(Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from the book “Daycare Whisperer Doing Daycare: This job would be great if it wasn’t for the parents”. )
A MyChild parent is a parent who has a grandiose perception of themselves as a parent, their child and their child’s needs, their rights regarding the child and their abilities with their child. They pretend to worship at the altar of their child and expect the world to join them by sitting behind them with their hands clasped and eyes down.
The MyChild mother has an excessive preoccupation with her child insofar as it reflects her prowess as a parent. She has an idealized vision of herself as a nurturer. She easily directs the care of her child, but she resents the work that goes into childrearing and sees it as a burden. She is most comfortable delegating the care of the child and feels she is doing an excellent job as a parent, not by what she does, but what she arranges for her child. In the expectations of what to do with her child, she appears to be a Tiger Mom or Mama Bear. When issues arise in the care of her child, she demands whatever special consideration it takes to make her Pookie happy. She sees Pookie’s happiness as a reflection of her parenting excellence.
The MyChild mindset begins to develop before the parents are even expecting a child. This parent clings to mantras such as… “If they did that to MyChild I would kill them; I will not allow MyChild to do this or that; That would never happen to MyChild.” They believe they will control and protect the child by any means necessary.
This unborn fantasy child is an extension of the mother, someone who can be used to make her feel special and inspire others to admire her. She enjoys parenting before the child is born and will seize any opportunity to discuss her motherhood with shop clerks, medical professionals, and prospective childcare providers.
The MyChild mother often begins interviewing for child care shortly after she conceives. She does extensive research to learn the right questions to ask of prospective childcare providers. After the first interview, she realizes the childcare providers give her a unique kind of attention that the rest of the world does not. They talk to her about specific parenting wants and demands before she even gives birth. Her excuse for looking for care long before she needs it is because she has heard that infant slots are hard to find. She does extensive phone interviewing and web site reading to develop her MyChild portfolio and questionnaire. Her list of questions can be condensed into one major theme: “How much one-to-one care will MyChild get?”
Now, every new parent wants to make sure an adult can manage their child within the group of children, but the MyChild parent is not concerned about why the provider may or may not be able to do one-to-one care. She just wants a declaration the provider will. If the provider told this parent she would forsake the care of all others to ensure her baby would get the cream of the crop attention, the MyChild mother would not stop and think that this provider should not ignore the care of any child just for hers. She would not consider that this promise may have been given to the other baby’s mothers, too. She is satisfied that after explaining what her child needs, the provider will deliver.
This parent interviews a legion of providers while she is pregnant. If the mother tells you she has interviewed twenty plus providers, be on red alert. You will give away hours of your free time and endure multiple texts and phone calls until this parent becomes bored with considering you or is required to put money down to continue with you. Your odds of landing the child are very low and if you do, you could be in for a bumpy ride.
One of the first signs the parent you have taken into your business is a MyChild parent is the MyChild letter that comes with the baby on the first day of care. This is a care manual for the baby. It does not matter if the provider is more experienced in childcare or even a veteran daycare provider. Nor does it matter if the provider has cared for the baby’s older siblings since birth. The MyChild mother believes she is the expert on her child and must instruct the provider how to care for the child.
Here is an example of a MyChild letter.
Instructions for Snowflake Smith:
Eating habits: Snow eats about 20 to 30 ounces per day from morning until bedtime. I will feed Snow his morning bottle before I bring him and if for some reason I cannot, I will let you know. Snow also drinks about one ounce of pear juice diluted with one to two ounces of water every day to help soften his bowel movements. I would like half of his bottles to be breast milk and half of them to be formula. I will leave it up to you when you would like to give him breast milk and when you want to give him formula. However, Snow has a much easier time digesting the breast milk than the formula.
Snowflake is also gassy and some days has a lot of spit up so make sure to burp him thoroughly or he will become very fussy and cranky. Some days he wants to eat more and some days less. It all depends, but in general, the following is his daily eating schedule:
9-930 am – 4 oz bottle
11:30 am – 4 oz bottle
4:00 pm – 4 oz bottle
Sleeping habits: Snowflake takes two long naps. The first one is the morning from about 8 am to 9:30 am. His second long nap is in the afternoon from 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm. He also takes smaller “cat naps” throughout the day, but these do not last very long, anywhere from 20 to 35 minutes.
Likes: The most important thing for Snowflake is to be held as much as you possibly can! This is what he likes the best: just being held and close to you. He also likes to be wrapped in a blanket with his arms out for comfort while he is falling asleep. His favorite is his green blanket, which I will bring for him to use. Snowflake also likes to be rocked in a rocking chair while he is eating his bottles. If he is upset he likes to have a pacifier and be rocked while you sing to him. He also likes to have his nose, cheeks and chin touched while you say, “Beep!” We usually play this game on the floor and it makes him smile and coo! He likes to grab your thumbs and fingers while you gently pull him up so he can sit up for a minute and then lay back down. He also likes to grab your fingers as you gently rock him from side to side while he’s on the floor.
Dislikes: Snowflake does not like tummy time. We put him on his tummy for a few minutes at a time every day, but he gets upset and starts to snort because his face is mashed into the blanket. He will also get upset if there is a lot of yelling back and forth going on or if there are really loud noises coming out of nowhere. He HATES being put down for longer than 10-15 minutes or so and when left alone, he starts to get really sad. You can put him down next to you, but not away from you or the group. It will take some time to calm him down if these things happen.
Concerns: The main thing I am concerned about is that he will not get enough hugs, kisses or time to be held. He NEEDS this stuff!!!! He was born a snuggler who wants to be close to people AT ALL TIMES and I know it is hard because you have your hands full, but I just want him to feel loved and not alone because I am not there. I am also concerned that Pookie might be jealous of Snowflake at times because Snowflake NEEDS more attention than her and she might start acting out to get more attention. If this starts happening please let me know as soon as possible.
Do you see what I see? At first blush, this letter sounds like a new mother whose heart is breaking because she has to put her newborn in childcare. She looks like a mother who wishes she could stay home and care for her baby.
I see it differently. There is more to the story.
This letter was written years ago by a mother who already had one child in childcare with the provider. This mother took three months off when the baby was born with one of those months being prior to birth. She was not ill or having complications. She sent her oldest daughter to childcare every single day during the month before the baby was born and every single day of her two-month maternity leave. She was given the offer of having the three months off unpaid at daycare for the oldest and guaranteed a slot for both children when she returned to work. She declined. She could have had a three-month maternity leave instead of a two-month leave, but she wanted time to herself before the baby was born.
During her maternity leave, the father took the older child to daycare every morning and picked her up every evening. This meant the older child was in care additional hours. The mom was caught doping the older child during an illness so she could send her to childcare. She was home with the baby but wanted the older child in daycare despite being sick. It was too much for her to care for them both at the same time. She also sent her baby to daycare sick when she and the older child were already at home ill with the same stomach virus. She did not have a problem sending a sick baby to daycare when she was already home.
The schedule she set for the baby eating was one that was convenient for her. Notice the two hours between two feedings and the four and a half hours between the next. The last feeding was to be given to the baby right before pick-up so she did not have to do a feeding when she walked in the door after work. The line about her doing the first feeding of the day “if she could” turned into a battle because she attempted to send the baby unfed and had to be told she MUST feed the baby before daycare.
The section on what the baby NEEDS because he was born that way is very typical in the MyChild letters. The mom professes how HER child needs one-to-one care and MUST have an adult right by the baby’s side at all times. She gives a passing wave to the notion that there were other children in the daycare even though she actually knew they were also young infants. Her main concern about the other children was her own first born, not the other babies in the house.
There were a whole lot of special-special requests packed into one little letter for one little baby. Despite pleading her baby’s case that he was “born that way” and he “NEEDS!” his own adult, she knew…
° the provider could not rock her baby to sleep and allow him to sleep right beside her (even if he would be “sad” if he was alone).
° she was paying for a slot in a group daycare with other infants.
° the provider is not allowed to use blankets for the baby.
° the provider does a significant amount of belly time every day with every baby.
° state laws prohibit a child being held while sleeping and sleeping anywhere other than a playpen or crib.
° the provider cannot give juice or water to a newborn.
She had an older child in daycare before this baby. She knew the ropes and she tried to impress upon the provider that her child was special and required special care. She was certain he would be upset because he missed her so much. She cried dramatically the first day she dropped off the child and called multiple times during the day to check on him.
That lasted one day.
What happened the first week of childcare may surprise you. The mom stopped breastfeeding and switched to all formula. The mom changed her hours at work so she would have a longer day. She took multiple days off once she did go back to work and did not keep either kid home. In the years after the child entered daycare, the mother did not keep the child home a SINGLE day she was not forced to. She took the older child out of preschool to spend time with her to go to the zoo and to the movies but the second child was in daycare every single day.
She requested the provider switch the child’s nap after he turned a year old so that he was up early in the afternoon in order to go to bed earlier in the evening. Seven p.m. bedtime was cutting into her time with the older child. She did not get home until five p.m. and wanted the baby in bed two hours later.
I could give countless examples of how the mom who wrote the MyChild letter was not the same mom a week, month, year or three years later. The mom who sits on your couch bawling and professing her sadness over leaving her child in childcare is often the mom who does not want to be around the child once she goes back to work. The mom who writes the longest most specific, heart wrenching, MyChild letter is the one who shuns her child and diminishes her responsibility of care to words instead of actions.
Childcare providers are often confused about how much MyChild they should allow with each child in their daycare. The provider may be a MyChild parent herself. She may have chosen to do childcare so that she could completely raise her own children and avoid any interference with her own MyChild. Hosting another person’s MyChild feels fraudulent because they reserve that sentiment for only their own. Allowing a disproportionate amount of MyChild care of a daycare child will interfere with the care of her own children and dramatically affect her ability to evenly disperse her attention amongst her charges.
One of the most incorrect notions a MyChild parent can have is “I know my baby best and I know what’s best for my baby.” Many childcare books and pediatricians promote this idea because it sells books and services. What more does a brand new mommy want to hear or read besides this propaganda? “You are the mother of the child. She is your flesh and blood. She grew inside of you for nine months. You know her like no one else ever can or ever will.”
The problem is that this is not true. Having sex, conceiving and giving birth to a child do not make someone knowledgeable about the care of that newborn. Having experience with other newborns makes you knowledgeable about newborns. Having experience with many newborns makes you REALLY knowledgeable.
Now, I am not suggesting a parent does not understand their child in a familial way. Of course, we all have a tribal recognition of our relatives. We have more commonality with them than others in this world. We love our own people singularly. That is what has made us evolve.
It used to be that mothers would learn to mother by example. There were multi-generational family members around to teach the mothers how to care for other people’s babies. There were multiple siblings and as the siblings had children each girl was expected to contribute to their care. Older sisters took care of younger siblings. As the female children aged, they had a higher likelihood and expectation to care for the younger ones. By the time they had their own child they had enough experience to understand the basics of baby care.
This dynamic is rare in today’s world. Family generations live separately and the number of children in the household has decreased dramatically. It is entirely possible that today’s mother hasn’t had any actual hands on experience with children. She goes to books and the internet to learn how to care for her baby. The books say “you know your baby best” and the mom says, “right on.”
This leads to a crisis of overconfidence. I had a mother of a three-month old tell me that she was a “gifted newbie mother.” She spent her entire pregnancy researching parenting and by the time she had her baby, she had a wealth of information to parent a child. This was the same mom who worked ten to eleven hours a day and had a two-hour commute. She was away from her child twelve to thirteen hours a day.
Within all those articles and books she read, the one concept that did not make it into any chapter was how being good at parenting involves actually caring for your child when they are awake. I gladly let the family go because I grew tired of discussing how the baby kept the mom up all night long. I had to be the one to break it to her that the baby was going to get his mommy time in one way or the other. The eleven hours they were together was all that was available to him. If she wanted to sleep at night she had to spend time with him during the day.
The mom would send me articles about safety and infant growth and development. I would send back links to blogs and articles I wrote on the subject three years before she had her child. She did not even recognize a veteran provider when she had one caring for her kid. I know more about babies in my pinky then she will know in her entire motherhood. I am not bragging. I have been at it for 36 years. I should be great at it by now.
Childcare is the ONLY profession I know where the worker can have decades of multi-faceted, hands on experience and still be viewed as having less knowledge than a customer who has had one singular experience for a few days, weeks or months. The parent who believes they are more knowledgeable and more powerful because they are the parent can destroy a childcare business and threaten a childcare provider’s livelihood, freedom and ability to raise her own children. Having a baby does NOT make a parent an expert in the field. They should be viewed as a new, inexperienced parent and their wishes for the care of their child should always be evaluated as to whether or not they are best for the baby, the business, the other children, the provider and the provider’s family.
The MyChild parent may make requests for the care of their child that you cannot oblige because they are unsafe, unfair or uncompensated. I do not recommend going against the parent’s wishes, but, rather, offering what you CAN do within your scope of practice and asking a parent if they would like that service. If the parent does not want the service you offer, they need to move on down the road.
A parent cannot give you permission to do the wrong thing. When a parent brings a child into society, society has a stake in the outcome of that child. There are laws that were made regarding that child before the parents even met. There are human service agencies and insurance companies that dictate some of what happens to the child while the child is with a provider. The parent does not and cannot decide everything for their child when the child is away from them.
When a parent puts their child into a car they are required to put the child in a car seat. They do not get to decide. When the parent pulls out of their driveway with their child in the car they come upon a stop sign at the end of the street. That stop sign is the law. It was put there before the baby was born. The parent cannot say “my baby is in the car and I do not want to stop.” Just because they have a baby does not mean they get to decide EVERYTHING that happens to the baby. The only way they get to make this decision is if they do not take the baby out into society or they find a caregiver who provides the exact services they want.
The common MyChild requests that cannot be accommodated in a group of children or within the safety and minimum standards for childcare are:
° Scheduling opposite of the other children; i.e., baby being awake while the other kids are sleeping and vice-versa.
° Baby being held throughout their nap.
° Pacifier in mouth while baby is being rocked to sleep.
° Baby having bottle, cloth, special lovey or blankie in bed.
° Baby sleeping in swing.
° Baby sleeping on belly.
° Baby being carried in a wrap on the provider.
° No belly time because baby cries.
° Baby or child wearing jewelry. (i.e., amber teething necklaces for teething infants or earrings to avoid piercings closing)
° Special food.
° Baby food before six months.
° Baby food in a bottle.
° For babies under one-year: withholding formula and feeding baby food to fill them up.
° Special sippy cup because the baby or toddler will not drink out of anything else.
° Straws in glasses so baby can take one sip at a time.
° Feeding via syringe or dropper for breastfed babies who will not drink out of a bottle.
° Baby or toddler cannot be outside or baby or toddler must be outside.
° Potty training before the age of 18 months.
° Toys and household items from home.
° Medication to be given exclusively at daycare because child refuses at home.
° Coins allowed in child’s pockets because child likes carrying coins.
° No restraining equipment. No high chairs: baby must be held while he is spoon fed. No exersaucers or jolly jumpers because child cannot be trapped. Child must run free at all times. No play yards at any time.
° Baby switched to whole milk before the age of one (so parents do not have to supply formula for daycare).
° Cloth diapers for daycare when child wears commercial diapers at home.
° Daily reports in writing.
° Daily food intake reports.
° Daily massage and lotion of child without a skin condition.
° Baby only sleeping in the proximity of the provider.
° Infant curriculum.
° Provider is never to use the word “no” with child.
° Child in underwear or naked when potty training.
° No TV or screens. (Parents only want the child on screens when they are home.)
° Stating child has “allergies” in order to control what they are fed by the provider.
° Prepare separate meals if Pookie does not like the food.
When a MyChild parent has made a request for services and the provider does not deliver, they often withdraw the child. They believe that as the parent, they should be able to dictate everything about the child’s care. The most important aspect of working with these clients is to know your state regulations, best practice in health and safety and how much you can afford to offer the parent for the tuition they are paying.
You will not be protected from being cited by your state or prosecuted by the government because you were following a parent’s directions when an accident or injury occurs. You will not be covered by your insurance if you knowingly do something that is dangerous or against best practice even if you have the parent’s blessing.
Educating this parent on what you are legally able to do and what their payment actually covers is a painstaking process because it challenges their fundamental parental belief system. Their acceptance of your final word may be solely because they have unsuccessfully attempted to find other providers who will do as they are told. You may also find yourself put in the very uncomfortable position of having to turn the parent in for child neglect if you should become privy to information they are employing unsafe practices with their child despite being educated about the risk. The parent does not believe you or the government should tell them what they can do with the child.
The MyChild parent will often behave very differently after the baby begins care. The more dramatic the expectations and behavior of the parent are, the more that parent will shun the care of the child after the child enters care.
Be firm about what you can and cannot do with the child.
Parents cannot give you permission to do the wrong thing.
You must follow the parent’s wishes when it comes to care, but you do not have to keep the child if the parent’s wishes are the wrong thing to do.
Do not provide services to parents who request you to do anything that is uncompensated, unsafe or inappropriate for group care.
TM FaeDeClay LLC
All rights reserved.
Meet the Author
Tori Fees R.N., B.S.N. is a 1983 graduate of Grand View University’s Science of Nursing department. She began her childcare career while in nursing school as a live-in nanny to support herself while going to college. Upon graduation, she worked as a medical surgical nurse for two years. She returned to her previous career as a private nanny to prestigious families in New York City and Bloomfield Hills, Michigan until she returned to Iowa where she worked as a school nurse for three years.
In 1993, she began a home childcare in Des Moines, Iowa serving families seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day for the first four years. For sixteen years, she worked both day and evening shift five days a week. She cared for children birth to five years for the majority of her career and celebrated her twentieth anniversary in home childcare in 2013.
In 2011, she began a consulting business and obtained the trademark “Daycare Whisperer.” She was selected to write a blog for Daycare.com as “Nannyde the Daycare Whisperer” in 2011. Her private consulting business serves home childcare providers, center owners and parents. She serves as an expert witness for child injury and death cases. She was contracted as a health consultant for two centers including supervision of their onsite cameras and staff development in 2011-2012.
Miss Fees’ expertise in childcare is wrought from her nursing background, thirty years of researching childcare, child health and safety, child death and injury and parenting. She is an avid participant in numerous internet forums and has reviewed each state’s home childcare rules and regulations. She offers expert advice on daycare.com and other internet forums and offers assistance to law enforcement and in child protective cases.
Tori is a mother to one blue-eyed son and two darling teddy bear puppies. She currently resides in northern Iowa where she operates her consultant business, is the author of numerous blogs and is currently publishing the Doing Daycare series of books for childcare providers, daycare centers and parents.