Four decades of care: Bossingham retires from day care after 42 yearsFor the last 42 years, all Ruth Bossingham has known is taking care of children — whether it’s her own or the 432 others that have come through her home day care service in Jamestown since 1970.
By: Brian Willhide, The Jamestown Sun
For the last 42 years, all Ruth Bossingham has known is taking care of children — whether it’s her own or the 432 others that have come through her home day care service in Jamestown since 1970.
Now 67 years old, the mother of four grown children and grandmother of seven has decided to retire from a career she never originally planned to pursue but eventually grew to love.
“We moved to Jamestown in 1969 and I decided to stay home with my children, so to supplement our income, I took in a few kids and started babysitting,” she said. “When your kids are little, what’s another couple more to take care of?”
Reflecting on how day care has evolved over the years, Bossingham said it was much simpler when she began her work in 1970.
“All you had to do was take care of the children, make sure they were in a safe environment, feed them, read to them, let them color and have a variety of things to play with,” she said. “Now it’s a business and you have to be licensed for only so many children and if you have more than seven, you have to use the point system.”
Bossingham said the point system allocates her 1.34 points total for all her day care children, for which infants (18 months or younger) take up .25 points, 2-year-olds take up .2 points, 3-year-olds .14 points, etc.
It was not such a stringent system at the onset of her career, she said.
“For the first 10 years, I didn’t have to attend any workshops and the licenser would come once a year, sit at the kitchen table and go over a check list to see that the children were in a clean and safe environment,” she said. “Now they come and have pages of rules and regulations checklists, inspecting everything to make sure you are following all the guidelines for day care — everything from what you use on the changing table to making sure your garbage is covered and the temperature of your hot water.”
Bossingham named off a litany of items that soon became licensed protocol for day care providers, including: stated day care policies, parent-child agreement forms, monthly menus, meal counts, daily schedules in addition to requirements such as home inspections, CPR training, first-aid training and a number of mandatory day care training hours each year.
“It’s getting to be more like a preschool than a home environment,” she said.
Despite the evolution and changing of the industry, Bossingham adapted and soon became a part of several local day care organizations, including a 17-year board member for North Dakota Child Care Providers Inc. — one of the state’s leading day care organizations.
While many day care providers are typically only open during the regular work week, Bossingham provided day care seven days a week up until about 10 years ago, she said.
“From 6 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. I always had 10 to 12 children every day,” she said. “Never took any vacations. Would take a long weekend sometimes during the summer months, but that’s about it.”
In addition to her rigorous, seven-day-a-week schedule for the first 32 years of her career, Bossingham claims she never took an actual sick day until she was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2004 — and even that didn’t stop her from working.
“I took one day off to have surgery and also a Friday off for my first chemotherapy treatment, but for the next six months of chemo, my husband Delbert would watch the children and I would leave at 5:30 a.m. to drive myself to Fargo, have a treatment, then drive home and send Delbert to work and I’d take care of the children the rest of the day,” she said.
After successful chemotherapy treatments, Bossingham’s oncologist still required her to get radiation treatments. However, she made the oncologist put those on hold temporarily.
“I asked if I could wait six weeks as I had to take the kids to little league baseball and swimming lessons. Honestly, I just never took any time to be sick — still don’t,” said Bossingham, who has been in remission from the disease ever since she had the radiation treatments.
Ultimately, Bossingham had set a goal to retire once her youngest grandchild entered middle school, which took place at the end of August.
Now she’s adjusting to retirement and looking forward to what’s to come her way in the future.
“Just to be able to leave during the day and go to the store or something is strange, because I never did that for 42 years,” she said. “Now I’m going to find out what life is like after children and if I begin to miss them, I will remind myself that I will get over it. But it’s time to have some peace and quiet — that is until the great-grandkids come along and then we’ll see.”
Sun reporter Brian Willhide can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org