The Juggle is Real…

The childcare business is like no other; you are responsible for the world’s most precious commodity.  It is far different than any other career field; you, my friend, are caring for someone else’s children.  Accepting this reality can be overwhelming and even scary at times, but the hugs are precious, the smiles are priceless, and working with children is heartwarming.

If all it took to run a successful childcare center were the love of children, then we would all have it made.  That one factor may be how you ended up here in the first place.  Did you realize you would be a cook, a janitor, a plumber, the maintenance staff, a bus driver, an accountant, a classroom teacher, and a counselor for your staff and parents?  Owners who wear so many hats have so many responsibilities, and they never seem to have enough time to focus on the business side of child care.  After all, we must admit it is a business.

The alarm goes off at 4:30 am Monday morning, less than an hour before you must leave the house.  Is there enough coffee to face the day?  You have 160 children and hopefully 20+ staff counting on you. Depending on you to ensure their day is a success and their individual needs are your primary focus.  This may indeed be your most straightforward task of the day.

As the morning fog clears, thanks to that second cup of coffee, you go for a fun-filled day of perfecting your juggling act.  How many arms would it take for all the tasks of running a successful business? Well… you only have two, so time to get busy!  Let the juggling begin.

The phone is ringing as you open the front door a few minutes before 6 o’clock; you might first think, “We aren’t even open yet,” then reality hits, and you know, you know, You. Just. Know. Yep, you were right; it’s a staff member calling out for the day.  You are already there at 6 am because your opener messaged last night; she has had the stomach bug most of the weekend and hopes to feel better enough to come on Tuesday.  Rather than bothering one of the other teachers, you decide to open the center yourself and actually try to save a little on the payroll, especially since the last payroll nearly gave you a heart attack with all the overtime.  Nice thought, but that’s not looking promising with two staff out, and it’s just now 6 am.  Smile; you’ve got this; it will all work out, and besides, once you get today’s schedule figured out, maybe you can actually sit down to assess your staffing to determine what can be done to cut out so much overtime.  For today, you are just thankful your amazing staff is willing to stay a little late, didn’t argue about a few added students visiting their class, and even offered to come in early tomorrow if needed.  Of course, they didn’t mind working late; at overtime pay, I wouldn’t mind staying either.

Even though the day started a little rough, everyone is settled in class ready for today’s challenges—it’s time to get the tuition billing posted and payments processed.   Ouch, the bank declined a few payments; let’s guess…  It’s probably the same ones that declined last week.  You wonder what the reason will be this week and why they didn’t follow through like they promised last week; you’ll need to call for payment as soon as you can. You also wonder if they will answer their phone when you get an opportunity to make that call.

Now that the tuition task is complete, you run to help the cook with putting away the food order that just got delivered; it’s the least I can do since she is going to cover the Toddler room, so those teachers have an actual lunch break. This may be the only proper physical workout you get around to today.  Who needs a gym membership when you have case after case of vegetables and fruit to put in the pantry?   Thankfully you didn’t drop anything when the cook said, “Oh no, they’ve gone up again on the prices.”  Dang it, you were going to email the other food vendors last week to get a quote from them.  Note to self: send out that email.

Rocking on through your day, switching out the laundry, refilling disinfectant, and answering a dozen phone calls, you realize it’s already after 1:00  0’clock; no wonder your stomach is growling.  Another quick door dash order is done as you reach for the intercom call from the three-year-old class.  Ugh, a plunger is needed; let’s hope it’s just too much tissue from a newly potty-trained student.  Nothing seemed to help, even after a decent upper arm workout with the plunger. Did I mention earlier that a gym membership is not really needed?  This call should be brief; you pretty much have the plumber’s number memorized since you seem to have an ongoing relationship.  Maybe when they come out, you can also have them look at the kitchen faucet, which seems to have a constant slow drip.  As you put in your repair request and wait on hold for them to pick back up to give a time frame, you wonder, how much is this going to set me back?

Thank goodness lunch was still halfway warm when your favorite door dash driver dropped it off; maybe the nice tip you always include helps keep the food warm.  Hopefully, tomorrow, you can sneak out to go to the bank and even grab some lunch while you are out, that is, if your assistant is not having to cover another classroom.  Let’s hope the stomach bug is short-lived and your opening staff resolved her family emergency.

As you start to call the parents to collect tuition for the payments declined earlier, the intercom line rings again, and a student has woken from nap and is not feeling well.  Apparently, the stomach bug has hit the three-year-old class now; cross your fingers that the teacher doesn’t get it next. Change of plans, call the sick child’s parent and head to the lobby to assist with PreK dismissal and the school-age children arriving.  Oh, yeah…. Don’t forget to give your driver the credit card to fuel the buses after the route.

Another successful dismissal with only one minor issue. A missing jacket, again, same child, same resolve; Dad didn’t bring him with a jacket this morning, again.  Oh well, at least you got a few more steps in while hurrying back and forth between the classrooms to make sure the jacket wasn’t left behind.  Really, a gym membership is not needed.

Once again, you switch out the laundry, answer another call, dry tears while cleaning up a scrapped knee, and offer a quick tour to the very pregnant parent who stopped by on her way home from work to gather information about your program.  At first, the parent seemed understanding when you explained there was a waitlist for the Infant class, but she was near tears to learn there were six ahead of her on the waitlist.  You assure her you will do everything possible to help with her childcare needs; promise her you will call once you have a chance to look over the classroom assignments and see if there is any chance of enrollment before she needs to return to work following her 3-month maternity leave.

It’s now after 5 o’clock, and you decide to call it a day for yourself; after all, the 6 am start of your day was a long time ago.   Where did the time go?  What did you accomplish today? Surely, you accomplished something.

Remembering you need to stop by the store to pick up the items on back order with the food company, you quickly gather your things, ask your assistant if she needs anything before you go, and head for the door. You almost made it, but a staff member calls out to you; as you turn to acknowledge her, you find yourself listening patiently while she explains in great detail that she isn’t really feeling all that well.  Oh dear, maybe you should take a minute to look at the schedule for tomorrow and have a plan in place to cover her, just in case.

Finally, you pull into your driveway at home. It’s 6:45 pm, and there goes your stomach growling at you again.  Time to think about dinner!