This year I will celebrate 3 years of self-employment. I work from home most of the time but have periods where I must be on site for a fixed period. Which means a challenging set of childcare logistics needs to be put in place, especially for those early starts.
Nursery opens and 8am, school starts at 9am. We didn’t book a place in Breakfast Club because we would only need it at certain times of the year. So when I have to be on a train to London and my husband has an 8am start, it’s time to call in the childcare cavalry. Except when said cavalry (Nanny and Grandad) have swanned off on a Caribbean Cruise. Then we are plunged into a more complicated timetable, one which I image many parents in Brighton and Hove feel if they don’t have family nearby to help.
Happily, after a year of school gate networking and being in the position to grant school run favours ourselves we found people were only too happy to help. It was the asking I found very awkward, which ones I bit the bullet, seemed very silly indeed from the other parents reaction.
After a lot of trial and few errors throughout my 6 years of working mum territory, here’s my top tips for success:
1. Do a timetable or a calendar. If you have a family calendar, the sort with seperate columns for different categories of events, this is perfect for tracking which child will be where on which day. I am a total chart geek and have got several Word and Excel versions I use (some are even colour coded)! Message me below if you want one.
2. Ask other parents for help or advice. You never know who may be able to help. Do not always assume that everyone’s school runs are chaotic, some parents can cope with an extra body in their before or after school party.
3. Be honest with other parents if you can’t help them or reciprocate in the same way. And don’t take it personally if someone says no. It’s better to cultivate a respectful and transparent arrangement than over commit. Think of a way you can support them in return, perhaps an evening’s babysitting so they get a night out.
4. Have a plan B and C. No childcare is fail safe, not even nursery. Children can fall ill and need to be sent home, other parents have last-minute difficulties and are unable to help – nothing is personal. You will also be surprised who may come to your rescue at the eleventh hour, it’s a question of keeping the faith.
5. If it’s a new childcare arrangement, maybe arrange a few supervised practice runs to settle children in.
6. Know your rights. Working parents are entitled to apply for flexible working hours. It does not mean you automatically get them but the company has to consider your proposals. If you can prove it fits with your job role and meeting yours and the company’s objectives, then you should at least be granted a trial period on an arrangement which fits with your family life.
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