Wednesday, 4 September 2013

I'm not a babysitter

In my field of work you will receive a lot of ridicule, intentional or not.  When children are not in a formal school with desks and chalkboards whiteboards, all of a sudden in the eyes of parents, you are not a teacher, you are a babysitter.  Having graduated from the ECE (Early Childhood Educator) program 7 years ago and working in child care the entire time since graduating, I have come across my fair share of ridicule.

Since opening up my own home child care in 2011, the term "babysitter" gets thrown around a lot more.  All of a sudden, because I am caring for children in my home, I am not a teacher, I'm a babysitter.  "When will you start babysitting again?" people asked me when I was on maternity leave with my daughter.  Before my daughter it was, "How is the babysitting going?" or "How many kids do you babysit?".  I politely smile and answer their query and gently remind them that I do not babysit; "I think I will start doing child care again in the fall."

It's a little quibble, I know, but it demeans me and the time and effort I put into my career.  Not my job, my CAREER.  This is my life's work.  Teaching children about the Earth, nature, animals, themselves, respect, compassion, honesty, common sense and everything else they need to know to become well-intentioned and functioning participants of society.

 I spend more time with people's children than they do.  It's sad, but that is what parents have to do to support their families.  I know there is a lot of guilt on the shoulders of parents who work long hours and don't get to see their kids that often.  Which is one of the reasons I chose this field of work as my career.   When I was a child, I sometimes went a long time not being with my parents.  We were in the same house, but we weren't together.  Let me explain.  My parents were antique dealers, which means they had to go to auctions to get a lot of their product.  Auctions that were sometimes hours away and went late into the night.  (you have no idea how hardcore antique dealers are).  My bus trip home from school was a long one (the one to school was long too, just not AS long as the ride home), so by the time I got home around 5pm my parents were already gone to an auction and didn't get back home until 2 or 3AM.  Because they were hard workers (long hours and having to lift furniture weighing hundreds of pounds) they were very tired.  My mom would usually sleep while my dad helped me get ready for school in the morning.  Go to school all day, then repeat.  This didn't happen all the time, but there are definitely busier times of the year for multiple auction sales.   I remember walking into my parents room as a child and just standing there, watching them sleep.  I knew they were tired, but I just wanted to see them.  I just wanted to be with them; listen to their breath, watch the sun reflecting off of my mom's hair.  They probably did the same to me while I was sleeping.  We were in the same house, but on different sleep shifts.  Being a latch-key kid made me realize that when I "grew up" I wanted to be able to stay at home with my kids.  I missed my parents and I didn't want my future children to feel the way I felt.  Being at home alone, living in the middle of nowhere with only 2 close neighbours didn't help my feelings of lonliness either.  It's scary when it gets dark in the country. 

At 17 years old I already knew what I wanted to do with my life.  I chose ECE to better prepare myself for opening up my future home child care.  I wanted the knowledge, the experience, the confidence and I was a teen who wanted to get away from small-town living for a while (which was a blessing in disguise - it turns out I hate cities and moved back to my home-town a few years after graduating college). 

Now that I have the knowledge, the experience, the confidence, I consider myself an in-formal teacher.  I don't have desks, I don't have a lesson plan.  I teach the children about what they are interested in, but I still TEACH.  I don't plop them in front of the T.V. while I eat bon-bons and talk on the phone.  I am an educator, a teacher, a resource.  I am NOT a babysitter.


  1. Robin, you are an amazing teacher, and an amazing Mom. I am so very proud of you. Reading about your loneliness hurts. It hurt leaving you then and a mother's guilt never goes away. I wished so much that I could have stayed home with you but earning a living is one of those hard realities. I think every mom feels they could do more for their child no matter how much they give or how much they love. And yes, I spent many nights just watching you sleep. I would always come into your room and kiss you and stroke your hair before I went to bed no matter how late it was or how tired I was. We are so blessed to have you and Dave watching over our precious Sloan. She is a very lucky little girl to have you both. I know that having you care for their children will give these hard working parents piece of mind knowing that their children are not only being entertained, cared for and nurtured but being taught to be the best little (and adult) people they can be. I admire what you do so much.

  2. I sincerely hope I never called you a babysitter, I don't think of you that way. And I understand your wish for people to appreciate what role you plan in a the lives of so many children. I can't even count the number of times I have been called a button pusher or some other inappropriate name at work.
    Your feelings about not being home with your children is something I share as well. I will never want to miss the simple things, the choices we make now have serious consequences for your families. My mom made a lot sacrifices so she could be home with me and Heather. I was very lucky. Sloan is very lucky too.