Daycare is about taking care of children. Mothering is about taking care of your family. A wife is about taking care of her husband. Be sure to find time to take care of yourself.
Once you reach a burnout level, it will be hard to get you back to the excitement part of being a daycare provider. The secret is knowing you have to take measures to prevent Daycare Provider Burnout before it happens to you.
Here are some little items you can do on a day-to-day basis that will help you prevent burnout over the long haul:
- Find some "alone time" in the evening and/or on the weekend. You can:
- Take a long bubble bath with candles.
- Get involved in a good book.
- Make time for your favorite hobby, whether it’s needlepoint, scrapbooking, puzzle building, baking or something else.
- Have the daycare children help you with your daily chores. Kids at this age love to help. I don’t make the children do anything, but I let them help with things they ask to do. Some of the older children also like helping take care of the younger children.
- Take small, unofficial breaks during the day. Set up activities around the daycare that the children can stay involved with for a little while. Then take five or ten minutes to yourself.
- Go out to dinner once a week to get you out of the house.
- Ask your spouse to cook the family dinner.
- Prepare meals ahead of time. This could be preparing freezer meals on the weekend so you have an easy meal to grab during the week. Or it might be to throw a meal in the crockpot in the morning so your family dinner is ready when your daycare day ends.
- Eliminate stressors that repeat themselves daily. For example, if it's very stressful for you to get all the kids down for nap each day, figure out how to your routine to make it an easier task.
- Sign up for a training conference. Conferences are designed to reinvigorate providers.
- Have a friend or fellow daycare provider that you can call on a break to get some "adult interaction".
- Rotate toys you have available for the kids to play with. If the toys feel new to them, they’ll stay entertained longer, making everything easier for you.
- Build a website I know for me that working on my website became a hobby that took the place of my cross-stitching in the evening. I enjoy doing it and it’s earning extra income. How can you not love that?
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The next level of relief may come in the form of costing some money to accomplish, but it's worth saving your sanity before you reach Daycare Provider Burnout:
- Take time off. Maybe a day you get all to yourself...maybe a spa day.
- Take a family vacation.
- Hire an assistant.
- Outsource some of your duties. Consider hiring a maid service to come in and clean for you once a week. Or maybe you’d like your groceries delivered after you order them online.
- Trade services with another daycare provider. Sometimes your own child can be the most challenging and a trade would give you both a break.
- Ask your significant other to take your children on an excursion. Depending on what they’re willing to do, it could be an evening when they take the kids out for dinner. Maybe on a Saturday, they could go to the zoo or an amusement park. They might even be willing to spend a weekend at a cabin. All these options would give you a quiet house that becomes so rare for a daycare provider.
- Lay off on planned activities for a week. Having pre-planned projects and games requires a lot of work. Take a break and supply the kids with toys, games, books and art supplies that will allow them to entertain themselves.
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Before You Reach the Breaking Point
If you feel like you’re reaching the breaking point, try these more drastic ideas to prevent Daycare Provider Burnout:
- Cut down on the number of hours your daycare is open per day.
- Cut down on the number of children you care for each day.
- Buy and read Finding Your Smile Again: A Child Care Professional's Guide to Reducing Stress and Avoiding Burnout by Jeff A. Johnson. Jeff has been in the childcare business for over 18 years. Besides being in the childcare business himself, he travels the country as a keynote speaker and workshop presenter.
- Take a vacation with no kids. Go to an adult-exclusive area or resort and ask relatives or a good friend to watch your children.
- If you have a "thorn in your side," (a kid that stresses you out every day) get rid of them. I know from personal experience that once that thorn is pulled out, it’s a huge sigh of relief. I always wonder why I didn’t do it sooner.
A general piece of advice I can give you that will help prevent Daycare Provider Burnout is, don’t let your soft heart get you into more than you can handle. I know just from the fact that you are a daycare provider that you are willing to do extras for people just to be nice. That’s nice, but that can get you taken advantage of and lead to burnout much faster.
If you are experiencing Daycare Provider Burnout, let your partner know. They can do a lot to help ease up the stress while you’re going through a tough time.
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Marcia Reagan is the creator of DaycareAnswers and lives in Central Minnesota with her husband and two children. She's been an in-home daycare provider for over twenty years and loves to share her experience and passion for daycare with other providers.