Starting a daycare in your home can be a great opportunity for you to do something you enjoy, be able to stay at home with your children, and have the pride of being your own boss. Even though it’s a great opportunity, working long hours in the place you also call home has it’s own set of challenges and stress. Being able to cope with and find ways of reducing stress and avoiding burnout is essential to running a daycare in your home successfully.
Reducing Stress & Avoiding Burnout for Daycare Providers
Long hours, low pay, and the stress of working in the same environment that you live can make daycare a very stressful and tiring career choice. Not to mention the stress of working with children, which is a field that has a very high turnover rates to begin with. Really it isn’t surprising that burnout is very common among child care providers who typically work 10-12 hour days for a rate of pay that is on average less than typical 9-5 jobs.
Now I’m sure after reading all that above your wondering why the heck anyone would be doing this anyway?! There are many pros and cons of starting a daycare but it’s a rewarding career for many. Even if you love working with kids more than anything else it’s important to remember that it can be a stressful job and you may end up burnt out faster than you thought if you don’t take steps to avoid it.
Signs of Provider Burnout:
- Anxiety about work
- Lack of motivation
- Loss of patience
- Indifference/resentment toward parents or children
- Stress related physical pains (headaches/backaches…)
- Feeling helpless to change things
If I feel like I’m beginning to feel more stress than usual I usually ask myself a few simple questions about my day and try to pinpoint what exactly is the trigger for the feelings of stress.
Is there a certain time of day I feel more stressed than others? What happens during that time the sets me off? Sometimes it can be something as simple a tweaking our schedule or reorganizing my filing system but other times it’s something more complicated like a parent issue or payment issues.
For me the biggest stressors come from the business side of running a home daycare. Keeping receipts organized, recording meals, and tracking attendance were such headaches for me in the beginning. I really had to work to figure out an organization system that worked for me and that greatly reduced my stress. Also the fact that I can’t just shut the door and walk away from the daycare space is a major stressor because even when I don’t have kids it can feel like I’m still at ‘work.’ One way I combat this is getting out and doing things I enjoy.
Identify what makes you the most stressed out and try to isolate and tweak that area first. Also make time for you and your hobbies.
Here’s my list of simple (and some not so simple) ways to help you find time for yourself and find ways of reducing the stress of the daycare:
Ideas to Help You Relax & Refresh:
- Go out with friends once a week/month
- Date night with your spouse
- Network with other providers (Your local Resource and Referral Network or even local unions can get you connected with other providers.)
- Take a walk or run in the evenings
- Go on a hike
- Write in a journal
- Read a book
- Take a bubble bath
- Join a gym
- Listen to music (and dance like no one is watching!)
- Grab your laptop and hangout in a coffee shop sans kids for a few hours on the weekend
- Go to dinner/lunch alone (no cooking, cleaning, or *gasp* sharing your food! Idea I got from Katie @ Happily Ever Mom)
- Share parental duties (I’m with kids all day so we agreed that Hubby is in charge of the bath/bedtime routine, that gives me time to get stuff done or just veg out without having to be “in charge”)
- Join a group and interact with people who share similar interests (have you checked out Meetup.com? There’s groups for everything! Facebook has a group for everything too!)
- Host a dinner party and get to know your neighbors
- Take a class at a local studio or college (even stores like Jo-Ann Fabrics or Micheals offer occasional classes in something that might catch your eye!)
- Volunteer at an organization you want to support
Make time for yourself. Doing things you enjoy or visiting with people you care about are perfect ways to reduce stress and get yourself out of that ‘work’ environment. Plus if you don’t take time for yourself and do things that you enjoy it can make all the stress in your life seem even more unbearable.
Side note on online groups/communities: Make sure they are positive. I used to me a member of several groups for daycare provider online (forums and Facebook groups) but I found some of them to be very negative. It’s definitely good to have a place to vent where people understand but if you’re feeling burnt out focusing on all the negative is not going to help you because you’re not seeing the good things (and there are plenty) so it can end up doing more damage to than helping anything.
Daycare Related Changes/Ideas:
- Change up your schedule (or get on a schedule/routine)
- Get organized
- Take a day off
- Take vacation time
- Rearrange your daycare space
- Redecorate the space
- Plan easier meals for a week or one day every week
- Reduce structured or “teacher led” art/play times
- Rotate toys and art supplies available to kids
- Find a lending library for toys or toy rental agencies (some Resource & Referral Networks offer lending libraries for items providers use)
- Offer special classes (dance, art, music, second language, cooking) or have someone come to your home to teach the kids.
- Hire an assistant, even just for a few hours a day or week
- Hire a cleaner to come in a few times a month (<– this is my dream!)
- Get kids on the same nap schedule (obviously infants are on their own schedule)
- Stick to your contract
- Change your hours
- Charge late fees
- Start saying “No!”
- Terminate problem families
One of the main things that drives providers to feel burnt out is dealing with parents that don’t respect the contract and feeling taken advantage of. The truth of it is that those feelings of being taken advantage of often come from one main issue: not enforcing your contract. As providers we do have closer relationships with our clients than normal businesses do. Because of this sometimes it’s easy for parents and providers to forget that this is actually, at it’s core, a business relationship. As a provider you can’t let your relationship with the client overrule your policies. So many times I see this happening, providers who allow for late payments or extended hours because they feel bad for the family or don’t want to loose a child they’ve had for years. It rarely ends well. Hold parents to your daycare contract, don’t give them a pass because you feel like you are friends.
Also take days off! I can’t stress this enough! My first year in daycare there was so much I didn’t know or do before I started and I went in blindly with a bunch of preconceived notions about what to expect. It was already a huge learning curve and stressful but throw in the fact that I didn’t give myself any time off to step away and it was nearly a disaster. When I worked traditional jobs I had vacation, I took sick days, but suddenly I thought I was no longer entitled to having time off. It’s not realistic to think you will never need time off. I could go on about this for days but in the point is you need to include days off in you contract! Don’t set yourself up for failure.
Find what helps you relax and recharge make it a priority. Schedule it in if you have too! Reducing stress is very important for your mental health and sanity. If you want a long term career in family child care don’t forget to make time to recharge!
What do you do to avoid getting burnout on daycare?
Want even more in-depth help starting your home daycare? Try our book today: