Last Updated on September 30, 2021 by Creative Parenting
What are parents doing for childcare during the pandemic?
If you’ve been stressing over this, then know that:
19.6% Of Working-Age Adults Are In Your Situation
There’s been tons of stories in the news about the challenges parents are facing with finding childcare during the pandemic.
And despite some improvements, we’re still living through the pandemic.
That means parents are juggling work and kids like never before.
Listen to this…
According to Census.Gov:
“In the United States, around one in five (19.6%) of working-age adults said the reason they were not working was because COVID-19 disrupted their childcare arrangements”Census.Gov
Parents are shifting schedules around. Working part-time. Working weekends. Taking shifts at odd hours.
All while trying to maintain some normalcy.
If you’ve been juggling a million things and are looking for childcare, this post’s for you.
This post is based on our research plus our personal experiences. We’ve had to change daycares several times, and last year we hosted an au pair.
We’ve been on our own roller coaster of emotions along the way. And hopefully have some expderiences that can help you avoid the pitfalls we didn’t see coming…
So on that note, let’s start with a question that’s top of mind for a lot of parents:
What Do I Do If I Can’t Find Childcare During Covid?
Now if this is your situation, first thing is, take a DEEP breath.
You’ll get through this.
Cause if you’re reading this, chances are you need childcare because your circumstances have changed.
We hope not. But it’s becoming more and more common.
Daycare suddenly shut down unexpectedly, catching you off guard?
That’s infuriating too- it happened to us!
Either way, the unexpected loss of childcare can lead to a rush of emotions all at once:
Anger. Rage. Fear. Frustration.
But here’s the deal: You can get through this.
You might have to scramble. And you might have to find less than ideal chidlcare (for the time being). And that’s absolutely frustrating.
But you WILL find childcare.
Sometimes the search will make you want to pull your hair out.
You’ll get excited at the prospect of a new daycare, but then frustrated if you find out they’re full.
But you’ll solve your childcare dilemma.
And with these tips?
You might even figure it out faster.
So sit down, buckle up, and let’s dive in.
First Figure Out This Exact Cost And Your “Float”
What costs do you have to figure out first?
First thing is, in a crisis, you’ve gotta think differently.
You’ve gotta figure out the max amount you can spend on childcare over the next few months.
Because you’re planning for worst case scenarios here.
And what’s a worst case here?
That the childcare you find and need is at the higher end of your budget.
And why figure it out only for the next few months?
If your childcare needs changed suddenly and you’re scrambling, you can always find a temporary solution for now and then change later.
Plus, determining your max will help you determine whether full-time or part time childcare options are viable.
Once you look at that high range number, vs. your budget, you can figure out if you have any buffer from savings or otherwise to bridge the gap.
Then Research Part-Time Childcare & Cost Out Those Options
Now the first thing you might be tempted to do is open up a web browser and start googling daycare.
But is this the best strategy?
If you’re in a big city with a ton of daycares this might work…
But if you’re in a smaller town or city you might need an offline strategy.
When you search on Google, the results you see are those optimized for Google search.
It might give you results you find helpful…
But it might not give you options you’ll find helpful if you’re scrambling.
A quick google search might yield a bunch of daycare centers that only offer full-time care.
But what you need is:
An in-home daycare that’s offering part-time childcare options (for example).
If you head over to care.com via this link, you can use their calculator to price out different scenarios. Their calculator is one of the most helpful we’ve found.
With this calculator, you can estimate your weekly costs.
Since this calculator focuses on daycare centers, nanny shares, and nannies, we’ll talk about other options next.
But First Double Check Whether Your Local Elementary School Offers This
The first step is to check the website of the school.
It will have information about what they offer, their requirements, and more. Some pre-school options are only available to those who are zoned for it while others are open to anyone.
Also, check if they offer before or after care because this will determine where your child should go during that time. What time you need care will depend on how early or how late you have to work.
And if your kiddo is still to young for pre-school or they don’t offer enough hours to offset your work schedule?
One of the best options can be at dozens of locations around your city.
Next Look At Daycares At Local Churches
Once you talk to a bunch of daycare centers — and realize how expensive they can be — that’s when the next level of fun begins:
Finding great options to daycare centers.
An easy way to do this quickly and effectively is to use old-fashioned research options. And, consider traditional childcare options.
Don’t hop on Google search.
The next time you’re out driving around your city, pay attention to which churches are close to where you live.
Check out their websites to see if they have any childcare on site.
You might be surprised to discover how many do provide daycare.
Once you’ve done your local research and gotten an idea of what your immediate options are, you’ll be able to think about your work schedule (if working)as it relates to your options.
And then you can start thinking about the next step:
Do This With Your Work Hours (If Possible)
With the whole world being in flux if you’ve got kids you might hear questions like these:
“Do you have childcare?”
“Are you working from home?”
“Are you working full time, or want to work full time?”
If your answer to the above is yes, keep reading.
If you need to be working and yet still have kiddos that need childcare, then you might have to try an unconventional approach.
But what if you could watch your kids and keep working your hours but one with one small change.
A few adjustments to your workday and workweek schedule might be give you the flexibility to balance work and watching your kids.
Now, to do that it’s gotta be in the realm of possibilities first.
If you have a job that requires you to be physically present somewhere, obviously this won’t be an option.
But if you’re an office worker that does desk work at a computer all day?
Might be more possible than you think!
But to make it happen you’re gonna have to take action.
You might need to negotiate for some of what we talk about next.
Think About Working Some Hours On The Weekend
What’s your work schedule like during the week?
Ours is too.
Start thinking about ways you could carve out time in your week to free up time for watching the kids.
Wouldn’t be great to have a bit more time that you didn’t have to work your job during the week?
That’d be a dream.
If you have the ability to log on remotely and work some hours on the weekend, it’s definitely an option to consider if it hasn’t been offered.
While it’s not ideal to have to do some work on the weekend…
If you’re in a pinch with childcare and are working, it could be the option that allows you to manage part-time daycare.
Find Out If This Kind of Work Arrangement Is Possible
Working from home – if you can land it- will offer you greater work-life flexibility.
This freedom and flexibility will give you more energy and more time for your family, something that’s particularly important if you’re balancing taking care of your kids and working.
Think of all the time you spend commuting each week.
What if you could reclaim that time for yourself and spend it with your kids instead?
Now, if your work requires your physical presence to be there, working from home might not be possible.
But if you are a knowledge worker, then negotiating a telework or remote work arrangement might give you the flexibility you need.
Start by researching options (if any) that your employer provides for telework.
If there’s a policy on the books, then talking to your manager about your options might be the next best step.
In the past a lotta folks looked down on remote work.
But those stereotypes are beginning to change.
And if you’ve never teleworked before?
We got you covered with 30 Teleworking Tips To Make Your Day Fantastic.
Working from home won’t completely solve your childcare needs, but it can help make the whole situation more manageable…
And with a more flexible schedule, it could reduce the hours you need childcare during the typical work week.
Whether or not you can consider working from home, this next option is one to consider.
Lean On Your Family Network
Early on for a lot of working parents, they feel like they can do it all alone and don’t need help from anybody.
Self reliance, right?
But if you’re lucky enough to live near a family member, you’ll quickly realize this is folly.
When you’ve got family nearby, it’s a lifesaver.
So if you are close to family – even if it’s Mom- don’t rule out leaning on family for help when you’re in a pinch…
It might not be the ideal childcare you’re looking for…
But if you’re in a tight spot, it could be the lifeboat you need!
Asking a family member for help with childcare can be a lot more comfortable -and less stressful- than relying on strangers to watch your kids.
If you don’t have a family member nearby but want to keep your kids out of a center, then you might like this next option.
Look Into Nanny Sharing
A friend mentions to you that they’re doing a “Nanny Share.”
You’re intrigued. You like the idea of having a nanny, but it isn’t in the cards for your budget.
Well, what is it?
Simply put, a nanny share is exactly that.
You share a nanny with another family.
One of the many things that make this option so appealing is it brings the benefits of other options you may like, without the same downsides.
For example, you get to:
- Keep your kids at home (or a home) vs. a center
- Share the (extraordinary!) expense of childcare with someone else
- Keep your kids still nearby to where you live
- Limit their exposure to illnesses in other kids
In other words, you get to share a lotta the risks of having a sole nanny or sending your kid to an in-home childcare center.
But that’s not to say that having a nanny share doesn’t come with some big risks.
For example, if you just have 1 nanny, and your nanny calls in sick, then you have to scramble for backup.
If you’re currently scrambling and juggling work, life, and everything else to find childcare…
That might not be a risk you’re willing to continue once you do find childcare.
Note: When you have a nanny (or nanny share), you’ve gotta think about taxes differently too.
Disclaimer, this is not tax advice and is for informational purposes only, please consult a tax professional for your situation!
If the logistics of a nanny or nanny share aren’t going to work for you or if you don’t want to coordinate childcare with another family, then you might want to consider an au pair.
Consider An Au Pair
Think about your mornings for a second.
You wake up.
Get the kids ready. And get going out the door. You shuffle them to daycare (and you to work).
When it’s time for the rubber to hit the road, do things go smoothly or do you frantically rush around trying to get out the door?
When your childcare is outside of your home a HUGE downside is you’ve gotta haul your kiddos off to a daycare center (or someone else’s house for that matter).
But, imagine if you didn’t have to deal with any of that.
Imagine a morning that’s the exact opposite.
Instead of having to rush the kids to gobble down some breakfast, get dressed before the sun is up…
They can relax in their PJs and ease into their morning.
That’s just one of MANY benefits you can get from having an au pair.
We used to have to scramble too.
Not having to rush kids off to a daycare center was a surprise benefit of having an au pair.
And initially, we hadn’t planned to have an au pair.
We sent our oldest son to a daycare center.
But when we found out our daughter was on the way we realized the cost of daycare at a center for two was out of the question.
That’s why we looked into getting an au pair.
Turned out that the cost of an au pair was about the same as what we’d been paying for a daycare center for one… and MUCH more affordable than paying for a daycare center for two.
So if you’ve been writing off getting an au pair because you think it’ll be too expensive…
Do your research. Compare prices. But DON’T let imaginary prices scare you away from it in the first place.
If you’re not able to afford the cost of an Au Pair, thats ok! You might want to consider an in home day care.
There are some parents who think of in-home daycare as an enemy.
Maybe that’s a bit harsh.
But that harshness does reflect a reality:
There are some really bad in-home daycares out there.
But talk to enough people and you’ll realize a truth: There are also some amazing people out there running in-home daycares.
Taking care of little ones all day is not for the faint of heart.
Truth is, you can find an awesome in-home daycare. But don’t think for a minute it’s going to be comparing apples and oranges if you’ve also been looking at daycare centers.
Really it’s two very different experiences.
The best thing is to get a lay of the land for where you live.
Because so much is dependent on the local supply.
You might find there are MANY options available that are quite good. Or you could find that there aren’t hardly any at all (or even that they are terrible).
The takeaway at the end of the day? Don’t rule it out from someone else’s opinion! If you’re in a bind for childcare, even if it’s not your first choice, it could be a good option during the pandemic.
And if you’ve got older kids consider this next option:
Hire A Virtual Babysitter
You might have heard crazy stories about virtual babysitters.
Stories of kids left alone, unattended, for hours.
We certainly don’t endorse that. But dependening on the age of your kids, hiring a virtual babysitter is a creative idea to consider.
It sounds crazy at first. But people are using this method.
The downsides are if your kiddo is young, you’ll probably still need someone to physically be there with them. Let’s be clear: we don’t recommend leaving kids alone.
The upsides are that you won’t be limited by your geographic area for babysitters. You might find someone to help with homeowork, and you’ll be leveraging technology to help solve the childcare puzzle.
Still skeptical that virtual babysitting would work for you?
Then consider the next idea.
Start A Garage Pod
With winter around the corner and the pandemic still raging on, we’re seeing more and more articles lately about what to expect.
If you end up in a pinch for childcare due to quarantine requirements, or because of an unexpected school closure, a garage pod could be a solution.
So what is a garage pod?
Garage pods became popular during the pandemic in 2020 as an alternative to virtual school.
The idea is simple:
It builds on the idea of a learing pod and takes it to a different level: A learning pod is a group of kids who come together for learning outside the school environment.
A garage pod is simply a learning pod inside a garage.
The benefit of having it in a garage is to allow more ventilation so as to reduce exposure to covid.
And more and more, increasing ventilation and air filtration is a wise thing to do to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
And if a garage pod sounds too chilly?
Tech Source Your Childcare Like A Startup Founder
So, you’ve gone through all the common approaches and still come up dry?
Consider taking a more tech-based approach than you’re used to. Here’s what we mean:
Instead of doing the searching yourself, you can harness the power of tech.
With this approach, you can harness the power of tech and use innovative ways of finding childcare.
From sourcing childcare for essential workers, to providing on-demand childcare, to helping with safety, tech startups are playing an entirely new role in helping with childcare.
You can read more about it here.
Whew, that was quite the journey!
While this post might seem long, that simply reflects the realities (and difficulties!!) of finding childcare in the U.S. in 2021.
This is tough journey for parents.
You might think that you are the only one who is going through this, but you are not! All parents deal with this.
The key to success is not a talent or a specific skill, but rather it’s an attitude.
Find your grit and keep searching until you find something that works for you!