One of the potential downsides of childminding can be isolation. Joy Persaud finds there are ways of combating this, as she explains.
Every day PACEY staff take hundreds of calls from PACEY members, but recently there was one call that really brought home what the reality of working as a childcarer can mean for some.
“It was one of those calls that really touched me emotionally,” explains Julie Doyle, PR manager. “Anita* was close to tears as she described her feelings of isolation in her work as a childminder. She felt she had little emotional support in her work and she was feeling intimidated by other childminders working in her area.”
Although calls of this nature are infrequent, as Karen Jones, Membership Services Manager, knows only too well “childminding can be a challenging profession, and we do get calls from our members about the emotional side of working as a childminder.”
For Anita, a support call was arranged from a PACEY associate who provided a listening ear as well as advice about options for getting support locally as well as guidance on what the legal helpline can provide. “However, we do recognise that there is a limit to what we can do – we can’t be there all the time and childminding can be a tough job,” says Karen. “It’s important for our members like Anita to realise that they are not alone.”
Working as a childminder has myriad benefits, but some find the lack of adult contact can leave them feeling isolated, which negatively affects their wellbeing.
PACEY Local Facilitator for Cambridge City, Charlotte Greeno, explains: ‘I think the biggest challenge people face with becoming a childminder is that you are usually a lone worker. This means that if you have questions or problems, it may be difficult to get advice from others, as well as other factors, such as coming up with exciting activities for the children, and having little adult interaction over the working week.
‘This could then have an effect on your family life too – if you are feeling isolated, it may lead you to feel mixed emotions. This is why it is important to make sure, when you think of activities and places to visit with the children, to consider your wellbeing too, because if you aren’t feeling your best, it could impact the children’s day, too. So, we are important too.’
Sue Asquith, Early Childhood Consultant and PACEY Associate, agrees. She believes the main challenge for lone workers, regardless of their job role, is that there is no one to share the highs and lows with.
‘If you work in a staff team, there would be people to interact with, ask questions to, someone to give you feedback or praise about something that has gone well or give you ideas of how to tackle an activity or problem,’ says Sue.
‘If you are used to working as part of a team, a change to being a home-based child carer can seem isolating. If, in addition, you are new to the childcare profession, you may be unsure of an area of your work or, for example, find that settling in a new child or the business and paperwork side is a challenge.
‘Often a change of scenery can help to boost a low mood for both you and the children. Getting outdoors into the fresh air and having a walk or run around can improve our social wellbeing whilst having the obvious links to everyone’s physical wellbeing and helping to reach everyone’s daily exercise guidelines. It is amazing how many steps you can achieve each day just by following the children around and walking to school and the park,’ adds Sue.
The peer-to-peer support that PACEY local provides can help childminders cope with feelings of isolation.
‘Sometimes having a friendly person to talk with who understands your job, and everything that comes with it, can really make the difference,’ says Charlotte.
Lisa Fish, who became an Ofsted-registered childminder after her second child was born, recalls how daunting it was to begin working at home.
‘There was no support from colleagues to bounce your ideas off, I felt totally isolated. I carried out my initial training with PACEY and during my first visit from my Childminder Support and Development Officer (CSDO), I was told about the benefits of the support group, PACEY Local.
‘Unsure of what to expect, I went along with an open mind to Ely Library where I met my facilitator and several other local childminders for the first time. I was made to feel very welcome and immediately felt at ease with everybody. Since then, I have attended many of the PACEY Local network support meetings where we meet and freely discuss all aspects of our childminding business. I now feel that I have a support network that I can call upon should I need to, and no longer feel the loneliness and isolation that I once did.’
Support from PACEY
Theresa Johnson, PACEY Training and Development Manager, stresses that as well as offering support through the helpline and PACEY local, PACEY members can receive personalised support through ‘PACEY in person’ visits from an experienced PACEY Associate. “These visits can take place at your home and offer support and advice on every aspect of your practice in a non-judgemental way,” says Theresa. “The visits can make a real difference to members’ confidence, but we recognise that some members like Anita can continue to have tough days. It is important to learn to be assertive and set yourself small challenges,” advises Theresa. “Focus on the positives, what you are good at, and celebrate your successes.”
PACEY’s latest Building Blocks survey shows that the majority of practitioners find their work ‘immensely rewarding’, but Liz Bayram, PACEY Chief Executive, recognises that it can be a lonely profession.
‘Becoming part of a peer support network, such as PACEY Local, can be extremely beneficial in connecting with like-minded practitioners locally and coming together for training and learning opportunities. We also know from the recent Study of Early Education and Development (SEED) report that belonging to a peer-to-peer network also has a large role to play in inspiring high quality care.’
*name has been changed