f you’re anything like me then you are a father that has to work hard for a living. Yes, I understand that every year more and more fathers are choosing to be, or are being forced to be the stay at home parent. But I think it’s safe to say that we are still a long way from this trend becoming the status quo. Again, if you’re anything like me, then it’s not even really an option for you or your co-parent to stay home. With interest rates on the rise, the cost of living skyrocketing, and childcare costs in the stratosphere, most of us parents are in no position to forgo a two salary household for the luxury of having one parent being home until the kids are of school age. Instead we are left sitting in our offices, standing on a scaffold, or delivering packages, all while constantly feeling guilty because our kids are in daycare, with a nanny, or some other caregiver nine or 10 hours a day, five days a week. If you do the math that means that during our children’s early developmental years, about up to age five, our kids spend more awake time with the people we pay to care for them than they do with us.

If I am sounding a little bothered it’s because I am. What I am finding is that things that I think of as basic like oatmeal and cereal are for breakfast, or no soda with sugar and caffeine, are not what my son’s caregivers think of as basic. Not too long ago one of the ladies that works at my son’s daycare told me that he didn’t want oatmeal for breakfast, so she gave him soup instead. Another caregiver excitedly told me that my son just loves orange soda. Each time I found myself knocked off balance in disbelief by the fact that in both cases the caregivers thought that what they were telling me was ok. There have also been instances where movies that I found inappropriate for my little boy were being viewed casually; as if a three year old should be watching Peter Jackson’s King Kong (a movie that I own by the way but never once thought I should watch with my kid).

The obvious problem with everything I just said, beyond the possibility of childhood obesity, and a touch of ADHD is that my son thinks that my wife and I are completely bonkers because we don’t allow him to do any of the stuff in our house that he does out in the world. He’s obviously confused when we tell him that he cannot have cookies for breakfast, because apparently, people have given him cookies for breakfast.

In the past I have talked a lot about consistency being the most important thing, aside form love, that you can give your child. You should be consistent with bedtimes and naptimes, dinner time, discipline, expected behavior in the house and at the playground, and countless other things. Kids like and need predictability. But what happens when your simple rules are not being followed by the people you pay to follow them? Do you fire them? Or is the problem bigger than that?

First you should be as clear as humanly possible when speaking to the caregiver and let that person know what you want, how and when to implement your guidelines, and why it has to happen the way you said. Write it down if you have to. If after a few weeks your child is still showing signs of confusion due to mixed signals– then perhaps you should consider a more drastic action. Your kid deserves a caregiver that understands that these early stages of development are crucial in determining what types of person our kids will be years down the road. Remember the role of a paid caregiver is almost as important as the role of a parent. The most significant difference is that a parent is a parent for life, no matter how bad they are at the job, but a terrible caregiver can be fired and forgotten!

Until next time, take care of yourselves!