EDITOR’S NOTE: Today’s post is one close to my heart! My wife and I both work from home full time, and we also have a three-year-old and a second baby on the way at the time of writing. Juggling work and childcare is a constant challenge – and often an expensive one. This article explores some of the options open to those who work from home full time.
It sounds like the perfect solution; Work from home and you’ll have no commute and no childcare costs!
This is correct to a certain extent if (and ONLY if) you have school-age children who are out most of the day. However, you also need to consider the question of how working parents manage school holidays – and the not insignificant fact that most schools are done for the day by mid-afternoon!
If you have a small baby, some work might be possible. But as children get older and start to become more mobile, you have a whole new set of problems to contend with. Even expensive nurseries often have limited hours, meaning you will have to tag on some other form of childcare.
You can’t conduct a business call with a toddler hanging on your skirt demanding a drink and a biscuit. Children are a distraction and if you are taking your work from home ambitions seriously you need good childcare in place.
This became very clear to me when I was trying to hold a serious conversation with a local councilor while my grandson was shouting loudly that he “needed the potty right now!”
Let’s be realistic; You wouldn’t take your child to work with you in a shop or an office, so why should home working be any different? Looking after children (especially small ones) is a job in itself so you need to think seriously about what you intend to do with the children while you work.
Thankfully, there are several options available to you.
Before you decide, it’s essential to consider your personal priorities. If you are a laid-back parent who doesn’t mind your child being with a grandma who may want to do things their way(!) that’s fine. But if you have very strict ideas of the way you want to raise your child it probably isn’t the best option. In this case, if you want to work from home full time, you will need proper paid childcare suitable for your requirements.
Another thing to consider is the hours you require. Do you intend to just work during school hours and do the school runs yourself? Or do you need someone available until later in the day?
Then you also need to give some thought to what happens if your child is ill.
Most nurseries and childminders won’t have your child if they are ill, and there are strict rules about returning after anything contagious. So you need a backup plan. The best-laid childcare plans can fall through and you need to be prepared.
Childcare Option 1: A Child Minder
A childminder cares for the child in the childminder’s home. Depending on the country they live in, government registration may or may not be required. In the United States and Canada, a childminder is usually known as a “day-care provider.”
A childminder usually provides childcare for a small number of children from different families concurrently. A nanny, on the other hand, provides care for the children of a single family in the children’s own home.
A childminder is the owner/operator of a small business, whereas a nanny is an employee. You can read more about running a childminding business here.
Childcare Option 2: Work from Home Full Time and Hire an Au Pair
An au pair is a domestic assistant (usually from another country) working for, and living as, part of a host family.
Usually, an au pair takes on a share of the family’s responsibility for childcare, as well as some housework, and receives a monetary allowance for personal expenses. (It’s worth noting that due to the fact you’re providing “bed and board,” hiring an au pair is often considerably cheaper than paying a nanny or a childminder).
Tasks for an au pair can include taking the children to school, cooking, cleaning and other general housework as well as babysitting. Each placement varies depending on the family and the specific arrangements.
Au pair arrangements are subject to government restrictions in different countries, which generally specify an age range – au pairs are typically in their late teens or mid to late twenties.
Rules for au pairs differ between Europe and North America. In Europe, au pairs are only supposed to work part-time alongside studying part-time, generally focusing on the language of the host country. In the United States, they may provide full-time childcare.
Some au pairs are now male, but females remain the overwhelming majority. Many governments impose limits as to how many hours an au pair can work.
Childcare Option 3: An “In-House” Nanny
A nanny or “mother’s help” is a person who provides care for one or more children in a family. A nanny may live in or out of the house depending on their circumstances, and those of their employers.
A professional nanny will be qualified in first aid, and have a degree or at least some extensive training in child development.
There are many employment agencies that specialize in childcare, and online services that aid in finding available nannies. Often the best nanny will be found through personal recommendation from another family. A good nanny will typically be in great demand and be very expensive!
Some families use what is known as a ‘nanny share’, where two or more families pay for the same nanny to care for the children in each family on a part-time basis. Despite that, a private nanny remains likely to be the most expensive childcare option for people who work from home full time.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Despite the cost, an in-house nanny is something my wife and I made use of when our first child was very young. It allowed us to remain close to him and meant my wife could continue to breast feed on the early days of returning to work).
US readers may want to check out nannylane.com to locate suitable nannys or nanny shares.
Childcare Option 4: The Obliging Grandparent
I am perhaps a little biased toward this option as it is something I do personally on a regular basis (as the grandparent!) However, I am fortunate that my children leave me to get on with it and do things my way.
However, if you have very strong views about raising your children that don’t match up to those of your own parents, it’s not something I would recommend as a regular thing. Not unless you are willing to risk major family fall outs!
“What happens at grandma’s stays at grandma’s!”
That said, the “obliging grandparent” option can work out really well for people who work from home full time – and is often by far the most economical choice.
Whichever childcare option you decide on, make sure ground rules are set and adhered to. However, you must also remember that there may be occasions when you will have to bend the rules. Children can be very unpredictable!
SUGGESTED READING: Check out “Choosing Childcare for Dummies!”