Plan for two childcare options
After I became familiar with the differences between daycare, au pairs, and nannies, I wanted to optimize my childcare for my child's development and for my productivity.
I started to rely heavily on omnichannel childcare.
The term omnichannel has its roots in marketing. It is the seamless, high-quality customer experience that occurs within and between contact channels.
Why can’t this be applied to childcare?
Omnichannel childcare is integrating two or more care options which optimize for child development and maternal stress.
This strategy of approaching childcare is necessary when you consider the top constraints of entering motherhood include flexibility, accessibility, and affordability.
The need for flexibility around the edges of our lives, or what Jennifer Petriglieri of Couples That Work describes as marginal flexibility, is absolutely critical to working mothers.
While the daycare option exists, it is not flexible enough. They have strict drop off and pick up hours. They shut down: during bad weather, holidays, and also if your child is slightly ill or if there is a spread of a virus.
The most difficult aspect of daycare is that your child is more likely to get sick attending daycare. That means more days out of structured care. Which means more days you need to figure out childcare!
If you sign up for daycare, always have a wrap around childcare place in plan. I would argue that spending money on another childcare option like a part-time on-demand nanny or even an au pair while having full-time daycare is worth the upfront cost. You will not have to suffer through the anxiety of what to do if and when your child becomes sick or if you simply cannot pull off the day care hours.
Everything sounds do-able in theory. There is a daycare that you workplace even subsidizes. But can you get to it? Do your work hours even allow for commuting to it? So much of pulling off decent child care is dependent on how amenable your work-life juggle is to the care options in your locale.
Where do you live? What is your commuting situation? If you are telecommuting, is it possible to get the kids anywhere on time? Or on the flip side, can you get someone in the house to watch the kids in the middle of your Zoom fatigue?
Even if you lean towards the more flexible options, like an au pair, do you have the actual space? If you live in an expensive place and it was hard just to even get a decent two bedroom, then you may not have enough space to legally obtain an au pair.
The reason you want to buffer with two childcare options is that you may not be optimizing one option at all because of simple inaccessibility. Instead of being stressed out about it, get two modalities of childcare. It is more expensive, but you should consider it the cost of doing business. The business of your life!
You like the idea of two child care options but you cringe at spending. Not surprising since child care is outrageously expensive in the United States. Millennials spend over 30% of their income on daycare for infants.
The more expensive your locale, the harder it gets. This may be a time to pause and ask for help.
You may have to resort to dramatic things. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have found your working remote options to be more flexible. You might even consider, if it's even an option, moving in with your able-bodied parents for some time to get help with childcare and pull off your career.
You may need to figure out the most extreme measures with your partner or another family member who is willing to help. There may be a period in your life where you watch the kids as soon as you get home from working the first shift early in the day while your husband starts his work later in the day in a second shift into the night.
It's extremely tough. I hope you will find a way to budget and prioritize childcare so that you are allowed to have some marginal flexibility. It will be even more tough if you are the 100% modality. You need to blend. It is the best thing to do when pursuing childcare, which make no mistake is hard-core, often unpaid work.
My favorite is daycare + au pair. While there are a lot of mixed feelings about au pairs, I personally value this modality.
You could also go for daycare + part-time or on demand nanny.
Of course, if you have any extended family, asking them to help out one day a week or in some fashion to give reprieve to your main childcare option is ideal.
If you don't have anyone near you, then reaching out to someone in your community so that you and that mother can both benefit especially when there is no marginal flexibility.
Blend two modalities of care. Totally worth the upfront cost.