We working moms love our lists and our research. We're organized at home and at work because we have to be -- just to make it through the week with children fed and projects completed. But there are invariably unexpected hitches in our best-laid plans that cause us to spring into action. (Often with another set of back-up plans.)
Emergency child care certainly falls into that category. Whether it's a sick child or a sick nanny, a school power outage or a snowstorm that makes the roads impassable, there are bound to be unexpected changes in circumstance that require us to quickly line up alternate child care.
The best solution depends on your individual circumstances and the options available in your area. Start with the following categories of emergency child care services.
If you have a nanny, whether live-out or live-in, there will be days when she can't come to work because she is sick, has car trouble or some other unanticipated problem. Or perhaps your child's preschool closes for religious holidays. In both scenarios, you still have to work. What to do?
Explore drop-in child care options in your community, whether that's an established center or simply a kid's gym whose hours are sufficient for you to complete the work you need to get done. Your employer may also provide emergency drop-in care, either on-site or in a nearby location.
Ideally, plan far enough in advance that you're able to use the drop-in care center for an hour or two before an emergency. That way your child will get comfortable with the facility and you'll also know what to expect.
Child Care Swap
If you live in an area prone to snowstorms, hurricanes and power outages when the wind blows a little too hard, you may end up stuck at home with kids for days on end. This is when it's good to be friends with your neighbors, and to arrange a child care swap. (Craft projects and brownie baking will only last so long.)
Even if the roads are impassable, you and your kids can usually hike a block or two to a neighbor with children, after any dangerous weather has passed. Offer to host the neighbor's kids for a playdate in the morning, in exchange for an afternoon of fun at their house. Or vice versa. Both parents can complete some work from home or projects around the house, and the kids enjoy a change of scenery, toys and playmates.
Of course, if the unexpected emergency is that your child is sick, the two solutions listed above won't work. You can't take a sick kid to a drop-in care center and you can't expose neighbors to his germs. The only remaining solution is to enlist an emergency nanny or germ-resistant relative to come over and help you out.
Emergency nannies tend to be much more expensive than drop-in care or regular nannies, especially when you find them through a nanny service. You might also explore whether a neighbor's au pair or nanny might be available while their children are in school, although you must disclose that your child is sick!