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All childminders have those days when you wake up and think: I can’t do this anymore. But what about when that feeling of gloom goes on for weeks? Or months? When you reach the point where you just feel utterly miserable and can barely make yourself open the front door on a morning. If this is you, please don’t quit before you’ve asked yourself the following 13 questions:
- Are you just over-reacting to feeling a ‘bit down’?
Down patches happen to everybody, in ANY job. I don’t know a single childminder who leaps out of bed every single morning rearing to go. Long spells of bad weather can make you feel awful. Small children can be vile. But do you really feel miserable? Has this feeling been going on for a long time? Or is this just a blip? If it’s just a temporary down patch, don’t do anything hasty. Most childminders will tell you to hang in there and you’ll probably feel better again soon.
2. Are you sure it’s childminding that’s making you unhappy, and not something else?
When you have a lot of stress in your life, it can affect your outlook on EVERYTHING. If you are dealing with big, real other problems in other areas of your life (spouse, finances, children, illness) then even things you normally enjoy (like your work) will feel like more than you can handle. So before you quit childminding, first do some proper soul searching and make sure that it is really childminding that is making you miserable and not something else. Otherwise, if you remove childminding from your life, but it is not the real cause of your feelings, then it won’t solve the problem.
3. Do you have another job to go to?
I believe you should never give notice at a job until you have something else to go to. Unless childminding has made you fantastically rich and you plan to live on your savings (or your partners) in my opinion, you should be sure that you have a plan for what you will do ‘next’ before you quit.
4. Is your new idea really going to make you happier than childminding?
You know what they say about the grass being greener on the other side. Stop and look again at childminding. Is it really all that bad? You can make a decent amount of money, especially if you’re at the point in your life where childminding means you don’t have to pay for childcare for your own children. It’s fun and rewarding when it’s going well! And do you really want to work for someone else again when you’ve been your own boss?
5. Is it just the paperwork that’s getting on top of you?
Paperwork is one of the main reasons childminders quote for giving up childminding which I can understand but is a real shame because it is a problem that is easily solved. It is easy to get to the point where you feel so stressed about the paperwork that you don’t even know where to begin. Please don’t feel overwhelmed about paperwork. You are probably overcomplicating things. There are lots of companies who sell paperwork solutions especially for childminders (including me)! Before you quit childminding over paperwork, please at least take a look at my paperwork products which I promise will help you.
6. Are you lonely?
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. However, I do feel that if you have tried groups, and tried social media and these don’t work for you, then childminding is a lonely job and this is a very valid reason to move on to something new.
7. Can you reduce your hours?
If you can afford to reduce your hours, many childminders will tell you that this has been a life saver to them. One way to do this is that when someone leaves just don’t replace them straight away. Or switch entirely to before/after school care so you have some time in the day to yourself. Reducing your hours affects everybody and when I did it I hated letting the little boy’s parents down. However, I helped him settle into the nursery he would attend on the days I was to be ‘closed’ and did my best to make the transition smooth. In the end going from full to part time was the best decision I made. I had time to go to the gym again and energy to develop my business ideas so I didn’t feel so “trapped” any more. Trapped is a horrible feeling, so don’t quit until you’ve tried to free yourself a little.
8. Did you have a bad Ofsted inspection?
Not getting the grade you were hoping for at your inspection is really demoralising, but I don’t think you should quit over it. Being inspected is horrible but try to put Ofsted in perspective. They come once every 5 years or so. In between Ofsted, childminding goes on as it always has done. That’s a long time until you need to worry about them again.
9. Are you bored?
Can’t face getting the paint out again? Can’t think of anything more tedious than pushing ANOTHER child on that swing, AGAIN? Then do something different. Try a new park, try a new activity. Challenge yourself to come up with interesting new activities to do with the children. Try teaching the children something that will matter to their lives, like activities that promote diversity or safety and health. This is something I can really help you with and not a good reason to quit childminding. You will never be short of ideas if you check out my printable arts and activities packs.
10. Is it one particular child or one particular family that is upsetting you?
One of my favourite things to do each week when the children were small was Teddies Music Club. We danced, played instruments and I used to have loads of fun there with the children. Then we got a little boy, a one-day- a-weeker, who was just miserable. He clung to me and cried when the music started. He wasn’t settling and I was out of patience. I came to music club to dance and laugh with the fun children. And this boy was spoiling music club for me and for the others. I was so glad when he left because it stopped me from having to make a difficult decision. Was his £50/ week worth it, to totally spoil my Tuesdays and turn Teddies Music Club into an occasion that made me feel miserable and trapped? Sometimes you have to put yourself first. If you can pin it down to feeling miserable about behavioural problems from a particular child, or a horrid rude family, then don’t quit childminding until you’ve given that particular child’s family notice.
11. Do you just need to take a break?
Are you taking your holidays? I hear from far too many childminders who will tell me they haven’t had a proper holiday in years. Even if you do take holidays, you can’t put all your hope in holidays to take a break. What about the weekends? If you are looking after children all week, it is natural that on the weekends you may sometimes feel less than enthusiastic about spending yet more quality time with your own kids. One childminder friend of mine would get up at 4am every day just so she could have a bit of time to herself before the day started. That worked for her, and I tried it once, but I turned into a zombie by day 3. It is easy to get to the point where you feel you will actually explode if you don’t get some time to yourself for a while. Be honest with your friends, family and most importantly try to get your partner to understand your need for some time “off” children at weekends.
12. Are you feeling undervalued and underpaid?
If other childminders and nurseries in your area charge more per hour than you do, this can really get you down. Many childminders still charge the same fees per hour as they did 10 years ago. Be brave and tell parents that you are putting your prices up. You will feel a lot better about your job if you feel are being paid more fairly for the work you do.
13. Is your house a mess and full of baby things?
Your own children have grown into teenagers and yet childminding leaves you permanently stuck in the toddler years. There are plastic toys jammed into all the storage spaces and your spare bedroom is STILL crammed full of two cots and a change table. You’ve forgotten that doorways could ever exist without baby gates blocking them. This can be really hard to deal with. The constant feeling of never being away from work, and feeling stuck in time. If you’ve tried storage, if you’ve tried clearing things out, then this, in my opinion is one of the most genuine reasons to quit childminding because this is a feeling that builds up over time, a gradual feeling of just having had enough of it. If this is you, this really could be a sign that you’ve simply had enough and really are ready to move on and do something new. A deep feeling that you and your family have now outgrown childminding.
Hopefully after reading this you won’t give up after all, but maybe reading this will make you feel that it is in fact time to move on to something new. If it really is time to quit, then give yourself a quitting time scale and an ‘exit plan’, perhaps when your own child starts school or one of your mindees leaves for nursery. Having an exit plan with a time scale attached can help you to keep going until it really is time to move on to something new.
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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.
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