The Hidden Perks of Caring For Monsters (er, Toddlers)

*Sad lack of photos in this post due to the fact that I’d probably get sued for uploading pictures of 2-year-olds without their consent. And they can’t give consent because they’re 2 years old, so. . . *

When I was first assigned to teach at a daycare with Meddeas, I’ll admit: I was dreading it. I’d never really done any babysitting. I’d definitely never changed a diaper. At the occasional family reunion, I have fun with my little cousins for a few hours, and then happily return to a home not littered with rattles and singing stuffed animals.

But a part of me remained optimistic. After all, babies are cute. There’s a reason we want to squeeze them. And being a language assistant at a high school in Bilbao last year, I was pretty burnt out on the actual teaching part of the job, what with preparing lessons to keep high-schoolers both learning and entertained. With babies, I wouldn’t have to do any lesson planning at all!

Alas, the reality of the situation, after 7 months at my job, is not so cheery. One baby at a time is cute, maybe two; but there is no cuteness in caring for 20 all at once. I’m constantly losing my temper and having to remind myself that releasing my anger with a good spanking is not worth doing time in prison. My stress levels are unnaturally high for a three-hour-per-day job: I’m responsible for these little guys’ well-being. Every time one falls down, my heart skips a beat. And that one kid who keeps biting everyone? Somehow that’s seen as MY fault, even though I can assure you I keep my own teeth to myself. How can my eyes be glued to ten kids at a time at every second? Somehow I’m supposed to figure out that little equation on my own.

My coworker dressing up for "La Castanyera," Catalonia's version of Halloween. No babies' faces = no being sued!

My coworker dressing up for “La Castanyera,” Catalonia’s version of Halloween. No babies’ faces = no being sued!

I find the job emotionally and physically draining, even if it’s only three hours a day. But it’s important to stay positive about these things to make it to the finish line. So I always remind myself that I make enough to live comfortably in one of the greatest cities in the world, and I do so by working only part-time. And if that’s not enough motivation, I’ve dug deeper to uncover some hidden perks about working at a daycare through Meddeas, with children ages 0-2:

1. Toddler Therapy

My university used to bring dogs onto campus during every final exam period, because apparently, cuddling dogs lowers stress levels and creates happy hormones. I’m starting to think dog therapy is akin to toddler therapy. There’s something about squeezing those chubby cheeks or getting a goodbye kiss from those tiny little lips that’s heart-melting.

2. Unconditional Love

You can yell at and punish a toddler for biting his classmate, and he might cry and sulk for a minute. The next minute, he will be attacking you in a bear hug like he could never live without you.

3. No Planning

When you’re a language assistant at a daycare, you won’t be preparing Powerpoint slides of pronunciation techniques, or games to practice the conditional tense. You’re duties involve using language in a natural context so the babies pick it up—essentially, you talk for a living. The most preparation I’ve had to do outside of work was completing a midterm write-up, a couple sentences on the progress of the children: “X is excelling rapidly. He can sing all the words to ‘Old McDonald,’ and he’s finally stopped chewing on his shoelaces.”

4. Free Cookies

Every morning we hand out galletas marias to the toddlers, those addicting breakfast biscuits that’ll win over even the most stubborn scrambled eggs fan. It’s basically understood at the daycare that the routine will be: Hand out a cookie, eat one for ourselves. Hand out another, eat another.

5. Singing is Good For the Soul

I’ve been teaching at the daycare with Meddeas for seven months, and I sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and The Wheels on the Bus nearly on repeat. Five days a week, multiple times a day, for seven months. You do the math—it’s enough to drive anyone insane. But I believe it’s been proven that singing is a stress-releaser, so at this rate, I’ll never need a massage. This must be why Beyonce looks so good.

6. Witness Early Developments

At a daycare, I get to relish in “first moments,” like first steps and first words, without actually having to do all the dirty work of having my own child.

7. Baby Shoes and Baby Costumes

Nothing in life, except maybe teacup pigs, is cuter than baby footwear and baby sweaters. And when a one-year-old dresses up as a train for Carnaval, the tantrums and snot are almost worth it.

Meddeas daycare

8. Language Acquisition

The two-year-olds have only recently started speaking, so they spit out very basic sentences in their native language. This is great for my own language-learning: I may only technically be allowed to speak in English, but I can still listen to what they’re saying and easily pick up new phrases in Catalan. Of course, those phrases may be “I wet my pants.”

9. Preparation for Parenthood

Who knows if I’ll ever want kids after this year. Honestly, it sounds exhausting. But whatever I decide down the line, at least I now know how to change a diaper; that I shouldn’t hand a pea-sized Lego to a one-year-old; and that crayons can entertain a kid for hours.

10. They Can’t Tell on You

The one-year-olds don’t speak yet. So you can steal their cookies and no one will ever know.

I’m looking forward to the end of my contract, I’ll admit. But I know I’ll miss those little faces, even if I won’t miss the boogers that enshroud them the majority of the time.

  • I’ve been working in Childcare for some years and after reading your post I must say that this job looks the same everywhere!:) One day you wanna quit, next one you love your life and would not trade it for anything:) There is another bright side of working in childcare in Spain (not that I know of) – Spain itself:)

    • Hahaha absolutely true! Spain was the redeeming quality….. (clearly I’m a couple months late in checking these comments ;)

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  • Hahaha! I was cracking up throughout this entire post. Especially the Beyonce part! I’ve been assigned to infantil and primary next year with BEDA, and I’m really nervous about the possibility of *actually* working in the infantil classes. But I agree with you – there’s nothing cuter in this world than little baby shoes – so I’m sure I’ll find a way to survive :)

    • Oh my god start popping the Xanax now.

      Haha but the bright side is, if you’re in infantil they’re still older than in a daycare, so they won’t be wetting their pants (presumably) or crying 24/7 (presumably).
      I hope you’re a more patient person than me!!! (Most everyone is, so you’ll be fine ;)

  • Cassandra

    I hadn’t thought about the no planning aspect of working with kids this young. Overall I really like to plan lessons…the worst thing, though, is being asked to plan something with less than 24-hours notice :(

    • Oh ya that’s awful…Luckily I was never asked to do that at the high school last year but that would have made me so frustrated.