What I know now that I wish I knew then…

Growing up in a home daycare. Written by Katie Bertrand, RECE

I grew up in a small town, and from when I was little until my early adolescence, our house was “the house”—the house that everyone in the neighborhood was a part of.

My mom ran a home-based daycare, and when you live in a small town and your mom runs a daycare there is a pretty good chance everyone knows you, and at one time or another every neighborhood child has called your place a second home for 9 hours a day. We always had a house full of little ones, some for a long time, some that just came for a while, some that are still a part of our life, and so many that left lasting memories.

When you are a child living in the home of a home daycare you become accustomed to a life where nothing is only yours. Everything is communal, you share toys, you share living space, you share pets, and even your bedrooms are transformed into nap rooms in the afternoon. There were times when I hated it, and wished I could just have my own space. I’m sure on many occasions I uttered the words “I will never run a home daycare when I grow up”.

Well, I grew up and it was time to decide on where to go after high school. I decided to get my diploma in Early Childhood Education with the plan to continue to teachers’ college. Still with the mindset that “I will never run a home daycare as my mom did”. Time went on and life happened and after many years of working in a licensed child care centre, I found myself at a turning point. I had my first child…how could I justify putting them in child care when that was my life? So, it happened, the thing I said I would never do—I opened a home daycare.

I was lucky and found some great families right off the start and slowly, as the years progressed, my business grew. Along came my second child and this career choice made even more sense. Being a RECE, I ran my daycare business with a play-based learning philosophy and a heavy emphasis on outdoor time.  Something I learned from watching my mom run her business, you know…that business I said I would never do when I grew up.

Over the years many children have come through my doors and so many times I have thought back to my childhood and all the children that came and went. Every job has trade-offs, but running a home daycare has unique ones. I tried to be aware of the fact that my children and husband were sharing their home with five other families, and sometimes privacy was at a minimum. When they came down in the morning for breakfast there was a high possibility other children were sitting at the table already eating, and one of my children is not a morning person, so the little ones were not always greeted with a happy face and that was ok, because this was their home and their space, and they didn’t always need to be “on”.

I am pretty sure I’ve heard my children utter the words “I will never run a daycare like my mom”, but now that time has passed and my children are growing into young adults, I know now what I wish I realized when I was their age, that growing up in a home daycare was a wonderful childhood. The lifelong skills I learned have followed me throughout my whole life.

My two children and two dogs learned so much as we welcomed new little ones into our home who had never been away from their parents. They learned to be patient and empathetic as mom doesn’t have 5 arms. They learned how to share and communicate, from a very young age sharing mom was part of the job, and that was not always easy. They also learned that mom was always there for drop off and pick up from school, and there were always five smiling faces so excited to see them walk in the door. They learned there were many other moms and dads in their world now who were always excited to hear about all their accomplishments at morning drop-off. What I hope they eventually learn, like I did, is that being a home daycare provider is one of the most important and rewarding jobs and when someone chooses this profession, they are choosing to have a lasting impact on so many little lives that shape our future.