Solve the Child Care Million Dollar Puzzle

It started with an age old question from a friend, “How do women go back to work full time? What do working parents do with their children? Especially, during off school days like Election Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Spring, etc.? How about snow days? Full time camp in summer?”

Yes, working for yourself might seem like it’s going to solve the childcare problem, but an entrepreneur has commitments, too. If you want to keep your professional credibility, you need a plan B (and maybe plan C and D) for your baby, your toddler, and even your school aged child.

Another friend provided one of the best responses I have ever read. She’s agreed to let me print here.

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How do you solve the child care puzzle?

This is a really tough question. Here are my thoughts:

1. In my fantasy world, you have family in the area and they step in to provide babysitting– regularly or on an as-needed basis for those strange holidays. We do not have this arrangement (parents are out of state or not well enough to help)– but a few friends of mine do have families who help out majorly.

2. Neighborhood grandma: Growing up, when my mom entered the work force, she had to find a place for my little brother to go before and after school. She found a retired grandma who would take in my brother before and after school. It was easier in the “old days” because, for example, you could get the school bus to stop pretty much anywhere (or even take a different route home)– now, the rules are much tougher, but allowances are made for regular transportation to babysitters.

3. Nanny share: Some families (more common in some neighborhoods) share nannies– they might have a nanny two or three days a week, which lets them work on those days.

4. Au pair: The current rate for au pairs is around $355/week, which for 40 hours of care would be doable, since we normally pay $15/hour to babysit just the two older kids. I’d be able to work at least a day a week (probably more like 2-3) and could cover the au pair fee myself with earnings. The downside would be that the person would have to live in our house– which is big, but not set up for that type of sharing. For example, we do have a guest bedroom, but the bathroom is currently being used by the kids.

5. Stop funding retirement and hire more help: If we needed to hire a nanny, that would be what we might have to consider doing– but retirement savings is so important so we have been unwilling to do that.

6. Don’t go back to work full time. I ended up quitting a job that I loved to stay home because it was so hard to work out childcare. I just decided that for now, I should be home with them. I am lucky in that I have a nursing job that I can do per diem, part time, or full time, and pretty much any shift– but even with all that flexibility, it was just too hard for me to figure out the daycare aspects– so I quit.

7.  Some schools run programs before and after schools. You can pay for care on a daily basis (as-needed) or routinely.

8. Local college students might have students who are able to work for you; many have their own cars. Contact the career placement office to post a job ad.

9. Local daycare facilities. When we did a large school (franchise chain), it was nice because they were open from 7am-6pm, and they never closed down if someone was sick (i.e., if you had a babysitter and they called out sick, you’re out of luck). The downside was that for my kids, the noise was overwhelming– I felt like for me personally it ended up being more like a parking lot for my kids rather than a place where they grew and thrived.

10. Local pre-schools: Nice for enrichment & social aspects, but it’s only 3 hours a day. You can pay for more care there (at $7/hour for up to 3 hours)– but even with 6 hours of care a day, that’s not enough if you have an 8-hour shift somewhere. However, it does make it a little more possible for a neighbor or friend to pick them up and only watch them from 3-5 or 3-6.

11. Local sports facilities. See if yours has a busing arrangement with area schools.

12. I’ve also heard of the local Karate place as taking kids after school (I forget if it’s once or twice a week)– they pick up and then provide a class.

13. Building Blocks: They are a daycare facility that also allows you to buy a day at a time. If I were working and needed care for a school holiday day, I might consider them. I think someone told me that it was $150/day, but don’t quote me on that. I have only talked to one parent who sent their kids there– they ultimately switched– but they had some challenges with their kids so that might have contributed.

14. There are also online resources like sittercity.com and care.com — as well as joining local Moms Club and trading babysitting (which I’ve done and is usually great). Ask at your local church (if you have one). I would stay away from Craig’s List– too many weirdos.

Closing thoughts: It’s just really, really hard to make it work. I look at families with grandparents who help out and I’m envious. However…. not having my parents so close also means that they don’t interfere with my parenting–which is nice, too.  (Trying to find the positive!) When I drive around in the morning dropping my kids at school, and returning home with the baby, I’m always struck by the thought of “Wow, I could be doing so much, but instead I’m home with the baby, and she would probably be just as happy hanging out in a room full of babies”– but then I need to pick my second one up at noon, and be here to greet my oldest at 4 when he gets off his bus– so I feel like I’m at the mercy of their schedules— but in a few years, once they are all in school for a full day, I’m hoping it gets easier (or at least less expensive)– then I could potentially either work overnights (with a shift starting at 11pm and ending at 7am) or weekends, or something…. but right now, I just don’t know how people do it. If anyone solves the puzzle, please clue me in.

Put together by just another mom…

What’s your childcare solution while working? Does it feel like it costs you a million dollars?

 

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