Can a work-at-home mom get through her day without childcare?
If you are working from home to spend more time with your family, the idea of paying someone to care for your children might seem counter-intuitive.
Yet many work-at-home parents do opt to pay for outside childcare. Others might take advantage of low-cost or free child care options.
No two families strike this balance in the same way.
Each must plot a course that accommodates the needs of the children and the parents' professional and financial circumstances.
However, the one thing that all families have in common is they want what is best for their children.
A common misconception about working from home is that you can finally give up that expensive childcare since you'll be home all day.
Don't get me wrong–there are plenty of perks to working from home, many having to do with your kids.
You'll probably get to spend more time with them because you're no longer commuting. Also, attending school events and appointments becomes a bit easier because you have more control over your time.
And when your child is homesick, you can stay pretty productive while caring for them. But whether you're working part-time or full-time from home, quality childcare is still essential.
If you work at home (or are considering it), the likely answer as to whether you need childcare is "yes."
How much childcare and what kind of provider is needed varies from family to family. And on top of that, all this will change as children grow.
Read on to see how much and what kind of childcare you should consider for your family.
Whether you need childcare or not will depend on many things, but the circumstances in which no outside childcare is needed are pretty similar to those in which part-time childcare might work, varying only by degree.
For instance, part-time or no childcare could work for you in the following cases:
- Your children are in school
- You work only part-time
- You can work at hours when your kids are sleeping
- You have a partner at home to help with childcare while you work
However, it usually takes a combination of these situations to make no childcare feasible for a work-at-home mom.
In fact, in some cases, trying to work at home without any child care is not necessarily wise.
And suppose you are an employed telecommuter (as opposed to an independent contractor or home business owner). In that case, it may not be allowed by your employer, who is, after all, paying for your time.
But for those with a flexible schedule, it is possible to work full time with no childcare. Of course, the most obvious (and perhaps easiest) way is to work when the kids are in school and then complete your workload while kids are occupied at home, involved with activities or asleep for the night. (But don't forget, there's always summer vacation!)
Reasons You Need Childcare When You Work From Home
Multitasking Is a Myth
No matter how skilled you think you might be in this particular area, studies consistently show that it is impossible to multitask.
Instead, when we think we're doing multiple things at once, we're semi-tasking.
Rather than focusing on one thing, we are partially concentrating on various things and being less productive in the process.
When it comes to your children and work, the partial focus is not enough.
Especially when you have younger children who aren't yet skilled at keeping themselves busy, you need childcare so that you don't have to split your focus between your kids and your job.
Your Kids Will Always Act up at the Worst Moment: Conference Calls.
If your job requires regular phone calls, video conferencing, or any combination of those, it's essential to give yourself a quiet environment from which to conduct those.
Your professional reputation can be harmed if your children are easily heard during conference calls regularly.
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, and when school is closed or a child is homesick, these sorts of interruptions might be overlooked.
But it's essential to treat your home as your office when you telecommute, and that includes having your children well-occupied by a qualified sitter or nanny or finding fantastic daycare nearby.
You Can't Predict What Every Workday Will Be Like
While you might think that your job is pretty repetitive and easy to predict, there will be days when nothing goes as planned.
It's tough to adjust and be productive when you also have to worry about what to do with your kids.
For all of those times when work throws you a curveball, you will be thankful you have childcare in place.
You Deserve to Be Taken Seriously
If you genuinely want a career, getting your family's support for your work-from-home job is essential.
This includes making it clear to your children that you aren't to be disturbed when you're at work unless it's an emergency.
Setting firm boundaries between parent-at-work and parent-at-home is critical when you are a work-from-home parent.
On the other side of the coin, you deserve to take yourself seriously.
And by having a childcare plan in place, you are also letting yourself be free to be the best professional you can be and demonstrating to your boss that you're a severe telecommuting professional.
Your Kids Will Probably Be Happier
Imagine this scenario from your kids' perspective. Would you rather spend all day trying to get your parents' attention but only having success some of the time, or doing fun activities and playing with a sitter?
When the workday is over, you can spend some serious quality time with your kids, and the adage is true–absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Those moments will be even more delightful if you've been able to focus entirely on work during the day.
Instead of playing a constant game of attention-tug-of-war all day, every day, permit yourself to focus on your career, let your child have fun with a caregiver, and look forward to those quality hours you'll spend together at the end of the day.
Should Work-at-home Parents Use Full-time, Part-time Or No Child Care?
Parents who are independent contractors, home business owners, and employed telecommuters will each have different needs in childcare, as will families headed by a single parent or those in which one parent works part-time or not at all.
Parents of infants and toddlers versus school-age kids will also find their childcare needs to be quite different.
If you only work part-time, you probably only need part-time child care. However, some who work full-time but with flexible schedules also might get by with only part-time help.
This arrangement works exceptionally well for home business owners and independent contractors.
Self-employed parents often can scale back their hours (and, subsequently, their income) to only need babysitting part of the time.
The time of day that you work also makes a difference. For example, work-at-home parents who work in the evening hours while children sleep can reduce their reliance on outside childcare.
Some couples share the childcare duties if one or both have a flexible schedule or does shift work, making it possible to employ only part-time help.
School-age children are usually gone at least six hours a day, leaving only a relatively small amount of time in which babysitting is needed.
Parents with kids in school may find they only need after-school care.
Most work-at-home parents who employ part-time or no childcare will work while simultaneously caring for a child.
This works best the older a child is.
Parents can only work in short stretches or while the child naps with an infant or a toddler.
School-age children should be able to play independently. However, always be mindful that this kind of multitasking can decrease the quality of the parent-child time on a parent's part.
If you are telecommuting an employment position on a full-time basis, then you likely need full-time childcare.
Employers are paying for your time. Therefore, it becomes not just a matter of whether you can meet your child's needs but also whether you can also meet your employer's expectations.
Another reason that some work-at-home parents opt for full-time care because they do not always work from home.
If your job requires that you go to the office sometimes or travel, having a set childcare arrangement adds a level of flexibility, making this much more accessible.
Many telecommuting parents manage to complete their workload without childcare, but this approach also has costs.
It can wear a parent down to always be multitasking by caring for children and working simultaneously. In addition, it can decrease your income.
It can mean a less stimulating environment for the kids. Parents must balance all of these concerns.
Which Childcare Is Best For You?
Everyone's situation is a little different. Here are some child care options to consider:
Having a sitter in your home can be an efficient and economical solution, assuming you can find a qualified individual whose schedule fits yours. Because part-time babysitters have other employment or interests, you may need to work around their schedule as well.
Mother's helpers have less experience than babysitters and only work when an adult is present in the house.
They may do light cleaning, meal preparation or other jobs as needed. Often a teen or tween learning to babysit, mother's helpers require more supervision than babysitters but are typically paid less.
If you've determined that you need full-time child care, a caregiver in your home (since that is where you are) is probably the best option if your children are not in school yet.
A nanny will keep young kids from interrupting your work and, in many circumstances, can drive children to activities or pick them up from school.
Hiring a full-time child care provider eliminates the need to scramble for childcare solutions during school holidays and when your child is sick.
Most nannies do not live with families, but a live-in nanny or an au pair is an option if you take business trips frequently or have to work outside the home at night.6
Relatives or Friends
Having grandparents or other relatives as your childcare provider can be a win-win situation, as long as expectations, parenting philosophies, and schedules are discussed in advance.
Along these same lines, a "kid swap" with like-minded friends (you host their kids one day, then they reciprocate) can be a great part-time solution, giving your child the opportunity for play dates both inside and outside your home.
It seems backward for children to leave home each day while parents stay home. And for many work-at-home parents, daycare doesn't make sense.
However, preschools and daycare centres provide something parents can't--social interactions with their peers.
Also, daycare may be a less expensive full-time option than a nanny. Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers can need more attention than you can give if your job involves regular deadlines or frequent phone calls.
Sending them to daycare, where they will make friends and engage in stimulating activities, might be the best thing for all.
If you need full-time child care and your children are school-age, after-school care might be a more accessible (and possibly less expensive) solution than coordinating with a babysitter.
Of course, one reason to work from home is to spend more time with your kids. However, the elimination of your commute may add more family time into your day.
If you rely on school as your child care provider, you'll need a different plan in the summer. Summer camp may just fit the bill.
Guide For Working (From Home) Parents
It may feel like a whole new world, but you don't need to reinvent schedules and activities for your family during the coronavirus crisis.
Working parents should try to stick to old schedules and regimens as much as possible—just revisiting them for our new normal.
Here are three steps to bring your old plan into your new routine:
The first step is to keep the structure of the day the same as it has typically been. Beyond the benefits of familiarity, maintaining a regular schedule will give you firm guideposts for building your work and childcare schedules.
In your daily routine, you may include breakfast at 8:00 am for the kids and then a day of activities with the nanny once the parents left for work: an hour of free-play time, an outdoor adventure, lunch at home, and then a mix of educational and craft activities before one more outdoor time. The children may eat dinner at 5 pm before the parents come home at 6 pm. In the evening, they may read books and play before bedtime at 7:30 or 8 pm.
We'd advise this family to keep their routine. Whether or not they still have the nanny, they should try to keep the meals, blocks of activity, and outdoor time. You'll be creating the actual schedules in the next step, but the critical first is identifying the foundation based on what you already know.
Create Modified Schedules
Next, build a schedule for each week that incorporates these routines at a high level but is modified to account for your work blocks and other new responsibilities: meals, chores, childcare.
In your planning, make sure you've covered:
- What is your kids' schedule?
- What will you have for each meal?
- When will you do chores? (laundry, dishes, tidying, cleaning)
- When are your key work meetings or times critical you have someone to cover your work while you handle a household task?
Take this info, put it into a calendar, and start assigning shifts and duties to specific family members.
Finally, create work blocks. Depending on your childcare, community, and quarantine situation, here are three ways to make this work:
A partner swap: 4-hour shifts in which one partner works and the other cares for kids.
Short shifts: 30-minute to 2-hour shifts that rotate among some number of adults.
Video shifts: While you'll still need to be paying some attention, it's possible, especially with older kids, to organise virtual playdates or calls with grandparents that will keep them entertained while you're getting in a phone call or doing some heads-down work.
It will feel like you need to squeeze every ounce of productivity out of every minute in the day.
It's a reality that many of us will have to find time to work early in the morning or after the kids are in bed.
But be sure to schedule breaks and unstructured times to unwind and connect with your partner and kids. This will be a marathon, and it's essential we find ways not to burn out.
Swap in New Ways to Do Old Things
Finally, if your kids are used to having playdates or weekly activities, find ways to keep those events on the calendar, just in a new form.
Everyone will appreciate the social time and, as a bonus, it also can buy you 30 minutes of uninterrupted work time. Some options to consider:
Virtual playdates: Choose Google Hangouts (or Zoom if you prefer) and then send invites to your kids' friends' parents.
For the playdate itself, have a station set up in your house with a tablet, laptop, or Alexa Show/Facebook Portal ready to go?
During the playdate, it can be as simple as the kids catching up and colouring together or one of the parents leading an activity or reading books.
Creative, athletic activities for the kids. Register your kids for free online classes. Schedule these during the times they might otherwise be doing after-school activities.
They should get some exercise every day — this could even be just going into the backyard and doing some soccer drills or playing catch.
Parent pods: Find a group of 3-4 other families you're close with and create a shared pool of resources, whether it's meal plans, activity schedules, or lesson plans.
Book club or sports viewing nights for you. Staying social, active, and connected is just as important for adults.
Create a book club or a sport/TV show viewing club if you don't already have one. Get it into people's calendars and set up a video call so everyone can watch it together.
Make sure to still get your workouts in with a run outside, an indoor circuit, or online options. Even a family walk around the block will do wonders.
We need to lean on our village now, more than ever. The nature of this crisis requires that we find safe and responsible ways to help each other out while upholding our responsibilities at work and home.
Lean on your village — the other parents in your community — to share responsibility, looking out especially for those that might need extra help, such as healthcare or hourly workers left without childcare.
Accept that things are not going to run entirely smoothly and we aren't going to all be our 100% productive selves.
But with tempered expectations, a flexible approach and resourcefulness, you'll be amazed at how we can all adapt.
With any luck, we'll emerge from this crisis even more robust and more collaborative: a modern take on an age-old approach to parenting.
Families with children who are not yet in school can also manage without childcare if one spouse doesn't work or works a minimal schedule.
In-home daycare operators are examples of work-at-home moms with young children who work full-time.
Remember that state rules vary at what ages your children count toward your allowed number of children in-home daycare.
By employing these ideas for free childcare, a work-at-home mom may cobble together enough child-free time to get her work done without paying for childcare.
Finally, if your kids are old enough, you may try to involve the child in your work by assigning age-appropriate tasks to lighten your load.
But keep in mind that trying to work without any child care has its costs. It can wear a working mom to the breaking point as she constantly tries to multitask by caring for children and working simultaneously.
It can decrease your income as well as mean a less stimulating environment for the kids.
But if you take all of these concerns into consideration, it will help you decide whether or not to hire childcare while you work.
It is possible to work from home while caring for your little ones, but you may find it helpful to create a rough schedule and plan some fun indoor activities ahead of time so you have the supplies you'll need on hand.
To babysit successfully when the parents are home, you need to (1) communicate well with the parents, (2) set boundaries with the children, and (3) establish who's in charge. This will help to keep the children in line, as well as set the expectations between you and the parents.
- You get to spend more time with your children.
- You may be able to eliminate or reduce child care cost.
- Chatty coworkers and unscheduled, unnecessary meetings are greatly reduced.
- Working at home saves on commuting and other costs.
- You can work from anywhere.