fussy’ parents but for now, just know that they are the types of parents who want to know everything from the exact minute their child fell asleep to the colour of their 2pm poo. They’re infuriating.
6pm means home time, and I’ll be asleep by 8pm. I’m all danced, Frozened and nappied out. When’s the next bank holiday?
I’ve been meaning to do this for a very long time. That’s a strange way to start this, trust me, I’m aware-but I’m 75% procrastinator and 25% nervous. Maybe switch those figures around.
You see, when talking about work I have to be very careful what I say. It’s absolutely not part of the plan to let anyone in on who or where I am. First and foremost that’s a major safeguarding issue, so perhaps this blog will be more like a secret journal. Written by me. And also of course partly written by the little people who keep me firmly on my toes five days a week.
This blog is not about incriminating anyone, it’s not about making anybody seem inferior or a fool. It’s about letting people in to the good and bad things about working in the Early years sector. We are the people at the very beginning of your child’s life who will be their home, their protector, their playmate and their best friend while you have to work. We are their educators, their confidants and sometimes we can be the enemy to them (there’s a real sense of politics when it comes to “I want that toy and you won’t let me have it”, trust me). It’s not, by any means an easy job. I never thought it would be easy but I by no means really understood the weight of my job, the responsibility, the importance of it until I was at least a month in.
Robert Frost once said:
Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.
I’ve had a lot of parents come up to me as I try to herd a group of four-year olds out of a stairwell while trying simultaneously not to let any of them plummet down said stairwell (honestly–I never ever get this comment at a convenient time) “I honestly don’t know how you do it.”
Well, quite honestly…some days neither do I. The rest of the days however? Well…hopefully after a few posts you’ll see why I do it. And will continue to do it.