I have been a full time work outside the home mum, a part time work outside the mum, a full time stay at home mum, and now I'm a work from home mum (wfhm). Working from home means I have more time with Rye, right? Well, no. Childminding means I am paid to care for the child(ren) of parents who work. As I have worked outside the home, I am very sensitive to the ache a mother feels when the carer seems to know her child better, can understand the burgeoning language skills easier, sees all those firsts, all those developments and wonders that young children experience.
That sensitivity means I often do not mention new words spoken, or new skills learned, but rather wait for mum to discover her child's new skill and then smile indulgently with her as she proudly tells me of her child's achievement. I take photos, I write detailed accounts of activities, I care for her child, almost like she were my own... and inevitably this means some of my time with my own child is compromised.
Such compromises are not necessarily negative; my mindees brings friendship and companionship on an almost daily basis for my son, without knowing it, she is teaching him responsibility, empathy, honour, and limitations. She is furthering his socialisation skills, and he in turn is effectively a big brother to her; protecting, sharing, teasing, laughing, and encouraging her to try new things, to push her development ever forward. It is a delight to watch, if sometimes my ears grow weary of the inevitable squabbling between almost 2yr old little girl and an almost 4yr old little boy.
She brings much to our household and she takes too. Some activites are not suitable for her, so they are delayed, indeed sometimes I feel I am constantly saying to Rye, "Later, hun, when it's just the two of us", and explaining that C is too young for XY&Z. For the most part I am able blend the needs of two children who are developmentally really rather different with some success, and for Rye's part he is very attached to my mindee.
The balancing act between having time for just the two of us, tempered with time needed for my own pleasures and chores is challenging. I have enjoyed the last few weekends where I've had a day extra with just Rye. We've gone to the park together, we've watched dvds, made meals together, read stories, sang songs. Perhaps not a whole lot different from when my mindee is with us - yet, I cherish the alone time with my son. I cherish being able to bring out the paints without first having to protect the entire lounge from my mindee's enthusiasm and keep a constant eye on her to ensure she does not eat the paints, paint brushes, paper.... hand prints on the wall etc. She keeps me on my toes, that's for sure.
How much I've cherished the simple task of making breakfast - dinosaur toast... Rye helping me in the kitchen to cut out the shapes in the bread, and once toasted Rye buttered and added lemon curd to his toast. He was so proud of himself - and I realised it has been a while since he's helped me in the kitchen because I normally prepare the meals first thing for the day, or in the afternoon when they are napping.
It has been a stiff learning curve. Childminding is perfect for me. I adore being home, I adore providing a service for parents whose jobs mean they cannot care for their own children during the day. I am so very grateful that I am able to remain home to tend to Rye's needs, I wish it could have been so when he was a baby, but it wasn't I had to return to work full time. At the time I was desperate too, and then very quickly equally desperate to be back home with him. Those few months of full time work opened my eyes and were instrumental in shaping the homelife I became determined to provide for my son.
And now this current contract has shown me how careful I need to be when taking on new ones. Sure the money has been nice, but the severe reduction in time for myself and for Rye and me is not worth it. From September my mindee will be going to nursery on a Thursday and Friday morning. This translates to her being with us full time Monday to Wednesday, not at all on a Thursday, and a Friday afternoon, and a Saturday morning. A much better balance and once I'm determined to maintain; from September Thursdays will be sancrosant, nor will I take on any further contracts that require weekend minding.
My heart continues to wrench in sympathy for my client and her daughter who have so little time together.