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Struggling to Cope


Stargrower
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I own and manage a full day care nursery. We have three rooms and 44 children at a time, with about 110 on role

 

In January last year, in the space of a week, three full time members of staff told me they were pregnant, two from one room and one from another. By March a fourth one was pregnant and by June a fifth. Some part time staff took on full time roles to cover maternity leave and I have also recruited new staff with great difficulty. I now have four members of staff on maternity leave, including my deputy manager, and the fifth one will be finishing soon. One room has had a complete change of staff in the past year.

 

When we returned after the Christmas break, a sixth member of staff told me she is pregnant and a seventh that she is trying to conceive. This week, a full time member of staff who joined us part time in May, took on full time maternity cover in August, has taken on a room leader role and is doing brilliantly, told me she has applied for another job. She is not unhappy in her current role but thought this job sounded interesting and was a good career opportunity.

 

I feel that I am at breaking point. I usually work 11 hours a day, plus catching up and doing jobs at weekends. I have always been really healthy but have recently been told my blood pressure is sky high (needing immediate and probably life long medication) and that I am 'pre-diabetic'. I have been planning to reduce my working hours for over a year, but it is just not possible as I feel I lurch from one crisis to another. I have no SENCo, no Safeguarding co-ordinator (I am covering both roles) and the person I have appointed deputy manager is hoping to become pregnant asap. The quality of applicants for jobs has been so low, I have held off appointing some roles as I feel it would be even more stressful to employ someone who isn't up to the job.

 

I am very good at covering things up, pretending I am ok, joining in the laughter about which chair it is that, if sat on, you become pregnant, that there is 'something in the water' and nod my agreement with all the people who show some sympathy with my situation but say "That's what happens when you employ young women." as if I had some choice in the matter. I am happy for all the expectant and new mothers, so excited and full of preparations, but I don't know what to do or which way to turn and any advice would be gratefully received.

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Oh dear could not read and run and wish I could offer some support .

 

I think that now is the time you need to stand back and really think about yourself and your health as continuing with this much stress is going to have life long worries for you.

 

Are you able to recruit successfully or is that to a problem ? Are the staff on maternity planning on coming back ?

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Wow! That is quite extreme. I feel stressed just reading it.
You write that you have a deputy manager on maternity leave and that you just employed another deputy who is planning to get pregnant, so my thoughts may not be of any help - to search for an older, responsible and experienced person who can share your work load.

Take care of yourself!

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Stargrower, I will start this post again as it has just disappeared off the screen for good!

 

I see that you are an owner and manager, how would you feel about trying to find a partner to your business if that side of things is profitable.

 

What about approaching one of the larger chains and see if they will buy you out if you own your premises and are successful.

 

If the business can afford it what about a recruitment agency doing some of the work for you and finding a mature person who wants to be a deputy - maybe there is someone on their books right now looking for just your opportunity.

 

I hope I am not being rude if I say this; is your post just a way of discussing a particularly bad patch you are going through and not really wishing to resolve your problem, or do you truly want to change things?

 

If you haven't already, might I suggest drawing up a list of all your options and following through. If your health is suffering - what else/who is suffering?

 

However this situation moves forward Stargrower I wish you well and hope that you find a compromise to suit your needs, but for once put yourself first.

Edited by Panders
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This is more or less the same scenario (not all the pregnancies) as the mum on Wanted Down Under last Friday working 80 odd hours a week.

 

Your health is the most important thing to remember though, obviously I haven't a clue about your personal life/finances but no-one should have to have that kind of work/life balance.

 

And as wildflowers says perhaps [discreetly] start looking for more mature staff members? ... it may not be technically legal and a tad ageist- but you have got to put your own personal needs for the job role advertised too.

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[...] start looking for more mature staff members? ... it may not be technically legal and a tad ageist- but you have got to put your own personal needs for the job role advertised too.

Also for the children's sake. More stability in staffing surely is a good thing for them.

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I really feel for you, such bad luck for it all to be happening at the same time. Do you have any idea if any of the staff currently on Maternity leave will be returning to work? Just a guess, but if they told you in January i'm assuming they were most likely around 3 months and have therefore probably not got too much longer on maternity, and hopefully should be back before the next lot go on their leave. All i can suggest is to try and find out what their plans are and go at it step by step. I took a risk last year and employed 2 girls straight out of school, only 16 years old. The idea was to be able to train them up how i wanted, not getting someone who has come from another place and spouting "that's not how we did it at..." luckily they are both great and learning fast with great enthusiasm but i can't count them properly in ratios yet. The week later a full time staff told me she was pregnant and i spent a lot of time panicking about her being off, i find it hard to plan for her maternity as we don't know exactly what our numbers will be like and we have a lot of children leaving for school this year so i may not need to replace her, recruiting in our area is a nightmare too! After many sleepless nights i've had to have strong words with myself that we can't plan for everything and it will work out in the end because it has to. Obviously this is only with 1 pregnant and your situation is much harder to manage. But believe in yourself, you have done fantastic to keep it together so far. I think your first step will have to be to delegate, you have employed a deputy and you should pass on some things to her, she may be trying for a baby, but that doesn't mean it will happen straight away and if it does then the responsibilities will get passed onto the next deputy. you need to take care of yourself. good luck x

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Good advice from everyone particularly asking support from your LA if you are in position to have anyone to visit as I know some areas don't have any ey teams now.

 

You must make your own health a priority. I know how easy it can be to try to do everything but you can't. As a nursery owner/mangager I know the pressures you're under and i recognise that this current staffing situation is extreme.

 

In terms of recruitment, it's a tricky one as it's often down to who may be around when you need to recruit and I'm sure I'm not alone in having particular phases or situations where I've had either 'lucky escapes' (trial periods revealing issues etc) or felt really happy to find the right person at the right time.We all have our own experiences which help shape our advice too.

 

Personally, I think you should remain openminded re. Recruitment. I'd now be far less inclined to feel or assume as I once used to,that more mature candidates will necessarily bring more experience and stability/ opportunitues to a setting as I've had the unfortunate experience in the past of individuals not willing to develop or accept change and even create far more problems than younger staff amongst the team and so on (long before the days of regular supervisions though)so... There is no magic answer or solution really.

 

Ultimately,your legal duty is ensuring the children can be safely looked after and their individual needs met - you'll need to be honest about this and may even need to lose some of your customers if you cannot recruit/ staff properly.

 

Could you look at other scenarios like rearranging rooms/mixed age groups or do you perhaps do that anyway?

 

Apologies for any typos- in a rush but wanted to respond.

 

Good luck,take care.

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Older practitioners are not necessarily better because of their experience, but may be more likely to bring stability. I've found that those who have older children and a more stable financial situation, and know what they want with regards to work bring more stability than someone who is, for example, just out of college, engaged and move about settings to gain experience.

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Hi Stargrower. Sorry to hear about your situation. As others have said your own health must take priority. I know this is not good business sense but are you in a position to be able to 'scale down' for a period - myabe suspend new registration etc to give you some breathing space. Have you thought about taking on an apprentice? I know this means training/mentoring but give that responsibility to another member of staff. Some training complanies will do the whole process for recruiting, induction the lot and depending on the age of the apprentice you may be able to get a grant. Good luck!

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Thank you everyone for your advice and supportive comments, I will take them all on board and think carefully about how to move forward.

 

I can see from my original post that I don't actually say what help I am looking for, but yes, I do want to change the situation as I can't continue as I am.

 

I had thought about approaching my LA, although we don't have any early years support any more, they would probably want to know if it was affecting our sustainability, which I guess it could ultimately.

 

Thanks again everyone.

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