The Return to Childcare
Working parents have become the ultimate multi-taskers. Taking zoom calls simultaneously with helping children navigate online schoolwork or Lego building or getting Disney + set up is a routine all too well known in working households. As I’m typing this, I am also directing my three-year-old on how to make a paper airplane. We have become masters of everything and our current reality is controlled chaos at its finest.
As we stare down the tiered re-opening of the economy and loosened restrictions, the first question on every working parent’s mind is, “What do I do about childcare?” School’s out for the summer, so go ahead and mark that off your endless task list, but now what? Many counties around the country have not made a decision on childcare openings and structures, while others have opened with a very minimal quota. Where do you start? California has set up a directory where you can search for viable childcare options for your family based on location. Many other states have followed suit as they do their best to assist working families navigate heading back to the office.
But what do you do if everything is booked? What if you can’t cover all the hours you need with the childcare that is available to you? Take a deep breath and run down this list.
- Local Climate
What is the current status of your city’s plan to re-open, and is your child’s daycare/camp open yet? If not, when will they open?
Is there a priority group? Does your family fit into that category?
Is your child or someone in your household considered high-risk?
- Expanded Options
What other daycares exist in your area? Does your employer offer childcare or care placement services? Does your state or community have a directory of providers?
Can your childcare provider meet the needs of your schedule? If not, consider mixing daycare/sitter options based on their availability.
What is your price point for your ideal childcare situation?
- Alternative Options
Do you have the option to nanny-share with fellow co-workers or friends? Consider local babysitting or nanny placement services. Is there a local babysitting Facebook group to fill the gap between your return to the office and opening of your children’s school or preferred daycare? Perhaps a neighborhood college student looking for a part-time gig while they seek employment?
- Your Work Schedule
Based on your viable options, what does your schedule need to look like? Do you need to develop a plan for flex work (in the office 6 hours/4 days a week and 1 day at home due to childcare restrictions)? Consider what a shift in working hours would look like on your calendar and prepare to discuss it with your manager.
In conjunction with assessing and weighing childcare options this summer, it’s equally as important to maintain an open line of communication with your workplace. For managers, discussing individual childcare hurdles and solutions with each of your working parent team members is critical to ensure every employee has a plan that leaves them (and you) feeling as secure as possible. Given today’s climate and childcare environment, the idea of building your life around a work schedule is not sustainable. It is incumbent upon everyone to research, understand, empathize, and make a plan that is both sustainable and effective.
Once you have a childcare plan in place, you’ll be able to form and articulate a realistic work schedule with your employer, if an alternative work schedule needs developed at all. A modified schedule needs to fit your childcare needs, while also meeting work obligations. Lay it out on a calendar and use that document to present your case to your supervisor. Showing up with a solution, and having a plan that clearly benefits both you and your employer, is a win for everyone.
– Lieutenant Gaby Cavins is a former Naval officer, Certified Lactation Educator Counselor, “return to work” expert and working mother of two. As Villyge’s Director of Employee Success, Gaby is on the frontlines every day, helping working parents to navigate the “how tos” of working parenthood, including issues of breastfeeding, sleep and simultaneously, career management all to ensure working parents are able to achieve their personal goals and professional success. Gaby may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.