Caring for kids is hard.
We parents know that well. But so do the many millions of dedicated childcare professionals that help our families every week.
It take a lot of skill and talent to work with kids safely, enthusiastically and effectively. It’s why at Poppy we work so tirelessly to find people that can do it well and for the right reasons.
But parents might forget that the expectations go both ways. A lot of times when there are frustrating experiences, these talented individuals choose not to return, leaving parents wondering what happened.
We’ve dug into the data from thousands of bookings to understand the biggest drivers of caregivers’ frustration. And what we found was surprising — mostly in how common and simple the issues are.
We’re sharing the top 5 reasons that caregivers choose not to return to a family and some tips on what you as a parent can do to change that.
Punctuality. You might only be 15 minutes late at the end of the workday or think tacking on a couple hours to the end of a date night is no big deal but this tends to be one of the biggest frustrations for caregivers. First, because if not communicating the change makes it hard from them to plan (sometimes there is an hourly bus that they end up missing, putting them in a bind). The second issue is not valuing their time as you do your own. Even for a date night, sometimes caregivers will agree to a booking that ends at 10pm because they can join a friend’s birthday party late. If you assume that they can just stay, it creates a lot of frustration, especially because they’re now also put into the awkward position of having to ask you your whereabouts.
Poppy’s advice: Always text to let a caregiver know if a change in the agreed time is okay — whether it’s running late in traffic or needing to add on more time. And next time if you think you need a flexible end time, request that in advance.
Orientation. One of the hardest parts of being an effective caregiver is being able to come into a completely unknown space and family and get up to speed on the parents, the kids, the home, the routine and the expectations, within the first 10–15 minutes. It’s why a through orientation is important. Ironically, it’s sometimes the self described “laid-back” families that get dinged on this the most. Even these families have a rhythm and a way of doing things. Even these kids have allergies or favorite activities. Setting the caregiver up for success means making every important thing explicit.
Poppy’s advice: I get how annoying and exhausting having to do the walk through every time can be so one suggestion is to have a rundown sheet that you make once that includes these sections: Parent contact info, Kids interest/health notes, Routines + Rules, Emergency contacts and Expectations for the day. Then as you walk the caregiver through the main parts of your home, you can reference the sheet. Even if you don’t create a sheet, be sure to cover the highlights of these topics.
Kids’ behavior. This is a tricky one. All of our darlings have their on days and their off days. Every professional caregiver understands that. The frustrating experiences happen when the caregiver isn’t given a heads up on some of the behavior to expect and effective strategies to deal with it (eg. are you a “time out” family, a 1–2–3 family or something else). Lastly, caregivers can also be frustrated if parents don’t set the expectation with kids (often the older ones) that the caregiver is to be treated as an authority figure, in the parents’ stead.
Poppy’s advice: First establish with your children that anytime there is a caregiver in the home, that they are an extension of the parents’ authority. Then share with the caregiver your family’s style of discipline and what to expect from each child. It’s all a part of creating a functional caregiving team that feels as seamless as possible for the kids.
Hovering parents. I often work from home, so I know what it’s like to have to discuss expectations with the caregiver so that I’m not undermining her authority or confusing the kids. It’s especially hard when working with a new caregiver but ironically, you won’t be able to get a proper sense of how good they are with your kids by hovering within sight or popping in and out frequently. This is especially true for the younger kids but often caregivers will have just settled the kids into an activity when a parent pops in, throwing everything off and then shortly leaving the caregiver to do it all again.
Poppy’s advice: Whether it’s orienting a new caregiver or working from home, try to give the orientation as efficiently as possible and then try to keep your distance, out of sight. Whether you stay at home in a separate area or go to run errands, it will be a better way to both assess fit or effectively get work done.
Cutting time short. I understand all too well the unpredictability of schedules and being tied to a often challenging childcare budget. But for caregivers, this is a matter of their livelihood — paying tuition and rent and bills. So if they plan on working a full day and then the parents chronically come home a couple hours early, it materially impacts the income they were expecting to make. If this happens a lot, they’ll choose to find other families that they can depend on more reliably.
Poppy’s advice: Try to predict more accurately the amount of time you’ll need — if you’ve booked an 8 hour day but might only need 6, share that before they agree to do it. You may not think they’re a big difference between 3 and 4 hours but for a lot of caregivers it’s the difference between it being worth the travel time to get there and back. Relatedly if you make a lot of 2 or 3 hour bookings, just understand that it’s hard for caregivers to justify a 40 min bus ride for $30-$40 so to perhaps combine two 2 hour needs into one 4 hour one.
Building an effective and lasting relationship with caregivers is hard work, like any relationship. But by understanding some of the important expectations and frustration drivers, I think it can be an easier process. Like any complex issue there are many other topics that create friction but by focusing on these 5, families can start building better, stronger interactions with their caregiver teams.
It’s always a fluid conversation though — what are some things that you’ve found to help in creating more productive caregiver-family relationships?