As a working parent, one of your greatest needs is likely finding reliable childcare. Your childcare situation can make or break your working experience, give you peace when things are working well and turmoil when they aren’t. What happens when you do not have a job with reliable hours? How can you find good childcare despite your work situation? Choosing the right childcare option for your family can be an overwhelming process. Here are some tips to make this process easier:
· Check Several Daycares- Did your conversation with a potential daycare get shut down immediately when you mentioned your crazy work schedule? Keep looking around. Some daycares are beginning to offer a little more flexibility than they once did. When researching daycare centers in your area, keep in mind that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends a child to staff ratio of 3:1 for overall infant care. For children ages 3-5, the AAP recommends a child to staff ratio of 8:1.
· Drop-In Childcare-This is an option that is becoming more available. Drop-in childcare centers give you flexibility in your work schedule, as they are often open beyond regular daycare hours. They don’t always require much notice, so they can be a good option when you don’t know your hours too far in advance.
· Private Childcare- Private childcare, or day homes, can be much more flexible than daycares. Because it is run out of someone’s home, there is more leeway when it comes to the rules and hours. Speak to the day home owner and negotiate options for hours and payment.
· Friends and Family- Talk to your parents, other family members and friends and see if they might be willing to help watch your children. This option will give you the peace of mind that your children are in a home with people who already love them. It will also make the transition easier for your children. For example, if you work a night shift and your children go to stay at their grandma’s house, they will feel like they are simply having a sleepover. This eases the potential stress for both you and your children.
· Combination- In your situation, a combination of childcare options may be the answer that is right for you. Maybe you can use a drop-in childcare center during the daytime and evening, and rely on friends and family to care for your children at night.
· Keep Your Ears Open- If you work in a place where fellow employees are dealing with uncertain hours, you may be able to get tips from co-workers. Ask them how they are dealing with their childcare situations. See if there are any local options for childcare that works around varying schedules. Find out about private day homes that others might be using. A day home provider might be more willing to consider odd hours if there is more than one family utilizing those hours.
Working around a varied work schedule is not easy when you are a parent, but it is not impossible. There are many things to consider, and you will want to look around and explore your options. While your work schedule requires you to find a childcare option that provides flexibility and doesn’t break the bank, the most important points to consider are if your child will be safe, happy and well cared for at this childcare setting. Do your part to research the options available to you, and you will find the right fit.