Thursday, May 12, 2005

Nasty or Nice?

I'm having trouble sorting through my reactions to a particular family. They are lovely folk, I think. I think. I cared for their middle son for a year and a half, ending two years ago. Mom and dad are both doctors, cheerful, easy-going people with a great approach to their children and lots of support for me. As clients, they were terrific. Which is why, when their son had finished his time with me to move on to kindergarten, I agreed to hold his part time space for five months, awaiting their third child's first birthday. Foolish woman that I am, I didn't even ask a holding fee. The baby girl had been with me only five weeks when mom decided she'd rather stay home with this, her last child, and pulled her from my care. Foolish me, yet again: Because this was a family I trusted, and with whom I had a good rapport, I hadn't made sure the contract was signed before the child started! In fact, it was when I asked if they could sign the contract and return it to me that I was informed, on a Thursday, that their child would not be attending as of Monday! Had the contract been signed, I'd have been assured of another month's pay, plus they'd have forfeited their security deposit (one month's fees), so I'd have had the income through Christmas. Yes, they did this to me in November. As it was, they graciously didn't request their deposit back, but I was out the second month's fee. It took me four months to fill that space. (Far more people are looking for childcare in September, when I was keeping the space open and refusing interviews for it, than they are at Christmas when I suddenly found myself scrambling for a child.) Phew. Lessons learned: 1. Always get the contract signed first. 2. Charge a non-refundable holding fee. Additionally, my contract now has a clause stipulating that if someone bails within four months, their deposit is forfeit even if they do give the required 60 days notice. I figured that, as a double-doctor home, they simply couldn't see that a drop of over $500 in my monthly income would have a huge impact on my family finances. Self-absorbed perhaps, but not malicious. So, nice people, still, if a bit oblivious. Last week, I get an email from the mom. It's been two years, and she's now looking for part time care. Do I have a space? I figure I'm safe, right? This is her last child, and she's going back to work after two years. This is minimal risk. I agree to meet with her an afternoon later in the week. The morning of that day, I get an email: she's been offered full-time work, would need to start sooner, and so found herself a space in a daycare centre close to work! All this in three days since we last communicated! She did it again! I am astounded. The more things change, the more they stay the same!

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