Thursday, April 30, 2020

What It's Like To Be A Daycare Provider During A Pandemic

I've shared many stories about our new homeschool life, how we're keeping busy, and how we're holding up (or not holding up some days). I've shared funny quips and things that have shook me in the last seven weeks. But I have shared very little about what it's like to be a daycare provider right now, in the midst of a pandemic. I can sum it up in two words: surreal and confusion.

Everything about this pandemic has been surreal. From empty grocery store shelves and worrying about food rationing (a real concern when you have a larger size family) to scaling back our lifestyle so we didn't have to dip into savings to feeling scared for those I hold dear. I have had so many feelings over the past several weeks that I can't even place them all. I completely get how a two year old feels when they can't properly express themselves and throws a tantrum instead. So, begin with telling you a little bit about my business.

Daycare and daycare providers were deemed essential employees early on. However, according to state health officials and the CDC, my purpose as a daycare provider was to serve other essential employees who still had to work. Many of my daycare parents are considered essential, but many aren't. As spring break got underway, so did lockdowns, closures, and quarantines. Many, many of my daycare parents were furloughed, forced into quarantine themselves, or began working from home and keeping their kids home as well. While some centers and in-home daycares remained opened and had full attendence of children, I've had one or two children.

At first, I was worried. Worried for the families who were struggling, worried about my daycare babies and kids, sad I couldn't see them, disappointed to be cheated of a fun spring break and weeks ahead, grateful that I was able to focus solely on homeschooling for a short time. As I've heard of my fellow daycare providers cleaning, scrubbing, and worrying for their own health and safety the last few weeks, I'm grateful to not have to deal with that. I haven't had to worry about the 10 person limit in my household. I haven't had to worry about germs coming in and out of my house day in and day out. I've actually saved on bleach cleaner in the last 7 months! Because I haven't had daycare children, I've been able to help my children through our homeschool transition. I fully acknowledge my children currently thriving is likely due to the fact that I've been able to focus on them and their needs. As a parent I couldn't ask for anything more. I know how truly lucky I am that my job IS kids so I can throw myself into a teacher role.

Yet, it's lonely. My house is quiet. Don't get me wrong, my three children and any additional children I have keep the house lively, but not the chaotic lively I'm used to. The usual chatter of little voices and the revolving door of parents and kids has been missed. The silence in the middle of the day can be excruciating. There's been numerous times during our days homeschooling that I've had a moment of panic when I see the baby monitor in the daycare nap room isn't on. It takes a few seconds for me to remember what life is currently: the nap room has been turned into a study room (temporarily), there's no sleeping littles who would be calling my name when they awake. I feel like a piece of me, of my daily life, is missing. It's confusing.

It's all surreal because never in my wildest dreams did I imagine this to be life right now. Missing "my babies," not giving them a proper goodbye (or one I would have given them if I knew I wouldn't be seeing them for weeks or months on end). I worry because the longer life continues like this, the harder it will be getting back into a daycare routine. I'm sure I'll have my work cut out for me and at the same time I can't wait for life to get back. If I was ever curious about a possible career change, I fully realize I am not ready to hang up my daycare provider hat just yet.

In short, being a daycare provider during a pandemic is confusing. Just like everything else that concerns COVID19. I can say I'm ready for normal, but realistic me knows normal won't look the same. So, I'm right back to being confused about my quiet house, my shorter hours (normal people aren't typically confused about working shorter hours!), missing tiny humans, wishing I could see them, happy that I can keep my potential exposure small (for the time being), grateful to focus on my own children, feeling so many feelings all at once that it leads right back to confusion. I imagine that's how many of us feel right now, not just daycare providers. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Faux Vacation Weekend

This weekend I was supposed to be hiking in the mountains of the PNW during a girl's trip to Seattle. Obviously, the trip was cancelled. Everyone was feeling bummed because all of our vacations and getaways in March, April, and May/June were cancelled. So, I came up with the next best thing: a fake vacay. We did what we usually do for vacations: rented a vehicle, did lots of driving, hiked, spent a lot of time outdoors, and stayed up too late. Not as great as an actual vacation, but the best we can do right now as we continue to social distance ourselves!

Friday night we loaded up in the rental SUV, grabbed McDonald's (as we usually do on our way out of town), and drove around Des Moines for a couple of hours.

Trying to make faux vacay as real as possible, I had a cup of coffee (that was reheated from the morning) before heading out.

A stop at Saylorville Dam on a foggy night.

A movie and slumber party in the daycare room. 

Saturday morning we set out for Winterset, Iowa. About 45 minutes away from home, we packed lunches, a portable potty (so we didn't have to stop anywhere), hand sanitizer, and snacks. Our destinations were the Bridges of Madison County, Rippy Dumps, and Pammel State Park for hiking. It had officially been six full years since our last Bridges of Madison Country tour and the minis hardly remembered it (if at all). Just like a real vacation, there were a few "where the hell are we going?? Can't you read a map??!!?" moments, some tears, whines, and so many threats of "if you don't stop we'll make you leave this car right now and walk home." It was fun...and memorable, to say the least.

Gosh, what awesome mom packed everyone sandwiches with little messages on them? Wink, wink.

Out of everything we saw on Saturday, my favorite was going to the places we went to six years ago and remembering that trip. See tiny minis and read about that trip here.

He attempted to explain the architecture of the bridges but the minis cared more about racing across the bridges than anything else.

One place we had never been was Clark Tower in Winterset City Park. We chose to drive to the tower rather than hike. The road is extremely narrow and quite hilly. Of every place outdoors we went over the weekend, Clark Tower was by far the busiest. We had to work hard to stay away from others. 

The opening I was standing next to said Bitchcraft. I didn't notice it at first and was confused as to why the minis were stifling their laughter.

It was at this point when I nearly stepped on a large snake. I freaked and told the kids not to fall in the water because they were on their own.

We HAD to take the "rollercoaster road" on the way to the last bridge. 

We determined we should not attempt to go through the flooding in the road on the way to Roseman Bridge. Glad goodness for GPS and taking the long way around.

Elizabeth noticed this rock and said that whoever left it must have gotten the idea from us. I had to laugh because she acts like no one has ever left painted rocks around before.

Our next stop was Pammel State Park. There were a decent amount of people in certain parts of the park, but we took a few lesser used trails and saw no one on our hikes. We got in a good two miles through the woods before we called it a day, ordered pizza from Casey's, and headed home.

Drama on the drive home: Elizabeth's gum "fell" out of her mouth, got caught in her hair, stuck to her fingers, and all over her favorite blanket. The last 20 minutes of our ride consisted of Elizabeth sobbing, Harrison laughing at her, Elizabeth then screaming at him for laughing, Harrison trying to stifle his laughter, and Max rolling his eyes, while trying to talk louder than the other two and saying "just sstttoooooppppp." I could have used ear plugs.

We didn't get much of a break because we were back to hiking first thing Sunday morning. Sunday's shenanigans took us to Lake Ahquabi in Indianola. There were plenty of people fishing, but very few people on the 6.2 mile trail that goes all around the lake. It was a perfect trail for us, as we got to examine plants and bugs along the way. We also had a run in with a snake (yes, again for me): Max was walking ahead of us all with a walking stick in hand. I heard him hit the stick to the ground and saw a snake quickly slither away...with it's tail missing. Fun time on the trail again.

Eyes in the sun and fish watching.

So ready for canoes and kayaks!

The reward for hiking over 6 miles with very few complaints: playing in the lake and building sand castles. These three have yet to meet a beach they didn't like...or water they wouldn't play in, even if it's only 60 degrees out.

After hiking Lake Ahquabi, we drove through Summerset State Park, Banner Lakes area. The park looked to be so much fun, many smaller trails to hike, but it was also crowded. I'd love to head there this weekend, but if we go, we'll go early before the crowds of fishers and hikers come. 

Sunday afternoon and evening included take out Mexican food (it was still Faux Vacay afterall) and ending the "vacay" by returning the rental vehicle and cleaning....just like any other vacation. 

After the minis went to bed, I took some time to prepare for our week and took some time to reflect on our weekend. Faux Vacation wasn't nearly as fun as a real vacation, but it will have to do for awhile. My favorite thing about quarantine has been hiking all of the trails near us that we usually don't have the time for. We have to specifically make the time for those things. Our weekends have become the things we love on repeat. I can't complain at all.

I didn't particularly love learning plant cells the first time around. I nailed the word mitochondria, but I had to look up the proper sayings for half of these so it seemed like I knew what I was doing Monday morning. Homeschool life is interesting.

A highlight: Walmart had Ramen noodles!! Ramen is the middle mini's favorite food ever. He's requested it week after week but all of the stores have been out. Matt scored a big pack plus a few cups of spicy ramen. Harrison was in heaven.