Finding Child Care When You Don't Work 9 to 5

Pre School Girl learning.

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It's hard enough to find quality childcare when you work traditional weekday hours. But according to a 2014 survey by the National Study of Employers, there is a decline in the number of companies awarding flexible work arrangements and more and more employees have to deal with rotating shifts, required overtime, evening hours, and out-of-town travel. Finding childcare to cover these non-traditional work schedules, or your hours if you work more than one job, can be very difficult for many parents.

Child Care Options—and Challenges

Problems in finding quality child care aren't limited to those working odd hours. Parents who opt to have one family member work reduced hours, for example, may find that the cost of part-time child care exceeds the value of their paycheck, or that such care is unreliable.

Many daycare centers can't guarantee children a spot on a part-time or on-call basis due to tight child-adult ratio mandates and the fact that a child enrolled full-time provides more profit and stability than one who is there only on occasion.

Alternative child care is on the rise, but mostly in larger communities, and the cost does not come cheap. Options such as drop-in child care may help a parent who has a last-minute daytime meeting, but these options don't address late-night shifts or business travel.

In-home providers are an option, but many families don't want or can't afford to have a nanny, au pair, or even hourly babysitting in their home.

This is a dilemma that can cause economic strain and emotional stress within families.

Possible Solutions

Listed below are nine things you can do to secure child care services that work for your family and your untraditional work hours. While not all of these will be helpful for everyone, they are worth exploring as you work to solve this family challenge.

Ask Your Employer for Child Care Assistance

If your boss is asking you to take a business trip or work extra hours (particularly if this is a regular thing), be upfront in explaining your dilemma and ask about employee child care assistance. Maybe she will offer to pay for extra time or help to negotiate a great rate that you might not otherwise have received.

Some employers offer "family stipends" to help out with business travel or extended hours. A growing number of employers are even creating their own corporate daycares to help parents in similar situations where non-traditional care may be needed.

Seek Out a College Student

Since most students take their courses in the morning or even stack classes into either a Monday/Wednesday/Friday or a Tuesday/Thursday schedule, it's possible to find a caring individual who can watch your kids in your home.

While the hours may change slightly by semester, you can have consistent, reliable care if you are willing to put in some work upfront to find the right fit for your family. Most colleges even have job boards where you can advertise the days needed and rate you're willing to pay.

Offer Perks

Most caretakers like consistent hours that give them a sense of stability, both in terms of their schedule and weekly pay. And most people, if they had a choice, would prefer to work when most everyone else does, freeing up typical "after work" hours for personal time. If you have a schedule that fluctuates and/our requires hours before 9:00 a.m. and after 5:00 p.m., make the caretaker job more enticing by offering perks.

For example, if you just need a college student babysitter to be there to make sure the kids are safe, allow her to complete homework while she's at your house. Or provide dinner and allow your late-night sitter to rent a movie on you once the kids go to sleep.

Sometimes, your biggest need may be to have someone transport your child to after-school lessons or organized sports. Offer to pay for gas or a free oil change or car wash on occasion.

Create a Nanny Share

Nanny shares or splits are great cost-saving options. These arrangements typically involve one caretaker caring for two (or more) families in their respective homes on a coordinated schedule, with dedicated hours for each. In some cases, two families might instead choose to have their children watched by the caretaker at the same time at one person's home.

A nanny may get paid slightly more for the dual role, but many families feel the cost is worth the benefits.

The best arrangements are made with good friends who have similar expectations. It's important that each family is committed to having the caretaker's services only during the times agreed to. One important downside to consider: You may end up loving the nanny, while the other family does not. Remember that this arrangement has several moving parts that have to work together to make it successful.

Ask Your Daycare for References

Just because a traditional family provider or daycare operator doesn't offer extended hours doesn't mean they don't know one who will. Ask around for recommendations. Consider asking a provider/center you are already familiar with if they'll consider adding one evening each month or occasional weekend work. You may find providers have ideas or solutions you have never considered. Oftentimes, the very caretakers who look after children in such a setting are open to taking on extra hours on their own as well.

Try a Babysitter Swap or Co-Op

A babysitter swap or co-op is a great and reliable way to get someone to watch your kid for free. Perhaps you can swap care with a friend or neighbor—they watch your child on a night that you have to work and, in exchange, you watch their kids on date nights. No money is actually exchanged, and both families benefit.

Find a Co-Working Space

For parents who don't work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., co-working spaces that offer childcare provide the benefits of a community work environment, where parents can share workspaces with like-minded adults engaging in work, while also getting the benefit of high-quality childcare. 

Try a Drop-In Childcare Center

While hourly rates at these types of daycares tend to be higher, a confirmed customer on a set schedule may mean that the daycare is willing to lower rates. Some families who are consistent users of such facilities say that they end up getting as good of a deal by setting up a monthly schedule based on work requirements. 

Call on Family Members

Many families, if they are lucky enough to have them close by, ask their parents or relatives to lend a hand in child care. Most are all-too-happy to do so. Just be careful to not assume that they are available, overburden them, or become too critical of their help. Have an open, ongoing discussion about what you need and what they are able to provide. If the arrangement is a consistent one, you may want to offer compensation. And if they're not willing to take an hourly rate, being sure to provide other signs of appreciation can go a long way.

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