Truth be told there’s a little voice inside their heads that says “Yes!” at the end of the day when a child doesn’t want to leave their house to go home with their own parents.
Because it not only reinforces the fact that they are doing something right, but also that they’re making an impact.
Mitchell Rodgerson and his wife Annette Smith-Rodgerson run an in-home daycare from their Arcadia, Yarmouth County home called Nettie’s Nest.
Lots of caring people open their homes to other people’s kids, but they feel the fact that they’re a husband and wife who do this makes them somewhat unique.
They also hope it breaks the stigma that early childcare is more of a woman’s job.
“We’ve had some parents that were having difficulties at home and their children really needed a male role model. Mitchell has really stepped up and helped out quite a few families,” says Annette.
Adds Mitchell, “there’s a lot of split families everywhere. Some of the boys, for them to have some of that consistency in their lives, getting to spend time with me, has made a big difference.”
When Mitchell and Annette first met they were both involved with children’s programing. She was involved with an after-school program at the YMCA. He looked after a summer program for kids there.
But then career wise they branched off in different directions. She dabbled in running a daycare but didn’t get enough clientele to keep it going. He became a jail guard, working at correctional facilities in Yarmouth and Burnside. Eventually they both got jobs with YARCO – a not-for-profit agency that provides residential support for children and adults challenged with disabilities.
An injury caused Annette to rethink her role in the workforce and reconsider giving a daycare another shot.
For Mitchell, the desire to move away from shift work was the big consideration. He was tired of working all night and sleeping all day. When an injury to his leg – a torn Achilles tendon – left him home for six weeks, he got to see more of the daycare first hand. It got him and Annette thinking, “Hmmm…what if?”
Now, as they jointly run a daycare out of their home they say it feels like they’ve come full circle because they’re once again surrounded by kids.
For five days a week, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., they look after kids, currently ranging in age from 10 months old to four years. They make crafts. They play outdoors. They go on outings.
Each week is a theme week. The theme might be colours. It might animals. Last week it was dinosaurs. One day they buried some toy dinosaurs outside so the kids could dig for fossils. They also did crafts, with Annette making one as a guide for the kids.
“They don’t always turn out like mine and that’s okay,” she says. “We have dinosaurs today who have googly eyes on their feet.”
It’s been almost a year since they’ve been running their daycare – being helped with the setup, inspections and regulations by an agency called Home Away from Home in Barrington.
At first they worried how they would handle this financially, both leaving other jobs.
“We started advertising and people were like, oh, there’s a male there. A lot of people liked that and before we knew it, the calls kept coming and coming. Now we’re maxed, and we’ve been like that since getting out name out there,” Annette says. They even have a wait list.
Asked if running a daycare is a big departure from working as a jail guard, Mitchell says yes and no. Giving out meals is a similarity. And in a way a correctional facility is like a grown-up daycare, he says.
“We supply everything. We teach the inmates things and lead by example, which is what we do here.” Of course, there are also major differences.
“From changing diapers to giving bottles…we don’t do that with the inmates,” Mitchell says laughing.
Annette and Mitchell have a daughter who is in her 20s. She was seven years old when Mitchell came into their lives. So having the opportunity to be around younger kids is something he really enjoys.
“When I was younger, I was from a split family. My mom was working a lot. My father was working, I’d see him on weekends. So it feels good to be that person in some of these children’s lives. It feels good to be that father figure, or for Annette to be that mother figure, that’s what’s most rewarding to me,” says Mitchell.
“It’s difficult for the parents to come here and pick up their kids and they’re screaming they don’t want to go, but man, it sure makes me feel good.”