Friday, August 27, 2010

Childcare planning

Here is one comment that Torsten's mom made when his parents were in town that I wasn't able to share on the blog because I hadn't announced I was pregnant yet: if we lived in Germany, we would have free health care and much better social services, which would allow me to quit my job and stay home with our child.

Ha. Hahahahaha. Even if we could afford for me to stay home with our child (and given that I'm the sole income-earner at the moment; hopefully that will change soon as the start-up is going excellently, but even if Torsten does pull in a couple of clients soon his mom kind of has a point in that I would keep my job for the excellent health insurance alone), I don't think I'd want to.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'd change my mind. I'd love to work part-time and stay home with the kid part-time. But I can't see quitting work and staying home full-time. I like the job I have, which is enjoyable and stimulating and pays a combination of a reasonable salary and excellent benefits; I hear the stay-at-home parent job can be rather thankless and challenging. Though of course rewarding.

But the conversation is a moot point, because I'm the only one bringing home any bacon. And that means: childcare!

The other thing about not quitting my job to stay home with the kid is that I do, actually, stay home while I work. (Ah, the perks of working remotely.) So, I could, and hope to, stay home with my kid without being the kid's sole caretaker.

Of course, financially it would be awesome not to pay someone to take care of our kid. But, when I set up my telecommuting arrangement with my company I had to sign an agreement saying that I would not use my telecommuter status as a substitute for childcare, and I fully intend to honor that commitment. Plus, I don't think I could get my job done while taking care of a baby. I hear those suckers are loud and time-consuming, and it's hard to get in your public health editing groove when your baby is screaming to be held, am I right? Not to mention trying to sound professional on conference calls with clients while your child yells bloody murder in the background.

But! That doesn't mean that my work from home situation combined with Torsten's flexible schedule doesn't give us options. The other perk of my job is that I work on East Coast time, which means I start early and finish early. And, once the baby is born and waking me up at the crack of dawn I might decide to start and end even earlier. This would allow us to hire some sort of nanny or babysitter who comes in for the first part of the day to take care of the baby while I'm working, and then leaves in the afternoon when my workday ends. On those occasions when I had a major deadline and have to work past my regular hours, Torsten would most likely be able to adjust his schedule to take care of the baby in the meantime. Or we could arrange for the nanny or another sitter to stay longer on those days. Or we could ask friends to watch the kid. Or we could find a trustworthy drop-in daycare center. Or something. It would be relatively infrequent (I could also do extra work in the evenings once the baby was asleep), so I'm sure we could figure out it.

Also, a part-time nanny would actually be either cheaper than or the same cost as full-time daycare (from what I hear, nannies in the Denver area charge $10 to $12 per hour, and from what I can tell, full-time infant care is in the range of $1200 to $1400 per month). It would allow me to nurse instead of pumping, which I would like. It would also mean that we wouldn't have a weird reverse situation where our baby has a commute when we don't. It just seems wrong somehow to wake up, get dressed, pack the baby in the car, drive it to daycare... and then drive home and sit in the house while the baby's off at daycare.

So! That's Plan A. Since I will be getting about five months of maternity leave altogether (assuming Torsten has a client or two by then, which would make it feasible for me to take unpaid leave), we won't need this nanny for almost a year. So it's a smidge too soon to start looking for reasonable candidates, despite my early planning tendencies.

But it's not too early to start working on Plan B--finding a good daycare that we would use if the nanny plan doesn't work out, and putting our kid on the list now because oh, those wait lists? Apparently they're insane, even for those of us who don't live in DC, New York, etc. So that's what we're working on now, and so far we're having little luck--places are either 30 minutes away, or outrageously expensive, or don't take babies, or do a lottery instead of a waiting list, which doesn't afford us many options if we didn't get in via lottery. I'm not too worried because I don't really see a reason why the nanny thing wouldn't work out, but it seems prudent to add ourselves to a daycare list now just in case. So that's what we're working on at the moment.

Of course at some point the kid will be too old to stick around the house while I work. We'll want it to get some social time with peers, and the kid will be loud and mobile enough to disturb me while I work even if I'm in a separate room, and also aware enough to be confused about why Mommy is here but not HERE. So at some point we will want to switch to a more traditional daycare, but hopefully the nanny plan can get us through the first year or so, which would also vastly increase our daycare choices, since the older the kid, the more places are willing to take care of it.

BTW: in a week hopefully we can stop referring to Piglet as "it." Won't THAT be nice?

Anyway, FOR NOW, the plan is a nanny, with a more traditional daycare setup as a backup plan. Anyone have any suggestions on how to FIND these things? "These things" referring to, you know, good nannies and quality childcare centers. Because we've been looking, asking friends with kids, etc., but so far we got nothing.


  1. We have 2 really good chain-type daycares in our area, and they were pretty much the only options I would consider. Hub and I both had a really hard time thinking about in-home daycares (run out of a person’s house) or even “mom and pop” establishments. We wanted the comfort of guidelines and regulations and bells and whistles. And we were lucky when Bud was a baby because FIL, who lives with us had just retired and he watched him 3 days a week. I was also working 12-9 at the time, so he was only in someone else’s care for about 6 hours a day. It was of course harder when Lucy was born, plus FIL got older and feeble, but while there was a short period of time where both big kids were in daycare full time, Hub ended up working his schedule out to stay home 2 days a week with them. And when Liv was born, we dropped all 3 kids down to 2 days a week and my mother stepped in to watch them as Hub’s schedule really picked up.

    And now, I have 2 school agers and one in daycare, and it is bliss. 3 days a week runs me $150 and my mother has her for the other 2 and it works well for us. I think the important things are to 1. Know your baby and what is going to work for “it”. 2. Know what you want to get out of the childcare experience/work life balance type deal 3. Be flexible and willing to change things up to better suit all 3 of you.

    I think you’ll be able to do it Jess. It sounds like you have a great plan already.

    And since this is already so long I just want to say that the only negative of my vacation is that I will not be home when you make your big announcement!!! It’s going to kill me!

  2. My mom is a nanny and she finds her clients on

  3. My SIL has been a stay at home mom for 6 years. I think that it is fantastic that she has been able to stay home that long with the kids, although I'm not sure that I could do it. My husband however, thinks that she has gone bat shit insane and really needs to get out of the house. So needless to say, once we have a kid not only will we need my salary to pay the mortgage, but CP will require me to work. Ha!

  4. I used to find a backup babysitter when my inlaws were busy. It was legit and good. Our daycare is open only to certain businesses and it relatively private. Most daycares will not take an infant younger than 6 you have to look. good luck!

  5. Please keep us updated on this. I find myself in the exact same position actually. Newly pregnant, telecommute fulltime, but not sure what to do with the baby. I won't have 5 month off though, so jealous of that!

  6. Oh childcare! It's been the most stressful part of motherhood for me!

    I used You can post a job and receive responses for free, but to contact them, it's a $30 charge. Although, they do have 2 or so free weekends (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) a year, so since you're in no hurry, you could wait and utilize it then. I had great luck with them and highly recommend their services! Good luck! :)

  7. There was a time when I thought about being a SAHM, but that was a lifetime ago. Now, I know I can't be a SAHM, so finding childcare solutions is our only option. I found a local parents network/forum online. For about $40 a year, I have access to the exact thing I need - parents going through similar stages of parenthood. We've found some great options for child care (though have yet to figure out what will be our final solution) and I feel I have this huge sounding board should I ever have any questions. There must be something similar in Denver, right?

  8. I've heard good things about There are good chains if that's the kind of daycare you're looking for, we chose to go the private daycare route though and found our provider through a friend who also uses her.

  9. The city here has an agency you can call to find daycare options in your neighborhood. They ask you your preferences and try to help you find a match. Look on the City of Denver webite (or in the phone book), I'll bet they have something similar. (I believe it's called "child care council" or something similar here.)

    Personally, I liked the in-home daycares. I found the centers quite overwhelming with all! those! kids! and waaaaaaay over-priced. Maybe if my husband and I were making more money when the kids were born, I would have felt differently. But I honestly felt that the person we used for most of my kids' rearing years was just...AWESOME, and an even better mother than I was. And we're still close friends. I felt that she could give my kids more one-on-one attention than the center could--and she taught preschool, too.

    Centers ARE fine and great and usually well-run (like I said, my kids may have ended up in one if we could have afforded it), but if you use the city references you can get (they will obviously ONLY tell you in-home folks who are licensed and inspected and following guidelines), your smarts and your own parental "early warning system" when you visit ("Oooh, somthing here is just not seeming right for my family!"), you may find someone right there in your neighborhood who will be excellent and help take the madness out of that "commuting the kid" problem you may end up with--and won't have waiting lists OR be so expensive.

  10. That's an awesome plan. Having a nanny will be great. May I suggest finding a few that you would use as a backup as well? Never know when Nanny #1 may be sick, on vacation, etc. It's always good to have backups.

    Are there mom groups in your area? Those could be good resources, as can your OB's office or your labor/delivery classes. Online forums for moms can also be good, although I've found that using one that you have to pay a membership fee for is better than the "general" ones which can be magnets for crazies.

    I'm pretty happy with our situation - Madeline goes to an in-home daycare with her cousin, and it's worked out really well so far. Flexibility is key, so a person with that quality is invaluable.

  11. What about an au pair? You could get someone from Germany, so if you want to raise your child bilingual it won't just be Thorsten speaking to the baby in German.

  12. Have you looked on for answers to this question or maybe asked it yourself? I'm not sure how to find nannies, but I know there are nanny agencies you can use, and they handle insurance and payroll taxes and that kind of thing so you don't have to worry about it. Might make the nanny more expensive though.

    I just wanted to add that I haven't seen a daycare only accept kids 6 months or older. Every daycare I've looked at or heard of accepts kids starting at 6 weeks old.

    We found a daycare by just touring 5 that were on our routes to work. It became obvious which ones would be the best fits for us.

  13. I don't know where you live *exactly* in Denver buy my very best friend has been doing on-home daycare in Thornton for many, many years.

  14. oh the typos--sorry (I am at work and trying to be sneaky) FAIL.

  15. Well, your MIL is correct in saying one thing - Europe have a MUCH better system revolving around healthcare and supporting new parents, that's for sure. I remember watching a documentary comparing Europe to the rest of the world, and thinking they were miles ahead.

    I think it's great that you have the freedom in your job to work the hours you need to and to be able to work from home. Nannying + your own time working sounds like the ideal situation!

  16. We are in almost the exact situation that you outlined as your option A. we live in Northern Colorado, I work from home (with periodic trips out of town), Oliver is 14 months old and we have had a nanny (the same nanny)since he was 5 months old.

    We have a terrific nanny: She has 20 years of nanny/child care experience, she is completely reliable and dependable (never late), she engages Oliver in learning activities, takes him to a story time or activity or playdate at least once a day, and she treats him as well as she would treat her own children (while still maintatining appropriate boundaries).

    We pay her the lower end of the range you mentioned and she does housework and laundry as Oliver's nap schedule allows. Our nanny is very happy with us, but I make sure to give annual raises and generous bonuses on holidays and birthdays. We do not pay under the table (like many people do and many nannies prefer). This means that we report her on our taxes and we have to pay/match her Social Security and Unemployment Tax. This is a benefit to her as it means that if we have to let her go she can collect unemployment. But we don't withhold Income Tax for her (she is responsible for that). We also have to have Worker's Compensation insurance for her.

    I realize that we got extremely lucky with our nanny. I started my search about a month in advance and I utilized all options available to me. I looked at nanny agencies (they wanted a $2,500fee just to register and place a nanny!) plus additional service fees, sitter websites, university (child developemnt degree program) websites, craigslist, etc. I posted ads on several different sites and I interviewed a bunch of different people before we found our nanny through Craigslist (of all places!). I wouldn't exactly recommend this as a way to find a nanny and if I worked out of the home I probably would never have posted there, but it worked for us and it underscores the importance of exploring all options available to you.

    I am happy to discuss more of the details and logistics if you want to get in touch.

  17. It sounds like you're going to have a great situation, and I hope you'll find a PERFECT nanny. How cool.

    What interested me was the telecommuting agreement! I've never heard of that! Your company must be very forward-thinking to even have such a policy/agreement, and I think the language about not using your telecommute status as a substitute for childcare is actually Brilliant, for both sides. Because as a Mom who tried it, I can tell you, it is HARD. I advise against it.

  18. What about finding a stay at home mom near you that would take your piglet into her home? That's sort of an in between option I guess. For nannies I have heard good things about nanny agencies - since they have really good guidelines in place for background tests, etc.. Also, you'll be there so you have a bit more leniancy with vetting a nanny since you'll be able to watch them to a certain extent. If you have a local moms network forum (like themommiesnetwork) I would totally ask there, I see people asking on all the time

  19. Visit daycares. I worked in daycare for a few years, and knew what I wanted to see/did not want to see. I researched them, we narrowed it down to two, visited both, chose one, and my 6 year old son has gone there since he was 9 weeks old. :-)

    I wish I could have stayed home with him, but it wasn't feasible. I've been making up for lost time this year. :-)

  20. I'm so envious of your situation because having the kid home with you while you work even for a year would be awesome. I would, however, suggest that you book a nanny for 1 hour more per day then you will need for work. That gives you an hour a day to prep meals, do an errand or 2, take a shower, clean, etc. You will essentailly be working 2 jobs at once (even if you have a nanny) so plan on giving yourselve a break.

    As for fininding care, SitterCity is awesome for nannies. As for a childcare center - that's the hard part. I Googled the crap out of every possible search term when we moved here and still had a hard time. Word of mouth is best, so ask anyone you know with kids (even if they are older). And don't overlook religious-based care even if you aren't religious. M is at a Jewish daycare which we adore (we are not Jewish).

  21. oops - one more thing. We chose daycare centers as opposed to in-home care because of our comfort level. Around here, most in-home care is under the table and not regulated. One friend has her 3 boys with a lady during the day and they watch on average 3 hours of TV a day (Ages 10m, 4, & 7). I know people do it because it's way cheaper but, um - No.

    I like the accountabiltiy of a center with 70 kids - parents are in and out all day, the staff is trained and gets vacation, you know WAY in advance if there is a closure (if an in-home person gets sick, you're left scrambling). All that said, my sister had a great dayhome lady who only took 4 kids (1 baby) at a time and they didn't watch any TV.

    When you visit places you'll get a gut feeling as to what is ok and what's not.

  22. One of my close friends has an almost 10 month old and she works from home. As a newborn, it worked pretty well, but now that he's much more active and vocal and crawling, it's a bit more difficult. She lives just up the street from me so I usually go up there once a week for a few hours to keep him distracted so she can get some uninterrupted work done. That's been working really well for her so far (and it's a blast for me!).

    It would be so nice for you to have Piglet home with you during the day (from both a parenting and a financial aspect), so hopefully a part-time nanny will work for you!

  23. My best friend is a nanny who does similar work to what you describe - while mom runs errands or works upstairs so takes care of the kiddoes. If they enjoy the nanny and she can take them to activities, it seems to work really well for many of her families, especially ones with less traditional work schedules and even as the kids get older, she can run them to preschool or whatever.

  24. "I hear those suckers are loud and time-consuming, "

    Best. line. ever. HAHAHA! So true.

  25. We have had some daycare drama since James started going, and so my advice to you would be to get recommendations from people you know/people they know in the community. Even if you ask all the questions and do the in-home (or in-center) interview there are things you just won't know. When we had to find a new daycare place suddenly a friend of mine who knows a lot more moms than I do put the word out that someone was looking for infant care, and we had 5 or 6 recommendations within a day. She was also able to tell me that a center we were looking at had a somewhat bad reputation for their toddler program. Not something I would have noticed on my own, since the toddlers were at a different location, but it was good to know.
    I love our new in-home daycare. She usually only does drop-in care, so James is often the only kid there besides her own. And she is totally open to cloth diapering and is pro-breastfeeding, which is nice. A lot of people aren't comfortable with pumped milk. They'll use it, but they give you weird looks and their questions show you that they don't really know much about it. Which is too bad, I think. Anyway...tangent!

    Also, semi-relatedly, I would recommend trying to find a babysitting co-op in your area if you are open to watching someone else's kids occasionally in exchange for them watching Piglet once you and Torsten are ready to get out on your own for a couple hours.

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