This last week has found us scrabbling around trying to work out what to do with a poorly child if we both have to be at work. Amelia got chicken pox on New Year’s Eve and aside from it ensuring that we were awake at midnight (for all the wrong reasons) it meant that we also needed to think about alternative childcare options for her.
So, what do you do? You have loads on at work and suddenly your child gets sick? You can’t take them to nursery or school, and yet you’re going to struggle taking days off at a time yourself. Here are some solutions you may wish to consider:
Fist off you’ll need to share the load. Consider tag teaming it with your partner. Just because your little one is sick doesn’t mean it should only be mum taking all the time off or asking for flexibility from work. Both parents will need to help out to take the strain off. Perhaps take alternate days off to ensure you don’t miss too much at work.
Ask around. Ask family, friends or neighbours to help. Can you get a family member to come over for a day? Who lives near you who might be able to step in? Do you have a friend with a child who only works certain days or part time? Perhaps you might be able to return the favour at another time if they step in at short notice? Now I appreciate that with something like chicken pox, it’s a little more tricky, as most people don’t want to be near a contagious child, but you may find some parents do want their kids to actually contract the illness early on, so they may be willing to help. Ultimately if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Talk to HR. Find out if your firm offers emergency childcare as an employee benefit, some do. This could provide a short-term solution. Likewise, your work may be willing to consider a flexible working solution for a short period of time or perhaps allow you to work from home. Both these options are likely to be more appealing to your boss than you having to take a full day (or days) off.
Look into local childminders. It may not be as immediate, but you could also contact some local childminders as they sometimes have space last minute, and depending on how sick the child is, they may be willing to help out. An experienced and Ofsted registered childminder will look after your children in their home, so it’s arguably a nicer environment for a poorly child than school or a busy nursery.
Try a babysitter. You may wish to speak to local babysitters. You might be surprised to find out that they can do more than just the standard Saturday night and are willing to step in for a day or two. We used our local village Facebook group to find a great babysitter, but there are some good online platforms too which can help you search.
On that note, don’t forget to look online. I came across My Family Care, when doing some research on this topic. Apparently, you can book all sorts of backup care with as little as 30 minutes notice. I haven’t tried it, so cannot vouch for it but it may be worth checking out.
If all else fails remember you are entitled to unpaid time off too. You have employment rights when it comes to caring for a dependant. If you’ve worked for your employer for one year you have the right to unpaid time off work to look after your children. You can take up to 18 weeks’ unpaid leave before your child is 18.
It’s never going to be a simple task finding emergency childcare, but there are options out there. You just need to ask around and accept any help (however big or small) that comes your way….And yes there will always be occasions where you simply have to take the time off because your child is too unwell and simply needs a cuddle from the one they love.. and when that happens, well enjoy it and make the most of wrapping them up in cotton wool and having snuggles on the sofa. Every cloud…