As a single parent I was at my wits end when the amazing woman who’d been walking to my house to mind my 18 month old son while I went to teach yoga classes said she couldn’t do it any more. One of my yoga students happened to work at the Benevolent Society, and so knew all about child care options. “Why don’t you try Family Day Care?” she suggested.
I started researching Family Day Care and discovered that I’d be able to leave my child with someone at the odd hours I needed, mostly in the evening, so I could keep teaching yoga. Family Day Care providers will also mind children overnight and on the weekends if necessary.
Eventually I found Fahmida, a Bengali woman the same age as me who lived just around the corner! I couldn’t believe my luck, it was like discovering treasure.
Fahmida had five children under 4 years old in her care in those days. She seemed to manage beautifully, always appearing serene and unruffled. She was always there and able to take Luke whenever I needed her to.
She had two babies and three toddlers and the toddlers were always happily playing with each other.
Fahmida established play stations with dress ups, puzzles and games so there was always something interesting for the children to do. She did lots of creative art with them - so much so that when my son got to Kindy the teacher was impressed with how advanced his artwork was. This was also great for developing his fine motor skills, and as we now know, the neurological pathways in his brain.
She took them to the park when the weather was good and they played soccer in the backyard. Afternoon nap time was always peaceful.
Since then the regulations have changed to make it even better for children, so Fahmida can have a maximum of seven children with no more than four children preschool age or under, including her own children younger than 13 years of age at the residence.
The regulations have reduced her income but improved the ratio of educators to children, something the Australian Government has been trying to do since intiating the ‘Investing in The Early Years’ program in 2009.
Those same regulations meant Fahmida had to study her Certificate 3 in Early Childhood Learning while Sam was there. This meant she was undergoing professional development for the three years we were with her and we were the lucky beneficiaries of all her extra study.
Fahmida kept records of the children’s development and presented me with a book of photos, artwork and various exercises that Luke had done at the end of each year.
She was the first of his educators to recognise that he was quite bright.
I felt that she loved Luke and took him in as part of her family. I was glad he could be in a big family environment with Fahmida, her husband and children, and the other children in her care. I was also glad that he had the chance to experience another culture at an early age.
Fahmida and I became friends, chatting when I dropped Luke off and picked him up. She’d tell me what had happened that day, how he was going. This was an important part of our relationship, coordinating our efforts to help him to develop to his full potential.
Sometimes she would thrill and surprise me by giving me dinner to take home with me - often a delicious Bengali dish like Biryani! t other times we would join them for dinner, picnics and family celebrations. In this way she often literally kept me going through the first difficult years of single parenthood. By helping me she was also helping Sam. It was obvious to Sam that there was warmth between Fahmida and myself. We are still friends, I keep her informed of Luke’s developments and she is proud of him.
I thought at the time, and still do, that Family Day Care is a flexible and affordable option for parents that seems under-utilised. For me it was a childcare option that looked after me as well as my child. The women who do this work are amazing, and their work deserves to be valued, just as the work of all carers and parents deserves to be valued.
Linda Apps is a Sydney based Iyengar Hatha Yoga teacher and writer. Her son Luke is now 11 years old.
For more information about family day care visit www.familydaycare.com.au or call 1800 658 699