When you’re self-employed as a childminder you’ve got to look after yourself because when your health suffers you ultimately risk losing business. Here are some tips for looking after both your physical health and equally as important: your mental health.
Learn to lift children and pushchairs properly
Back problems and joint problems are one of the biggest health problems that childminders experience often due to lifting incorrectly. It is so easy to do – you bend over to lift up a toddler who is clawing at your thigh, or swing a push chair into the boot, and feel a twang in your lower back that takes weeks to go away. As you get older, these problems increase, so if you are reading this and you are in your twenties, thinking you’re young and fit and this doesn’t apply to you, think again. Some day you will be older and you will wish you had spent the time learning to lift things properly when you were young! Some councils run training on proper lifting techniques – if you have to pay this would be a tax deductible business expense. If you can’t get on a course, check out this leaflet from the Health and Safety Executive and teach yourself to always lift with your legs rather than your back.
Don’t let children get used to being carried
A further risk to childminders is strain caused by carrying children around all day. Even if the parents carry a baby around all day in a sling at home, or have a toddler permanently balanced on their hip while doing everything from preparing lunch to sorting laundry, this doesn’t mean that you have to work under those same conditions. If you make it clear that you will not spend hours carrying around their child, then the parents will not expect you to. The long term risk of straining your back or limbs is simply too great.
Right before I started childminding I had a horrible moment where I was holding my 11 month baby daughter on my hip. Then someone handed me my nephew and I had him balanced on the other hip. My mother-in-law laughed and said to me, “that’ll be you, soon, lugging round two babies all day”. For one awful moment I felt the weight of two babies, one on each hip, and I said to myself at that moment, there is NO WAY I WILL EVER CARRY MORE THAN ONE CHILD AT ONCE. And I literally never did. The children learned to wait. They never expected to be picked up at the same time because I simply never did.
Walk everywhere and get lots of fresh air
Finding time for proper exercise at a gym can be really hard when you childmind, especially if you work long hours. The good thing about being your own boss is that you can spend as much time walking around as you like! Walk whenever you can, and buy one of those double buggies that means you can speed walk while pushing it. Walking is one of the best types of exercise there is.
Don’t finish the children’s food
It can be really hard to scrape that fish finger the child hasn’t even touched into the bin when nobody is looking and there are children starving in parts of the world! But if you are trying to watch your weight, then this is a habit that you need to break. The accessibility of the biscuit barrel is hard enough to avoid when you work at home and are trying to lose weight or stick to a fitness plan. Don’t make it worse by finishing the children’s lunches.
Don’t get lonely – stay connected
Talking to small children all day can be lonely, repetitious and tedious, and leaves many childminders longing for the adult company their old day job gave them. People always suggest going to childminder drop-in groups, which is great if you live somewhere that runs them, but hard if you’re somewhere that has less going on. It is also hard if you’re shy at those sorts of things and find it difficult to walk into a group of people who already know each other and make friends. Facebook has many groups where you can meet other childminders and talk online. My favourite is “Childminding For You” with 10,000 members chatting about their lives and sharing problems and successes.
Get a flu shot
When you’re self-employed you can’t afford to be off work for two weeks with an illness that will leave you feeling tired and weak for months afterwards. Especially an illness that is preventable with a shot. Make sure your other immunisations are also up to date – you really can catch measles, for example, if you haven’t been immunised, especially if you live in a part of the country where lots of other people haven’t been immunised.
Enforce your exclusion periods when the children are sick
If you let children come when they are sick, as well as all the other risks to the other children that you may have considered, remember that there is also the risk that YOU will get sick. Don’t forget that if you get sick and have to close, then everybody loses out in the long run. Stick to the exclusion periods recommended by Public Health – they are there for a reason. Do you know what they are?
Don’t get bored
Boredom, like loneliness, can lead to health issues if you don’t deal with it including problems like overeating and high stress levels. It can also make it hard for you to want to open the door on the mornings. This is something I can help with – if you are bored it is time to try something new. Try doing some activities like exploring a theme each month or invest in your own continual professional development CPD as a childminder.
My Childminding Best Practice Club is all about keeping things fresh and new and will definitely help you not to get bored.
Don’t ignore high stress levels and hope they’ll go away on their own
High stress levels can lead to all sorts of serious health problems when you ignore them. When you are stressed, childminding can be one of the worst jobs because there is no possibility of just switching the children off for a while to deal with the cause of the stress. At those times, it can feel that quitting childminding is the only option, however, there are lots of things you can try before you quit to help you to reduce your stress levels. Don’t give up childminding for the wrong reasons and then regret it.
This article takes a tongue in cheek approach to help you to think about some of the causes of stress in childminding and how you might reduce them.
Being self-employed as a childminder gives you freedom and has a lot of benefits including offering you plenty of time to be outdoors and walk and get fresh air. But ultimately you are on your own when you childmind and when something goes wrong with your health it can all come crashing down. Try to ask for help when you need it – and most importantly take your own health and mental health seriously.
When you make a living from being a care-giver, don’t forget to take the time to care for yourself as well.
Childminding Best Practice Club
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About Kay Woods and Kids To Go
Kay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity, safety and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.
Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.