Alissa duHasky returned to her job as a church youth worker when her youngest child, Emily, was 18 months old. Her schedule was flexible: some evenings and weekend hours, and every Tuesday in the office. She decided that home-based child care close to her son’s school was the best option for the Tuesdays.
Although she would be picking up Emily at 3 p.m., duHasky agreed to pay the full-day fee, and donated the after-school hours to another family.
At first the arrangement seemed to be working well. But duHasky became concerned about the number of children and the quality of care Emily was receiving, so she pulled her out and hired a mom on mat leave to come to her home for a few months. Then she had a teenager in for the summer. In the fall, Emily attended a daycare centre one day a week for a while, but outgrew the toddler room and could no longer be accommodated. She now spends Tuesdays at her grandma’s house.
“It was extremely frustrating. I thought I had the best possible working arrangement and that daycare wouldn’t be a problem, but this poor kid had every possible kind of care,” says duHasky.
Guelph, Ont., single mom Brenda Telford* can empathize. She’s worked 12-hour shifts as a 911 operator since her daughter, Leah, was six months old and has had a succession of caregivers for the now eight-year-old. “People who answer my ads for a sitter are always in transition, either between jobs or not looking for permanent work.”
*Names changed by request.
Find a spot in a daycare centre
If you need regular part-time care, it may be possible to find a spot in a daycare centre. However, it will take a lot more looking as there aren’t as many of these spots on offer, though many centres reserve some. “Start phoning way ahead,” advises Don Giesbrecht, president of the Canadian Child Care Federation and director of Assiniboine Children’s Centre in Winnipeg. “It comes down to dollars and cents. The reality is it’s more economical to provide only full-time care.”
Parents need to think creatively
Parents need to think creatively and be willing to work with staff and other parents to find mutually beneficial arrangements, says Giesbrecht. But it can work: He’s seen two families share one daycare space, or parents pay for a three-day slot even though their child attends only two days.
When it works, it’s a win-win for everyone, says Giesbrecht. “Our job is to meet the needs of communities and families. We see it as a way to give more children access to the positive developmental benefits good care brings.”
If you’re working shifts, you pretty much have to do it privately, says Telford. But hiring a stranger to care for your children can be daunting.
Martha Scully, of Nanaimo, BC, operates canadiansitter.ca, an online service that connects caregivers and families. She encourages parents to think creatively about who might be a potential caregiver. Consider, for instance, seniors looking for a part-time income and students in fields like nursing or early childhood education who are able to provide care on a flexible schedule.
You may have a neighbour or nearby stay-at-home parent who would be interested in some part-time work. If you can find another family in similar circumstances, it may be possible to swap child care if circumstances permit. Neighbourhood parent-child drop-ins can be a good place to make those connections.