Piecing it Together: After-School Care

Three days a week, I work until 5:30pm at my office in order to work with all of my school-aged clients during after school hours. I haven’t worked more than one long day in ages. At the end of last summer, we decided to employ a babysitter at home rather than enroll the boys in an after-school program. The program was a good one, but Lyle was very upset about not coming home after school and I realized that if they went there, I’d have to double-back to pick them up and then head north toward home. Dinner and bedtime would be pushed back about an hour, Baxter wouldn’t have practiced his flute yet, and any projects or homework that they needed my input on would be saved for after dinner. Right now we manage to be homework-free after dinner. I’m able to start making a simple dinner at 6:15; it would be more like 7 if we’d done that program. It’s also a great bonus to have someone who unloads the dishwasher and helps clean up the breakfast dishes in the afternoon like I would do if I were home. And so in the end it was an easy decision to use a sitter.

However, in the fall our one sitter turned into two, because we couldn’t find anyone to do all 3 days. And only one of them had a car to get the boys from school, but luckily she was here two of the three days. However, her class schedule changed. This semester, we find ourselves with three sitters on three different days:

One has a car and can pick the kids up from school. She also gets the dog from day care for me. This is a good evening for me. I can be home at 6.

One has a car but can’t make it to their school on time from her internship; she can, however, meet them at or close to our house when they get this far north and bring them home.

And one does not have a car but lives within walking distance. She meets them at home.

This means that I rely on the kindness of other moms in our neighborhood carpool to bring my kids home or near home twice a week. But they have kids, too. Kids whose schedules change frequently as activities begin and end. And so as soon as it’s working, it’s not working again. Or, put another way, even when it works and continues to work, it can only do so for a maximum of 10 weeks because at least one of the sitters is on a quarter system at any given time.

I should note that Matt isn’t figured into this equation at all. He doesn’t have the option to work from home and he’s downtown all day and most weeks is out of town 1-2 days. I have our only car. He usually gets home at night just after me.

I’ve had friends tell me they couldn’t handle my life just because of this part of it. But, really, if I weren’t dealing with a million logistics of time and place all week at work, this would be doable. I did best on the logic portion of the GRE; those skills are how I make our life work, so I guess that’s lucky for me.

We just got it rolling well for this quarter when there’s been a change to the boys’ ride home one day a week that probably requires me to let one of the sitters go and increase time with another of them. This works, but only until early March, at which point I’d only have one day covered. And what will I do when they are all done with college in late May and the kids have another month of school? Or what about summer childcare when they’re not in camp? I can only cross those bridges when I come to them.

Even if I threw in the towel and switched to after school care, it would only help us for a few months; 5th grade is the oldest grade they take. What would we do next year?

So I guess in my “spare time” over the next couple months, it’s back to the drawing board in an attempt to find someone with a car who can get them from school and stay with the schedule until mid-June. I talked to 8 sitters over winter break, all highly recommended, none of whom could do it.

So tell me: short of quitting your job, which ain’t going to happen, what would you do?

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5 responses to “Piecing it Together: After-School Care

  1. Amanda Peterson

    I just don’t know. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken a conference call in the call, speeding to beat traffic to try to make it in time for a school play, a science fair or a PTA fundraiser.

    The kid does afterschool care. The stability and friends are important to her now and luckily she now has access to a really good program with lots of enrichment.

    So we have dinner at 7, or 7:30. She takes the bus home from school at 6, after calling to make sure someone’s home. She practices guitar while dinner is being made. I check homework while Dave cooks. Weeknights are very structured and there’s little fun to be had.

    But every time a paper gets sent home about softball at 3pm, ballet at 4pm or early dismissal days yet again, I have to wonder how do all the other parents do it? Is the two-parent household a lie? It’s like every family has 1.5 jobs and someone’s job is more flexible, or less important, to accommodate the sick days and the off days and the 4pm ballet.

    But instead we just tell the kid, “I’m sorry. You can’t do ballet unless you find a ride with another kid.” I’m hoping that honesty is healthy rather than fodder for resentment and therapy.

  2. K does afterschool right now at the park district. His school is over before 2 and even with me staying home, with T and his schedule it is IMPOSSIBLE to get to the bus stop by 2 to get him. I don’t know what I would do without the school bus.

  3. It’s a tough one. But I think I would look for someone who bills themselves more as a “nanny” than a babysitter. Typically nannies expect to work most of the day (and so are a little older than college students or not in school), and maybe you could figure out a flex schedule that would enable her to arrive before the boys get home to handle certain responsibilities and then pick them up and begin their after care. It might allow you to have one person cover the days and maybe you could share her time with one of those good neighbors of yours. I used to do that. I had a nanny on alternating days with the woman who lived upstairs at the time. We both had part-time flexible work schedules, made our own hours, and between us, our nanny had a full-time gig–which was what she wanted and needed.

    Good luck!

  4. Jordan, I am grateful I don’t have to juggle all that. I know I made a snarky comment on Twitter this morning, but it was in jest. I have the utmost respect for working mothers…I’m not sure I could handle the stress.

    I think Kristen’s suggestion is great. Might give the boys some more consistency in their after-school hours while giving you some peace of mind.

  5. Not knowing all the details of your situation (like how far the kids schools are from your work places or even if they are in the same school, bus routes, etc.), it’s hard for me to offer advice. I can just tell you that I totally understand.

    One thing that I find that helps is to cook in advance, usually on a weekend or if I can manage to cook two meals at once during the week, I do that. (Though I’m pretty sure I remember that you already do this!)

    Have you considered looking for a high school kid in the area (like a junior or senior) who could babysit instead? I realize that high school kids are often busy, but not all kids have crazy busy schedules and most wouldn’t mind the extra money. You might get lucky just from asking around.

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