On the Park Bench: Mom of 7-turned child care provider shares her secrets for juggling multiple children
When Julie L. embarked on a job search five years ago, she says she began by asking herself, “What am I good at?” Turns out, she had seven answers staring her in the face: her four sons and three daughters.
“I guess I have marketable skills in child care,” the Austin-area, in-home caregiver says with a laugh. “Being a mom of seven has given me a lot of credibility.”
Four families now entrust their toddlers four days a week to Julie, who works out of her home. Being the head of a large family reassures her clients that she knows how to roll with the punches, she says.
“I started out wanting every day to be just perfect,” she says. “But with each child I had, I learned to go with the flow. Each one of my children is vastly different from the next, so I can appreciate the different temperaments and needs of the kids I care for.”
For prospective parents, Julie always invites them to visit her home and meet her children, who range in age from 6 to 23.
"They see the dynamics of our family," she says. "We are a bustling household, but we work together as a team to get things done and have fun. Parents can see that my home is a safe and happy place, so I gain their trust pretty quickly."
Here, the mom-to-many offers a few suggestions for anyone charged with taking care of multiple kids at the same time.
Keep a bad mood from becoming contagious
“Fortunately, the kids I take care of usually get along fabulously. Children are unknown variables though — they are always changing. Some days, one may not have gotten enough sleep and isn’t in a terrific mood. Before they get (everyone upset), I redirect and find something else for them to do. My go-tos are going outside, playing with Play-Doh or painting.”
Make the most of what you have
“I’m lucky because I have accumulated so many toys over time with my kids. I’ve always saved my family favorites. I’ve got a table with train tracks, not to mention a bunch of dump trucks, tractors, dress-up clothes, books and baby dolls. The kids seem to love everything here. No matter what they are, the best toys are always somebody else’s!”
Come up with a Plan B before you need one
“One kid was here and started throwing up everywhere. When I contacted his parents, they both said they couldn’t pick him up. I had to figure out a way to separate him from the rest of the kids. I had to call in a neighbor to watch the others while I tended to him. He felt horrible, and I felt bad for him.”
Find a place for everything and every activity
“When it’s time to eat, I lay out each child’s lunch and labeled water bottle on the bar in my kitchen. I line the kids up to pick them up. It keeps things orderly.”
Let the kids know they are loved
“I sometimes call the kids I take care of ‘sweetheart’ or ‘honey’ or give them hugs. That was a little bit of an adjustment for my own children. But it’s important for everyone I take care of to know that they are safe and loved. As I parent, I would want to know that’s the case.”
Leverage the power of positivity
“Dealing with three children is hard, but so is dealing with one. If I have an attitude of joy and peace, it reflects on the children. If I’m smiling, they’re almost always smiling back. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, just think about whether the kids feel loved, have been fed and are clean when they go to bed. If so, that’s a good day!”
Read next: On the Park Bench with Erin
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