I remember one day – many, many years ago – when I was chatting with a group of family childcare providers. We were discussing the recent departure of a couple of other providers. They hadn’t left the field entirely but they had left family childcare. They had originally worked in childcare centers and had opened their family childcare homes when they had their own children. Now that their children were older they were returning to work in centers. They claimed they missed working with others and they desperately wanted their homes back.
I couldn’t imagine ever leaving family childcare – I had finally found my niche. This was a job that so perfectly suited me that it didn’t even feel like work. As the discussion continued we began to reflect on what we would miss the most if we couldn’t be family childcare providers. My answer then was ‘the paperwork’. Seriously! I said I would miss doing paperwork and if I ever went to work somewhere else.
That wouldn’t be my answer now – even then I don’t think that was what I really meant. You see, back then the majority of the ‘required’ paperwork was still done on paper. I was an avid computer user. I began using computers in the early 90’s – programs were very basic and using them required a significant amount of resourcefulness. It was fun to design my own spreadsheets for recordkeeping and to create parent handbooks. ‘Paperwork’ using computers provided a creative outlet and I thought it was exciting. Back then even doing paperwork was really just play.
Now, everything is done on computers – it is automatic and boring. There is little imagination required just fill in the blanks. Someone else has already done the creative part and all that’s left is the work. Sure, some things can be ‘personalized’ but even that requires little more than the click of a button and if you don’t like it just click ‘undo’. The thrill is gone.
There is also the ever increasing need for written policies and procedures and required revisions — there is a ‘correct’ way to do paperwork and when you do it differently you’re ‘wrong’. Blah blah blah….’Paperwork’ – even on computers – has become ‘required work’ instead of play.
Maybe this is a good time to point out that one of the reasons that I’m self employed is because I don’t like to take orders. I could be considered to be a ‘Compliant Rebel’ – I will not openly defy authority but that doesn’t mean that I like what I am required to do — sometimes I can be resentful and I hold a grudge. I am creative, and following instructions is the opposite of being creative so ultimately required paperwork makes me feel stifled.
As a family childcare provider I am considered self employed but there are still rules and regulations that I am required to follow in order to be licensed. So, I have some freedom and some restraints. As the amount of required paperwork steadily increases there are days when I just want throw my hands in the air and scream “No more paperwork, that’s it, I quit”. I don’t because I am…well, naturally compliant…submissive.
So now, I want to mention something good. For the first time in a long time, the Province is about to unveil something that I am truly excited about; the OnlineChildcareRegistry actually promises to make my life easier.
My current waitlist is depressing, confusing, and I’ll admit that it doesn’t work very well. It is depressing because in the last year I have added roughly 150 children to my waitlist – and I’ve enrolled three of them. I’ve had people call when they first learn that they are expecting a baby and they call again two years later when their maternity leave is over and they should have already returned to work but haven’t because they still haven’t found childcare. I don’t like to answer the phone because it could be another young woman with a dream for her future which should begin next week when she’s expected to start university except that she has no one to care for her child so she won’t be going.
My wait list is confusing because of the timing of calls. Many people call me from work on their lunch break when they have time. Do you know what my house looks like at lunch time? I work alone and I’m serving lunch to eight children and some need to leave for school soon and some are cranky because it is almost nap time. I get calls other times of the day too – when we’re out in the yard, when we’re creating masterpieces with glue and paint, when I’m in the middle of changing a baby’s diaper or in the evening when my husband yells “Don’t answer it – the daycare is closed”. But I do anyway. And when I have time I try to decipher what I scribbled on that napkin/scrap of paper/fencepost and add it to the official list. The list that doesn’t really work very well because it’s just a chronological list of when people called but it does little to help me choose who to call for the one space that may be available.
Yep, I’m looking forward to the centralized online waiting list because finally it is something that doesn’t require me to do more work and in fact it will be useful – for all of us.