How do I find the right care for my children?
Many working nurses, whether male or female, are also working parents—mothers and fathers who sometimes have to scramble for childcare.
Finding good-quality childcare that meets your needs and wishes isn’t always easy even when you work so-called “normal” hours, but when you throw shift work and weekends into the mix, you can go from “not easy” to “virtually impossible.”
So what can you do, especially if you’re a single parent or one whose partner travels, is overseas or works odd hours as well?
Nurses who work night shifts have a unique childcare issue, particularly if their children are not yet in school or are home for holidays or during the summer.
One solution, particularly if you live in a college or university town, is hiring a student to sleep in your home overnight. You can offer the student what you feel is fair in terms of payment. Hungry or homesick students may be willing to negotiate the pay for extras, such as meals and additional snacks to take back home.
This solution is well suited if your children go to school or daycare. The sitter can get up with the kids and send them off on their day, allowing you to come home to a quiet house to get some sleep before the children have to be picked up from school or daycare.
If you’re having trouble finding daycare for your children, you may find that your colleagues are in the same boat. Sometimes informal partnerships can form where two or three nurses share a nanny or babysitter. In some situations, the colleagues help each other, minding each other’s children overnight.
You may have worked out how and where your children will be cared for during your shifts, but there is often the “in-between” time that can be the biggest threat to crashing your plans. For example, in some states, daycare centers can’t keep children for more than 12 hours. But if you work 12-hour shifts, how can you get your child to and from daycare and yourself to work in time for your shift?
If you don’t have friends, neighbors or family who can help out and you’re reluctant to advertise, try contacting your local high school or community college. At the high school, speak with a guidance counselor who may be able to target a few students for you to interview. A student could be a great choice to pick up your children from daycare and mind them for the extra hour or two until you get home. Community colleges may have employment boards or counselors who also help students find part-time work.
Alternately, you could contact a local 55+ center or seniors’ center to see if anyone would like to have this type of part-time job. With the way our society moves about these days, many seniors don’t see their own grandchildren very often and many children don’t see their grandparents. This could be a perfect match for some families. Come to think of it, this could be another overnight solution as well.
Healthcare facilities are starting to get the message that they need to help their employees with childcare issues. A happy employee is a better employee, so by helping the workers find good childcare, the employer can only come out ahead.
Workplace childcare has many advantages, ranging from transportation (you just bring your child or children with you to work) to easy access. Moms who are breastfeeding can often make arrangements to visit their infants in daycare in order to nurse them. Parents can check up on their children if there are any issues, and the caregivers know where the parents are in case of an emergency.
Are there disadvantages? Some workers don’t like their personal lives to be so open to their colleagues, and having their children attending daycare with their colleagues’ children may be too much closeness for them. If there are problems with the childcare, it may be more awkward for an employee to lodge a complaint or ask for difficult issues to be settled.
Choosing the right daycare or childcare situation for your family doesn’t always come easily. We all have our ideas of how our children should be raised and what we would like to be done for them. When interviewing candidates, here are a few questions that may help you determine if the applicant is a good fit:
● What babysitting experience do you have? (If the sitter is applying for his or her first babysitting job, ask, “What type of experience do you have that makes you believe you would be a good babysitter?”)
● What type of back-up plans (if any) do you have in case of an emergency that might prevent you from showing up to work or having the child come to you?
● What type of back-up do you have if something happens while you’re minding the child?
● Have you taken any first aid or CPR courses? How up to date is the certification?
● Have you ever had an emergency while caring for a child? What happened?
● How would you spend a rainy afternoon with the child/children?
● What would you do if the child bit his or her sibling? Made a big mess in the kitchen? Refused to go to bed?
Finding the right sitter or daycare arrangement can feel like winning the lottery—so keep at it. You just never know where the right person could be.
Marijke is a professional writer who began her working career as a registered nurse over 25 years ago. After working in clinical areas ranging from rehab to intensive care, as a floor nurse to a supervisor, she found she could combine her extensive health knowledge with her love of writing. Although she has been published in a wide variety of publications for professionals and the general public, her passion is writing for the every day person to promote health literacy.
By Marijke Durning