FORT LEE, Va. – In the span of a few moments, she readjusted the ponytails belonging to one of her five toddlers; sang songs during ‘circle time;’ growled like a make-believe monster; and offered consolation to a child after a minor mishap.
Welcome to the Ewa Yartey Family Child Care Home where days kick off at 5 in the morning and end north of 6 p.m.; where bathroom breaks don’t occur until naptime; where kissing ‘boo boos’ is standard fare; and where customer payments could never suffice for actual services rendered.
Yartey said it is all about her love for children.
“The job is such a rewarding one,” said the individual who many regard as a superwoman. “We don’t have kids of our own, and this just brings such joy to our lives. It’s a hard job, I can’t lie, but it brings joy and puts a smile on my face every day. … I don’t think you can get this in another profession.”
The military spouse’s duties in one day include setting up the daycare section of her house for occupancy; preparing and serving breakfast and cleaning up afterward; and managing playtime indoors and outdoors, depending on the weather.
“They are 2- and 3-year olds who get bored really quick,” she said, noting trips to the park are common.
After preparing and serving lunch, “I try to keep them busy with an art activity or something similar,” said Yartey.
She then has to get the little ones ready for naps, the only time Yartey is afforded the opportunity to relieve herself and perform other tasks.
Pickups start around 4:30 pm.
A battle-hardened FCC veteran of four years, Yartey is quite frank about the nature of the work to anyone thinking of venturing into the world of homecare.
“You need to think about it,” said the native of Poland. “This is not just a paycheck. It requires a commitment from the whole family – not just for yourself, but for your spouse and your children.”
Staff Sgt. Andrew Yartey, assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, CASCOM, said he ensures the home and furniture are configured to safety standards; consoles her when she is stressed; lends an ear when she needs to talk; researches child care issues; acts as a consultant; and supports his wife in anything else she needs.
“Even though I’m not at home (doing the actual work), I feel like I’m involved,” he said.
Aside from her love of children, Mrs. Yartey said supporting the military community is paramount to her. She is aware of how important options are to families in which both parents serve; to those who perform shift work; and to single military members with little or no support. Her work’s importance was brought to light years ago at Fort Riley, Kan., where she dealt with single mothers desperately needing child care, one of whom recently sent her a message.
“Thanks for raising my child,” it read – a simple expression that was enough to bring Ewa to tears and provide tacit reassurance her work is valuable.
The subject of value in the FCC world, however, seems murky. Ewa said the program could use more promotion, noting most Soldiers don’t know about it. To grow the program in other ways, she suggested that providers should be paid while they receive training, and they should receive more recognition.
Ewa said that’s not much to ask, considering the commitment of those who are subject matter experts on circle time; who can kiss away ‘boo boos’ like magic; play monster with the best of them; and console little ones in a single bound.