Sunday, December 31, 2006

Finding Part-Time Childcare

Finding part-time childcare is next to impossible! We are in the process of selecting someone to keep our son a few hours a week, and the process is difficult. Adding a new baby to the mix in a couple of months is proving even more challenging. First, few people are interested in any type of part-time childcare work. In part that is because childcare typically does not pay a very high wage, but another reason is that our childcare standards in the United States just have not become flexible enough to deal with flexible schedules.

Before my precious son was born, I thought I would be able to write full-time from home with him by my side. Oh, how I was wrong! Writing with a toddler is next to impossible. In many ways, both my writing and my son get short-changed. We have decided to remedy the solution by hiring someone part-time, but it is a learning process.

Our first choice, and you may find that this is what works best for you, was to put our son into a preschool setting two days a week. Now, with a baby or toddler, you will not be sending him to preschool per se, but we are using a service at a nearby worship center for our care. For a fairly small amount of money, our son will be taken care of for eight hours a week. We know he is safe, and he enjoys the idea that he is going to school.

Because the school is only two days a week and the baby will not be able to go, we have had to consider other childcare options as well. Like many parents who are looking for flexible daycare arrangements, we have found few good choices. Our first plan was to look at state-certified daycare. Certainly, we figured, someone has seen the need for drop-in care and swing shifts. After calling a couple of places, I realized how wrong I was. The daycare directors who answered their phones or returned my calls all told me in no uncertain terms that I was never going to find anyone. I did finally locate one daycare that would accept drop-ins, but the price was very high for care there.

The reason that daycares are not able to take drop-ins makes perfect sense to me. Each state mandates workers in licensed daycare facilities. These providers must have an adult for a certain number of children. The number varies by state and age of the child, which is why some facilities refuse to accept babies at all. Be sure you ask for minimum age requirements, especially if you will be returning to work six weeks after your baby is born.

Still the requirements mean that few daycare centers have the elasticity in staffing to allow children to come in only on certain days of the week. One option for parents who need daycare most days of the week is to find a place that will permit the parents to pay for the full week although they are not using it everyday.

After the failure of finding a regular daycare, we decided to get creative with our plan. I talked to several people who advertised home daycare in our newspaper. Now using these people can be tricky because you may find that you are not getting someone qualified. Often they are not licensed. In our state, for example, in-home providers can have up to four non-related children without needing licensing. You just need to be careful of these providers because while some provide wonderful care, others do not.

Our final solution was to look for a teenager to come over to sit with our son for a few hours twice a week. This option may be the best for you if you are working from home. We will have designated areas for playing and will be stocking up on games and craft items before our teen starts coming by to stay. My children will be able to be at home in a comfortable environment, but they will not be able to get into my office though I will be close by should they need anything. This daycare choice, while it will not work for everyone, is a solution that seems to be the best for moms who want a little of both worlds.

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