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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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Pregnant Entrepreneurs are about to learn about the sweetest sound in the universe: a child sleeping.  For the first two years, you can get an awful lot done from your home office when your child naps.  But somewhere around two, many moms get a little shaky because it appears that your sweetheart is giving up naps, which can destroy the entire balance of your universe.

Here are a few great and practical tips from my friend, Erin Flynn Jay, Philadelphia writer, public relations executive and mom of two girls. http://www.metrokids.com/Blogs/MomSpeak/April-2012/When-Your-Toddler-Drops-the-Nap/  Check out her blog at FlynnMedia.com/blog.

To be completely honest, my own sleep hygiene these days isn’t the best, what with trying to burn the candle at both ends.  But I have always zealously guarded my children’s naptime. In addition to Erin’s tips above, here are a few of my own.

  • When your youngster first starts giving up naps, that doesn’t mean she’s actually ready to give up naps.  This is called a nap strike, and may just be for a few days.  If your child doesn’t get back into a sleep routine, try changing the routine.  If she always sleeps in her crib, for example, try taking her for a drive.  Find a situation she falls asleep in, and try to repeat it over the next week to get her back into a sleep habit.
  • Guard naps religiously if it makes you a better mom and a better business owner.  I am ALWAYS, ALWAYS home for naptime.  That means we miss out on a few events and some lunches with friends, but my kids know the routine, and usually go to bed with little fuss after lunch.
  • When naps fail, turn it into quiet time.  My pediatricians back me up that even a kindergardener needs quiet time.  While it may not be as long as a nap, your child can still stay quietly in their room, reading or playing with quiet toys.  It might be a shorter window than nap, but we don’t need that much time to accomplish our entire daily to do list after all, right?   😉
  • Reward naps.  As a mom, I am not above bribery.  When putting my little ones down for lunch, I often say something like, “I’m really looking forward to heading to the park with you after nap.  But you need to be well rested.  So read quietly and maybe close your eyes so you can have enough energy to do the fun stuff we have planned, alright?” 

Keep these strategies with you as your child ages.  I have found that my days are the best with my kids when they are well-rested, especially as they grow into toddlers and pre-schoolers.

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If you haven’t ever heard of co-working, that’s not surprising.  I hadn’t either, until very recently.   This is not to be confused with “job sharing”, which is a strategy some women use to work part-time in a full-time position at a corporation.  No, this is really a new concept, or perhaps an old concept with a new structure.  You’ve probably gone to a coffee shop to get a bit of work done, where you congregate with other people doing the same thing, but independently.

 coworking for moms

Aliza Schlabach, herself a working mom, has launched a group who comes together to work in their own businesses, but in a shared space.  She schedules the events, once or more each month, and finds the space so that (mostly) business owners can congregate and benefit from the engery and resources that workers in an office take for granted.

Update since originally published:  Aliza’s business has been renamed the JuiceBox and is currently on the hunt for permanent real estate.

The really exciting twist on this is Aliza’s addition of childcare to the mix, since her market is mostly moms and dads who usually run their business from their homes and around their kids. Is this a brilliant idea?  Here’s the interview, where Aliza buckles down and shows how it’s done.

 How did you come up with the coworking concept?

 

This past fall I took part in DreamIt Ventures startup accelerator program in Philadelphia; for three months I worked as a User Experience consultant for one of the startup companies. We worked in a crowded open room, and while it wasn’t particularly comfortable, it was still wonderful… we (15 startup companies which consisted of about 45 people) bounced ideas off each other, learned to network like crazy, and collaborated. Even though my company consisted of only three people, we were in an environment that was much bigger and more exciting; it fostered enthusiasm and creativity beyond what could have happened from our small group working alone. 

 

During that program I also became familiar with Indy Hall, a cool coworking space in Old City Philadelphia that was founded by Alex Hillman, who is extremely well known in the coworking community worldwide. DreamIt and Indy Hall were my introduction to coworking.

 

One day in November I was driving home from a school we were considering sending my five year old to for kindergarden, and was fretting over how far apart my home, my work, his school, and my daughter’s daycare were. And suddenly I had one of those lightbulb moments; the Coworking for Parents concept was born.

 

 

Are there other similar models in operation elsewhere, in other parts of the country?

 

So far in all of my Googling, I have only found a handful of other businesses with this concept worldwide:

 

Third Door Workhug & Nursery London (UK)

http://www.third-door.com/

Bean Work Play Cafe (Georgia)

http://www.beanworkplaycafe.com/

The Work SPot (Georgia)

http://workatthespot.com/

(Germany)

http://www.koelner-zeitraeume.de/

Cubes & Crayons (San Francisco) (closed their doors – I heard for personal reasons)

http://www.cubesandcrayons.com/

 

Who is it ideal for?  Who else might benefit?

 

This facility will be perfect for most work from home parents of young children… anyone who spends the majority of time on their computer and who also has young kids to attend to.  We will also welcome anyone else who wants to cowork in our area… parents of older kids, and those without kids as well; they just won’t need the childcare services. Finally, we are considering including a commercial kitchen in our space. This will be great for event hosting, as well as for renting to those with bakery and other food related businesses who might sometimes need a larger facility (and maybe childcare) to handle larger orders and grow their businesses beyond the capacities of their home.

 

The childcare side of the business will allow entrepreneurial and telecommuting parents the ability to be more productive than they could possibly be at home without childcare. 

 

The coworking environment will foster a true community spirit and opportunities to inspire, be inspired, network, socialize, learn, and be happier and more productive. It will of course also offer traditional business services such as access to conference rooms and print facilities. 

 

 

Do you see this as a mentoring/networking possibility as well?

 

Absolutely! I think networking in a space of fellow entrepreneurs is a given. We will likely also set up a program of monthly networking events, speakers, and perhaps also a mentoring program for startups. 

 

 

What kinds of work might a parent actually get done in a few hours?

Hosting a business meeting in a board room or participating in a conference call (with no screaming children in the background). Designing a few mockups of a web site. An intense session of programming. Writing a proposal, or a magazine article. Finances. Getting through a big pile of email. Cooking in the commercial kitchen. The possibilities are endless!

 

 

How will you address concerns about quality of child care?

 

Quality child care is all about the people who are providing that care. In addition to thorough background checks and references, I plan on interviewing all candidates personally. They must demonstrate warmth, responsibility, attention, a youthful spirit, and creativity. Part of the interviewing process will include having them provide examples of activities they would love to pursue with the children they work with. I will also institute both a parent and peer review process to make sure we reward the teachers who excel, and dismiss those who don’t perform. 

 

 

Do you see this growing into a business, or is this just a really great networking opportunity?

 

The facility will either be set up as a for profit business or a non-profit organization, depending on how the revenue plan works out (currently a work in progress). I could see large family friendly organizations potentially sponsoring us, as an effort to support family-focused entrepreneurship on a community level. Ikea, Wegmans, and Whole Foods perhaps? (Is this wishful thinking?  🙂

 

 

How have you been getting the word out about this option?

 

I have been very active setting up my email newsletter mailing list on CoworkingForParents.com, and getting the word out on Facebook (www.facebook.com/CoworkingForParents) and Meetup.com (www.meetup.com/CoworkingForparents). Locally I have been talking to people in person and online from Philly Startup Leaders, Main Line Parent magazine, have posted on Craigslist, and have been meeting individually with many local business owners.

 

 

Would a pregnant woman be welcome?

 

Absolutely! How wonderful would it be for her to be supported in her business and through her pregnancy by others who have been through it.

 

 

What is the one biggest success you hope to have?

 

Just one? That’s tough.  🙂 If I can open the doors to this business, have it be even a little bit profitable within a year or two, and make a few parents happy and productive enough to spread the word, I will be a very happy and content woman.

 

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For more information, contact Aliza Schlabach Founder | Coworking For Parents

215.858.4658  info@coworkingforparents.com

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Read more about what inspired this book and what my typical schedule looks like with a 4 year old, 1 year old and a full time business. Crazy? You decide. http://businessinfoguide.com/interview-darla-demorrow-author-of-the-pregnant-entrepreneur

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