Responsible childcare when you're absent is elusive.
Help for Working Mothers
So you’re ready to go back to work. You’ve landed the job, or you are already working and just had a child. There’s only one problem—what do you do with the child or children? Yes, them.
Childcare, more specifically finding childcare, is one of the biggest hurdles for professional women. It’s hard to find someone you trust and can afford to look after the kids. Hard doesn’t justly describe the experience of hunting down a qualified and reliable nanny or daycare. It’s nearly impossible.
I could write a book about the trials of daycare, nursery schools and nannies, so I decided to focus on one childcare chapter—nannies. Let me give you just a few of my own experiences in trying to track down a nanny.
- One woman I was trying to interview cancelled three times: once due to pink eye, the second time because her roommate took her car and she didn’t know where she was and the third because her other babysitting job ran over. Why did I try to see her three times? Oh, you’ll learn good childcare is hard to come by.
- I hired a different woman, who came to the interviews, and she quit on her first day before she even showed up for work.
- The second woman I hired to nanny quit several months later because she found her true passion—cheese. She accepted a job in the local grocery store as their cheese specialist.
I have interviewed dozens of people in search for a qualified nanny or babysitter, and I have interviewed twice as many mothers about their searches. Here are the pieces of advice cruel experience and other mothers have given me:
There are four basic ways to look for a nanny: nanny services, daycares, colleges and overseas.
- Nanny services. You typically pay a couple hundred dollars to join the service, and then if you hire a nanny through the service you fork over another couple thousand. The Pros: The nannies have been background checked. They are certified in infant and child CPR. They have been tutored to a degree in how to act professionally. Most candidates have a lot of experience. The Cons: The services are pricey. The nannies are experienced and older, which can translate to being less flexible with technique, pay and hours. Also, since they’ve had years of experience many are looking for the next best thing or family. This is their profession and they want to make the most money they can, so a lot of times they don’t demonstrate a lot of family loyalty.
- Daycares. Many mothers I’ve talked to poached their nannies from daycare or Gymboree. The Pros: You can watch the person work before you hire so you are very familiar with her style and rapport with your child. They have also been background checked and are CPR certified. Many are so happy to be out of the daycare environment and be allowed to focus on one or two children that they are flexible on hours and pay. The Cons: They are flexible on hours and pay, but because many do have families of their own there are restrictions. Expect to pay between $12-$17 an hour.
- College Students. Many mothers I’ve talked to have had success hiring nannies from local colleges. They contact the college employment office, submit an ad and wait. One mother suggested writing an ad that hires for a cleaning lady with some childcare duties, then if you like your hire, gradually increasing the childcare portion. Her rationale: she knows that whoever becomes her children’s nanny won’t shy away from doing the dishes and laundry as well, and she can test the person out before committing to fully turning over the children.
- Overseas. Lots of people hire a live in nanny from overseas. It sounds like something only the ultra rich do, but I know of a family of four making $80,000 a year who employs a woman from Costa Rica. The Pros: You have no problems with the commute. Hours are very flexible. If she speaks another language, your children benefit from the exposure. The Cons: The person is living with you. That means you have to have a big house or converted garage. Plus, your privacy is not what it used to be. Many only make a one-year commitment. So you may have to train a new person every year.
Visit my Web site: www.momsnextmove.com.
In a perfect world what would your childcare arrangement look like? Is it possible to achieve?
One size does not fit all working mothers. For new thoughts on different approaches to working motherhood visit www.primarydilemma.com
is a former journalist for the Wall Street Journal and Dallas Morning News. She has two children and works from home writing books. She co-wrote Comeback Moms, a nonfiction book about how women can take time off and go back to work seamlessly. She also wrote The Dallas Women’s Guide to Gold-digging with Pride, a purely fictional novel. She is currently working on her second novel. www.momsnextmove.com.
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