But what about the children?
April 25, 2009 6:50 PM   Subscribe

What do people do when they have kids and both parents work? Bonus points if you have answers specific to Concord, NH!

I'm going to graduate school next fall after 5 years of being our family's primary caregiver. We've never had to deal with day care before. My wife and I are relatively competent people, but this seems overwhelming. We can't seem to find the convergence of available openings, knowledge that our kids will be safe and happy, and a cost we can afford. The answers must be out there because I see families with 2 working parents all the time and I'm sure that they don't all just toss the kids into the first random nursery they come across.

Possibly relevant: We have no family in the area. The miniature quizicalcoatls will be 5 and 3 next fall. The 5 year old will be attending our fair city's half-day kindergarten, and so will need after school care 5 days a week. We need coverage for three afternoons and 2 full days each week for the 3yo. I'd love a place that will be educational in some way...
posted by Quizicalcoatl to Grab Bag (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This isn't a direct help for your city, but it's about how to figure out the problem: have you gotten in touch with the school? Most graduate programs (at the school level, not the department) have either a) subsidized on-campus childcare or b) suggestions of local places. There is probably a parent group on campus -- try to find them and ask some of these questions. Or ask folks in your program that have kids -- if there is a grad student listserv, you can post it on there.
posted by barnone at 6:56 PM on April 25, 2009

Here is a Concord, NH mom's group. Maybe your wife can join and ask there too?
posted by barnone at 7:15 PM on April 25, 2009

One option that people sometimes don't know about is looking for a "nanny share" situation. That means, you find a family with compatible or complimentary needs and between the two of you, you end up sharing the cost of a nanny for the kids. This can be a great and much more economical way to work it out, with the added bonus of playdates with another family's kids.

Ask. Ask. Ask. Any parent you run into at the park or out shopping may be a great resource to tell you about local childcare options.
posted by Edubya at 7:25 PM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Since there are two miniature quizicalcoatls, a nanny may actually turn out to be more affordable than traditional daycare. Also, a nanny who can drive would facilitate the transfer of miniature quizicalcoatl #1 from kindergarten to home.

The key is finding someone you're comfortable with, and who has relevant qualifications- child CPR, no criminal record, etc. I worked as a nanny through college (up until last year) for $8 an hour. That was apparently a very low wage, but I loved spending time with the kids so much that I honestly probably would have done it for free. I am an EMT, spoke French to one set of kids, and did light housework. I consider the experience invaluable preparation for any future progeny I might produce.

So, look for undergrads (or even grad students) who just! love! kids! You will probably need more than one nanny to make the scheduling work, but that's not the end of the world. Some families in my area offered free housing (usually in a garage or basement apartment) and a stipend in exchange for after-school care; depending on your space situation, that might work well for your primary nanny and greatly reduces the amount of cash you're shelling out. If your school has a child development program, start there. Also, nthing suggestion to seek out the grad student listserv. Perhaps you can share childcare with another family in a similar situation.
posted by charmcityblues at 7:26 PM on April 25, 2009

Second seeing if your University has childcare for graduate students. Some Universities have kindergarten/elementary schools either on campus or very close by that would allow to enroll children of grad students.

Beware - both may have extensive waiting lists. At my Uni, employees and students sign up on the waiting list as soon as the kid is born.

5 may be a little young, but a coworker of mine started bringing her kid to the lab (wet biology) after school's done for the day when he was 7. Either shared mom's desk while she was doing benchwork or stuffed in a small portable computer desk. The kid did homework, drew, was entertained by us (mom's coworkers), or played computer games (I got him, and everyone else in the lab, hooked on Simcity). Just check with your supervisor and/or whoever is in charge of the space where you work.
posted by porpoise at 7:28 PM on April 25, 2009

First, remember that you're not signing a lifelong contract with anyone. If you decide after a few months that it's not making you or your kids happy, then you can look elsewhere. Understand that you'll need back-up for sickness, so either you'll miss schoolwork or your wife will need sick days saved up. For a daycare, they often have strict rules against allowing sick children, if you choose in-home care, you'll need a back-up if the babysitter is sick.

To help with the cost, look into doing a dependent care savings account at your wife's employer. Depending on your income, you could save several hundred dollars above what you'd get from just doing the tax credit on your income tax return.

New Hamphire has a childcare referral site, so you can get information on who's certified. And check to see if you'd be eligible for subsidized tuition.

I send my kids to a daycare center now. My daughter has gone since she was 2 1/2, she's four now. She's in age appropriate rooms and has lots of activities to do. My son went there as well, but now goes to an after school program that the daycare center runs at the elementary school. That's a little trickier, since he is thrown in with older kids and is picking up some bad habits. But it's worth it for him to have the run of a large room equipped with toys, computers and games and the school playground as well.
posted by saffry at 7:46 PM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've found two full-time jobs through enannysource.com and they both worked out very well. Both paid between $8-9 per hour and I was happy with the wage.. I loved the work! I dropped off/picked up the school-age kids from school and even took one toddler to daycare twice a week.

For multiples, a nanny could very well turn out cheaper than daycare.
posted by Sufi at 8:09 PM on April 25, 2009

I am in grad school now and the kid is in daycare. There are services that will take all your info (how much you can afford, how far you can travel, when you need an opening, etc) and find you a list of places. We were lucky because Mrs Enormous gets it free through her job, and your school might supply a similar service (if your lucky; support for me consists of "you can pay full price for our daycare when the kid reaches age 2"). I think maybe ours was Warmlines (in MA)? In any case, it was fantastic: we got a list of five daycares with summaries about their licenses, fees, etc.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 8:14 PM on April 25, 2009

I don't know about Concord, but in New Jersey my two little brothers went to daycare after school until they were old enough to be home by themselves (when the oldest was 10 or 11). I don't remember exactly, but I think that the school dropped them right off at the daycare place (the Kinder Garden). It was probably easier in my town because there was really only one daycare center in the whole township.
posted by runcibleshaw at 8:41 PM on April 25, 2009

I can't say the same for your area, but in my elementary school district there was an after-school care program. They would take care of your kids from the end of school until somewhere around 6pm. Maybe check around your area for something like that?
posted by QueenHawkeye at 8:52 PM on April 25, 2009

You just have to keep looking, don't just stick with the big daycare centers, look at in-home daycares too. There are good and bad, and it can feel like an endless search, but great daycares are out there! I started looking for daycare when I was 5 months pregnant, and didn't find the one until my son was already 4 months old. He's in a "large in-home daycare", which means its smaller than a daycare center, but bigger than the regular in-home daycares you often see. To me its the best of both worlds. It doesn't have the impersonal business feel of a center, but there is more space and diversity than a small home daycare.

I second the idea of a nannyshare too, that was my backup plan. No idea what prices are in NH, but here in LA nanny rates start at around the cost of two kids in daycare.

We just adjusted our lives around daycare hours. Work is flexible about it, which is good (we both work in the same office). The only downfall is that since we also have no family nearby, when he is sick then one of us has to take the day off work. I have other friends who stagger their workday so that one parent goes to work early, while the other stays home to do breakfast and daycare drop off. Then the early parent picks up from daycare and comes home to do dinner.
posted by Joh at 9:06 PM on April 25, 2009

We have a 2 year old with 2 half days and 2 full days; for her half days she stays at home with a (fantastic) nanny who is employed via a nannying service; the nanny works 3 different families. For her two full days she has a place in a creche.

For the early run with the nannys (we went though a couple before we hit one who was gold) my wife was working from home; we're comfortable enough with our nanny that my wife will now also work from the officeo n those days.

Funnily enough the big chain creche outfit was the best we looked at. Out daughter has been off creche ill for a couple of weeks, and going back in the last week has left her overjoyed; "I will see my friends at creche."

If your area has an equivalent to New Zealand's Education Review Office that can be gold for getting a handle on which organisations meet some good basic levels of competence.
posted by rodgerd at 9:36 PM on April 25, 2009

My parents hired nannies for my brother and I. When we were learning how to talk they chose women with early childhood education diplomas and paid them minimum wage, which was pretty generous at the time Those nannies were very enriching- one in particular spent a lot of time teaching baby me how to talk, and even recorded my word acquisition in an alphabetized binder with the date that I learned each word!

Once both me & my bro were in school at least half-days, our folks figured we knew how to talk well enough, and didn't look as hard for nannies with early-childhood experience. At school-age, our nannies were recent immigrants (who were lovely, kind and attentive, and I remember them really fondly). The nannies would either show up at 8:30am as my parents were leaving for work and stay all day, or, later, pick me up from kindergarten and stay til 6pm. They did really light housework- some laundry & vacuuming and making simple lunches- but they were definitely not maids, they were caregivers.

And finally, when we were both in school full-time, my parents drove us to school in the AM, and then paid an eighth-grader to accompany us home and stay for a few hours til a parent got in from work.

I was not emotionally scarred by this setup. I remember being a little sad once in a while that my mom didn't volunteer at the school, but in general it was totally fine.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:29 PM on April 25, 2009

Don't forget to reach out to your social networks; sending a short email to a big group (not just the people who have kids) saying "Hey, we're looking for daycare, does anyone have any recommendations?" can work wonders.

This is how we found the amazing woman who cared for our son at her home for the first year of his life. The friend who recommended her didn't have kids herself, but knew her boss was thrilled with the care this woman provided and recommended her.

My son is now almost three and has been in "private" daycare (ie: cared for in another parent's home) virtually his entire life. I'm happy with it because its more affordable than most centers and he's in a regular house with another parent. When his first care provider had to retire due to a family health issue, I found his second provider through Maine's version of this program recommended above.

In Maine in-home care providers are licensed by the State, which means they are subject to the same inspection rules as the big centers and that they get some extra training and assistance.
posted by anastasiav at 10:37 PM on April 25, 2009

Thanks so much for all the fantastic advice.
It had never even ocurred to me to consider a nanny. I guess I've always just associated "nanny" with Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music so I dismissed it as something for wealthy nobles, but thinking about it, it really wound't be much more than day care for both kids.
Regarding the possibility of a university child care option, it would be great except that the school is an hour away and I'll only be at the school for three days a week. The two full days I'll be doing field work somewhere else within an hour of Concord so drop off wouldn't work on the two full days. Great idea if the university was local though...
In any case, it sounds like I've got some work to do.
posted by Quizicalcoatl at 3:33 AM on April 26, 2009

My daughter is six, and now attends the after-school care at her elementary school (she is in full-day kindergarten). This can be a great option if your child's school offers it. Many child care centers near your child's school will offer after-school care, and some will offer transport from the school to the center.

In the past, my kid attended several day care centers and a home day care (we have moved around a lot). The home day care she attended between ages 3-5 was FANTASTIC, but I think you have to be pretty careful with these. The day care provider was wonderful, but she had a substitute provider one time (so she could go see the doctor, etc.) and my daughter had a terrible (seriously life-threatening) experience. The substitute was experienced and well-qualified, but it was still a disaster.

IMHO, a center if more secure and safe in the sense that you aren't relying on just one person - there are many teachers, the oversight of directors, etc. (obviously, my opinion is colored by my negative experience, so ymmv). At a good center, the care isn't impersonal at all, and the teachers work from a well-defined development program that prepares kids for school or complements what they are learning in school.
posted by jeoc at 7:39 AM on April 26, 2009

A very low-cost option in Concord is the Merrimack Valley Day Care system. It is operates on a sliding scale, and provides care for even the youngest tykes. It is not high-end, but the people that work there are very dedicated and really love children. I can't find a website for them, but I bet they are in the phone book. Our daughter went to the facility at the old NH State Hospital grounds for a year or so, and we were very happy with it.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:23 AM on April 26, 2009

Not a parent, but I'm going to second jeoc's after-school care suggestion for the 5 year old. My town had an after-school program that operated out of the schools but was a separate non-profit started by some parents. I absolutely loved it - I got to take art and drama classes, and it was neat to be in the school after most kids had gone home.

And before that, when we lived in another town, I did an after-school program run by the Boys' and Girls' Club, which I also loved. My parents loved it too, because it was inexpensive, and I would usually come home having done at least some of my homework.
posted by lunasol at 9:24 AM on April 26, 2009

I'm a nanny and know other nannies who have had great experiences finding families to work with on SitterCity. I quickly plugged in a Concord zip code off of Google, and it came up with quite a few matches for nannies available.

I worked as a nanny through college (up until last year) for $8 an hour. That was apparently a very low wage, but I loved spending time with the kids so much that I honestly probably would have done it for free. I am an EMT, spoke French to one set of kids, and did light housework. I consider the experience invaluable preparation for any future progeny I might produce.

Yes, this is exactly my experience right down to EMT training and multi-lingual abilities. I do charge more than $8/hr, but I also know that my rates are less than *two* kids in daycare (in Boston anyway). I love what I do and I know from previous experience teaching preschool that the kids are learning a lot more spending one on one time with a grownup than they might be stuck in a day care situation that's more about crowd-control than education. (Not to say *all* day-cares are like this, but they're definitely out there.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:50 PM on April 26, 2009

Call the principal at the school your older child will be attending and ask what parents do. Believe me, the school officials will know all the local options you should check out.
posted by FoHockney at 11:49 AM on April 27, 2009

Just to let you know how it all came out - We realized that it would be about the same price to rent an apartment as hire a nanny or get child care we liked for two kids. So we've rented one for all the retired grandparents to take turns living in throughout the year. The grandparents are all terribly excited about a chance to bond with the miniquizicals, the miniquizicals are excited about the grandparents coming, and Mrs. Quizicalcoatl and I are relieved.
posted by Quizicalcoatl at 3:25 PM on May 23, 2009

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