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People Talk: Day care operator Mary Hausberger mixes serious business with fun

Few things rattle Mary Hausberger, who operates a licensed child care business from her home in West Seneca. During more than two decades, Mary O’s Childcare and Preschool “graduated” scores of children ready to enter kindergarten. Each weekday like clockwork, five children spend up to 10 hours with Hausberger eating, sleeping, playing together. The energy expended by all is a sight to behold. Up before dawn, Hausberger bikes 5 miles in her living room before opening the doors for the youngsters at 6:30 a.m.

That’s when her house becomes their castle.

“I’m not trying to be their mother,” she said. “I just want to give them a good preschool upbringing.”

At 59, Hausberger is the mother of two grown daughters, Kate and Colleen. She and her husband, Tom, spend summers at their home on Rushford Lake.

People Talk: How do you determine your rates?

Mary O. Hausberger: I set my own because, you know what? I feel I’m worth it. I’ve been doing this for 25 years and you get what you pay for. I charge the parents $45 a day. That’s $4.50 an hour to take care of their child. I have five kids and I supply the food, all their little school supplies. And a lot of people still think I’m a baby sitter. I cringe when people call me a baby sitter.

PT: You’re not?

MH: In-home day care is not baby-sitting. There may be some people who do it because they think it’s easy money. When you’re licensed – I mean besides all the rules and regulations – there is a lot of work. You have to be up for it. Plus, I only take schoolteachers’ kids or people who work in the school system. I want to be closed on holidays, vacations and all summer. I waited 22 years to be able to do that. But I don’t just take anybody. We sit down and talk, and if we’re not on the same page, I’ll tell them it’s not a good fit.

PT: How did running the business affect your relationship with your children?

MH: I thought it was wonderful because when I first started I had some of their friends here. As they got older, a lot of times it was an invasion of their space. I regret they had to share their mother. I divorced when they were in second and third grade, so every morning I got them up for school, fed them, got them on the bus. I did everything I had to do plus day care. But I did that because I’m a Type A person.

PT: What do you do when you get stressed?

MH: Some days I call my other friends in day care just to vent. With the kids I redirect them. Instead of telling them over and over not to do something, I give them something else to do. Honest to god, it works like a charm.

PT: Do you get sick a lot?

MH: Never. I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and I’ve never taken a sick day for a cold or whatever. Two summers ago I had a hip replacement, but I scheduled that in the summer and I was back in seven weeks. I’ve closed for deaths in the family, or when my (second) husband had open heart surgery in January and I closed one day.

PT: How long does it take you to change a diaper?

MH: Are you kidding me? They bring their own diapers but I supply the wipes. One time I had four kids in diapers.

PT: How do you keep them all busy?

MH: We don’t watch TV here. One day a year we have pajama day, and I let them watch TV, and they don’t even sit to watch it. When it’s time to make lunch they’ll be in the kitchen with me. I do crafts with them. I do actual schoolwork, but they don’t even know we’re doing it. When we’re outside we count. We’re picking up pine cones. For Earth Day we went behind the water tower, and they each had rubber gloves and we brought plastic bags and cleaned up.

PT: Tell me about the state-required training.

MH: We need 60 training hours every four years in seven categories like childhood development; nutrition and health; safety and security; child abuse and maltreatment; and shaken baby syndrome – identification, diagnosis and prevention.

PT: What is a can’t miss food for kids?

MH: They love raisins, but then we have to brush their teeth after they eat them. They’re like the worst fruit to stick in your teeth. I brush their teeth. I’ve got toothbrushes for them all.

PT: What do you do for fun?

MH: My relaxation is listening to music. I also have a Babe Cave in the basement. It’s decorated in pink. I’ve got high heels, my Barbie stuff and a turntable.