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.