Sue is the mother of two daughters, Hannah and Haley, who are now 38 and 29. With her daughter, Hannah, she runs the Cottage. Haley has worked with them too in many different capacities. At the day care, they care for 70 to 80 kids on a daily basis—they guide, teach, nurture and actually parent them while their own parents are at work. The Cottage is really one huge family!
What is the single biggest thing you have learned from being a parent?
The love you feel for your children is immeasurable, unpredictable and anxiety-producing. Every day, every situation, every child is different. Parenting is difficult and more rewarding than any other experience in life. I am so grateful to have my daughters.
What led you to open a day care?
My first real job, at age 19, was working in a daycare center. After being there for 18 months, my then-husband and I decided to try to open one ourselves—thus the Cottage was started in 1978. It was just before my 21st birthday, and March 1 marks the 41st year of being in business.
What Superhero power do you wish you in your profession?
I wish I could keep all children safe and innocent and protected from harm.
How are kids today different than when you were a kid?
I see them as less respectful, less disciplined, more demanding, more entitled and emotionally fragile. They have been given things instead of attention and don't often have a healthy balance in their lives. They have been exposed to too much too young. But they have the same needs as children always have: boundaries, conversation, affection, experiences, security and consistency. They need face to face, hand in hand, heart to heart time.
What did you learn from your parents about parenting?
Discipline, respect, responsibility, independence. Work hard, do what is right.
What do you hope your children learn from you?
What I hoped for and what they actually have learned are most likely different. I was a single working mom with a 9-year-old and a newborn at one point. I made mistakes and have regrets. Yet, through it all, I hope they knew that I always loved them and tried to do what was best for them. I hope they learned what true love is.
What is the funniest thing you've seen in your line of work?
There is no way I could choose only one funny thing in my line of work. The kids are funny. They make me laugh every day. They are so real and honest!
What do you think the next generation has in store for us?
There are so many different variables in this next generation. I hope there is kindness, tolerance, diversity, acceptance, strength and courage. But there is so much brokenness, loss and pain in this generation — I hope they can overcome that to achieve what's best for the next generation.
If parents were to ask not, "what can your day care provider do for your children?" but "what can I do for my day care provider?" what would that be?
Be involved. Listen. Read the information provided and be aware of what is going on every day. Help your child understand why we have rules. Support us by communicating honestly what is going on in your child's life so that we know how to help them. Realize that we see your child objectively, not emotionally, and we have high standards and expectations for them. Use your time with them at home wisely — they grow up quickly!