On Friday, March 13th, 2020, the Quebec government announced that all early childhood centers must close due to the pandemic. Covid 19 had just entered into daycare services and everywhere, with its share of constraints and contradictory sanitary measures. Early childhood professionals, home and school daycare providers find themselves, like many people, faced with uncertainty. When were we going to go back to work again? Will we receive a salary? What was going to happen to us? This feeling of helplessness was short-lived for early childhood workers because we learned, a few hours later, that we were becoming essential services for parents, working in essential services. We were becoming important and necessary. We became guardian angels of the children’s guardian angels

Complicated from the start

From that moment, rules in the application of sanitary measures changed every week, so the educators in place had to adapt rapidly. We were also living with the stress of putting our health and that of our family at risk. For months, new measures, new tasks but the amount of money in our pocket was the same. No covid bonuses, for us. No salary adjustments were offered to early childhood educators while other essential jobs were entitled to this covid bonus. This brought an additional frustration for childcare & preschool workers. We were asked to disinfect several times a day, to change clothes twice a day and every time we were in contact with body fluids. We washed our hands more than necessary. We wore masks then and still are. We tried keeping 2 meters of distance from the children, even if it was impossible and we made sure that kids stayed in their respective groups all day long. We also had to manage our children’s online school from our work. Because we too have children. Because even if we don’t work in health services or in other important public services such as police or firefighters, our stress level and our ability to adapt have also been put to test. Like all citizens, we have lost loved ones. We had to take care of shopping for vulnerable people who couldn’t do it themselves and through all this, we have adapted to everything.

Guardian angel’s children

At first, in the first months of the pandemic, only parents from essential services could benefit from emergency childcare services. Therefore, their children could attend the educational establishments closest to their homes even if it was not their usual daycare. Of course, it was logical and normal. On the other hand, seeing these children, who were entrusted to us and whom we did not know, having to adapt to us, strangers, was not always easy. In addition, they were often only passing through for a few days. As the parents had to stay outside, they left us the children at the door. The poor kids didn’t understand what was happening to them. Because we are professionals in childhood education and that our first concern is the well-being of children, it was difficult to manage emotionally. Despite everything, we comforted them and made them live beautiful moments. Fortunately, the children have an incredible ability to adapt, and the parents were very grateful. The pandemic helped Society realize the importance of our work. Sanitary measures continued to change regularly. It happened on several occasions that these measures were rather incomprehensible or even contradictory. The disinfection that took us a lot of time in our daily routine was added to the fear of this disease that never left us. Of course, we still had to observe, prepared our activities, and continue to ensure the harmonious development of the child. For months we were working in these conditions. Of course, it is nothing if we compare to the heath workers but still it was stressful, and we had to adapt.

The return to normal

Then, one day, the government announced that the kids who were in our group before the beginning of Covid 19 were returning to our daycare. We were very happy to welcome them back and return to some normality. We quickly understood that these little ones, who had spent several months at home with parents for the majority in telework, were not the same as they were in March 2020. The parents had done their best, but the children suffered from the lack of social contacts caused by the pandemic. For some, the return has been difficult, and we have worked hard to reassure them. Sanitary measures still changed every 2 weeks and continued to be complicated. We also often had to ask parents to pick up their little ones with only a simple runny nose. Because they kept their children home for a few months and could no longer afford not to work, our calls were not always well received. We understood their reactions but sometimes it was not easy for us to accept. The pandemic has also caused us to lose teachers who left for early retirement or out of fear, due to fragile health, never came back. We miss these colleagues today! Since then, we experience the shortage of labor even more and that brings us additional stress, but we continue to adapt.

How do we feel now?

Two years later, what about our mental and physical health? The daycare staff is tired and trying, somehow, to keep up the good work. The passion is still there but the energy is missing. We are less afraid of Covid 19. The vaccines have arrived to reassure us. Life is almost back to normal. Sanitary measures are decreasing and becoming easier to apply. We hope to be able to remove the mask in certain circumstances soon. The government seems to show a small opening to recognize our work, but the damage is done. Unfortunately, in addition to the departures, the closures of several environments, there are, among the youngest of us, people who are thinking of reorienting their career. The next generation of childhood educators is few and despite government measures, we are dramatically understaffed. The government also tries hard to encourage those who retired to return with financial incentives. You can understand the details with this link from global.

https://globalnews.ca/news/8517892/quebec-provides-new-incentives-to-attract-more-daycare-workers/

I think this is a good start but i don’t think it is enough.
Of course, we see the light at the end of the tunnel. We continue to be there for families, to give the best of ourselves. We have adapted and continue to do so, but the adaptability of human beings has its limits, and we too are beginning to be out of breath. Speaking for myself I can tell you that the fatigue accumulated over the months does not leave me. I feel this desire for a change of career, to get away from all this stress. On the other hand, I prefer to roll up my sleeves and continue. I rely on the strength of these caring professionals who surround me and prove to me every day that they are strong and conscientious. I prefer to look forward and show to this Covid 19 that it won’t win, despite everything.

Talk to you soon
Nathalie Lizé
Pedagogical and technical support agent and family coach

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