By Jen Bakken
In this day and age, many children grow up with working parents. One of the most important and most difficult things parents have to decide is who will care for their children while they are working.
Who will nurture those special little ones, love them, teach them, guide them, ensure their safety and give them the one-on-one attention they need when mom or dad can’t?
While there are other options, such as child care centers and nannies, many parents choose a home daycare to provide their children with a home away from home. Currently, there are nearly 500 licensed home daycares in Wright County, alone.
Amanda Aguilar, of Lester Prairie, chose a home daycare because she felt her son would get more one-on-one attention.
“It’s also close to where I work. He is able to be with his friends and in a good community,” she said.
In Dassel, Deb Burandt has 21 years behind her as a home daycare provider. Though her two children, Nick and Lesley, are grown now, she still enjoys the pitter-patter of little feet in her house.
Burandt and her husband, Paul, who works for Farms Hybrids in Cokato, have been married almost 26 years. She grew up in Dassel, attended college for business, and before opening her own business, Deb’s Daycare, worked as a customer service representative.
“Our daughter is in college, and I was supposed to be working elsewhere by now,” admits Deb Burandt. “But, I enjoy the children, and that is the main reason I’m still doing daycare.”
For the past 10 years, Tammy Schaust has been opening her Delano home, as well as her heart, to children. She began doing daycare initially to stay home with her three children, Allison, Trevor, and Grace, as well as earn an income at the same time.
Schaust grew up in Buffalo and received a degree in retail business management from North Hennepin Community College. Before starting her business, Tammy’s Playhouse, she worked as an order analyst.
Her husband, Brian, grew up in Delano and works for Landscape Structures as a construction coordinator.
“I decided the best way to earn an income and be with my children was to start a daycare,” said Tammy Schaust. “And, I know with all certainty, I made the right decision for my family.”
With nearly three years under her belt as a home daycare provider in Howard Lake, Jessica Sturgeon not only enjoys being home with her own three children, Audri, Isaiah, and Isabelle, but being a part of other children’s lives as well.
Sturgeon grew up in Delano, received her bachelor of science degree in early childhood education from Crown College, and taught at a childcare center before opening a home daycare called Footprints in the Sandbox. Her husband, Jose, is a data processing manager for Five Star Direct in Winsted.
“We are really one big family here,” said Jessica Sturgeon. “There are many benefits to what I do, but it’s not an easy job.”
Visit any one of these Dassel, Delano, or Howard Lake homes at lunch time, and one will see just how difficult having a house full of children can be.
Schaust, who has 10 children in her care on most days, admits meal time is the most hectic part of her day.
“Most days, this process takes about two hours from start to finish,” said Schaust.
Sturgeon, agrees, but recently hired a co-teacher, Shannon Chilson, and since they are licensed for 14 children, this has helped make things flow more smoothly.
Nightly pickup is the time Burandt, who cares for up to 12 children, feels can be most stressful.
“The children don’t know for sure who is in control, parents or providers,” she said. “They may try to do things they know they can’t during the day, or the parents and I try to talk, but the children also want to tell about their day.”
Sometimes, a daycare provider’s own children can become jealous when they are forced to share their home, their toys, and their mom, but it is nice for them to have playmates, and these three providers admit the positives far outweigh the negatives.
Most people are able to take breaks at their jobs, but owning a daycare doesn’t always allow this, unless you happen to get nearly a dozen children down for a nap at the same time.
It is also difficult, sometimes, for a daycare provider to plan vacations, take days off, or call in sick, because there are so many other families and jobs relying on them.
Traveling through these daycares each day are many little hands and feet, which can take a toll on floors, walls, furniture, and even the backyard.
“Daycare is hard on your house,” admitted Sturgeon. “You catch kids wiping things you don’t want all over your house. It takes up a lot of space and requires a lot of organization.”
There is a large list of things necessary to be a licensed daycare provider. Eight hours of training are needed per year, homes are inspected, and files need to be kept with records and paperwork on every child.
Specific doors, safety locks, gates, windows, stairs, garbage cans, extinguishers, smoke detectors, and outlet covers are just a few of the items needed.
At any time, a licensor can drop in and if anything is found, even an outlet cover missing, the provider will be written up and sent a correction letter. Once the correction is made, it will need to be posted in the home, with the provider’s license, for two years.
“I am being relicensed this August, and there is a very, very thick booklet that comes out,” said Burandt. “There is a lot more than most would think.”
Some may say that daycare is expensive, but these providers, who are far more than just baby-sitters, work 10 to 12 hour days, caring for the most precious thing in a parent’s life their children.
“We love what we do,” said Sturgeon. “But, a lot of work goes into what we do with children all day,”
Though they feel there is a mutual respect between parents and providers, at times it can be frustrating to handle sick children being brought to daycare, late payments, and late pickups.
“I don’t know how to say this, let’s just say that Friday night at 4:45 p.m., (her closing time), I am done with daycare for the week,” said Burandt. “I want to be with my family at that point.”
Aside from the obvious stressful or hectic times, these providers feel honored to be able to care for other peoples’ children, and welcome them as a part of their extended family.
Children always do and say cute things and, with 10 or more children under one roof, there tends to be many funny moments.
Burandt remembers two little girls who were eating breakfast and were talking about having a play date at one of their houses. They decided they were going to play dolls, eat and wear underwear. (They had recently been potty-trained.)
These providers feel fortunate to have wonderful parents and children and for the relationships they have developed.
“It’s not just a business,” said Schaust. “I get really attached to the children. Our days are busy and sometimes I feel a little frazzled, but I look at those sweet faces and know what it’s all about.”
Where a parent chooses to bring their children for daycare is a difficult, important, and personal decision.
Burandt, Schaust, and Sturgeon agree that parents shouldn’t settle for a situation they aren’t comfortable with.
“Finding a good daycare is hard, especially in our area where daycares are few and far between or full,” said Sturgeon. “I want to tell parents to not give up your children are so important to you. Find someone who feels the same way.”