Nursery Etiquette, or, What I Wish Others Knew About My Calling

As Mormons we are theologically committed to experiential, bodily knowledge. And we all know there are some things you never really understand until you’re actually in the trenches, dealing with a situation as it unfolds on the ground. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned in the several times I’ve served as a nursery worker.

(1) Nursery is not day care. Please don’t drop off your precocious sixteen-month-old (or worse, your misbehaving five-year-old!) because you’re–very understandably–tired of chasing her around the halls and you just know she’ll be fine, she won’t cry when you leave, and she’ll love the toys. Nursery is, albeit at the most rudimentary level, a church class, and we have our own very basic routines (activity-lesson-music-snack-play-story-bubbles). You wouldn’t crash the nine-year-olds’ class or the priests’ quorum with a random person who doesn’t fit the age requirements. Please don’t do that to us. For one thing, children too young for nursery often can’t hold cups without help and are likely to get run over by energetic three-year-olds. For another, every child you add to the nursery worsens the child-adult ratio to the detriment of the class’s legitimate members.

(2) Nursery isn’t a foyer. I fully appreciate the need to escape Sunday school, Relief Society, or Elders’ Quorum at times–but please don’t hang out in nursery, particularly if you make no move to pitch in but simply stand in the corner and talk with other parents. It’s discomfiting and distracting–and again, I assume you wouldn’t dream of hanging out in the Beehive class and standing in the corner visiting.

(3) Please give your child a chance to adjust to your absence. Many–most!–children do cry for a while the first time they’re left, and many children take a few weeks to assimilate the whole nursery concept. But if you’re too anxious and you repeatedly reappear just as your child is starting to adjust, you make the transition harder. Please be willing to let your child cry a little.

(4) Please remember that like all other church workers, we’re essentially volunteers who didn’t even volunteer, and we’re doing the best we can. Certainly legitimate issues and problems come up that need to be addressed, and if you have real concerns about your child’s welfare, we absolutely want to know. But please try not to complain too much about relatively small concerns–e.g., the snack is at the wrong time for your child’s precisely calibrated digestion, your child doesn’t like blue Playdough, the activities are insufficiently varied to stimulate your child’s intellectual development. If you really want to see nursery enriched and improved, by all means volunteer to come in and do your favorite activity with us. We can always use new ideas and fresh blood, and we would be thrilled to have your help.

Now for the fun part. What do you wish others realized about your calling, or about callings you’ve had in the past?

69 comments / Add your comment below

  1. As elders quorum president, I wished people didn’t think I was the CEO of a moving company, expecting me to organize their move because they didn’t think to do it themselves.

  2. (5) Please don’t bring your child when they are ill. What is “just a cold” for your child could be much worse for others.

    Okay, I feel better now–thanks

  3. I also have spent some time the Nursery and can second every item on this list. The only things I would add are
    (5) We will be giving food to your child and sadly we are not up-to-date on every bit of trivia there is to know about your child. If your child is allergic to some thing you must tell us. And don’t assume that the child’s last teacher filled us in either, often we’re lucky if the last teacher stopped us in the hall long enough to give us the keys to the toy cabinet.

    (6) Don’t take my misspelling of your child’s name as a personal slight. When there are three Camerons in the nursery the varied combinations of K, C, Y, R, and O get to be too much.

  4. Eve: you’ll be happy to know that for the first 6 months in our new ward, I volunteered in the nursery. And I mean true volunteer—no one asked me to be there (but they were all happy I was). Now my wife is the nursery leader!

  5. BrianJ, that was going to be my first choice.

    As a member of the bishopric: If you cancel on a talk, especially at the last minute, it is an enormous, enormous hassle. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but I deserve better than a text message. And realize that I probably have to put a talk together myself.

  6. As a Priests quorum advisor: Please don’t think that I have any magic button to push that will result in your son suddenly deciding to be active again, and go on a mission, etc.

  7. Thanks for the great insight into the nursery world.

    When I was an EQP, our ward had just been split, I had maybe seven active elders, and every week in PEC I would receive multiple assignments, many from the stake, each often requiring 8 to 12 elders. So please remember we’re not a big Utah or Arizona ward; the number of our bodies is limited, they tend to be burned out, and the same few people do everything already. We pretend Church is a big corporation, but in the end it’s still a volunteer organization, and I can’t “make” anyone do anything.

    During that time I began to see my calling as in large measure protecting my charges from being abused by the system. So I often declined or negotiated assignments or subtly put them onto the High Priests.

  8. RE: Nursery
    Just because you are free to come to nursery and chat, don’t think that I have the time to chat while I am there doing my calling. Watching (teaching, singing with, etc) 15 toddlers requires my full attention.

    Please understand that we do our very best to help your child acclimate to nursery, but when your child’s crying becomes contagious, we cannot keep him there and distress all the other kids.

    Even if it is “just a cold,” I don’t want it! Neither do my kids (remembering the winters I was in nursery where me and my kids had colds all winter…).

    Missionaries: I know you really really want your investigators to be able to focus on Church, but we cannot accommodate their 12 month old.

    Even when your class or all of RS or PH runs over time, I still need to be able to close up the nursery and go get my own kids from their classes; it may not seem like a big deal to chat with your visitor teacher or drop of the materials at the library, but if your child is there 10 minutes past our grand finale, it can be very distressing for them and frustrating for me. If everyone got up at the right time to go get their kids and relieve the nursery and primary workers, classes would learn pretty quickly not to go over time.

    Please stay in the building if you have deposited your child in nursery.

    PLEASE take your potty-trainer to the bathroom immediately before nursery.

    Wow–that was a long list; clearly you guys are more tolerant than I was!

  9. I’m the first counselor in the RS: please don’t mistake me for being a member of the Bishopric. I usually don’t have any warning about releases and calling changes. Please don’t tell me that because your wife wasn’t warned she would be released that “This is why people go inactive.”

    I will mock you in my mind and then have to repent.

    And please don’t tell us that you will be having arm surgery in a month, and will need three weeks worth of meals. Especially when you have a perfectly-able husband and a 15-year-old daughter and a 13-year-old son. We’d love to help, but not for 3 weeks.

  10. In the past I have taken my 16-17-month-old children to nursery to visit for a few minutes to get the accustomed to the environment. I have always asked permission and I am always in charge of my children. I have left if things get too hectic. This has really helped my children get used to nursery. Am I out of line? Would this be a problem in your class? I feel that nursery leaders do a great work and I do my best to respect them.

  11. rk, I think it is a good idea to bring in children before they are ready (with the appropriate parental involvement as you mentioned). When I was in nursery (as a leader… as a kid, I don’t really remember), we encouraged that.

    Also, if people wanted to linger, we just started handing them crying kids and assigning them tasks. That got the yappers out of our hair and those that were willing to work, the nursery always has stuff for them.

    I love nursery. My favorite calling so far.

  12. As a former nursery leader, may I suggest that rather than bringing you 16 or 17 month old to nursery to acclimate him or her, you bring your 18 month old to nursery to acclimate him or her.

    I would also like to suggest that if your child is not ready to be dropped off and left in the nursery, that you stay for the entire class the first time or two they are there. That way the child can see that we have playtime, snack time, singing time, lesson time, and then the parents come back. They are oriented to the entire routine with the security of you being there and not trying to sneak out as soon as they start to get comfortable. After that first week or two, just drop them off. If they cry it will be brief and they will be comfortable with the routine.

  13. I’ve spent much of the last five or six years in primary presidencies. I would tell both the teachers and the parents that Primary is also not babysitting, that children really can feel the Spirit, that we aren’t just there to entertain them or feed them treats, and that they need lots of repeptition and moving around to really get things. Also, parents should really catch the vision that gospel learning should happen at home–two hours with us on Sunday actually isn’t that much time and kids learn better with more one-on-one interaction. Especially things like memorizing songs and scriptures.

    I agree with everything that has been said about nursery–as far as bringing kids in early it seems best just to talk to your ward’s leaders and work that out. Every leader and every class is different.

  14. translating – just because I speak both languages doesn`t mean I am a good simultaneous translater and know every single word in each language – I try, but its not easy especially when the word order is opposite so you have to listen to the end before translating by which time the speaker has gone on to the next bit.

    leaving kids to cry in nursery – depends on the kids. As I am a convert, my daughter went into nursery at age 3 – and screamed the place down week after week, so it was just easier to keep her with me. I feel for the nursery leaders who put up with the screaming for that long!

  15. rk: that’s how we do it in my nursery (17-mo olds come with parent) and it works well. One very nice thing is that many 17-mo olds are so wiggly they can’t be taken with their parents to Sunday School, so they’re in the hall anyway.

    And as long as a parent comes to Nursery willing to help out with other kids, I don’t care how old the kid he/she brings is.

  16. I teach college, and recently encountered a parent who might have benefited from the experience of leaving her daughter in church nursery.

  17. 18 months in the minimum age for the nursery, period, and the nursery leaders draw a very clear line at the nursery door.

    Having spent much time as a *membership* clerk, I don’t know what the budget allocations and usage are. I can’t make your reimbursement check go through any faster. I’m not a memory reader — I can’t update your address unless you tell me. And since our ward has a church internet directory, don’t come to me telling me you need a printed ward directory if you have internet access (without a good reason). Also, I can’t change your brother’s birthdate that’s incorrect (he lives halfway across the country).

    Having been an employment specialist — I can’t find you a job. I can, however, help give advice on your resume, strategies for finding leads, interview skills, etc. Don’t expect me to call companies looking for leads for you.

    Having been an EQ instructor (multiple occasions for several years), don’t tell me the lesson sucked if you haven’t bothered to read the supporting material. I’m *not* summarizing it for you. We’re not reading it in class. We’re going to have a discussion about a couple of points I thought were key. (Same goes for adult GD classes).

    Having been a SS president a couple of times, I will *not* let you ring the bell in my place. It’s a pathetic calling; don’t deny me the little pleasure the calling brings…

  18. To the RS counselor — I can’t believe that any family with a husband and teenagers can’t take care of their own meals, but maybe I’m hard-hearted.

    I’ve seen a subtle shift in the EQ and HP groups re moves. The leadership won’t volunteer. You’ve got to explicitly ask them (even if they know you’re moving). Maybe the RS should take that lead as well – “great, you’re having back surgery while your husband works at home; have him let us know if he ends up needing help.”

  19. Oh I thought of one more for Nursery after church last Sunday. Please don’t send your other primary aged kids to pick up your Nursery child. In fact, please tell them to steer clear of the nursery altogether. They bring their friends, they play with the toys, and cause general mayhem while letting other nursery kids run out the door that they left open behind them. Also, since I only let the kids leave with their parents, it really upsets the nursery aged kid to be ‘abandoned’ by their sibling when they thought it was time to go.

  20. I second (fifth, sixth?) the nursery advice.

    As the wife of the Executive Secretary, I would like everyone to know that you DO NOT need to leave a detailed message on the ES’s home answering machine about why you need to meet with the bishop.

  21. I am Primary Pianist. I was RS pianist for a while.

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE! If you open a piano to play it, CLOSE IT when you are done!

    If you leave the keys uncovered when playing it on Wednesday, when I come in on Sunday, there is a film of dust on it that I must clean off.

    And please, make sure children do not play the pianos without adult supervision. When food, drink, or (SHUDDER!) candy, gets into or on the keys, it’s so nasty! And it could make the keys stick.

    If your chapel has a grand or baby grand piano, please don’t open the top if you don’t have to. And if you have to open it, please close it when you are done.

    Yes, there are more than one piano, but those pianos are expensive musical instruments. They make meetings must more enjoyable, but not if the pianist can’t play them.

    Oh, yes, and this goes double for the organ.

    Thank you!

  22. Primary teachers are important and having consistency with the kids is doubly important, so don’t assume that just because someone is a primary teacher that they are “available” for other callings. If you need someone during the year, please discuss with us beforehand. Classes switch in January, so December’s a good time to ask for one. My son’s CTR 5 class has had 4 teachers in 3 months. Not good. (This is probably targeted more to bishops than anyone else. )

  23. YM leader:

    – don’t complain about the lack of spiritual thoughts or duty to god worthy material at mutual. Be grateful that i try to have fun activities where the YM WANT to come.

    – Don’t complain that I don’t have a three-month calendar of activities planned out. When I as a YM, mutual consisted of opening exercises and then basketball. I am doing the best that I can.

    – Scouting. Scouts really hasn’t updated their repetoire in over 30 years (especially mormon scouts). Don’t be surprised if your teenage son doesn’t want to get involved and don’t expect me to get him interested in it. Heck, I AM not interested (and I am an Eagle Scout).

    – Final Thoughts. Before you complain, remember that I am a volunteer (and, as said above, not really) who has a full-time job, and have to leave said job early every Wed to make Mutual, have to take vacation time to go to Youth Conference, etc…

    Oh, and while you’re at it, name me another calling in the church that requires a weekly 1.5 hour activity and a Sunday lesson, Super Saturdays, Youth Conferences, Temple Trips, Monthly Firesides, etc…

    — Don’t read this bitterness wrong. I LOVE the YM…it’s been a great calling. The overbearing and meddling parents get on my nerves –if you couldn’t tell

  24. Please don’t send your other primary aged kids to pick up your Nursery child.

    In that case, make sure the bishopric doesn’t call both parents to callings which may have them trapped from going to nursery. (Librarians, for instance, can’t leave to pick up nursery kids immediately, and sometimes neither can clerks).

    I think an 11yo primary-age child can handle the nursery pick up.

  25. hcl, would you be offended if I looked at the activities of the week and decided not to send my youth to his Wednesday night activities, because I’d rather have him work on homework rather than play basketball?

    Side note: Let’s all stop calling it Mutual.

  26. Our nursery took photos of the kids with their parents and has them taped inside the closet (for security). I thought it was a great idea, because there’s nothing worse than trying to find a kids’ parent when you aren’t really sure what they look like. They also had us fill out a little form with our name and where we usually are on Sundays. In another ward we were also in the practice of writing a visiting child’s name down on the board or somewhere we could see it. Nothing worse than spending nearly two hours with a two-year-old whose name you can’t remember and who can only tell you they are named ‘zz’

    I would also like bishoprics to understand that Primary callings are not ‘starter’ callings and can be given to people besides new converts, young mothers, and people returning to activity. The kids need consistency and they need people who are willing to work. Teaching primary is hard work. Some bishops I’ve worked with have handled this better than others, but I’ve been in other wards where there was a clear hierarchy with primary at the bottom of the totem pole.

  27. queno…not at all. I send out a six-week calendar. I have told the parents that with my work schedule, that is the best I can do.

    We don’t play basketball. We only have one night a month where we play a sport or other physical activity (we went to a batting cage and had ice cream afterwards).

    Here’s how I have it set up:

    – 1st week: cultural night (we live overseas with a high concentration of DoD and DoS folks, so I dedicate one night to learn something new about where we live). Sometimes we go to some of their weird parks, sometime we eat the local fare, etc…

    – 2nd week: Duty to God-esque

    – 3rd week: Combined with YW

    – 4th week: Sport or other physical activity

    I make the boys plan out the activities for the 6 weeks so that they have some buy-in of what goes on.

    Nothing earth shattering there…but, it works for me.

    As far as not coming to ________ (insert new word for mutual here), I would only ask that you give me a head’s up that your kids are not coming so that I can plan appropriately. And, I guess I would add that to my etiquette list for YM.

    I want YM to be seen as a positive venture, and if the boyz aren’t having a good time, then it is a waste.

    We have talked as an organization and have opted out on stake activities because it (a) represented too much of a time committment (travel, etc…) (b) didn’t really have anything for MY group of kids (the one particular activity was geared towards the 16-17 year old crowd, and all my kids are under the age of 15.)

    So, yeah, if your kid has homework, I’d apply the GOOD, BETTER, BEST analysis…

  28. Our 3 year-old daughter is abnormally rowdy. It’s been hard to sit through Sacrament Meeting with her, even just out in the foyer; she wants to run around the building and play.

    So this Sunday I got smart. Brought a big box of toys, went to the nursery room, turned on the speaker and listened to Sacrament Meeting from there. It worked great. My daughter didn’t want to leave the room, she totally enjoyed her toys, and I got to actually listen to the talks instead of chasing her around.

    As Sacrament Meeting was winding down, I packed up the toys and handed them off to my husband to return to the car. I was hanging out with my daughter, waiting for the nursery workers to show up, when suddenly a funny thing happened.

    Other parents came, with their toddlers. And they put them in the room. And they left them there with me.

    Wait a second, I thought. Why are these people leaving their kids with me? Shouldn’t they be dutifully waiting with their children for the nursery workers like I am?

    I guess they thought I was a nursery worker. And I guess there isn’t much point in all of us waiting with the brats if only one of us is necessary, but still. Would have been nice if they’d at least asked me if leaving their kids with me was okay.

  29. Executive Secretary — When I call to tell you that the Bishop would like to meet with you, please do not ask me why. He will tell you himself.

    Assistant Scout Master — Please do not complain to me that your son would find scouts more interesting if there were more fun things to do, when it’s like pulling teeth to get him participating in anything currently planned. He brings the attitude he has at home with him.

    Financial Clerk — Please don’t assume that I’m intimately acquainted with your personal financial situation, just because I see your tithing checks. There are too many to memorize and I really don’t care that much.

    Gospel Doctrine Teacher — Please don’t think of Sunday School Class as a time to impress others with your knowledge of obscure facts or other unrelated profundities. As a teacher, I have somewhere I’m trying to go with the lesson.

    To Bishops: Please don’t call me to be a counselor or assistant if it’s because the president or leader is struggling, wavering, needs to have a positive experience and might go inactive if he fails in his calling. I may be a stable influence, but leadership from the bottom seldom works and is very frustrating.

  30. Choir Director:
    I know it’s annoying to be harassed about coming to choir practice, but without critical mass it’s not a choir.

  31. queno;
    As the new YM pres. in my ward I have sent some of my boys home from Wednesday activities, because I know they need to work on home work. School is more important MOST of the time.

    To parents of YM: I cannot make your kid love scouts, cannot make him an eagle scout, and I personally dislike the scouting program. I will however be there for your son any day, anytime and will try my damnedest to help your boy become a better man. So cut me some slack if he didn’t get that _______ merit badge, you wanted him to.

  32. Re #20 Queuno: Please do not send your mother, grandmother or wife to fill out the CAP for you. We want to get to know you and then be able to refer you to employment that we feel meets your and the employers needs. We cannot create jobs in this economy and we cannot quarantee that when your present job is finished we will have another employer just waiting in the wings for you. We do not have $40.00 per hour jobs where you clock in, go to lunch, then clock out after you get back. We don’t even have basic manual labor jobs right now. Now I feel better!

  33. I want to add to the employment specialist rants that it helps that you notify the employment specialist *as soon as you’ve been let go*, not after you’ve stumbled around on your own for 5 months and then are faced with losing your house. We’re not miracle workers, and we like all the time we can to help you.

    (I think bishops who control welfare purse strings would agree with me…)

  34. hcl (30) – I just call it youth night. Seems easier. I like your planning; I wish our leaders would do that.

    I do wish that youth leaders and Cub Scout leaders would somehow plug into the school schedules. In this era of standardized testing, maybe we can cancel youth night when the big statewide math test (that impacts all of the beehives, for instance) is the next day. Of course, if the parents bring this detail up to the leaders we are told we are steadying the ark.

  35. Thanks for all the comments and especially for the insights into other callings. It’s always illuminating, and a little frightening, to hear about the trials we sometimes cause each other in our lay church.

    I second all of Starfoxy’s, ESO’s, and FoxyJ’s addenda to my nursery rules. RK, personally, I wouldn’t have any difficulty with your approach—you clearly take full responsibility for your child and take care not to impose undue burdens on nursery staff–but as others have said, it all depends on how your particular ward handles the transition. The problem I’ve run into in nursery, and in so many other situations, in the church and out of it, is the person who believes he’s an exception to policies. Sometimes exceptions are necessary, and it’s important for leaders to be appropriately flexible, but there are also always some who feel entitled to exceptions simply for their own convenience.

    Comments about YM and Scouting have reminded me of similar insights I garnered from my years in YW.

    If your seventeen-year-old daughter gets pregnant, please don’t blame the YW program for failing to teach the law of chastity clearly or insistently enough. Please remember that teaching the gospel is primarily your responsibility. We’re just the second string.

    If your daughter clearly doesn’t want to get her YWhood medallion, please don’t pressure me to pressure her to get it. I will provide all the information, help, and support I can if she chooses to pursue it, but it’s your daughter’s choice, not yours. Please don’t draw me into your mother-daughter struggle.

    Please don’t criticize or complain about the activities, particularly when we’ve obviously put a lot of time and effort into them. As with nursery, if you would like to see the activities improve, please volunteer to organize one for us. That demonstrates genuine commitment—and it also makes us much more likely to listen to your suggestions!

  36. Stake girls camp director:
    To the stake YW pres: call me to this calling a year in advance with the opportunity to locate and call a good assistant director. A good scout camp director is paid to do it full time and has a paid staff and it takes him a year. A good girls camp experience requires at least a year of preparation, especially if our stake has to find its own camp location.
    To the YW leaders: team-tagging your adult ward leadership at girls camp cheats your girls. Bite the bullet, help each other out and arrange for one of you to spend the whole week. It makes a tremendous difference to the experience your girls have there.

  37. It was mentioned that certain age groups aren’t appropriate for certain callings. I disagree. I often hear from people in singles wards that they don’t go to family wards because they don’t have an opportunity to grow.

    But, serving in the primary / nursery *IS* an opportunity to grow. If it’s OK to call a 50-something to the primary, it’s equally OK to call a 20-something (I would not call someone’s who is pregnant, probably, but beyond that, I’m not sure any age-related classification is necessary).

    The idea that primary is a lesser calling isn’t perpetuated by the bishopric — it’s perpetuated by the membership. Granted, maybe people need a break after serving in some primary callings, but so do EQ instructors, clerks, GD teachers, etc.

    If you want to serve in a “real” calling, you can hardly go wrong with the primary.

  38. Choir:
    As a director, I want to present more than “Women unison first verse; men unison second verse, all unison third verse, parts as written fourth, retard and repeat last phrase.” This means that yes, you should plan to actually show up for rehearsals. It also means that I *will* body-block you from joining the group on the day we sing, if you’ve not been to a single practice.

    Not so much a “what I want you to know”, as a “please consider before calling”: please consider making sure a few women are in there, as some men have never been allowed to parent their own children, and I don’t want them learning how with mine as their subjects. Also, don’t assume that just because my child isn’t in nursery very often that she’ll be distressed and out of place in Sunbeams. We actually do civilize our children, and don’t require others to do it for us. So don’t get crabby when I complain about the bully-toddlers who are not getting the whole “civilized” thing very quickly.

    And, don’t call me. I don’t like other people’s kids as a general rule, unless they’ve been well civilized. You will not have happy parents if I’m in Primary in any capacity.

  39. The only problem I have with calling certain people to primary is the wards that seem to think that primary should be staffed by mothers who stay at home all week with their small children. Really? You think they need to spend the whole time at church with little kids, too? I didn’t mind at all being nursery leader before I had kids, but I greatly resented being the de-facto nursery leader when all 3 of my kids were in there (actually, the youngest shouldn’t have been, but since I was, he was).

    And Jack, I totally resented when the other parents just dropped their kids off because I was already in there. I realized some of them were fairly new to the ward and didn’t realize I wasn’t the nursery leader, but some of them were perfectly aware that there was no nursery leader called, and they just waited until I showed up with my kids and then dropped their kids off. I shouldn’t be punished because I’m unwilling to leave my kids without adult supervision.

  40. queno–

    Most wards I’ve been in have no problem calling 20-somethings to the Primary, especially the ones that have kids (and often the ones who don’t). It’s the 50-something women who’ve been in Relief Society callings for 20 years that are fun to call because then they will act like you’ve demoted them or something (I’ve seen it happen–it was kind of fun). I would also generally caution against calling people who are brand new to a ward to a primary teaching or nursery position because it really deprives them of the opportunity to get to know other members and for other members to get to know them. People who are already well-integrated into the ward do better with the isolation that comes with teaching primary. Of course every ward is different and that can’t alway happen, but those are some things I’ve noticed from my experience.

  41. Also, many people assume that men can’t teach primary or nursery anymore. As long as they are team teaching (which really is the ideal for most classes, regardless of the genders of the two teachers) it’s OK. Let’s not make primary the exclusive province of young mothers. Men can also be song leaders/choristers (whatever the name is)

  42. Primary chorister –

    It takes me one month to teach one verse of one song to the junior primary. Do not tell me two weeks before the Primary program that you want them to learn four more song verses.

    Also, we have spent the last 10 months doing nothing but preparing for the Primary program and now that it’s over, we finally get to take a break and have some fun. If you dare to ask me to have the kids sing something for Christmas, I’m going to turn you down flat.

  43. #44 Vada ~ Oh, thank goodness, I’m glad someone can sympathize.

    I had a calling in the LDS church while I was at BYU: activity committee! I know, totally rinky-dink, and I don’t have any wisdom to impart, but I blogged about it here.

    And I’m totally enjoying hearing about the practical side of LDS callings, both the good and the bad.

  44. FoxyJ, as a 50 -something Primary teacher who finds more delight in her calling than she ever did in Primary when she was in her 20s, should I be taking umbrage at your comment? 😉

  45. FoxyJ,
    I loved my primary callings, but I could not be the primary chorister. It’s not that I wouldn’t enjoy it, but almost every single Primary song goes out of my vocal range, and the chorister has to be able to hit the notes.

    That said, I would be absolutely delighted to be called as Primary pianist. I did it for several months while I was teaching Primary and the actual pianist had gone inactive, and it is one of my favorite callings that I’ve never had.

  46. Our ward allows kids old enough to be released on their own (starting at Valiant 9) to pick up their younger siblings from nursery and other classes. I don’t think they are allowed into the nursery room, just met at the door, so there’s no problem with them causing additional chaos.

    I LOVE the idea of a nursery picture board, to make sure the kids are released to the right people. Our ward has taken pictures of many families to post with the ward directory on–I may suggest printing them out.

    I confess I am guilty of leaving the building during the SS hour when my children are in primary and nursery. I suppose I should make sure they have one of our cel phone numbers.

    I currently serve in the calling formerly known as Enrichment Leader. If you are the Enrichment Counselor, don’t micromanage, but DO offer to help. If you are on the committee, come equipped with ideas AND be willing to take over areas of the organizing and implementing. It’s really hard to delegate (which you really must do so you won’t go crazy, especially if you have 30-50 women in attendance at your meetings, all expecting to be fed and entertained) if no one is willing to step up and take responsibility.

  47. Primary president: just because I’ve had this calling for all of 2 weeks, don’t expect me to magically know all the kids’ names, teachers’ names, classroom assignments, supply locations or who’s going to be the next cubmaster. I’m learning as fast as I can, but just now I’m trying to finish writing and editing the primary program for next week.

    As a related note, bishops, please do not call a new primary president a month before the primary program.

  48. I laughed out loud when I read the nursery leaders complaints. I had my best nursery experience in a tiny branch. My husband was the EQ Prez and ES, I was in the RSP and a GD Teacher. I was approached by our nursery leader when my son was 15 mo. She laughed that she could hear my son every week during my lessons. I wasn’t laughing. She graciously offered for him to come to nursery. She had only one 20 mo old. I accepted. Little did I know that the other child’s mother would throw a fit and make some very nasty phone calls because we weren’t following the handbook. She had moved in from a big ward in Utah. I guess there must be more of those strictly by the book folks than I realized. I’m guessing they must come from wards with more than 8 kids total.

  49. Please remember that like all other church workers, we’re essentially volunteers who didn’t even volunteer, and we’re doing the best we can.

    We all need to remember that about each other.

    I enjoyed my time in the nursery and teaching my children in primary, those who lived long enough to make it.

  50. Katya,

    I laughed when I read your comment about turning a Christmas song down flat. I accepted. hahaha. I shouldn’t have, though. Oh well. I figured that teaching the kids the song is much less stress than dealing with the woman who picked the song without consulting me first.

  51. Cub Scout Leader: please don’t assume that just because I accepted the calling means that I will actually buy and wear the shirt. I will be happy to teach and play and learn with the boys, but I will NOT wear that stupid shirt.

  52. I second, or is it third, about the men being in Primary. My husband was a convert and he is currently teaching the 8 year olds with another man. He missed Primary the first time around and is enjoying teaching and learning in Primary. Also, when I was Primary pianist, I worked with a male chorister and he was tons of fun and the kids really liked him. I think it just depends on the person.

  53. Amen again to men working in primary. Our ward has a tradition of excellent male primary choristers and primary teachers. Also, both of our nurseries are entirely staffed by male workers. My son loves them.

    Incidentally, my MIL was surprised about the male nursery workers. She had thought it was against the handbook to have males alone in there with the kids. Is anyone else aware of this rule?

  54. ad hoc Nursery Leader: the actual leader was a very sweet and dear elderly lady who was physically unable to move around. It was difficult for her to get the toys off the shelves let alone keep up with energetic toddlers!

  55. >56.

    Well, this is my third Primary program, so I’ve learned a few things along the way. 😉


    As far as I know, males can’t teach Primary (or be nursery workers?) solo. They can, however, team teach with another person, male or female.

  56. Okay, I’m obviously late here but I must comment. As a new nursery leader, here is what I would like people to know about my calling:

    -THERE IS SUPPOSED TO BE A 10 MINUTE BREAK AFTER SACRAMENT. Please, respect the fact that I, too, am a human and I need to pee. I know you’re tired of wrestling with your offspring throughout the meeting, but those 10 minutes are mine and I value them. Race to nursery as fast as you want, but I will not be there until my time officially begins. Heaven knows you aren’t going to pick them up on time anyway.

    -If your offspring is/are contributing to the nursery population and you are utilizing our babysitting… I’m sorry, “class” services, you need to be willing to pitch in if we are short-staffed. I cannot tell you how many times we have needed help, I’ve asked a parent (who does not have a calling during that particular hour) over text or e-mail and I have been ignored. Nursery is not a right or an entitlement.

    -I am so sorry that you made the choice to be a stay at home mother and you feel that you “Really need that 2 hour break on Sundays” so you think that you are entitled to not have to rotate within the calling (I have heard this a thousand times and it makes me want to vomit). What about people who are not LDS and have to “deal with” their children on Sundays? How DO they do it? You chose to reproduce. Your kids, your responsibility. I’m there to faithfully work in my calling, but you are not above taking a turn just because you’re tired of being around kids all day. Consider this: I’m new to the ward and would like to get to know people and while you’re enjoying your relaxing lesson in GD, RS and EQ, I’m isolated in the nursery, chasing your children.

    -If you specifically ask me what calling I would like to hold, and I tell you “Anything but nursery,” I mean ANYTHING BUT NURSERY. Please do not call me two weeks later and tell me that you prayed about it and were told that I was supposed to be given the calling. That is manipulative. It is especially frustrating when I learn that the REAL reason I was called was because your ward has had an inability to keep the calling staffed and since I’m new and want to make a good impression, I’m likely to accept.

    -I know this was already mentioned, but PLEASE, pick up your children on time. I do not appreciate being held over for 30 minutes every week because you want to socialize. Did I mention that I don’t get to socialize with adults AT ALL because I’m watching your kids?

    -Bishopric, if you cannot find enough people to staff the nursery, please do not stick some poor couple with 15 kids on the high and low age ends and assume that just because nobody dies by the end of the third block, we are okay. We don’t want to just survive every week. Why should we consider it successful if we are able to somehow get by? If you cannot find enough people to staff the nursery and their self-entitled parents aren’t willing to help out with their own children, then disband the program. Parents are able to watch their children during sacrament, which is allegedly the most important meeting – why can’t they also watch them during the last two hours? Keep the nursery open and let the parents bring their children in if they need a time out, but THEY need to stay with the kids. Do not supply nursery leaders.

    -Parents, please do not linger in nursery if you do not plan to help out and for the love of everything holy, DO NOT allow your YM/YW aged children to join you. Are you serious? The kids go BONKERS every time that door opens because they think their parents are there to pick them up and we have to re-adjust over and over. Oh, and can I also ask that you do not allow your YM/YW aged children to eat the nursery snacks? If they get hungry during church, ask them to bring their own food. The nursery is on an incredibly limited budget. It is only March and if we have to buy snacks again this year, it will be on our own dime as the leaders before us maxed out the budget at the beginning of the year.

    -Parents, as much as I’d love to give customized care to each child, I’ve been thrown into a room with 15 kids and no help. I’m lucky if I can even get through snack time without a major catastrophe. I do not know sign language, so please teach your children to use their words. I’m sorry if you don’t like Play Doh because it’s messy. We use Play Doh for our sanity. If you hate it, don’t bring your kid to nursery.

    -I’m not a paid employee who relies on this job for my livelihood. I am your neighbor. Please remember that. I am not your domestic help and you are not my boss. If you have a problem with the way things are done, by all means, stick around and help out. In fact, go ask the bishop to give you the calling. I didn’t want it in the first place.

    I feel better now.

  57. I’m a new nursery leader and a natural pushover, so needed some ideas for how to deal with a parent who dropped off her 16-month old with a “she’ll be fine, you know where I am if she needs something.” I just need a spine. It’s really good to know I’m not the only one dealing with this stuff.

    I would add: please be aware that there are only 2 of us and about 12 kids. When your kid is potty training, please check on them and take them potty during the break. If you don’t, at some point one of the 6 other potty trained kids will announce (mid lesson) that they need to go, and every single kid will suddenly need to go potty. We are already trying to comfort the wailing 18 month olds who miss their mom who disappeared. We can’t take all your children potty all at once.

  58. Re: the parent who drops off a 16 month-old: use the Handbook–“I’m sorry, Brother & Sister X, the handbook says 16 month-olds can’t come to nursery.” Give them a firm smile, no nonsense, but polite. If you defer to the Handbook, they have no grounds to argue. Good luck!

  59. I’m wondering if you all really think that there is enormous growth mentally from the age of 17 months to 18 months? Because it really seems you have the wrong attitude in general! My husband and I were put in as primary teachers and have a 17 month old. We were told, “You can probably take her in to nursery and it shouldn’t be a big deal.” I was polite enough to ask the nursery teachers before just dropping her and they all responded, ” Not a big deal… Of course!” The following week, we kept her with us but were still stopped and informed that the teachers DID in fact have a problem with it, so far as to requesting the primary president pull out handbook age rules!! Serious??? They could have just said so in the first place, as I did ask and they said yes! I felt they went behind my back and tattled and it essentially left me with a very negative feeling towards those 3 teachers for not being upfront, making a huge stink about a 17 month old vs 18 month old. I also question their ability and competence for their volunteer positions because 3 adults with 5 kids and making a huge deal about 1 extra child (in a very small nursery). Also, is it really that difficult to simply ASK parents about food allergies? I’ve asked parents prior to having a birthday party at my house and it was NOT A BIG DEAL!

    Regardless, I am so offended at how they handled it that I have no intention of putting her in Nursery in one month or even 1 year! They have already made it clear that it is too much to handle!

    As for some of the other comments regarding other positions, church callings are not perfect nor are any of their members (I was taught to believe only one perfect person has ever existed on this planet), so if someone cancels a talk or doesn’t give you all ample time you need, or a parent comes to a young men’s advisors seeking out ideas to help encourage their child… At is all part of the positions you accepted and you DO have our God given freedom of choice to decline!!

  60. I was called to be a Nursery Leader last year on my 60th birthday. No problem. I figure I can do anything for a year. Yes, you are isolated. Yes, there are problems at times. Sometimes those problems are the parents, sometimes they are the children. Just roll with the punches. I made it for 10 months – now I got called as a Cub Den Leader. – my first time! (I do have 2 Eagle Scout sons). Can I expect to be reimbursed the $75 it cost for the scout uniform? I wouldn’t think I am expected to pay for that. I am a life-long member and have to say I was a bit appalled at the lack of instruction/orientation regarding this calling. I have had to find out everything on my own.

  61. I have been searching the internet for ideas on how to support my child when I drop her off in the nursery. She loves to sing and babble so naturally people turn around and stare at us. At this point the nursery is probably my only option, however, after ten minutes someone always comes to get me because she is crying. I just wanted to say that after stumbling across this message board I was shocked by the negativity throughout most of the messages. Each church is so unique to their size that every childrens’ program needs to be tailored to that specific church. I understand that their are rules and guidelines to follow to make sure that everyone can learn and grow. However, the line about “Please don’t drop off your precocious sixteen-month-old (or worse, your misbehaving five-year-old!) because you’re–very understandably–tired of chasing her around the halls and you just know she’ll be fine…”, who would want to come to church knowing that their “offspring (as you call them)” are being judged already as children. I wish all churches, no matter what their denomination, were more about making people feel welcome as opposed to scrutinizing decisions and behaviour. Where is the prayer and helpful comments about the wonderful things that your nursery has to offer the children.


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