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Making childcare work for working parents

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By Peggy Mika
Special to Delaware Business Times

Today’s young families approach child care in a variety of ways for a variety of reasons. Some like a babysitter coming to the house so kids can sleep late and explore the world on their own. Others like the structure and socialization of day care or preschool. The ideal seems to be a mix of both.

Basha Silverman, Kate Buck and Sarah Nagel have their children in day care or preschool ““ but each one adds a unique spin to the arrangements.

All three women, who are married, have demanding jobs, and Silverman and Nagel started with nannies and moved the children to day care/preschool over time.

Nagel shared a nanny with her neighbor when her son was born. “It was a great arrangement – we could literally walk next door, hand over our son in his PJs and head off to work.” The arrangement worked so well they vacationed one summer with the neighbors – who are good friends – and the nanny. But the neighbor got pregnant with twins, so she kept the nanny and Nagel and her husband enrolled their son in the Jewish Community Center (JCC) at 16 months. His little sister started at JCC at 4 months old.

Silverman and her husband also hired nannies when their girls, now 4 and 2, were born, but she wanted her girls to have the experience of school and enrolled them at JCC, where she went as a child. She is CEO of Jewish Family Services, so her office is on the same property, which means she drives the girls to and from school most days (30 minutes each way). It’s a “long day” for the girls, but Silverman said the JCC program is one of the best in Delaware.

To reduce some of the morning “chaos,” Nagel and her husband do prep work over the weekend and at night and take a “divide-and-conquer approach” day-to-day. Her husband does the cooking during the week and makes the kids’ lunches; she handles dressing the kids, doctor’s appointments, birthday presents for parties and getting the show-and-tell bag to school. Silverman’s husband also makes school lunches and family dinners, her mother watches the children over-night one night a week and the in-laws pitch in as necessary since she, as the face of JFC, often has after-hours events.

Buck and her husband use a combination of grandparents, day care and after-school care for their 6-year-old twins and 2-year-old daughter. The twins are enrolled in after-school care five days a week, but typically only stay two or three days a week. The little one started day care three days a week when she turned 2. The other two days her grandparents watch her – one day it’s her paternal grandfather and the other day it’s her maternal grandmother.

Flexibility is the name of the game for Buck’s family. Her husband travels globally, so if he’s traveling, he can’t pitch in. But when he’s home, he can accommodate a change in schedule. Her job as an attorney allows her some adaptability as well. She has deadlines to meet and times she must be in court, but she can also catch up at night or on the weekends. The grandparents on both sides are retired, so they are flexible – they can babysit an extra day and often work directly with each other to adjust child care days to accommodate their own schedules.

“It takes a lot of communication,” Buck said, but she likes the structure and activity the children get at school combined with the “relaxed” nonschool days. “Although it’s crazy at times it’s worth it,” she said. “I like my job and want to work. It’s good for all of us when I am working.”

A plan for every contingency

With only one child, Marissa Bauman and her husband are newbies compared to Nagel, Buck and Silverman.

They began planning for child care before their daughter was born in the fall of 2016 when Bauman left her full-time job in February 2015 to see if she could establish her own business working from home. “I always wanted my own business – something more flexible and without such a long commute.” She also did not want her children in day care.

So, when their daughter was born, they found an in-home sitter through care.com. Bauman works from home and the sitter comes to the house three to five days a week for four to five hours a day – occasionally six. She gets home in time to meet her own daughter’s school bus at 3 p.m.

They don’t have family close by, so they rely on the babysitter and each other. Bauman works some nights and weekend hours to meet her work deadlines and if she has an afternoon meeting, her husband can usually adjust his time to get home early. “We really divvy things up well even though I am the one home for most of the day. He will normally get up with her in the morning and get her day started and we split the night time. We really support each other.”

“Luckily, I was able to find a sitter that we absolutely love and trust and so does our daughter.”

Buck sums up for all of these moms when she said they make these sometimes-complicated arrangements work to their advantage.

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