For many home-based childcare providers, the role can quickly become incredibly lonely and isolating, an environmental hazard that perhaps many don’t consider before embarking upon a home-based childcare career.
As a result, many childminders struggle to cope with the isolation that lone-working can create and some look for alternative options, or in more drastic cases, actually leave the profession.
One way in which to overcome this potential barrier is to make links with other childminders or your local childminding network in order to create a team dynamic whilst also minimising the level of loneliness.
You could perhaps meet up with one or two other childminders on a daily basis, planning outings and experiences for all of your minded children and thus working together to create opportunities and experiences and supporting each other with the day to day role.
Alternatively, other childminders may look into developing their business and their staff team in order to not only facilitate growing demand (which was the case when Bridgit decided to take on an assistant in order to facilitate the increase in demand for spaces).
There are of course numerous ways in which you can do this as a business owner and home-based childcare provider; all of which come with their own pros and cons.
You could join an apprenticeship scheme and take on an apprentice in order to increase your ratios whilst also supporting your local education facilities. Alternatively, you could employ an assistant; either someone you know or post a job opportunity locally, the drawback of employing someone as your assistant is that assistants can only be left on their own with children for two hours at a time, which would mean that you would still need to close your setting in the event of annual leave/sickness.
You could also employ another registered childminder to work alongside you; by working alongside another registered childminder, this means that not only do your ratios increase but also, this person is able to cover any sickness/annual leave as there are no restrictions on how long they can be lone-working for which is an obvious benefit for your business and the continuity of care for your children and families.
However, as with any job or any form of employment decisions; there are pros and cons, particularly within a home-based childcare environment.
Many childminders choose to employ/register their partners as assistants in order to share the load, increase ratios and reduce the impact of loneliness and isolation, however, as with any working relationships this can put a strain on your personal relationships and as a result impact working relationships too.
Some home-based childcare providers find that employing someone who they don’t have a personal relationship with is easier for establishing a two-way professional relationship than employing a friend or relative where there is potential for these professional lines to be crossed which can impact negatively upon personal friendships and relationships.
Whilst there are many options to be considered in terms of reducing the impact of isolation and developing your staff team to benefit the business, but each of these decisions should be carefully considered, the pros and cons weighed up and evaluated before any decisions are made in order to ensure the decisions made are the right ones for you and your business.
One childminder said;
“I work with my husband and an assistant. I decided to extend the business due to all the enquires I was getting.
The benefits are that it does take some of the pressure off as you can share the work load. It makes the job less lonely as you do have someone to talk to in the days that you do get stuck indoors due to the weather and can’t meet fellow childminders.
Drawbacks are not having a big enough Vehicle. But we do get out and the children are so good at walking in a group and enjoy local transport. But some places are hard to get to.
Also if the assistant is ill then letting parents down is always hard as I’m not ill but can’t still have the same amount of children.
I have done both; I employed my friend and it worked well for a few years but then a family started and it affected her work and I was letting parents down due to no staff. I had a friend of one of my parents become my assistant but after 2 1\2 years she had had enough. It’s stressful trying to find another assistant to keep the business going as it was.
Then I found an apprenticeship scheme where you have the assistant for a year then while they learn the ropes then you can decide if they stay on or you get another.
I would never employ another family member (husband is enough) I think it would be a strain on a personal level.
It benefitted my setting in December 2018 when I was graded OUTSTANDING by Ofsted due to the attention I could give the children in their learning. The positive feedback from Ofsted tells me that I’m doing a good job and all my hard work to prepare the children for life is well worth it. Many people give up due to the loneliness of the job and all the paper work, there truly is a benefit of have an assistant to share the work load.”
From our setting’s perspective we can reflect upon both working with an assistant and also from a co-minding perspective too, as Bridgit first bought Chloe on board as an assistant whilst she completed her Home-Based Childcare certificate, but it was decided from the outset that Chloe would register as childminder in her own right in order to meet the demand for spaces and provide continuity of care for sickness/annual leave periods.
We pride ourselves on being a brilliant team and contribute a large element of our success to the dynamics of our little team of two and whilst this is something we are both incredibly proud of, it would be unfair of us to say that working so closely with one person for 10+ hours a day doesn’t also come with its challenges.
Next, we will explore both our personal experiences of the pros/cons of co-minding with another registered childminder from within one setting to give an honest account of how this can work for your business and the benefits and drawbacks of doing so.
“I was very aware (and continue to be) of how Chloe would feel coming to work at Pebbles when she first started, as the role meant working in my house, seeing me and my family (warts and all!) which was so very different to the professional and personal friendship we had in the nursery setting we had both worked in previously.
There’s no job description in the world that could cover all of the things that have cropped up over the years, from dealing with the decorator when he came in to touch up the walls, to wrestling with the bin bag in the kitchen bin at the end of week, putting up with my other half wandering around in his dressing gown making his morning tea before the children arrive, to dealing with the garage door mechanic who turned up out of the blue to fix the door! That’s as well as all the other day to day childcare tasks! What I’m trying to convey is the importance for you to ensure your assistant or co-minder knows that’s this is a very ‘unique’ working environment, and very different to that of a nursery/playgroup etc.
Whilst sometimes there isn’t the time to sit down and formally review day to day practice, I know that if there is something I need to discuss with Chloe or visa versa we always find time to have a chat about what’s on our mind. For us, especially when its really busy with the children, a text or email is enough to pose the question or discuss an issue. Equally it’s important to set aside time (for us its annually, normally over dinner in the pub) to appraise each other’s performance and plan goals for the coming period. From the offset, we agreed that due to the close working proximity and also to conserve our personal friendship, that open communication and honesty was key to ensuring our working relationship ‘worked’ and the needs of the children and their families were met.
I couldn’t imagine working now without Chloe. We’ve created such a warm, caring and nurturing family environment for our children to grow in. And that’s only been possible through effective teamwork (meaning we both contribute using our particular skill sets), a shared goal and a shared passion for the development of the service we offer and our own professional development.”
“I appreciate that it can be difficult to find the right balance and/or solution when looking to extend your business and work alongside another person, regardless in what capacity they are employed as.
I feel incredibly lucky to spend my days working alongside my best friend, I also appreciate that for many people they wouldn’t be able to work in such close proximity to one of their closest friends full time, and as with any working relationship, ours of course comes with it’s niggles and occasional off days.
However, I firmly believe that between us, and after many years working together under the ‘Pebbles Childcare’ umbrella that we have now struck up the perfect working relationship in spite of any previous friendship and working relationship we had before in our previous roles.
Whilst we are of course incredibly close, we are also able to be constructively critical of each other where necessary and manage any disagreements or difference of opinions concisely and respectfully.
Similarly, I strongly believe that the reason we have forged such an enviable team is because we truly support and compliment each other’s strengths and weaknesses; there are elements of both of our practices that we quite simply compliment each other’s weaknesses and through this have created a perfect balance within our working relationship.
Naturally, we have days where we rub each other up the wrong way or disagree, this is human nature and will essentially occur regardless of whether you have a personal relationship with a colleague or not, what is important in this instance is how these occurrences are managed; we are not afraid to challenge each other or nip any potential disagreements in the bud – talk it through, hug it out and make each other a hot drink, and move on. When you work in such close proximity with someone, you can’t hold a grudge or let disagreements or niggles fester because this will not only impact upon your personal and working relationships, but it will also impact upon the atmosphere within the setting and ultimately the children and we would never allow that to happen.
I consider myself to be incredibly lucky to do a job I love, alongside someone who I have the utmost respect and admiration for in both a personal and professional capacity; someone who saw potential in me when I had lost my passion, someone who re-ignited that flame for me and supports me in every element of my practice and challenges me to be a better practitioner every single day.
We are very lucky to have achieved such a harmonious working relationship but in terms of home-based childcare, co-minding and employment, I think it’s essential to spend time on and invest in developing good relationships with anyone you may work alongside for the benefit of your working relationships, mental health and ultimately your practice and the atmosphere within your setting.
Spend time getting to know each other, supporting each other and learning together, just as you would a new child in your setting, it truly is worth it in the long run, we all need someone to bounce ideas off, to ‘just give us 5 minutes’ and someone to lean on if we are having an off day, working alongside someone else in home-based childcare provides you with that sounding board and support network; regardless of how you choose to grow your staff team.”