The holidays are upon us, and you have no child care lined up. Maybe you forgot. Or maybe it’s just a difficult time of year and everyone you have ever leaned on for help is suddenly on a fabulous vacation. Maybe you are taking a trip with your child or children and you just realized that yoga workshop or show you wanted to see while you are away might not be possible because you are on your own and don’t know anyone whom you can ask for help or a referral. For many Solo Moms, these scenarios can create a sense of dread and fear. You think, How on earth am I going to get through the next few weeks without my babysitter, nanny, au pair, sister, mother, or friend? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
First, take a deep breath. You’ve made it this far in the year without a total disaster you couldn’t recover from, so you can do this, too. What follows below is a list of child-care options for your reference. Pretty soon you will be back at your desk or taking that fabulous trip, wondering why you were worried in the first place.
- Family. If you are lucky enough to live close to your relatives and they have the time and are willing to do some babysitting, ask right away. Grandparents usually love having the kids sleep over. There may be a college-aged aunt or uncle who is home on a holiday break who will gladly come stay with you, sleep on your couch, and eat your food in exchange for some babysitting. If you need some downtime or your kids need a lot of watching, you may even get your school-aged kids out of the house for a week or more on a “vacation” of their own by sending them to visit relatives. Everyone wins.
- Community programs. Community centers such as the YMCA have fun and engaging camps for kids during the holidays. You can search online for kids camps in your area.
- Free programs for kids. Call your local church or synagogue to find out if it hosts holiday classes, babysitting, or drop-in day care. Check the listings in your local paper or online message boards for free (or affordable) options for your children. Many blogs list these types of resources.
- Care.com. This is a great website designed to help parents find safe and affordable child care—whether you’re in a bind or looking for someone longer term. Find out more in ESME’s profile of Care.com and Sittercity.
- Drop-in day care. These care centers are great for last-minute child care during the workday. Beware that once they are at full capacity, they can’t accept any more children, so always have a backup plan just in case.
- Playdates and group activities. Do you know a few Solo Moms or parents who are in need of child care? Send an email through your child’s school or parent group. You may be able to find a way to tag-team your way through the holidays.
- Holiday babysitting on vacation. Are you staying at a resort? Call ahead, and ask the resort staff for some names and reviews of sitters whom parents may use on a regular basis during their stays—that way you can get that yoga class or massage into your day. Many vacation spots have a website dedicated to the town or area you are staying in that offers travel tips and help with finding housing and even a babysitter.
- Contact your local college. Your local college or university has a work-study center where energetic students are looking for work to help offset their college tuition or fund a shopping spree. Many are experienced sitters and will make sure your kids have a wonderful time while you work, worry free.
- Speak to your boss. Calmly explain the predicament to your boss, and ask whether any time off can be arranged. As an employee, you may be entitled to emergency child care. Or there may be a way for you to work from home part time or full time during the holiday break. If you don’t ask, you won’t know.
- Schools. Call your child’s school. Many schools run holiday programs, or their after-school partners may have holiday programming. Most schools will have several resources for local child-care solutions.
- Speak to other parents in the area. You may be able to share a babysitter or nanny with one or more parents for the days or hours needed. There may be a situation in which someone has a babysitter or nanny who is looking for extra work during the holiday period, so ask your neighbors, a parent group, or parents at your child’s school.
Whatever your situation is during the holidays, child care for a Solo Mom is a necessary and important part of maintaining a balance between work and home. These helpful tips will make sure you’ve got what you need during the holidays when your regular options for child care are not available.
We’d love to hear what you’ve done when you were in a child-care bind.
Rebecca Cherry is an accomplished musician, writer, and creative seeker. She is enjoying her new role as a Solo Mom to her baby girl. You can follow her on Twitter at @CherryRebecca and Facebook at Rebecca Cherry.
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.