A caregiver is defined as a person who gives of him or herself to help another person.
Based on this definition, anyone who works in the field of early childhood care and education, whether they work directly with young children or in some other capacity supporting children and families, is a caregiver! When working as a direct care provider and teacher you are giving by leading and supporting groups of children so they can develop to their full potential cognitively, socially, emotionally, and physically. When working as an administrator you are working continuously to lead and support programs to be of high quality while remaining fiscally sound. As a mentor or coach you are leading and supporting other early childhood educators by observing and sharing your expertise to help them reach their full potential as a teacher and caregiver. Simply said, people who work in the field of early childhood care and education give a piece of their emotional, physical and cognitive self to the important work they do everyday.
Based on this understanding the question I pose is, how are you caring for yourself and replenishing what you give to others?
Taking care of ourselves is often a difficult concept for people who are caregivers. We see ourselves as nothing less than strong, capable, knowledgeable, and able to meet all challenges. We often choose to put our needs and mental health on the “back burner” so we can lead and support others.
As caregivers, we must come to understand we can not effectively care for others unless we are taking care of ourselves! When we are running on empty we can not be at our best. Just like the children with whom we work, we must be “refilled” on a regular basis. It is important to keep our own needs and happiness as a priority, so we can do our best to lead and support the children and adults we serve.
Summer, with the warm weather and long days, is a great time to reflect on what reenergizes and provides you with joy, and then to be sure those activities are regularly part of your life. Whether it is walking, gardening, reading, getting a manicure, taking a nap or the thousands of other things that make an individual happy, allow time for it to be a part of your life. Remember you can do more for the children and families when you replenish and care for yourself!