Emma Miller

Manager, LEYF Bushy Tails Nursery

What was a typical work day like before the corona crisis?
In my role at nursery, I don’t think there is such a thing as a ‘typical day’, as it is a role that is ever changing and I never know what the day will bring. However, the things that I would say are typical are:

  • Meeting and greeting our families as they arrive
  • Managing the staffing for the day
  • Answering multiple queries, phone calls and emails
  • Helping parents with concerns and advice
  • Getting compliance paperwork completed, and action plans started

And, best of all, getting to interact with the children.

When the outbreak started, what was your initial reaction?
It was not good hearing about what was happening in China but it was still ‘somewhere else’ so it didn’t have much impact. Once it started to  get closer, in Spain and Italy, and  seeing how quickly it escalated there, it started to feel a little close to home and questions started to arise.

Once it was clear it was here in the UK it was time to take notice and pay closer attention. I will admit though, to having that feeling of  “it will be OK for us”. It wasn’t long though until I started to get scared and realise the potentially enormous impact to our lives.

What impact did this have on your day job and how did you adapt?
At first, before the government closed schools and childcare settings, there were endless and repeated conversations around “What if?” and “What’s going to happen?” There was a lot of playing it down by our families and maybe some  saw us as overreacting, especially when we stopped letting visitors and parents coming into the nursery to drop-off and pick-up their children, instead collecting the children at the front door/other external doors to the rooms.

I would say I adapted by making sure I kept in touch with my Area Manager and by watching the news and being as knowledgeable as I could. I also had a big role in managing anxieties, uncertainties and well-being of my staff team.

What are the big challenges you have faced / are facing as the pandemic continues?
There have been many challenges and they have come in layers, as has the changes to our lives and ‘usual lives’ as we knew them. On reflection to this point however, I would say the hardest part of all this was the speed in which things kept changing. One day we had closed and the next there was lock-down. A few days later, it was “What is a Keyworker ?” then “Who will be able to work?” and “Who is ‘at risk’?” Managing all this and having parents and staff who wanted immediate answers was so hard when no-one had them and we were at the mercy of waiting for the government to tell us. Seeing one of my staff actually cry when she got to work because she had to walk over an hour due to her fear of being on a packed bus was a memory I have stuck in my head, and it was then  when I understood the full impact of it all. Until that point, I had just concentrated on ‘doing’ rather than feeling.

How have you kept going through the tough times?
Being able to keep going to work has been the best thing for me and it has let me escape the lock-down that so many others have had to endure. Despite the stressful days and the overwhelming sense of not having a clue some days, work has been the best medicine – as  well as my amazing daughter who keeps me grounded.

I feel so fortunate to be working for an organisation that has communicated well, clearly and as timely as the government has allowed; and who have taken this crisis and turned into yet another learning opportunity. At no point have I been left to feel alone and there has been a lot of fun too, using virtual learning platforms.

Outside of work though I have a wonderful group of friends who I know I can rely on and always make me laugh! Laughter – I can’t recommend it enough!!

What acts of kindness have you seen or shown that have made you smile recently?
My elderly neighbour has been cutting my grass for me – bless her – and I get her some chocolate each week, which she loves. How kind of her is that?!
Also, I think the amount of activities that have been happening on our staff “Workplace” [private social media platform] have been brilliant. Especially the “Guess the Baby”game that one of our great Managers came up with. It has kept us all involved, and it’s been so much fun!

What has this crisis taught you – both professionally and on a personal level?
I think there is a lot that I may not even be aware of yet and only after all this will I realise it all to its full extent. If I must choose something now, then I would have to start with “Be careful what you wish for.” Those  things that we might moan and grumble about, and things we wish were different, we miss them now.

Connection is key, human interaction is essential.

Never put yourself down or underestimate your importance ever again. If the list of essential workers doesn’t show this as a bigger example then what does?!

Lastly, make time for your well-being and mental health. No need to apologise, explain or see shame in it. Make it a priority and know it is OK to not always be OK, sometimes.

How are you trying to stay happy and healthy?
Laughing as much I can! Staying connected with the important people in my life and just keep trying to do my best. (I haven’t quite managed to do yoga or any of that yet though but there is still time….?)