Summer break is nearly upon us and this spells major anxiety for parents needing to find childcare for their school aged kids. Complicate that with the firefighter’s schedule and it seems to be an impossible feat.
If you are one of those lucky people who lives close to family who can watch your kids – THANK THEM GREATLY! We live 2 hours from the grandparents and have always had to find a reliable sitter and pay them good money to happily take care of our 4 kids currently ages 12, 9, 7 and 5.
I feel like I can speak from experience here as I have worked full time and part time, in the office and from home and have used all variations of childcare and schedules at some point including:
- Part time college girls who come to our house (our favorite!)
- Bringing our kids to the home of loving stay-at-home moms
- Daycare (ugh! last resort!)
- Live-in American Nanny
- Live-in Au Pairs (from Brazil, Finland, Germany, Ukraine and S. Africa)
I could write a novel on this topic but will focus on some quick tips for how we found our best childcare providers for summer.
Aren’t Nannies for the rich and famous?
When we had lots of infants and toddlers around, and I was working full time corporate job, the live in au pair was perfect. Yes, you have to be comfortable welcoming a roommate / host daughter into your home. No, it does not cost a million dollars and no we are not millionaires. Having a live in nanny kind of has that connotation and that perception by the guys at the firehouse made me laugh! Multiply the cost of daycare times 4 kids, cut it in half and that’s about what it costs for an au pair.
It makes for lots of great jokes at the firehouse. So, when your wife is at work and you are off duty, what is the young attractive foreign girl doing? Oh, she likes to work on her suntan on the back deck
Your best childcare option for part time…
Responsible 20 somethings who are working their way through college, while creatively going to school part time have been the best experience for us. They are motivated for money (especially cash under the table but you didn’t hear that here A lot of them are working towards teaching or early childhood degrees and love kids. Their college schedules are almost as crazy and frequently changing as a firehouse schedule. And they don’t want full time work because it’s too much with college classes also. By the way, they are especially thrilled with summer only work when you give them a pool pass and the privilege to get the kids out of the house. Which brings up another good point…..these girls are old enough and responsible enough to drive the bigger kids to and fro. Very handy!
A summertime bonus…..many elementary school teachers do babysit for families in the summer. Especially those energetic young single, engaged or newly married girls. And…..they don’t want full time cause they want to chill for a bit too. This is a great resource for summer only childcare.
How does the schedule work?
I am lucky enough to have a little flexibility in my work schedule. As in, I can be home to catch the bus at 4 pm every 3rd day so we don’t need after school care. Once we find a sitter whom we love (and who also loves us – very key factor!), it takes her a couple months to figure out the every 3rd day schedule. (Heck, it took me a couple years!) We discuss ideal schedules and she tries to schedule her classes with big openings – something like this:
- all day Mon and Wed
- Tues and Thurs until 2 pm
- Fri until noon
What do you do about last minute overtime?
Ummm. Pray big. I try not to sweat it. If he gets offered overtime on the weekend, we tend to say yes because I am around for the kids and we don’t need to find a last minute sitter. That pushes him to the bottom of the list for the next weekday overtime. In the worst case, I have to call off from work or try to work from home. There are a couple neighbors who we are lucky will pinch hit for us. And praise God we are *almost* to the point that I can leave the oldest 2 in charge for a couple hours if something critical comes up. (*almost* we’ve only used that for short 15-30 minute gaps in the schedule so far!)
Where do you find these childcare angels?
Facebook stalk the local high school neighbor girls. (Just Kidding!) But you do want someone in close proximity to you to eliminate the traffic / car repair inconveniences. I have used Craigslist, some of the paid childcare websites, church bulletin boards, facebook pleas and advertised in the right season in the local college newspapers classified section.
And I’m totally not joking about the praying part. We go season by season and I pray for the right girl to come our way with the right schedule. So far those prayers have been answered each time for 10 years!
How do you know she’s not some whack-job?
Interview these girls like you are a CSI criminal investigator. Make no apologies. You are leaving these girls responsible for your most precious lives. You can pay for special background checks, etc. But I’ve found that deep interrogation, talking closely to their references, having them babysit the first time while you are around the house so you can observe, and asking your kids opinions. Ask about their health, their boyfriends, their parents / siblings. The last thing you want is psycho-ex-boyfriend following them to your house (yep, it happened to us!) And don’t forget to google them and see what they’re up to online. If you’re going to let them drive your kids, do check their driving record.
Bottom line…..trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, end it right there. Do not give them even one more chance for babysitting. Mama’s instincts know best.
We want to hear your best summer childcare tips!
Please leave them in the comments below. I’ve barely scratched the surface of this topic and many minds do great work together. Don’t be shy now ….. comment away.