A Day in the Life of a Family Friend

Family Friend

Family Friend

Female entrepreneur Peta Daniel’s endless love for working with children has determined her career step by step, and it is the combination of her passion and business sense that finally started Family Friends. The Cape Town-based business is Peta’s innovative concept of offering a combination of services that assist working parents with every day tasks such as dropping kids at school, babysitting, or buying groceries. EduConnect meets up with the warm and friendly business lady to find out what it’s like in the day of a Family Friend.

What does a typical day in your life look like?

Time of Day Activity Comments
07:00h Get up and head to the first pick-up to take kids to school Drop kids at school just before 8am, sometimes at different schools
08:00h Get back home and grab some breakfast I try to eat healthy so I don’t get sluggish – I need energy for the kids
09:00h Start with admin, check mails, update the parents’ roster – I communicate a lot via Whatsapp, so I check that all the time I also try to get my own errand done during the morning, or set up meetings with my girls
12:45h School pick-ups start; the second run is usually at 13:30, so this is the most hectic part of the day I also have to check that no one forgot their lunchbox, etc. Sometimes I take the kids for a treat at the tuck-shop, if the parents don’t mind.
14:00h Accompany one of the kids an extra mural  
17:00h Teach a dance class  
19:00h Get home and have dinner and spend the rest of the evening with my partner It’s important to make time for each other, since we are both quite busy during the week

What is the concept of your company – Family Friends?

Family Friends lies somewhere between an au pair service, personal assistant, and parent-on-the-side – any resource that helps a family to cope. We offer overall practical, but mostly logistical help to families where both parents are working.

Some of the things we most frequently help out with are

  • school lifts
  • groceries
  • errands like renewing driver’s license
  • supervising extra murals helping out with staff

It’s pretty much the things mom or dad would do, if they had the time.

How exactly are you different from an au pair service? The term au pair tends to denote someone who is quite young and looking for some interim work, during a gap year for example. What we offer is a slightly older, more responsible person, who perhaps has a few years of work experience behind them already, in particular when it comes to working with children. It’s also important for each Family Friend to have quite a bit of driving experience.

Also, unlike with au pairs, families don’t pay us a monthly salary. We only charge for the time it takes to complete a given task. This is often a great help to them in itself, because not all families can afford a full-time nanny. Due to the often spontaneous nature of the business, we also have a 24-hour cancellation policy – for example in cases when a play date is cancelled and the kids don’t need a lift anymore.

What’s the best part of your job?

The fun I have being with kids. They are so lovely. I mean, I get called Princess Peta. It’s extremely rewarding to work with kids and gain their complete trust. I think when I get married one day, I’ll have at least 20 flower girls.

I also love the freedom to be able to arrange my own day.

What part do you enjoy the least?

Probably the lift rush and the occasional worry about being late for a pick-up and having the child wait – it can be extremely scary for a small child to wonder why no one is there to pick them up. So I’m always on edge when I do lifts, because arriving late is not an option.

How big your team, and how many families are you working with?

My team is still small, since the company is quite young. We’re 3 Family Friends at the moment, and I’m in the process of training one more girl.

Currently I have just over 20 families that I work with regularly.

What and where did you study?

I have a BA in Journalism from Rhodes University. I worked in publishing for a year in Joburg, but I needed more light-hearted fun in my life.

Working as a Family Friend is not a full-time job, so I still work as a freelance writer, and also teach dance classes some evenings.

Do you need to have a formal qualification to be a Family Friend?

It helps. It’s always good to have that weight behind your name. It shows the families that you’ve done something with yourself and stuck to something, as well as highlight that you do have other options for work.

But the most important thing you need to do in this job is have a good dose of common sense.

One thing I do insist on though, is that my girls get their basic first aid qualification.

What kind of qualities and skills does someone need to be a Family Friend?

 A family friend is someone who can make decisions on behalf of the parents. This means that you need to have

  • a huge dose of common sense.

Some things can’t be learnt. For example, if you take a child to swimming class but they have clearly gotten sick during the course for the day, common sense should tell you not to make them go ahead with the class.

  • have experience in working with children.

If you don’t have that much experience, then you at least need a natural affinity to work with them.

  • be completely trustworthy.

I have worked very hard to maintain my trustworthiness. Sometimes families refer me and I end up working with kids whose parents haven’t even met me – that is unheard of. It’s a very, very big deal. Show that you are accountable and responsible.

  • be a licensed, experienced driver.

We do a lot of lifts, so this is a must. You also need your own roadworthy vehicle with car insurance.

  • have the ability to think fast.

If something happens and a child gets hurt, there isn’t always time to make calls or find help. You need to be able to make decisions fast, in lieu of the parent. That’s what qualifies you to be a Family Friend in the first place.

  • have something else on the side.

When I hire new girls, I look for someone who has something else on the side and doesn’t rely on this as a sole income.

Do new Family Friends get training when they come on board?Absolutely. Every Family Friend goes through an extensive training phase with me personally. I have worked extremely hard to gain the trust of my families, and so anyone who works for this company needs to live up to that reputation.

What’s a starting out income for a Family Friend?

Since this job is part-time, and every Family Friend has a different schedule, it varies quite a bit. It’s possible to work only 3 days with flexi times and make around R4000. If you work more days you can make around R8000 or more. It’s pretty good for an income on the side.

Do you have any advice for aspiring Family Friends?

One of the most important things we do is help parents manage their stress. This means going the extra mile to ensure parents feel that the most important thing in their lives – their children – are safe. It means doing things like talking to teachers and coaches to find out if the kids have been doing well in class, or whether there have been any changes in behavior that parents should know about.

When it comes to the kids, safety and happiness come first.

If you need a Family Friend, pop Peta an email to petadaniel4@gmail.com

EduConnect 2cents

Any passion can become a business, and if you love working with children, there are plenty of opportunities out there. To start, why not explore babysitting during your studies – it gets you experience with kids, work experience, as well as some extra cash.

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