A friend reminded me not long ago of how important caregivers are to our children. "My daughter has children of her own now, but she still remembers 'Miss Rose,' " she said.
"She sends 'Miss Rose' a birthday card every year because this wonderful woman always gave herself an upside-down birthday party -- with a cake and presents for the kids instead of her.
"She only took care of my daughter until she went to nursery school, but I don't know what we'd have done without her."
Here are a few things to remember as you work with your caregiver:
* Treat her like the professional she is. She's not a servant. She's not just a baby sitter, either. She's one of the most important people in your child's life -- and yours.
* Communicate, communicate, communicate. Explain clearly and carefully your wishes and expectations concerning the care of your child. Also, explain clearly any changes you want in your child's care.
If you want your child's caregiver to start feeding your child breakfast, for example, this change should be discussed and agreed to ahead of time, and an adjustment should be made in her pay.
* Put it in writing. Parents who have smooth, uncomplicated, mutually satisfying relationships with their children's caregivers usually have a clear, uncomplicated, mutually satisfying contract with her.
* Make the time for regular meetings. Provide your child's caregiver with regularly updated information about his or her routine at home, activities, preferences, anxieties and home situation.
Do not expect a caregiver to offer feedback and advice about your child during frenzied pick-up and drop-off times. on the other hand. Schedule conferences ahead of time -- then show up on time. Her time is every bit as valuable as yours.
* Don't take your child's caregiver for granted. She's human, too! She needs positive input about her work performance every bit as much as you. Take the time to thank her for the finger paintings she bothers to send home, the Christmas program she slaves over, the field trips she manages so well.
* Keep your word. If you say you'll pick up your child by 6 p.m., do it. Every night. Drop your child off on time, too -- never early.
If you've agreed to keep your child home when he's sick, on the other hand, don't cheat. And, if you're supposed to provide your caretaker with emergency numbers, consent forms, permission slips, health certificates, etc., take this responsibility seriously, too.
* Be fair. Always give your child's caregiver at least a month's notice if you're going to take a vacation during which she will receive no pay, and at least a month to six weeks notice if you're going to change caregivers.
* Finally, trust her.
Questions and comments for Niki Scott should be addressed Working Woman, Features Department, The Sun, Baltimore 21278.
Universal Press Syndicate