Since David started working at Starbucks in November, I've mentioned a few times that Lucia would go to a babysitter during the overlap times when we both worked. The past few months, I've gotten several questions from readers about what we do for daycare and/or how we found our daycare provider. I've also had several mom friends recently looking for care for their kids and I've shared my experiences with them because I've had very good experiences going the route we've gone, which is a little unconventional. I thought I'd go ahead and share them in case there are other moms that could benefit from our experience.
Since David's work schedule varied from week to week, our childcare needs did as well. For the most part, Lucia only needed to be cared for by someone other than my husband or me for a 10-20 hours a week. It's awesome that we could be with her most of the time, but the flexible schedule and few hours makes "traditional" daycare options like daycare centers or in-home daycare difficult. Most of them require you to commit to set days and to pay for a certain number of hours a week (regardless if your child is actually there that much).
In addition, David's job is not what one would call "high paying". In reality, neither was mine. After paying for gas, for daycare during the time driving to and from work and during lunch (all times when we're not paid but we're still paying for daycare), and deducting taxes and insurance, we really couldn't afford to pay much for daycare. Most "traditional" daycare options were out for this reason as well.
The best way to meet our needs was to find a stay-at-home mom that was looking to watch one or two children in addition to her own in order to make a little extra income. Lucia would be in a home environment, with other young kids to play with, and would have more individualized attention than a daycare center. Already home with her kids, she could be more flexible with our schedules. It sounds perfect right? Well, it has been.
We've had two different stay-at-home moms watch Lucia during the school year. We've loved both of them. The first moved about a half hour away (in the opposite direction of our jobs), otherwise Lucia would still be with her. Both of them had kids older than Lucia by a few years and Lucia has really enjoyed playing around with "big kids". I've felt very comfortable having her in the home of a mom who treats my little one the same way she treats her own kids. Both have been okay with a flexible schedule and charged a very reasonable price because they see it as a supplemental income that helps them stay home with their own kids (and I've only had to pay for time Lucia is actually there!). It really has been ideal.
Does this sound like something that will work for your family? I'm sure you're thinking the most important questions then: Where did you find these loving stay-at-home moms who want to watch kids for very reasonable rates?
The first I found on Craig's List by searching the childcare ads. There were a bunch of duds on there and people who never got back to me, but obviously one real gem. When our original sitter's move was getting close and I was looking for someone else in our area, I tried Craig's List again (including putting up my own ad) and found nothing. I guess I'm picky, but if you can't use correct basic punctuation and spelling in an email (or at least a little common courtesy), you are not watching my child! If we need another childcare provider in the future, I'll definitely look on Craig's List first. I think it's pretty hit or miss; there may be someone awesome on Craig's List at the exact time you are looking or there may not be, but it's worth a shot because it's free.
The second I found on Care.com. This is a paid service so read my advice carefully to avoid paying more than you must. First, join as a free member and put up an ad for the position you need. Once you start getting responses, you'll most likely only be able to answer those responses if you buy a paid account. If you don't get any promising responses, don't pay! If you do have a few that look interesting, you can then pay for a month, pursue those leads, and as soon as you find your person, don't forget to cancel your membership. We found an awesome mom just down the street from us within a week of having a paid membership and then promptly cancelled the membership (you can still use it through the end of your initial month - it does not officially cancel until the end of the 30 days). I believe one month is $37, but if you click on my referral link here, you can get 25% off. It was well worth it for me to pay to find good childcare that would save me a lot of money in the long run. A paid membership also includes a basic background check on potential caregivers and the caregiver's recommendations.
Since the stay-at-home mom childcare model has worked so well for us, I've given a little bit of thought to being on the other side, watching other kids in my home in order to be able to make a little money while staying home with Lucia. It would be really nice for Lulu to have a regular playmate. I also love the idea of being able to help other moms who can't afford expensive childcare options. It can be a really advantageous arrangement for all parties involved, especially the kids.
How have you found daycare providers in the past? What arrangements work best for your family's needs? Have you ever provided daycare for others? I'd love to hear what worked for you!