Carpooling with toddlers
Judi Arnold sits in her Sacramento home, which doubles as her child-care business, Taxi Tot Child Care, as she hoists her baby granddaughter, 3-month-old Lucy, on her hip and beams proudly at her business license. Her entry room is a toddler’s dream: Toys and stuffed animals are sprawled out on the floor, and wooden shelves, which she built herself, are filled tightly with books. Educational singalong music plays softly while another small child squeals with laughter and plays with a toy drum. This may sound like any other child-care facility, except for one unique factor: Arnold will pick your kids up in the morning and return them safely to you at the end of your workday.
Why did you start this business?
My daughter, who is in her early 20s, had a baby last year, and wanted to know if I could take care of the baby during the day. I’m a teacher, and teachers are getting laid off right now—including me. I’ve always worked with kids. Kindergarten and younger, that’s been my forte. So when I found out that Lucy, my granddaughter, was coming, I just figured, “Well, I’ll just open my own little school!” I figured it would be inconvenient to drive the baby all the way out here and then go all the way to [work] and then go all the way back, so I said to [my daughter], “Why don’t I just pick Lucy up? I can drive out to your office and then drive her back when we’re done.” And she said, “That’s a great idea.”
How did you find other parents?
My daughter said, “You know, there are two other ladies at work, and one’s pregnant and the other’s out on maternity leave. I don’t think either one has day care.” So I got together with them right away to see if they might want to line up day care, and it turns out that they did. So for a while, I was driving to the office, playing with the two kids all day. Then I drove them back to their parents at the end of the workday, which is great for parents—because sometimes they’re waiting around ’til 5 or 6. So people started talking about it, and it seemed like everybody thought it was a cool idea. So I started with the three, and now I’ve decided that instead of switching back to teaching, I’m gonna just do this. I’m now licensed for eight kids, up to 14 depending on the demand.
What has been other parents’ reactions?
People have expressed that it makes their workday a lot shorter because instead of packing the kids up, taking them to day care, and then going to work—and then leaving work and going to pick them up from day care—I shave an hour and a half off of their workday. So basically the feedback that I’ve gotten from people has been that there are going to be more families that think this is a good idea. So I can really say that not only will I pick your kids up and take them back to you, but I’ll take really good care of them, too. I won’t just play with them and feed them snacks. I’m gonna make sure that they’re ready for school when they turn 5. Maybe even more than ready.
So Taxi Tot is a preschool, too?
Yes, I’ve got my credential to be a preschool director.
What has been the most fulfilling thing that’s happened so far?
Well, [one girl’s] birthday was last November, and I decided to have a little kiddie birthday party with three babies. I took them to the mall to go shopping—what more does a little girl like to do than go shopping? Even though they won’t remember it, it plants a seed to enjoy life and to give. We talk about “preparing for the next year” with children, but childhood in and of itself is important to enjoy.
How do you deal with cranky moods?
In child care, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Children have the same basic needs that we do, but once those needs are met, the amount of upset that they experience is greatly reduced. So keep their pants dry, keep their tummies full, make sure they have access to things that are interesting to them and I don’t get a lot of upset. Of course, they are babies, and if they’re cranky, it usually means they’re telling me, “I’m tired.” Their behavior is their communication.
Do you think you’ll move into another facility if the business grows?
With sponsorship, maybe. I’ve got my credential, so I can! I don’t like to do things too fast. I’m just going to take it one child at a time and make sure it fits with what the parents want and need.
It seems like you’ve laid down the foundation for whatever comes your way.
I already know about the “taking care of the children” side of it, and now I’m learning about the business side. It’s been like my midlife crisis, essentially, but it’s a good one!