Episode 11 of Best of Both Worlds went live yesterday! This episode features the fabulous Prof. Siobhan Brady of UC Davis. We chose Siobhan as our first guest both because she is happily combining a big job at a major research institution and a family, and also because she is Sarah’s former running buddy. Hence she was unlikely to get mad at us if we flubbed up our first attempt at a 3-way recording.
I am happy to report that it went well. I welcome any comments here on Siobhan’s strategies — which were great! — but I thought I’d aim this podcast discussion thread more at our listener Q&A segment, which was from a mom of a son who’d recently started kindergarten.
This child had been in daycare for years, and as this mom pointed out, from a working parent perspective, day care is really great (of course! Because it’s set up for working parents!) It was open 6:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. daily, and though they did not use it for anything close to 12 hours per day, it was nice to have that flexibility on either end if they needed it. And it was always open.
Then her son started kindergarten, and she had that realization that many parents have: the school schedule has nothing to do with normal work hours, especially when both parents are commuting.
His school did have an after-care program, but it only went to 5 p.m. There was also some question of whether he would be able to attend that school the next year, so they were looking into potential sitting options. But, realistically, this mother pointed out, who wants to work from, say, 2:30-5:30 p.m., reliably, five days per week? And what if the parents have to go to work early — what do they do about needing to cover time before the school day?
These are all good questions, and I hope that readers who have come up with good solutions for school-aged children will weigh in. Sarah and I had a few thoughts on what she could try.
A nanny share. Maybe another family in the neighborhood is employing a full time nanny during the day. If her son could get off the bus at that house, this would be seamless afternoon coverage. The mom who wrote in could pay some chunk of the nanny’s salary, and ideally this would mean more for the nanny, and a little bit less of a cost for the nanny’s original employer. I’m not quite sure how this would work from a legal perspective (who’s employee is the nanny during that time?) but I assume people work this out.
Think 168 hours, not 24. Perhaps the mother doesn’t need to hire a sitter for 3 hours every single day (which isn’t that great a job in many cases — all the commuting hassles but for only a few hours). What about hiring someone 2:30-8:00 p.m. three days a week? Then each parent covers one of the other two days each week. The parents could work a little later the other days to make up the time… or go to the gym…or go out to eat together… This only works if both parties have flexibility in their jobs (which might not be the case) but from a manager’s perspective, leaving one day per week early and having the ability to work late on other nights could come out in the wash.
Add on housekeeping. This family could sweeten/lengthen the job a bit by having the person come, say, 12:30-5:30 p.m., and do housekeeping, laundry, cooking, errands, etc. before the son got off the bus (or before the caregiver picked him up at school). This would be more expensive, of course, but if the family had been using a cleaning service, or eating a lot of take-out, there could be savings there.
Split the shift. If the family does need to be out early (before school) it’s possible that there are people who’d like to work a few hours in the morning and then more in the afternoon. Such folks are probably rare, but maybe someone is trying to start a company, and needs during-the-day freedom for said entrepreneurial activity, and just wants another job to bankroll it. Or he/she is a student and takes classes during the day. Or he/she is writing the great American novel, or a screenplay or… whatever. Our guest, Siobhan, employed someone in the morning and the afternoon for a while, but then needed to split this into two jobs because of the specific people she wanted to hire.
Just pay more. The reason 2:30-5:30 p.m. M-F doesn’t sound like a good job is because we are assuming that three hours wouldn’t earn somebody a high enough chunk of cash to justify the transaction costs. But if you pay above-market wages, then that takes care of that problem. Again, we run into the issue that this family was probably hoping that their childcare costs would fall significantly once their child was in school, but this isn’t always true.
Go the au pair route. I know some families of school aged children find au pairs (generally young people visiting the US on a 1-2 year visa) to be a great, cost-effective solution. The au pair can’t work more than 45 hours per week, but if your child is in school for 30 hours of the 50 you’re gone, then this works just fine. Of course, au pairs come with their own issues: you’ve got a young person living in your house, who might be away from home for the first time. You want to make sure you’ve got someone who’s as mature as possible.
I’m curious what options people with school-aged children have chosen. Because I still have a 2-year-old, in addition to my school-aged children, it’s made sense to still have a full time nanny. Since Sarah’s having a new baby in December, she’ll still have full-time childcare as well. But that doesn’t make sense for everyone. What has made sense for you?