Growing Up as the Child of a Provider

Imagine Institute’s Devon Allen shares his experience growing up with his mother’s child care at home for Take Your Child to Work Day.

The fourth Thursday in April every year is National Take Your Child to Work Day. This year it falls on Thursday, April 25th. With the rise of working from home, a lot of children are getting new insight into what work looks like for their parents. For some of us, though, every day was Take Your Child to Work Day. As someone who was raised by a child care provider, I know firsthand how special that environment is. While I appreciate and applaud the level of convenience and connection working from home offers parents, there isn’t anything quite like growing up with child care at home.

Growing up in a child care environment at home molded so much of who I am today. I’ve learned so much through both the other kids and my mom’s care. I developed a strong connection with care and what it looks like, and I’ve seen the way child care grows and changes over time. I can’t remember a time when The Allen Family Daycare wasn’t around, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

As a young kid, growing up with child care in my home was great. Not only did it form the foundation of my understanding of care, but it felt like being in a club. I had my friends at school and my friends from extracurricular activities like soccer and swim lessons. At home, though, I had a private group of friends. Surrounded by kids my age from varied and diverse backgrounds was not only special but incredibly instructive. My mom provided care for children from diverse religious, ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds. I was far from sheltered, and those relationships created core, formative memories for me; memories I still cherish to this day.

Moving into adolescence, becoming a teenager, and growing my independence presented new challenges, though. As I got older, the children in my mom’s care skewed younger, with newborns, infants, and toddlers most common. I’m sure you can imagine an angsty 16-year-old being woken up in the early morning on their summer break might foster a little resentment now and then. As if raising a teenager wasn’t hard enough.

Many don’t realize operating a child care out of your home, especially when you have children of your own, is two jobs rolled into one. Later in life, I learned to appreciate the challenges that come with parenting alongside early childhood education. Today, I have a far better understanding of the strength it took for my mother to raise three sons while caring for four to six children on any given day. The experience proved positive, though, even for my teenage self. The continued presence of child care at home instilled an early sense of responsibility. I helped with the kids whenever I needed to and, by the time I turned 18, I was on track to become a substitute for The Allen Family Daycare.

Now, in my adulthood, far removed from the days of growing up as the child of a provider, I see the lasting impact on the children in their care. My mom has since retired from child care to care for my grandmother. Though it was a bittersweet moment seeing such an extensive era come to an end, her daycare kids are still in her life. She’s attended weddings of children formerly in her care, graduations, baby showers, and more. Child care may be cyclical as kids grow up and move on and new children come along, but I know for certain every child lucky enough to have a nurturing, kind, and invested provider is better off for it.

Growing up as the child of a provider, with child care in my home every day, was an incredibly special way to be raised. I have a deep respect and profound appreciation for the work early childhood educators do. I wouldn’t be who I am today without them. To the providers caring for children while raising their own: you are so powerful. To the kids whose parents are providers making every day Take Your Child to Work Day: consider yourself lucky. You’ll come to appreciate this time greatly.