For any parents out there who also work, they’ve likely also dealt with some form of childcare at some point, even if that’s only hiring a babysitter for an afternoon.
In most childcare situations, from a babysitter to a large childcare organization, there generally are some rules and boundaries in place, pointed out the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
Redditor throwawayai17272 ran her own independent daycare, for which she had structured a set of guidelines to help her daycare run smoothly for her and the children.
But when some parents pushed back against some of her guidelines, the Original Poster (OP) wondered if she was being too strict.
She asked the sub:
“AITA for charging a mother a late fee?”
The OP had guidelines in place that made sense for her and her business.
“I (27 female) run a home daycare. I’ve been in operation for over 5 years.”
“Sometimes I still get antsy about enforcing what feels to me like reasonable policies because people sometimes react so poorly.”
“have a parent handbook that also serves as a contract. It includes a variety of rules and is very detailed (I have found out the hard way that if there is ANY wiggle room, people will use it).”
“It specifically says that there are ‘fees for late drop-off and pick up.'”
“I DON’T charge fees if families give me notice a minimum of the night before, but if the day has already begun and there’s a non-emergent reason for lateness, I charge fees.”
“I am a one-person operation, and lateness without proper notice can be highly disruptive or even prevent us from doing certain things like going to the park. Frankly, it’s also just rude.”
“I have a generous drop-off period that’s far longer and later than most local daycares, and unless there is a genuine emergency (and brunch is not an emergency), I don’t see why children can’t arrive by the cutoff.”
But a new parent at the daycare didn’t appreciate the system.
“So a family who is newer (but who did supposedly read the handbook, because they signed it) messaged me 20 minutes before the cut-off and said they’d be 30 minutes late, past the cutoff, because they were behind.”
“I informed them it was fine but they’d be charged.”
“The mom retorted that she didn’t think there were fees for late drop-off and implied she should be able to arrive whenever she liked.”
“I understand some places have ‘open door’ drop-offs, but many don’t, and especially when it’s only one operator, it’s difficult to offer drop-in care.”
The OP further indicated the difficulties of starting the day after the pandemic.
“Because of the pandemic, when kids come in, we have to take coats, shoes, and outside gear off outside, do the handwashing, etc., and so it’s a few-minutes-plus per child.”
“That’s also assuming the child isn’t new or upset and taking longer because they’re not happy.”
“Because it’s just me, diverting my whole attention for even 5 minutes could mean a huge mess or other issues (if you know you know, infants and toddlers) if certain activities are already going on.”
She also empathized with other parents but said there needed to be rules in place.
“I also want to say, I’m a mom, I have 3 kids. My youngest is 10 months, and for two of my kids, I had to come back to work when they were 2 weeks old.”
“I know being a parent is tough, I know s**t happens.”
“If there’s is a true emergency or good reason for lateness, I make exceptions, but I don’t really feel just being late because you wanted to sleep in means everyone else’s schedule has to be paused. This is a shared environment.”
But she still felt conflicted.
“AITA for enforcing this?”
“It feels reasonable to me but late people always seem to indicate it’s not. The thing is, I don’t really think that the morning schedule should be on hold while we wait for people to have brunch or sleep in.”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some thought the OP was NTA because there was a signed contract in place.
“NTA. “I’m not sure what gave you that impression as this is laid out very clearly in the handbook.” Give an inch, they’ll take miles forever.” – missmegsy
“There are some people who will simply test boundaries because they know others are uncomfortable enforcing them. People only get away with what you let them. You are already very generous at how you’re enforcing your contract.” – HistoricalQuail
“I get wanting to be accomodating, you are a good person. Unfortunately, people will take advantage of you every step of the way. It sounds like you are extremely generous with your rules as is. So charge the person.”
“A mentor always used to say, ‘This ain’t Burger King. You can’t have it your way.’ At a certain point, you are a business owner and have to establish the rules you will follow and enforce. Your rules seem very generous, so stick with them. She can either pay the fee or find someone else.” – BigRiverHome
“She signed a contract. She is bound by the terms of that contract. If she signed it without reading that’s not your problem.”
“Stick to your contract. If you let her get away with this (frankly, super entitled rude behavior), you’ll set a precedent. Charge her, and if she doesn’t pay terminate her as a client. You have a business, not a charity.” – winsomebunny
“NTA. You already know the answer. It’s just a set of rules, if they don’t like it, they can find another provider with rules they agree with. That’s all.”
“I 100% of the time dropped my son off late and picked him up early if a family member could watch him instead of my excellent sitter, and I had an agreement about how I notified her, and that was it. It’s just a childcare contract, you find a sitter you trust who has a contact you can work with.” – MakeupForBarnie
Others thought the parent was being inconsiderate of the other parents and children.
“Honestly, good for you OP! I used to work in a bigger daycare, and even with two teachers in a room and one person to run kids back and forth from pick up, the kids who were there right at the opening had to wait for an hour or two for the rest of class to get there for their day to really begin.”
“We couldn’t bring the kids we had out to the playground because we had to wait in the room for all the kids to be there. It always felt unfair for those kids who were there for longer.” – belladonnafromvenus
“I worked at a daycare and one couple always brought their 4-year-old in right before nap time. He arrived ready to play when everyone else was finishing lunch and winding down. He had just barely woken up after sleeping in late.”
“Why the need to sleep in late? Because he stayed up at night because his parents let him ‘choose his own bedtime.'” – Lumpy_Machine5538
“NTA Tell them that the policy is part of what makes the daycare workable and guarantees proper care of the children, and so is non-negotiable.”
“A ‘Sorry, but this is the way it is by necessity. This is the way the daycare works’ attitude should get you through.”
“Frankly, a parent who throws a fit about a policy like this is likely to be a problem customer anyway, one of the few who create almost all of the problems, the kind who will suck out all of your time and energy in dealing with them if you let them.”
“Unless their money is what would make or break your business, you’d be better off letting them go with an apology that the policy can’t be changed rather than giving in to them.” – jwjnthrowawaykfeiofj
“NTA. You are running a business. While stuff happens and parents at times cannot make it, you are still responsible for the daily spin-up and wind-down of the business, and your costs and organization are based on a particular routine.”
“Let’s say you have 20 kids. If my routine goes bonkers and I cannot pick up my child at the correct time, maybe you say, ‘Ok just this once,’ and I get 15 minutes more. Or 30.”
“However, you as a biz owner may get this 20 times, and the impact is far greater than ‘that one time I needed it and the owner was helpful.'” – azssf
“As a mom with a chronically late husband, NTA.”
“Just politely remind them, ‘I know this may be inconvenient, the cutoff is there because I plan engaging activities with the children. I will have to charge $XX due by the next payment period.'”
“And add, ‘If you have any questions, I would be happy to walk through the handbook with you to make sure there are no additional questions or items that may be a surprise in the future.'”
“I’m friendly with our provider and the parents who act like the one you described will find no end to breaking boundaries, including sending in their sick kids they ‘didn’t know were sick’ and causing issues for everyone.”
“It’s usually best when they can’t get their way right off the bat and have to find another place that works better for them. I also tell our provider to charge my husband when he is frequently late.” – swissmissmaybe
While the OP was stressing over being too strict with her parent clients, the subReddit insisted it was the most effective way to run a business, especially one that involved children.
It might be frustrating to pay a fee on a day when nothing seems to be going well, but that’s why the fee would be a one-time thing, rather than something that would inconvenience, ultimately, all parents involved.