How to find flexible childcare

Care.com gives some tips on finding flexible childcare.

The battle between shift work and childcare may feel like an endless one. If either you or your partner, or perhaps both, work according to shifts it can feel like every hour clashes; finding quality childcare for your family can be a challenge but it’s not impossible. With a growing number of mums choosing and enjoying a working life, whether part or full-time, there is an increasing demand for flexibility in childcare. But when there’s a will, there’s a way and here are some top tips on how to find you perfect childcare solution:

1. Talk about it

When you and/or your partner works shifts, there just isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to childcare. Instead the arrangement you decide upon will have to be unique to your family. So if you do decide the time is right to find the flexible childcare you need, go and talk things through with your manager. Do so straight away so you’re fully aware of the support that is on offer, for example you could ask if it is possible for you to have set days off. Of course with shift work this often excludes the possibility of having weekends off on a regular basis – so perhaps suggest that you have two-days off a week that suit you, and your employer. Maybe a Monday and Tuesday off each week will benefit you both: those days may be the quietest at work, thus easing staffing issues and you will consistently know when your time off will be, and when you won’t need childcare.

It’s natural to feel apprehensive about asking your employer for increased flexibility, but be assured that it can in fact be a positive for you both. There is no harm in discussing the subject with your employer and finding the ideal compromise. On the flip side, don’t be down hearted if the response from your manager suggests they can’t make any changes. There are still plenty of options for finding flexible childcare that will suit your shift-pattern working-life.

2. When you’ve established your working arrangements, start the search

There’s a huge range of different childcare options out there, and it’s important that you keep your mind open to new ideas – as you may just find the perfect childcare solution. Have you considered mixing a nursery during the day, with a childminder picking up your little one and looking after them until you finish work? This is ideal if you want your children to have the experience of interacting with others but your hours are longer than the regular nursery opening times. Nannies are also a great option, as they’ll form a bond with your family and can often provide care according to flexible hours themselves.

Have a look into after-school and before-school clubs too – ask your child’s form teacher or school secretary.

3. Don’t rule out asking friends and family for a helping hand

Childcare can be a huge stretch for a family’s budget, but sometimes it can feel like too much of a favour to ask family or friends to fill in a few hours here and there. If you have family nearby, this can be a great bonding time for children and grandparents: even if it is just once every so often, it can help ease the financial burden and the stress of making childcare arrangements work. When asking family for help they may not always be able to do so: it doesn’t mean they don’t want to support you. Also make sure you ask them how they are doing and encourage them to be honest with you – it probably isn’t working if they are falling ill or getting run down. If your grandparents are not ready for the demands of childcare, see if they can help out with lifts to after school activities. Equally valuable is having them on speed dial to take over if your Nanny or childminder is unwell. That way they’ll feel like they are helping – and they’ll take some of the burden of flexible childcare from you too.

Of course, for a lot of families there may not be family members near by to help out. This is when you ask a trustworthy local friend to share the school run with, or have the occasional scheduled playdate once a week that gives both of you valuable working time.

4. Make it clear from the word ‘go’ that you need flexibility

If you are hiring a nanny [or a nanny share] or a childminder, make the employment process easier on both parties by making sure you establish that you need flexibility. This way you’ll save time interviewing and, in the case of nannies, security-checking candidates who just aren’t right for your family’s needs. Be honest about your working hours and establish that you are working with your own employer to make the process as smooth as it can be.

5. Work together to find the ideal arrangement

It doesn’t have to be a one-person battle for you to find childcare solutions – include your partner and ask family or friends if they could help out (perhaps you got that dreaded phone call this morning to say your childminder is sick). But most importantly talk to your childminder or nanny and let them know your working hours are changeable.

If your childcare does ever fall through, then don’t panic just yet – see if you can establish a relationship with a local childminder who could provide last-minute care, or perhaps you could talk to your family and friends to see if they could step in for a couple of hours? Nurseries tend to be less flexible on hours, but they may also be able to provide extra sessions if you give notice.

6. Suggest a shift-pattern for your childcare arrangements

With nannies and childminders, you could also suggest working on a shift-basis when you find someone who is right for your family and is available to work the hours and days you need. Making a more formal rota will offer them a sense of stability in their job. Once you know your shifts, let them know straight away the hours they will be needed. This way they can make the most of their time off and you’ll work towards a mutually beneficial family to carer relationship!

7. Look at other options once the children are at school

Many families find that once children are at school, and in regular after school activities, the option of an au pair or regular babysitter can work just as well. If you have the space in your home, consider an au pair to help with the school run, light housework and homework. If you would rather not have a live-in option, posting a job for a local babysitter who does the school run 2-3 times per week and whom you can trust to prepare a meal for your children will ensure that your children are able to benefit from time in the family home, even when you are out at work.

*This article is supplied by uk.care.com, a one-stop shop for all care issues, from babysitters and nannies to elder care and pet care.





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