Freelancing and Childcare

With freelance working arrangements increasingly prevalent in New York City, one FAQ in Park Slope is how to juggle both a last minute jobs and childcare.

 

 

 

If you are a freelancer, you’ve probably been in the situation one local mom describes:

 

Can any freelancers out there share some child care advice? I work full time and my husband is freelance. We have a 6-month-old and are fortunate to have had help from friends and grandparents, but the constant last-minute arrangements are taking their toll. We'd love to have an arrangement where someone trusted and local can care for our baby as needed (a few hours to a full day a few times a week). It's preferable to have her at home and cared for by a parent whenever possible.


Here are how some other freelancing parents have handled it:

 

Have an army of sitters (students and actors) to fall back on – and offer a lot of perks

 

“I remember this juggle well! My husband is a lighting designer and sometimes is gone for weeks, or here but slammed or in a lull between gigs, and I work full time in the city.

We ended up finding - literally - 8 amazing women. some grad students and some actors. And over the years it rotated, changed, depending on everyone's lives... But 8 on the roster was the ideal number! It was a weekly juggle (especially around exam time) but we were able to schedule out a few weeks at a time and literally it always worked out somehow.

Not stress free, but it worked.

We had one woman who was our 'first call' (she does voice overs and so had a wacky schedule) - but if she couldn't do it then we'd call down the roster. Pretty much once we had one they started recruiting their friends. And the fun part is my daughter got to hang out with really cool women. Now she knows a pastor, a lawyer, a filmmaker, a bunch of artists, a psychologist...

We paid well and gave all the perks (cars home at night, lots of ordering in, and the favorite - an envelope in the diaper bag with $5 labeled 'emergency latte money' :)) so we built loyalty. At some point I knew about all the boy and girlfriends, the roommates, classes, gigs - most of these women were my age anyway so it was always a pleasure to chat, and they all liked being in a 'home' since many of them were crammed in with a zillion roommates.

Students and actors are the best when you need flexible part time folk. Cause that's what they need too! Good luck - I thought it would never end and now it feels like a distant memory :)”

 

Another parent confirms what the above poster writes:

 

“We have a similar system to the one that [the above poster] describes below. We have one regular sitter (an amazing actress/artist/sitter), and we've gradually increased her hours since my daughter's birth as I've worked more and more -- she now comes 4 mornings a week. Some weeks, it's more time than I need, but other weeks, it's not enough.

On the weeks I need more help b/c of a deadline, I start tapping my "backup list" -- 6 additional sitters, most of whom are friends of our regular sitter. There are times when I'll literally have to call/text all 6 of them just to find one sitter with availability, but usually someone is available. And I would also second [the above poster]'s comments about working with young recent grads/grad students, etc. -- they're all really amazing, flexible, creative, high-energy young women (and one young man!) who are working multiple jobs so they can try to make a go of it as actors/musicians/artists, etc. in New York City.

 

Our daughter has a total blast with them. It definitely can be stressful when I'm frantically calling six people for a Tuesday sitting job on a Monday night, but it seems to be the best solution for my erratic schedule.

I'm also a big fan of perks -- good pay, money for ordering out or getting a coffee, accommodating our regular sitter if she occasionally needs to reschedule b/c she gets an audition, etc. etc. In return, sitters (especially our regular sitter) will occasionally adjust their schedules and really inconvenience themselves to help me out of a desperate bind/pinch.”

 

But how does one even find a network of sitters like this? Tips include:

“As far as how to tap into these "secret babysitting societies" we were able to find many thru our NON-parent friends - it helped that we were the first of our group to have a kid, but friends of friends were the way to go.

Next we also went with older friends who had recent college grad kids - if not their children, their children's friends were often looking for babysitting (this is an excellent way, btw, to find a sitter in another city when traveling!)

If you have any connection at all to freelance or artist communities, or people who do, a quick email out (or facebook post) can be really productive. And once you're "in" then that's where sitters start to hook you up with their friends!”

 

Find a ‘relaxed’ Nanny Share:

“Why not find a family nearby with a full time nanny and a child of the same age and see if they'd be willing to let you share on an ad hoc basis? Nanny makes more money, kids get socialization, you have easy reliable coverage, win/win.

 

Commit yourself to a scheduled sitter and find a Graduate Student with flexible hours:

“When he was about 13mos I booked a 4 month long 3-4 day a week job and found a permanent part time sitter because I felt he needed stability. She was a 20-something college grad who was nannying while figuring out her life. She ended up being with us for 2 years. Some weeks she worked 4 days, others 2. The 1st year she had another family on Fridays and yet another on weds afternoons so we
worked around it. Eventually we made a set number of hours usually 3 days a week for her to work whether I worked or not. When I was busy with work she'd do the extra time if available or id find fill in
sitters. When I didn't work I still used her- and believe me by the time he was 18mos I was ecstatic to have a day or 2 to get things done. When he started 2 morning a week preschool she helped one of my
stay at home mom friends during that time, and that friend ended up taking more hours if I wasn't working. It was a win win win. We all loved the arrangement.

My son is now 3.5 and started full time preschool last fall. She was going back to grad school at the same time so it was great timing. No joke it was the best week of my life. We aren't paying much more than the part time nanny for waaaaaaay more hours and I can work any day without stressing. I'm due with my 2nd next month and we are already talking about putting her in day care for a couple days a week by the time she is 1.

The truth is that freelancing with kids is a little crazy and you have to find a balance that works for you. I really feel like we made the right decision even though committing to spending $$ when I 'might' be home was hard, it was so great for him to know it was always either one of the 3 of us that would be caring for him.”

Another mom agrees to hiring a part-time sitter:

“I've handled the last-minute & unpredictable nature of my audition/booking schedule by hiring a part-time nanny (16 hrs/wk, also just for additional help & sanity), and when my appts coincide with her hours, she stays with the baby. I also purposely chose someone who could be flexible with her hours, so sometimes she comes early/stays late to cover my appts. I also have a night sitter to put the baby to bed when I'm teaching, and sometimes she can come early to help me out. When none of my regular sitters are available, I use Pinch Sitters, and they've always been able to get me someone last minute (I have a few other last-minute sitter services on file also, just in case).”

 

Start a Babysitting Coop:

I've also found that it works for me to have one person regularly scheduled for about 16 hrs/wk and try to book my work/classes/rehearsals into that time. I also have a list of fill-in people that I can call when I have an appointment outside of those times. I found that it works out to have someone that I can count on for specific times, even if I end up not working every week. It's hard to have someone that you can rely on if you aren't giving them regular hours, but if you patch together a long list of fill-in people you can probably find someone whenever you need to.

I just joined a babysitting coop of local moms, and although I'm just figuring it all out, it seems like a great option. You can organize a coop through www.sittingaround.com, and that site also has a list of local sitters”

 

Or better yet… Start a Babysitting Coop with other Freelancers:

“We have about five babysitters sitters we call when I work (as a dancer/choreographer/teacher) and so far it's worked ok, though we are always having to figure out who is available when....count me in the loop of freelance artists if you meet up!”

 

Commit to some kind of schedule:

"As painful as it is, try to commit to some schedule. even if that only lasts for a little while, it will make a huge difference in getting help."

 

Stick to school day hours:

"if you can stick to during-schol day hours, it will be easy to find a nanny who has after-school pick up duties, and could fit you in during the day time with less of a permanent commitment.

 

Find a flexible nanny share:

"See if you can find a nanny-share where the one family is full-on full-time and the nanny is willing to commit to a certain #of hours for you,w without setting the days. This still presents problems as the babies get a little older and start enrolling in classes, then the flexibility diminishes."

 

Find someone with availability:

-"Find the rare, rare, precious and elusive person who has a lot of availability, and call them when you need them! I’ve found a few in my days, but often they don’t last - their regular employer is out on a maternity leave, or they are going to go back to school, leave the country, etc., and are just filling in some hours till then."

 

Final observations:

"For the most part, the less of a commitment you can make to employing a person, the lower down the food chain you move.  If you are willing to hire someone who has little experience or is otherwise a less attractive candidate, you will have more choices. I don’t mean to be mercenary, it’s just kind of how it goes. the super experienced nannies will take full time jobs."