I watched an interview years ago with Barbara Walters. She was talking about her career and how she balanced it while raising her daughter Jackie. I don’t remember her exact words but she said that she regrets the not spending enough time with her daughter when she was little.
She said she didn’t believe in “quality time”. She said you can’t have “quality” time if you don’t have TIME with your child. It’s quantity TIME with your child that gives you the opportunity to have quality time.
Back in the day when I started doing child care I worked for families that were able to afford a private nanny for their kids. My first seven years of caring for kids were with wealthy and famous people who could have well left the care of their children to someone else.
Even with a very busy life and all the resources you could ever want in raising children, every family I worked for spent a substantial amount of “face time” with their children every day. I wasn’t the one raising their children. I was just their helper.
In the early nineties I started a 24 hour a day daycare. I cared for poor and middle class children. It was a different socioeconomic group of parents than my previous experience as a Nanny. I had to learn over time how financial freedom and education affected their day to day life with their kids. I did not have experience with children who had just a couple of hours of awake time a day with their parents. Within the first couple of years of doing home care I got schooled on what that parent and child looked like.
One pattern I noticed really early on was that most of the parents who worked 3-11 shifts and later evening shifts were different than the day shift parents. They seemed to have an ease about their care of their children that I didn’t see as much in the day shift parents.
I began to realize that the amount of time the evening shift parents had with their children AWAKE every day was substantially more than the parents who, for example, worked nine to five. The parents would have all morning with their kids and do a short afternoon nap before coming to my home. With my early bedtime on the evening shift the child would wake up early the next morning, giving them four to five waking hours before coming to my home.
I found a significant correlation between behavioral issues with parents and the amount of time the parents actually cared for their children during the week. Parents who had only a couple of awake hours a day were much more frazzled with their children and allowed untoward behaviors much more than parents who had a significant amount of time with their kids before and after care.
There were other patterns that became apparent over time. One was how day shift parents changed over time as their child went from being an immobile infant to being an upright walking, talking, toddler with their own opinion who required much more direct supervision.
When day shift parents would interview with their newborn baby they would declare that they could hardly stand the idea of leaving the child during work hours and would pledge to come pick the baby up the second they possibly could every day. As soon as the baby became mobile it would change dramatically. The same Mom, who on day one drop off, wept profusely over having to entrust her newborn to a stranger would come six months later requesting an hour or more later pick up. I would also see the parent taking days off without keeping their child home. Those days increased dramatically as the child got older. By the time the child was two the hours had increased even later into the afternoon and evening. It didn’t resemble the agreement we had when we began. The total hours per day were longer also.
I started seeing parental patterns and children behaviors that corresponded with the amount of hours the child was in care and the amount of time the child was awake at home with their parents. It was clear to me that parents who had a significant amount of awake time every day with their children were more competent, more assured with their parenting, and were more understanding about any problems that came up with the child when they were in my care. It wasn’t with EVERY family but there was definitely a pattern emerging.
Because I operated two shifts it was financially advantageous to me to find kids on the day shift who left early enough in the afternoon to accommodate the arrival of the evening shift child that would take over their slot for the rest of the day. I decided to set my rates to offer the lowest rate for the day shift parents who picked up early and the highest rate for the day shift parents who picked up the latest. I did the reverse for the evening shift.
Second shift parents who dropped off later in the afternoon or early evening received the lowest rate. Evening shift parents who dropped off earlier in the afternoon paid the highest amount for that slot. It sorted out that the hours between three p.m. and six p.m. became the most highly sought after hours for both shifts so I built my rates around how many hours within those three hours the client would need. The more hours a client of either shift used during those times the more the rate would increase. I charged five dollars per week for every fifteen minutes used between those hours. The difference could be as much as sixty dollars per week in addition to my base rate.
After years of experience I came to the conclusion that children who had at or around five full waking hours or more a day with their parent seemed to be the easiest for me to take care of. They were the ones who had the least amount of transition time when entering the child care and their day to day behavior was less likely to be troublesome in my group of kids.
With this experience I decided to cap the total number of hours per day at nine hours and base my rates on the total number of hours used between the three and six p.m. times for both shifts. When enrolling kids I found that parents who could save money by picking up earlier in the afternoon were more likely to arrange their work and lunch break hours to pick up their child as early as possible after nap.
These two changes: Nine hour maximum per day and early departure discount has served my business very well eighteen years later. Before I made this change parents would just naturally gravitate to longer hours per day and those hours would almost always be between the three and six p.m. times.
When I attached a steep fee to increasing hours during those times the requests for increased hours and later days slowed down dramatically. Nearly all of my day shift parents started out with a three p.m. pick up and most eventually increased that over the years. The decisions to increase the time came much further into the child’s toddler hood and came in small increases like an additional fifteen minutes. Attaching money to the time is what halted the natural progression to much later and longer hours in care.
I don’t provide evening shift anymore but I still base my rates on the system that was derived from trying to blend two shifts for maximum profit and staying within capacity. I charge a base rate for three p.m. departures and the fees escalate for anything after that. I continue to do it because I want to work for the parents who have their child in care the least number of hours and awake the most number of hours in the afternoon and evenings. My average child is here for about 8 hours a day and is gone by 4 to 4:30 p.m. The younger infants and toddlers usually leave earlier and the older preschool children leave a bit later. The older three to five year olds almost all started out leaving at three.
When parents call asking about openings I ask them within the first minute what hours both parents work and where they live. If they need ten to twelve hour shifts I don’t interview them. If they have a long transport time to work and a long lunch it will not work unless one parent drops off later and one gets off of work earlier. I don’t offer services if both parents or a single parent needs a ten to twelve hour day UNLESS they need only three or four days per week and pay full time for the slot. I will not do five twelve hour days. I know it’s impossible for parents to have QUANTITY time with a their child when they are here nearly every waking minute of their day.
I encourage home child care’s and center’s to really look at their fee schedules and consider placing extra value onto the three p.m. to six p.m. times. I know it’s not possible for every parent to get off earlier in the afternoon but I have found that most parents will make early departure pick ups possible IF there is financial incentive to do it. Often with two parent families they are able to stagger their work shifts to accommodate a later drop off with an earlier pick up.
I love caring for kids but what I love the most is caring for kids who are cared for by their parents. Kids who have a substantial amount of awake time every day with their parents are, for me, the most balanced, happy, and stable children to be around. The parents who have their children AWAKE for a significant part of the day are less likely to be afraid of the work of their child and more likely to be invested in good behavior since they are on the receiving end of it a lot when they have them.
The parents who have TIME with their kids daily don’t have the parental style of making decisions based on guilt from being away from them. They don’t seem to be as overwhelmed with their kids. They are more balanced, stable, and happy too.
You can’t have your children for a couple of hours a day and cram quality into that time and come out square. You can’t have quality time if you don’t have quantity time. Our nation believes we can pull it off but my experience is that it’s not possible. In order to be good at anything you have to have time and practice. Child rearing isn’t an exception.