Two sides: Coming home early

Every story has two sides. Nowhere is that truer than when you’re dealing with working in your home, with your children. There are so many topics that, from one point of view are so clear but taken from the other view immediately become complicated. This time we tackle the topic of parents returning home earlier than expected.

Every story has two sides. Nowhere is that truer than when you’re dealing with working in your home, with your children. There are so many topics that, from one point of view are so clear but taken from the other view immediately become complicated.

At Poppy, we’re privileged to have the opportunity to see and empathize with both sides. There is no judgment, only an attempt to help one side appreciate the experience of the other.

So we’ll dive into some of the most common situations that we find the greatest differences in perspective. Things like tidying up, or cancelation fees when kids are sick or higher rates at high demand times.

This time we tackle the topic of parents returning home earlier than expected.

Amy (parent):

“Fridays are my day to work for a couple hours, run errands, and maybe get a workout in. I booked Clara for 9am to 2 pm, which would cover me for all of that. I included a bit of a buffer because I didn’t want to run over on her or have to come home before I finished everything. I was glad to have Clara, who Isabelle loves and who knows our family, which makes morning transitions so much easier.

But this on this day, one of my meetings canceled and I cranked through my work faster than I expected (when does that happen?!). I was also feeling a bit guilty about not spending a lot of time with Isabelle this week because I had needed to hit a deadline. So I figured I’d skip the workout and head home at noon so I could take her out for a fun afternoon adventure. Plus I’d been spending a lot of child-care this month and I figured our budget could use the relief even if it was just a couple of hours.

When I got back, Clara and Isabelle were mid-adventure. I could hear the laughter from outside and that always makes me happy to know she’s having a great time when we’re not there and when I saw they were playing Forts and Pirates I could see why.

Clara was surprised to see me but when I told her why she said she understood and grabbed her things. She seemed a little quieter on her way out but Isabelle was already talking to me about what she wanted us to do, so I just said bye.

The living room was a bit of disaster with pillows and blankets everywhere and a snack was left out on the counter. I was a bit annoyed because now I’d have to spend a bit of time tidying up but Isabelle had had such a great morning that I figured I’d just mark Tidyness on the feedback form and leave it at that.”

Clara (caregiver):

“I’m a grad student at Seattle U, studying to become a teacher. My coursework can be intense but I don’t have class on Fridays so they’re the perfect day to earn as much as I can. Being a student in Seattle is tough just with all of the expenses but I find that at least with Poppy I can fit in as much work as I need around my school schedule.

When I saw Amy’s request, I almost was going to decline it because it was only until 2pm and I usually need to work the full day. But I really love their family and Isabelle and I get along so well that I figured I’d make it up with another booking later.

Everything was going great until Amy got back at noon. I was definitely caught off guard. We had made a big fort, running over to the kitchen island” for snack treasure” and when she got home the place was a disaster, which I felt horrible about. But she seemed eager to take Isabelle on their afternoon adventure so I didn’t get a chance to tidying everything up or even do the full Caresheet. I hate leaving the place a mess but there wasn’t much I could do.

And most of all, it was really frustrating because now, not only was I not working the full day, I was only going to make half of what I was planning to for the day. Instead of making $153 if I had chosen to work a full day, I’ll only have made $51.

I still love that family but if that’s going to be a regular thing I don’t think I’ll be able to go back.

Poppy’s take:

Like most situations, it’s easy to empathize with both sides. But it does bring up a couple of questions.

What time should be booked?

Amy (the parent) thought it would be more thoughtful to book a time with buffer and not run over on Clara (caregiver). That’s usually what we find parents do and that’s a good bet (especially because caregivers often do have plans after and running late can sometimes be worse). But she didn’t consider the impact on her earnings.

Parents: Book your best estimate of the time that will be needed and budget for that as well. Usually coming back 15 or 30 minutes early is not as big a deal, but just be aware: it might not seem like a lot but it can add up for caregivers that are counting on these earnings. Just know that for the vast majority of Poppies, the income they’re making isn’t just for pocket money, it’s to pay bills.

Either way, communication is your friend if you know you’ll need less time before the booking starts, feel free to ask Poppy to adjust it so then at least caregivers know and can plan accordingly (eg. Poppy could have sent Clara another request for the afternoon). Also then Clara would have planned the time differently and Amy wouldn’t have come home to a mess.

Caregivers: Be aware the parents aren’t always able to know what time they’ll need. They gave up control of their time the minute they became parents 😉 They will try to estimate as best as they can.

What to do if the parent is running early?
Parents: If you do find yourself with extra time, our suggestion is to either find a way to make the most of it (using it to run extra errands, have a quiet coffee or even finish up some things at home while the kids are occupied). Or, failing that, consider compensating the caregiver for at least most of the time booked. It’s not a requirement, but it’s more than appreciated.

Caregivers: If parents do come home early, be aware it’s rarely something they’re doing as a sign of disrespect but rather constantly shifting plans. Budgets are also usually tight and they’re counting every dollar.

If it’s something that has happened, feel free to bring it up to parent directly, or if that is understandably awkward, then to Poppy so that we can help mediate. But certainly address it before deciding not to return to a family because of this, especially if it’s a family you really enjoy. Chances are they’re just not aware and would rather change things to keep working with you.

Have something to add or a different point of view? We’d love to hear it.

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