Child care is not one-size-fits-all. And with remote and hybrid work schedules, working parents are getting more creative than ever.
When most people hear the term "child care," they think of one, single care arrangement, like a nanny or full-time enrollment at a center. But with a child care support system, working families find a combination of care arrangements to cover their child care needs. No two systems will look completely alike—and that’s a good thing. Your child care system is built to support your family’s individual needs, and is unique to the options you have available.
Let’s take a look at the 6 steps to building a child care support system that works for you:
1. Know your options. Before you can do anything else, you have to know what your child care options are. A few to consider include:
Moving closer to family
Switching shifts or adjusting your work hours (if possible) to cover child care
Friend, family, neighbor care
Full- or part-time enrollment at a child care program
Hiring a nanny or au pair
Make a list of all options available to you, whether it's sometimes, most of the time, or all the time.
2. Research availability. Now that you have all of your options in front of you, find out when they are available for care. A center, for example, might only offer two days a week for part-time enrollment for your child’s age group, while a home family-based center might have a more flexible schedule.
3. Price out your options. Many people assume that a nanny or au pair will cost more than enrolling at a program, but that’s not always the case. Research prices for all of your options so that you can stay within budget.
4. Find out if you qualify for a child care subsidy. Before you rule out any particular care arrangement due to cost, check to see if you quality for any child care subsidies with our families subsidy calculator.
5. Involve your partner or other primary caregivers. Whether it’s a grandparent, spouse, or au pair, it's helpful to include them in the process. All too often in heterosexual relationships, moms disproportionately carry the burden of figuring out the care logistics, which can take an emotional and mental toll over time. Having a second person to weigh in and share the responsibility can make the process a lot easier.
6. Have a back-up plan. The more care options employ, the higher the likelihood that one or multiple arrangements will fall through at some point. You'll want to have a back-up plan in place for such instances, like drop-in care or a family member with a flexible schedule.
And finally, remember that building a child care support system that works for you will take time and effort, as well as trial and error. You may find that mixing and matching part-time and full-time caregivers and drop-in care at a program fit your family's needs best. Or maybe not. And if you need help finding the right program for you, let LegUp do the search for you! We'll match you to care based on your family's needs, alert you when open seats become available, and more—so you can get back to everything else.