Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Holiday Hassles/Boundary Disputes

I admit up front that, as far as caregivers go, I am likely in the top two percent. My pay is in the top bracket for the province, probably. I get sick days, I get holiday pay, I get late fees, I have a well-written and clear contract. In other words, I act like a professional, and get treated accordingly. I am, a qualified teacher, with ECE experience and courses, and have even taught parenting classes. The parents pay well, and they get good value. I am also in my forties, with a busy life, adolescent children, and notably less energy than I had ten years ago. Am I still up for the job? Absolutely! Do I earn my holiday time? Do I earn my holiday time?! And here's the issue for today's blurb. Holidays. I am self employed. I do get some paid holidays, but for the past couple of years I've needed more. However, I feel that the time I already get is as much as I can reasonably expect any of my clients to cover. If I want more, I have to take them without pay. And for two years, I have been unable to manage it. This year I made it a firm priority, setting aside a certain amount each month, so that instead of the two weeks in my contract, I could take an entire month off at the end of the summer. I have to have it. If I don't get it, I will burn out. None of my clients would argue that mine is a demanding job. All of them have said at some point or other that they could never do it, and/or that they don't know how I do. So a few weeks ago, I sent them all four months' notice that I'll be taking the time, and offering to provide the names of a couple of caregivers who'd provide back up. All but one are just fine with it. But that one... the one who was "disappointed" in me; who would be "highly inconvenienced" by this, for whom it "was not what we expected when we signed up". (Is that last a veiled threat??) I explained my rationale, and we left it that he'd be letting his wife deal with it from here on. Seems he's somehow seeing it as her responsibility, or at least, her problem. I don't know, I didn't ask, I don't really want to know... It seemed that, having shared his feelings with me, he was ready to move on, and so we discussed other things for a couple more minutes before he proceeded home with his child. So why did he tell me? "Communication" he says, but to what end? Am I supposed to change my holiday time to suit them - and inconvenience others instead? Or decide not to take holidays (and risk burn-out) so that they not be inconvenienced? Or just feel guilty? This is one of those blurred boundaries I fumed about in my last post. Professionally speaking, unless this issue is causing you to consider pulling your child from my care, I don't really need to know how you feel about it. Would he, I wonder, feel it necessary to tell his mechanic how he feels about not having a car for a week? Or his accountant how he feels about making that quarterly payment to the taxman? But what really, really annoyed me was his refusal to take the names of the other caregivers who have agreed to back me up. He cited "continuity of care", a noble sentiment, to be sure. However, since it is his choice to adhere to this ideal, then the responsibility for the inconvenience is his, not mine. I am not inconveniencing him; he is inconveniencing himself. There is no inconvenience that I can see in taking his child to Susan, three blocks from me, for the two extra weeks in the summer. The inconvenience is his choice! His. Choice. Why should I be made to feel guilty for this?????? Argh. And there is no lack of continuity here: both the other caregivers are women with whom I routinely meet! We go to the park, we go to playgroups. We interact with each others' charges. His child knows these women, and knows all the children in their care. (Moreover, this particular tot is an outgoing, very friendly little person - not a trace of shyness. This would not be difficult for this child at all.) So what's the problem? There is none, none at all beyond dad's unwillingness to have anyone but me care for his child. Should I feel flattered? Or imprisoned? And once again, I'm back to repeating: It's your child, It's my life!

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