Ask a Manager

Ask a Manager
To the manager

A reader writes:

My three-year-old daughter has been going to the same in-home daycare provider since she was very young. Her daycare provider, let’s call her Amy, is very good at what she does, has 25 years of experience, and is well-respected in our community. We have always been happy with her as a professional. However, Amy’s daycare is closed for 40 weekdays each year. Most of those days are paid. My spouse and I each have 15 days of paid time off, so it’s always been challenging to cover those closures, but with the help of my in-laws, we make it work.

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Recently, Amy came to us and announced that she would be taking on a part-time position coaching other in-home daycare providers in addition to owning her own daycare, and that she would be working four hours each day in addition to the ten hours her daycare is open and would be closed an additional day each month. This is a big problem for us, since we are barely able to cover the current number of closures, and we don’t feel comfortable relying on someone who is working 14-hour days to provide safe and attentive care for our child. We offered to pay her more if she decided not to take the position, but she declined. We began looking for a new daycare and found one.

This is where things get interesting. Amy’s contract states that we need to give six weeks of notice if we are ending care with her. I gave her notice, in person, exactly six weeks before our planned last day. Amy was nice, told us she was sorry we were leaving, but she understood. I was very clear that the only reason we were leaving was because of the schedule change, and that we had no qualms about the level of care that she has provided. She told us that the new daycare center we were moving our child to was a great one and that we would be happy there. I thought we were in good shape.

However, the next evening, Amy texted us a vague message saying that we would be ending care in two weeks because she has a family lined up to replace us, and they want to start care for their child soon. A whole month earlier than we planned. We texted back asking for clarification but didn’t hear back. We tried calling her, and she didn’t answer. We were incredibly worried because a month-long break in childcare would be devastating to our careers. The next morning, Amy refused to clarify the vague text, but told us that we don’t need to worry and that we WOULD have childcare for the full six weeks that we needed it. I again thought we were in good shape.

A few hours later, while I was at work, I got an incredibly long text message from Amy that included the following:

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1. Amy told us we were making a huge mistake in moving our child to a new daycare, saying that we would create devastating long-term effects for her. 2. She accused us of being inflexible and not caring about her family’s well-being since we couldn’t make the schedule change work. 3. She said, “We as providers have seen over the years of our business have seen a change in parents. Not necessarily a good change.” I think this is a slight against us as millenials. (?!) 4. She ended the message saying, “Just know I wish you all the best as you tear someone from my heart and I have to accept it.”

I cannot understand the point of this message. It’s wildly unprofessional and has ruined our perception of Amy. We have been told again that we do have childcare until the end date that we originally communicated, but Amy is refusing to talk to me when I drop off or pick up my daughter. Oddly, she is communicating normally with my spouse.

Now for my questions. I am so fired up about this situation and I am having trouble gauging what an appropriate response would be. I intend to remain professional for the next six weeks with Amy, as we approach our end date. However, should I tell the other daycare parents what happened? Should I leave a Google review so that others can be warned? If I had heard of this happening to other parents in the past, I would have wanted to know. That could have led me to not giving any notice, and just paying out an extra six weeks beyond our end date so that we could have guaranteed childcare. Should I forgive and forget? Should I let the childcare coaching agency she now works for part-time know that she is this unprofessional toward parents? (I am guessing that last one should be a no, since I would hate for someone to call my workplace to share stories about me.)

Thanks for any insight you can give. My brain is feeling fried at this point.

Yeah, don’t contact Amy’s part-time job to tell them she’s unprofessional. That would be overstepping in a big way. If you had hired her through that agency, that would be different — but contacting an employer that you have no connection to is a big transgression.

But you didn’t do anything wrong here and Amy’s response is kind of wild.

It’s entirely reasonable not to want to stay with a daycare that will be closing for more days a month than you can handle. Amy is entitled to set her days and hours however she wants them, but she has to know that they won’t work for every family, and she might lose clients over it.

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You followed the terms of Amy’s contract and gave the requested six weeks notice. That should have been the end of it.

I don’t know what changed in between your initial notice-giving conversation and everything that happened next, but since it sounds like you’ve always known Amy to be reasonable and professional before this, I’m guessing the most likely explanation is stress. People are under a lot of it, child care providers in particular. Because of that, and since you’ve been happy with Amy up until now, I’d err on the side of giving her some grace.

It would be different if she had a pattern of being erratic and unreliable. That’s the kind of thing that would make sense to share with other parents and/or leave in a review. But if this is one uncharacteristic moment after years of good work, and after two years of intense stress … I’d let it go.

That’s not to say what Amy did is okay. It’s not. And the fact that she’s still refusing to talk to you when you see her is weird. (Any chance it’s embarrassment? Or even just being exhausted by what happened and not wanting to touch it again? That’s not a reasonable way to handle it, and if Amy were the one writing in I’d tell her that, but it might explain what’s happening.)

But because it’s not clear what happened or why … and because stress seems like such a likely explanation … and because she’s been lovely up until now, I come down on the side of letting it go, wishing her well, and moving on. (I imagine you’ll find plenty of people who feel differently, though!)

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t respond honestly if someone asks about your experience with Amy. If someone seeks out your opinion — because they’re a potential client or a current client trying to make sense of their own experience with Amy or so forth — this is something you should share. I just wouldn’t go out of your way to proactively inform people, unsolicited.

It’s worth making a distinction between those two scenarios, and it’s the second (proactively spreading the word) that feels more nuclear than is called for, and where I’d advocate for some grace.

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