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If Only This Daycare Cared For Its Employees

, , , , , , , , , | Working | September 26, 2023

This happened almost eighteen months ago, and I’m still angry just thinking about it. I moved in with my partner across the city from where I had been living, and I was elated to be hired at a nursery just three minutes walk around the corner. I’m autistic and I find subtext very difficult, so given bad experiences in the past, when I start a new job, I make a point to tell my coworkers that I mean what I say and I say what I mean. I don’t do office politics, and I I wasn’t interested in climbing the ranks; I was perfectly happy to be a “lowly” staff member working directly with the children.

Unfortunately, my new coworkers decided fairly early on that, because I was good at my job, it meant I was judging them and criticising them behind their backs, so they started reporting any mistake I made and twisting it to look like I had malicious intent. I got called into a meeting with the owner and the manager at least twice a month in the first three months, being accused of racism, neglecting the children, or bossing around senior staff. Every time, I had a reasonable explanation for what I’d done or said, so I never got written up.

When my coworkers realised this, they started straight up lying about me — things like, “I asked him to finish the activity he was doing, and he told me to shut up and wait because his activity was more important than what I wanted,” when I’d actually said, “Sure thing. Give me a second to finish up with [Child], and I’ll be out of your way.”

There were multiple mediation meetings, and there was a lot of “he said, she said”. I was told repeatedly that the manager and owner had my back and that they’d deal with the coworkers in question. It was a small nursery with less than twenty children on any given day, so it wasn’t like I could avoid these coworkers, but I tried my best every time to chalk it up to stress, and I blamed myself for not being clear enough or my facial expressions and tone of voice not being animated enough. I bought my coworkers Christmas presents, offered my college notebooks to help them with their qualifications, and pasted a smile on my face so wide my muscles hurt at the end of the day, but it just got worse.

It all came to a head the day before my six-month probation was supposed to finish. Weeks prior, I had been given a task my room leader felt should have been given to her, despite the fact that I was familiar with the topic and had three times as many years of experience as she did. I took an hour “out” of the room as I’d been asked to do, sitting in a corner eating my lunch and doing my paperwork silently. I was miserable, my paranoia and anxiety were sky high, and I just wanted to do my job. I don’t think I said a word to anyone above the age of four for that entire hour.

I took my break, and when I got back, I got called in to yet another meeting where I was informed that “someone” had reported that I’d spent the entire hour slagging off the owner and manager, calling them horrible names, and accusing them of homophobia. I broke down in tears yet again and confessed how awful these people were making me feel to the point I’d briefly considered stepping out in front of a car when coming back from my break.

My manager, tenderness in her voice and concern on her face, looked me dead in the eyes and said:

Manager: “Oh, [My Name], if you ever feel like that, please don’t hesitate to hand in your resignation.”

I was speechless with shock, trying to convince myself she hadn’t said what I thought she had, when the owner chimed in with:

Owner: “[Manager] is right; your mental health comes first. If this job is making you feel like that, then please resign.”

It was like something inside me snapped. I glanced at the clock, saw it was half an hour before the end of my shift, and made a decision. I stood up and said something along the lines of, “In that case, I hope you don’t mind if I leave half an hour early,” and walked out of the room. I said goodbye to the owner’s husband (the only reasonable person in the entire business), collected my stuff, and walked out. The entire time, the manager and owner were calling me back, promising to work it out, and I ignored them.

I sobbed the entire walk home and then spent the rest of the afternoon crying because I felt like I’d let down the children by leaving them. The owner and her husband kept trying to call me, but I declined every call while my boyfriend tried to console me. I only replied to a text from the owner asking what she could do to get me back with a scathing message detailing every instance when she had failed to improve working conditions. The next day when I went back to get my college notebooks, the manager couldn’t even look me in the eye. I don’t think she thought I’d actually quit, but I took pleasure in the guilt on her face.

I took a few weeks off to collect myself and mourn what I’d hoped would be a long-time job, and then I started looking for freelance nannying jobs. Within weeks, I had a new job working for a lovely family with a gorgeous two-and-a-half-year-old, which took half as much of my time, and best of all, I didn’t have to walk on eggshells around bitter, jealous coworkers.

I’ve been working for that family for over a year now, and about eight months in, they even asked to pay me more per hour because they felt my rates were too low for the quality of care I was providing. I’m now about to start my second year of a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood, I have two other families on the books, and I spend my workdays reading with their kid in the library, going bug hunting, playing dinosaurs, and anything else that takes our fancy.

So, I guess I have to thank them for being the final straw that pushed me into a much better and lower-stress job. I still get a twist of anger when I have to walk past that nursery on the way to the train station, but the last time I accidentally passed at closing time, I didn’t recognise a single staff member, so I guess being nasty little two-faced cowards didn’t work out too well for my former coworkers.

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