For working mothers, juggling a career, domestic chores and childcare can be an onerous task. But now, neighbourhood day care centres are springing up to help mothers, just as the business might as well be a goldmine, reports Ebere Nwiro
Mrs. Bunmi Razak has 5-month-old and 18-month-old children to care for. She had catered for them without housemaid until now.
"Being a working mum can be very difficult without a housemaid. It's always very challenging for any woman and if not well planned and managed, it can lead to losses. It can either be the loss of a job, because you are not concentrating at work or it can even be some serious negative impact on the kids because you are not there for them. I am a banker so you can understand what I go through everyday," she says.
But now, she has found help with a day care centre near her home in Ikotun.
She says, "I drop off my children as early as 6 am at their day care before heading off to my office, I just thank God the centre is on my street, so that makes it easy for me to pick them up of my way back."
Razak said she didn't get a nanny to care for them because nannies can be problematic.
"Those live-in-nannies can be difficult and sometime cruel. No I wouldn't have that, neither would my husband, so my husband and I agreed to take the kids to the centre close to the house so that things can become easier and anytime he comes home before me, he can go there to pick them back to the house," she explained.
She talked about the advantages too: "We actually chose the day care center close to our home because the owner of the centre is resident there, and yes, we also pay for the extra hours spent after their normal hours. This has been very helpful and provides us some relief."
Working mothers find the responsibility of caring for their children conflicting with their work activities and this makes it very difficult for them to cope. Left with little or no choice, they opt for support services to help take care of their children while they work.
The price tag, Razak says, "It's a little on the high side, but we are okay with the service we get. It ranges from N7, 000 to N15,000 per month depending on the location. Some even charge as much as N20,000 a month."
In this regard, Helen Igwe, the founder of Rolens Academy and Day Care Centre says, "Our charges are nothing to compare with what we offer."
She agrees with the mothers: "Taking care of a child can be very challenging, most especially when you have several children at a stretch, because the children most times find it difficult to adapt to a new environment and of course to new foster mothers too. In some cases, it takes weeks for them to adjust, but once they find the environment convenient they laugh all day."
Igwe talks about her knowledge of the job. "People must understand that working with children, one requires patience because when a child is growing, a change in the environment can affect the psychology of that child, and the child begins to exhibit some kind of behaviour like throwing tantrums and constant crying. When you pamper these children, as time goes by they begin to adapt to their new environment and the caregiver," she says.
When individuals become parents there are a million new things to learn and day care is one of the most important aspects. What day care is to people may vary depending on an individual's location, work hours and other factors. The most important parts of day care remain the same for all working mums which is the care giving.
All workers face times during their lives when the demands for family support grow so intense that balancing work and family life becomes a struggle; At times like this, majority of these parents opt for care-givers where their wards can be dropped off and taken care of pending when they close from work.
A day care center is a place where trained caregivers are paid to care for an individual's baby while they work. Some parents prefer day care centres with many different rooms for each stage of a child's development. The centres are established to care for children between ages three months to one year and one year and six months.
They provide high quality care and a positive learning environment for all children and strive to enhance all levels of children's development, with programming geared towards every developmental stage. Through play experiences and the guidance of professionally trained staff, the children are exposed to challenging educational activities that stimulate them.
Situated at New Igando Town, the Rolens Academy and Day Care Center is a haven for children under the age of two. Igwe disclosed that she has been running her day care center for a little over a year.
However, Igwe admits that running a day care center is not as easy as people think it is, as there are several challenges such centers encounter. "One of our major challenges is the financial aspect. Most times parents fail to meet up to the requirements for the children, they do not pay their children's fees on time, thus making it difficult for us most times to meet certain needs of the center and the children themselves.
"Another is when we notice children coming in with one ailment or the other, which the parent might not want to disclose or have time to attend to before dropping their wards off at the center. For instance, there was a child that was in my center who was sick, his mother didn't tell me about it, but kept dropping him off each day. I discovered he was running a temperature and I told his mum about it, but she claimed she was too busy to go to the hospital, so she resorted self-medication.
"I remember vividly the day she dropped him off, and before noon, the child began convulsing. Thank God I am a mother and I had experience in first aid. It took skills, patience and the grace of God to sustain that child till his mother came for him later that night," she says.
"If a child does have health challenges, and the parents beforehand inform us, then there wouldn't be any problem," she adds.
Despite all these challenges, owning a day care center can be quite enjoyable. Mrs. Igwe discloses that taking care of little children, watching them grow from stage to stage, seeing them come in as babies and growing up through various stages of development, ranging from crawling, walking, and so on, is quite an experience. "Sometimes you'll laugh and sometime you'll feel pity for the baby," she gushes.
Describing it also as being quite rewarding she stated, "In terms of money, it is not profitable per say but yes there is money in it, but the money gotten from the center goes back into the centre, because you have to meet the needs of the children in your care and the infrastructure also would required to be maintained, but apart from that, it is a lot of fun.
"It isn't easy working with children at this growing up age, we must understand though we ought to be very gentle with them, talking to them and feeding them at the appropriate time. Some of them need food constantly and we feed them three to four times before they leave here. It is very easy to take care of them to make them happy.
"For instance, if a child is hungry, unless you give that child what he needs, he won't keep quiet. You don't have to resort to beating them with any object at any time. A child might want to eat rice and the mother may have packed noodles for him/her, it is left for us the caregivers to meet the needs of this child at that hour.
"But also if you already have the experience, as a mother, there really isn't going to be any problem taking care of these kids. It is advisable though to ask the parents of these children as they are being brought to your centre what the child is facing or if the child has an ailment that requires urgent attention," she says.
She also reveals that most times, parents tend to come back late to pick up their children. "Some parents can be very careless; they drop the child off from morning till late in the evening. This is not right since in most cases provision has not been made the children for the whole day."
On what should be done to improve the running of day care centres in the country, she said, "A good day care centre should have space for the children to sleep, toys to play with, a well ventilated room where they can play, especially for those who are crawling and those that are already walking. You should be able to make them feel at home, make the place very neat and make sure it is a healthy environment."
For those wanting to venture into the business thinking it's a money-spinner, she cautioned: "If you do not have the skills and training for it, it is a perfect waste of time as the effort of that person may just be a waste.
"Having a day care centre where you only need to care for two to three kids is different from having a whole establishment aimed at caring for kids, lots of them. I agree day care centres are mushrooming everywhere, but parents are careful not to leave their children in the hands of just anyone."