One of the areas that have been hardest hit since the start of the pandemic is childcare. Parents everywhere must get creative to figure out ways to arrange childcare in this era of rising tuition costs, frequent closures, and long waiting lists.
With an average cost increase of 41% since the start of the pandemic in the United States, childcare is becoming inconvenient at best and out of the question at worst for many American families. However, if you face childcare challenges, there are some ways to think outside the box to find a creative solution that will work for your family.
Work from Home
Working from home isn’t an option for everyone, depending on your job, but it’s an avenue worth exploring. If it’s an option for you, even part-time, it can make a big difference in helping you coordinate childcare.
If you can work from home, it opens several different options. For example, you may be able to keep your child(ren) at home full-time while working, saving you a significant amount of money on childcare. This is a particular situation because it’s challenging and not always an option depending on your employer.
Many daycare centers operate on a curtailed schedule due to COVID-19 restrictions, which can be challenging for parents working a standard 8 am to 5 pm schedule in an office setting. However, a perk of working from home is that you have more flexibility even if you put your child in full-time childcare.
Request a Non-Traditional Work Schedule
Perhaps your job is the type of work that can be done at any time, you may consider requesting a non-traditional work schedule to accommodate your childcare needs better.
Work with your boss to determine if there is a way you can tweak your schedule to combine your shifts, shorten your workday, or change your hours. If you have a good relationship with your boss and have a good work track record, they will likely be open to exploring this option to keep you on as an employee.
You might be financially able to take a pay cut, you might consider dropping down to a 24 or 32 hour per week work schedule. Or you could work fewer days per week or five shorter shifts. Of course, it’s essential to consider things like health insurance requirements and overall household income, but this is a good option for some families.
Maybe you can only afford four days a week of childcare, or your daycare center can only offer a part-time slot for your child due to enrollment. In this scenario, you could request to work four 10-hour shifts so that you are still getting your hours in, but you have the day off with your child when they are home.
If your job does not specifically require you to work between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., you could request an alternate shift time, such as 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. or 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. This may allow you to share childcare responsibilities with your partner or another family member.
Lean on Friends and Family
It indeed takes a village to raise children. However, the pandemic has forced so many of us to learn more about our close friends and family for so many things, and childcare is another area where tapping into your village may help you fill the gaps.
If you need help with childcare while you work, look to your inner circle. For example, if you have retired parents or a sister-in-law who is a stay-at-home-mom, consider asking them if they can help watch your child. Even consider a younger sibling or cousin who has babysitting experience or is pursuing a degree in early childhood education.
The people in your life love to feel needed and would most likely welcome the opportunity to help you raise your child during this season. However, if you dig deep in your network and start looking at the situation objectively, you will find someone who can help, even if it’s only part-time.
Your friends or family may even offer to watch your child for free or for a much lower amount than what it would cost you to put them in full-time childcare. This so-called “friends and family discount” could mean substantial financial savings and stress.
Combination Approach to Childcare
It’s no secret that you will need to get creative to make childcare work during the pandemic.You might need to borrow from several different approaches to get the coverage you need for your family.
There’s no reason to think that childcare has to be a one-size-fits-all or an all-or-nothing approach. Sometimes the best option will mean a little bit of flexibility and being willing for the situation to look a little bit messy.
For example, if you arrange for a few days in a daycare or childcare center, have a friend or family member help with one additional day, and then you or your spouse take a day off work, you can cover the week.
A scenario like this means that you may only pay for full-price childcare one to two days out of the week, which is a much more minor hit to your wallet than a full-time schedule.