Burnout…What Does it Mean?

Child care is a job with one of the highest rates of burnout. Why? It is hard work, long hours, and little pay. Why do people do it then? I do it because it’s my passion. I feel every child deserves a great place to be. I feel that just because they were born into this world, they deserve to be built up, nurtured, and loved. Many other providers I know feel the same way. Most of us are in it to love kids, and no other reason.

Burnout comes from years of not feeling appreciated or cared about by the parents whose children we care for. Picking up late, not paying on time and not bringing needed supplies are some ways to show disrespect. We have a life outside of childcare and when a parent is consistently late, it feels like they don’t respect us. Or how would it feel if every payday you had to go into your boss’ office and BEG them for your check? Some providers have to deal with that every week. I forgot my check book. You’ll have to wait until next week. Do their bill collectors wait? Mine don’t.

It means a lot to a provider when a parent says a kind word. “I appreciate what you do for my child. I see that you work hard. I want to make sure I pay you on time. Wow, this is a cool activity. I love that you do such and such with my child every day. They are learning a lot.” Anything that can encourage the provider is worth saying. It’s nice to be appreciated. I have always had a lot of parents who went out of their way to say they appreciate me and it means a lot. This helps keep providers from burnout. 

As providers and other caregivers, how do we avoid burnout?

  • The #1 rule in life is take care of yourself so you can take care of others. There is no avoiding this. You HAVE to make time for you. You have to do the things you love every now and then. You whole life cannot be work. You will definitely burn out if you don’t ever focus on anything but the daycare. 
  • Relax! Do some stretches, meditate, pray, write, or read something you love.
  • Take care of your body! Get enough sleep, get exercise, and eat healthy foods. My grandpa always said, “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” It’s always worked for me. It’s a great way to avoid burnout. 
  • Learn how to say no. Don’t let people talk you into doing things you don’t want to do. If you know it will make you miserable or you just can’t do it, just say no.
  • Put down the electronics for a few minutes each day and take a technology break.
  • Be creative and let your creativity flow. It’s a great way to center yourself.
  • Be social regularly. It helps you be fulfilled emotionally. You desperately need it when you give so much.
  • Laugh, a LOT. Make other people laugh. My kids crack me up and I enjoy those moments. I also joke around with them and make them laugh. It makes getting barfed on or leaky diarrhea diapers not so end of the world.
  • Be accountable. Make sure you are doing your best to be reliable for your parents, they need someone they can depend on. And if you make mistakes, own up to them. Everyone makes them, but an “I’m sorry” goes along way.
  • Breathe. Take a minute to breathe deeply and center yourself.
  • Talk to others who understand. Networking is an important part of staying in a mindset of loving your job.
  • Treat yourself. What is something you really like? A new pair of jeans, a piece of chocolate, or a long drive with the windows down? Whatever you like, let yourself have a little indulgence.
  • Take a Vacation! I see providers all the time who say, I don’t take vacations, my parents need me. They do need you. As long as you give them plenty of notice, it’s better for them to have to find care for a week and have you come back recharged than for you to burn out and quit childcare completely. Or for you to try to provide care when you are miserable. This is never a good thing!

Something I heard from Tom Copeland, a great advocate for family childcare, has stuck with me for years. I use it to gauge situations in my life that need adjusting. It works for any job. These are your three choices in life. Be happy. If you are not happy, then change what you are doing. If you cannot change it, then quit. If you cannot quit, then BE HAPPY! There is nothing else. Think about that.

And finally, should you be doing childcare or whatever job if you’re burned out? Maybe it’s not the job for you or maybe you need a change. If you find yourself dreading Monday every Sunday and a vacation doesn’t help that, maybe it’s time to look at doing something else. If you are miserable, everyone else around you probably is too. And if you work with kids, that’s especially not a good thing. So think about something else you might like to do. If you decide to keep doing what you’re doing, LOVE it! And give it your all. Be blessed!



  1. Suzanne says:

    Awesome advice! Childcare is a very hard job! But with great support it make it easier. Thank you for your great articles!

  2. Andrea says:

    True, true, true. I went to a Tom Copeland seminar and those same words stuck with me all these years. I have been VERY lucky to almost always have extremely respectful and kind parents. My waves of burnout lately have more to do with the long hours, doing too much, and my own 3 kids varying schedules that can be so hard to attend to. It is refreshing to connect with other daycare providers who 100% GET the unique challenges (and huge rewards) of childcare.

    • It is very tough to balance young children of your own with childcare. And the hours are SO long. Even now that we are in a transitional time in our lives with our daughter graduating from college and moving out on her own, it is still much easier than having young children.

  3. Thank you. He is very profound isn’t he?

  4. Tracy says:

    Very well said, Christina, and so true! I heard Tom Copeland say those words too and I use those words to gauge situations a lot too. Just another reason we’re good friends, we think alike lol!

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