The PSP Podding Guide

Thinking through creating childcare solutions with two (or more) families to help reduce costs, get childcare coverage, and create opportunities for safer socialization will take some planning. Park Slope Parents to the rescue!

 

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Resources

Quick Tips

Thinking Through Your Decision to Pod

Safety basics

Comfort with safety measures

Younger toddlers

Exposure history and testing

Potential consequences

Your comfort levels and your family’s personality

Goals and schedules

Chemistry and phasing in

Childcare situation

Vacations

The other family

Outside socialization

Logging hours (if you are sharing duties between parents)

Activities and learning

Tutoring

Using a nanny/teacher/babysitter

Existing nanny/babysitter issues

Hiring a NEW nanny/teacher/babysitter

Extra considerations for Learning/School Pods for Fall 2020


RESOURCES TO HELP YOU:

If you are thinking about a nanny share situation, look through the document Thinking through having your nanny come back to work.

 

Other great PSP resources:

 

Slate has an article on How to think through your family’s coronavirus decisions, which spells out these decision-making steps:

1. Frame the question

2. Mitigate risk

3. Evaluate risk

4. Evaluate benefits

5. Decide

 

Also check out Amid the Coronavirus Crisis, a Regimen for Reëntry from the New Yorker, which discusses how we can successfully return to some aspects of public life while keeping the epidemic in check:

“The four pillars of our strategy—hygiene, distancing, screening, and masks—will not return us to normal life, but, when signs indicate that the virus is under control, they could get people out of their homes and moving again. … I have come to realize that there is a fifth element to success: culture. It’s one thing to know what we should be doing; it’s another to do it, rigorously and thoroughly.”

 

Deciding whether podding is right for you will depend on your comfort level, your cost-benefit analysis, and your ability to mitigate the risks involved. Ultimately, this is a personal and specific choice, and unfortunately not one for which there’s an easy or one-size-fits-all answer. As Emily Oster writes, however, “Most of us are going to have to leave our homes before there is a vaccine. We need to do so thoughtfully, and carefully, but for most of us—and for society—there is no choice to not make a choice.” Below are some questions to help you thoughtfully and carefully consider that choice and to arrive at a solution that feels right to you.

 

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QUICK TIPS

 

One member who successfully created a homeschooling pod offered the following golden rules:

 

Set a Vision: Think about what you want and why you want it, what's possible, what's not possible, what you can design for, and what you can't, what risks you can tolerate, and what ones you can't.

 

Communicate: Be upfront about your must haves and your flexibility areas - and be specific. Share it in writing and ask parents to read it then share why they're interested and what they're hoping to get out of a pod. THEN, talk on the phone or zoom and do a distanced play date.

 

Find Your People: Don't feel the obligation to sell others or be their school decision-making counselor. Don't wait around for people who haven't decided what they want. Move forward with people who are aligned and confident in their choices. (as confident as any of us can be in these times...)”

 

 

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THINKING THROUGH YOUR DECISION TO POD

 

 

Safety basics

  • Frequent handwashing and not sharing food are both important if you are going to create a POD. Kids should all have their own meals in separate containers and not intermingle snacks. Is everyone involved on board with these safety precautions?

  • What about masks? Masks are important on both ends—they can help you avoid both contracting and spreading COVID. If you want tips for getting your kids to wear a mask, check out this article on the PSP website: How to get your child to wear a mask. These tips may or may not be successful, though, especially for kids under three, and you may decide that the children in your POD will not be required to wear masks.

  • It’s more difficult to contract COVID in outdoor and well-ventilated spaces than inside. How will podding work for you in rainy/cold weather vs. nice weather?

 

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Comfort with safety measures

[Note: Public health guidelines continue to evolve, and some of the guidelines mentioned here may no longer be considered necessary or even recommended. You can use the safety measures mentioned here as a starting point, but it’s up to you to adjust them up or down to fit your comfort level.]

  • Can pod members (if 3+) remove their masks at the park, or do you want everyone to keep them on the whole time?

  • We talk about wearing masks as a sign of respect and responsibility to other people—is the other family on the same page?

  • What happens if one family sees friends or other family members? Does that mean they should quarantine from the rest of the POD?

  • What precautions is the other family willing to take when together with your family? Would you always wear masks and/or gloves? Would you wear them at home in either house?

  • What are you expecting of the other family in terms of off-hours socializing? What are you expecting of your (and their) nanny, teachers, and babysitters? Can you split the cost with the other family to provide masks and gloves to the nanny?

  • Are there ways you can keep each family as safe as possible? Could you have the kids meet up at the park instead of entering each others’ homes?

  • Do you want families and nannies to do temperature checks every day?

  • Would members of the pod self-quarantine after having a doctor’s appointment?

  • Do you have a place you can use as a “transition room” to change clothes and shoes before making contact with others? Does the other family have one?

  • Would it make you feel safer to get items delivered rather than going shopping? Can the other family do the same?

  • Will there be temperature checks? Or apps that gauge symptoms? How does each family feel about the validity of temperature checks if the virus may shed before fever appears?  

 

The bottom line is that families need to be on the same page about safety measures. If one is much more cautious, it may not be a good fit. It’s important to discuss both the hard science of how viruses spread and the less tangible aspects of each family’s fears and sensitivities. We think comfort level trumps science in these situations, but as a subjective area, it can also be more challenging to navigate in conversation.

 

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Younger toddlers who don’t always do a great job staying away from other people: What concessions will families make around wearing masks and social distancing?

 

Exposure history and testing

  • Has either family been exposed to COVID-19 already?

  • Do you want both families (and the nanny, if there is one) to get tested for the virus and/or antibodies?

 

Potential consequences

  • If a member of either family or the nanny gets sick, what are backup plans for coverage? Do you assume both families have been exposed and continue podding? 

 

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Your comfort levels and your family’s personality

  • What is your level of stress about illness?  

  • Where do you fall on the spectrum of flexible to controlling? Are you going to be unhappy if things can’t always be done your way?

  • How does your level of comfort with podding balance out with the additional stress it could cause? Which option will have a more positive effect on your mental health? Improved family sanity and ability to get work done can be a benefit of podding, but only if you’re not worrying too much.

  • What kinds of reassurances do you need from the other family in order to feel like everyone is doing their part to be safe?

  • Are you on the same page as your family and extended family? Will creating a pod mean that cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents, etc., are not comfortable seeing you and your kids in person? Will it mean that you will not be able to see them because of newfound responsibility to your pod, and how will your family feel about that? 

  • What happens to the pod (and financial responsibilities) if someone in the pod doesn’t hold up their social distancing agreement and gets sick?

 

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Goals and schedules

  • What are your goals in creating a pod? Is it for social interaction? Is it for childcare so you can work? Is one goal much more important than the other?

  • Do you have flexibility in your schedule, or do you have set times that you need your children to be in and out of the house?

  • Do you have nap routines that you need to abide by?

  • Do you want to pod in NYC or rent a space elsewhere?

  • Do you have outside commitments you’ll need to factor in (e.g., therapy appointments, doctor’s appointments)?

 

Chemistry and phasing in

  • Will you have a trial period to make sure things work? Can you start with a few days and add to that?

  • If you don’t know the other family well, how will you make sure that you will get along before committing to a more regular podding?

 

Childcare situation

  • Who will be taking care of the kids? Parents? A nanny? A teacher or babysitter?

  • If the parents will be responsible for childcare, which parents will that be? How much time can each commit?

  • If one or both families are run by a single parent, how will that impact division of labor?

  • Where will childcare take place? Your home? The other family’s home? Solely outside of the home?

  • If parents are sharing duties, how will that work in the fall if schools end up closing? Will things stay the same? Will you need to hire an additional helper? 

 

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Vacations

  • Will you be taking vacations anytime soon? If so, how will that affect your pod?

  • Will families in the pod need to self-isolate after vacations, creating weeks where podding can’t happen?

  • Are you comfortable vacationing together so you can have uninterrupted pods?

  • If you have a nanny, teacher, or babysitter, will you be wanting to take them with you? If the nanny/teacher/babysitter isn’t happy with this option, will they be comfortable saying so?

 

The other family
[Note: These questions are relevant when the family is known. Otherwise, check the PSP Guide to a Successful Nanny Share to talk through how to find a family.]

  • Do your kids know and like the other family? Will this family provide your kids with the social interaction you’re looking for?

  • Are either family’s kids going through behavioral milestones or issues (e.g., biting, potty training, sleep training)?

  • How much do you know about the other family’s living situation? Are there any safety worries or concerns (e.g., teenage kids who don’t social distance? Grandparents)?

  • Where does the other family live? (Closer might be easier.) Where will drop-offs take place? Will your house or the other house be home base?

  • Are the kids in the same grade and school as your child?

  • Are you or the other family experiencing financial hardship? Will it create difficult situations if one family is on a tight budget and the other is not?

  • Do you feel that the other family and your family are on the same page about hygiene and precautions? Do you trust that they will carry out the precautions?

  • Are there people in the other family’s circle that would add to the risk? If so, is that okay with you?

  • Does the other family have someone with a job as an essential worker?

  • If schools remain open, will that change the dynamic? Will one family not send their child(ren) to school even if it’s open because of health reasons?  

  • As things start opening up, are you comfortable reassessing comfort levels with things like in-person classes and story-times?

 

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Outside socialization

  • Are you okay with the other family/families interacting with other families or are you wanting this to be a “bubble” of just you and the other family?

  • Are there people the family has contact with who may not be appropriately social distancing? Are you okay with this?

  • What are you expecting from the nanny/teachers/babysitters in terms of social distancing?

 

Logging hours (if you are sharing duties between parents)

  • Will you have a set schedule? Will it be split down the middle in terms of hours?

  • Is it like a babysitting co-op, where you’ll have a Google spreadsheet of hours each family takes the kids? How will you resolve differences in time spent?

  • Can one family do more heavy lifting in terms of hours logged, and the other help out financially with things like gear or toys?

 

Activities and learning

  • Are you choices aligned when it comes to remote learning vs. hybrid learning vs. homeschooling?
  • What are acceptable activities for kids to do together? Can they go to the park? Can they hang out indoors?

  • What kinds of activities can the kids do outside of the house?

  • Will you need to purchase some “nanny share” types of equipment? A double stroller? A Boogie Board for the back of a stroller?

  • How much screen time is okay with you? (Consider passive vs. active screen time.)

  • If you or the other family has a car, are you comfortable having your kids go on some excursions?

  • Will you be collaborating with the other family on remote learning?

 

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Tutoring

  • If you’re podding with a private tutor, what responsibilities do you want them to have?

  • Do you want to collaborate with your podding families on a written agreement for your tutor, similar to the PSP Nanny Work Agreement?

  • Big thanks to one PSP parent for sharing the guidelines they drafted for their pod tutor:

    • Understand each child’s remote learning and homework requirements and ensure that each child is fulfilling those requirements

    • Provide technical and computer assistance to each child as needed to participate in remote learning

    • Coordinate each child’s activities and breaks as required by their school schedule

    • Support children during break and help them rest, relax, and entertain themselves during breaks

    • Provide basic educational support as needed if a child doesn’t understand a teacher’s directions or is otherwise frustrated

    • Supervise childrens’ meal times (Employer will be responsible for providing and preparing meals for the children)

    • Take children to a local park or playground after schooling ends, whenever weather permits

    • If the weather is not conducive to outdoor play in the afternoon, supervise indoor play, which may include up to one hour of screen time after all school work is completed

    • Pick up children from school, as necessary. 

  • Are you paying for days when the tutor doesn’t work (holidays, school vacations, etc.)?

    • One parent shared: “For our pod school holiday calendars were taken into effect. The rate is not pro rated except for December break because how our contract is set up is it rolls until December 17 for now. And since Dec 24 and Dec 31 are both holidays that month only is prorated. We only meet 1 to 2 times a week (alternating Wednesdays as we are cohort A and every Thursday) so because of that it is pro rated.”

  • What safety precautions do you want your tutor to take in terms of Covid?

 

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Using a nanny/teacher/babysitter

[See also Thinking through bringing your nanny back to work]

  • If you want to pod with another family, is your current nanny okay with that?

  • If the other family has their own nanny, do you pay both nannies for less time?

  • Do the families split the severance to the nanny that you end up letting go?

  • Have you been paying your nanny on the books, and if not, is it time to start doing so?

  • If the nanny gets sick after returning to work, will you be able to keep paying them even after you’ve paid the required amount (two weeks’ sick pay and 10 weeks FMLA)?

  • How will payment be split between two families? What if one family has a different number of kids?

  • Is there a reason to provide hazard pay? If you are paying your nanny the same amount for fewer hours, do you consider this to be hazard pay? Does your nanny agree?

  • How do you need to change your nanny’s contract or work agreement in order to reflect the current situation and near future? How do you need to change it for the further future? For instance, would you change the pay structure for six months to reflect the pod situation and then resume just having the nanny work for one family when schools reopen?

 

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Existing nanny/babysitter issues

[See also Thinking through bringing your nanny back to work]

  • Does the nanny feel comfortable coming back to work? Will they feel pressured to come back even if there are hesitations? Will they feel comfortable being honest with you if they’re not comfortable with coming back?

  • Is your nanny afraid of losing their job if they don’t come back? If so, are those fears founded?

  • Is the nanny going to be taking public transportation?

  • Do you want the nanny to have a change of clothes that they leave at your place for when they come? Are they willing to do so?

  • Does your nanny have kids that they would need to bring to work with them, therefore expanding the pod? Is they don’t bring the kids, will they have to leave them in an environment that would increase the risk to the pod?

  • If your nanny works fewer hours, is lower pay something they are amenable to?

 

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Hiring a NEW nanny/teacher/babysitter
[See also the PSP Guide to Hiring a Nanny]

  • What kinds of things do you and the other family want in a nanny/teacher/babysitter? Do you want someone who is younger? Older? Do you want them to be able to help with remote learning? Do you want them to have a car?

  • Does either family already have a person in mind?

  • Are there teachers at your preschool or daycare who are furloughed who could do the job?  

  • Do you want the nanny/teacher/babysitter to work exclusively with your pod? If you don’t have full-time hours to offer them, are you willing to pay more per hour to keep them?

 

Extra considerations for Learning/School Pods for Fall 2020

  • Is there an outdoor space at the learning location for being outside as much as possible on laptops? 

  • Will students be bringing their own supplies, laptops, lunch, etc? 

  • Will locations vary (e.g., parents taking turns hosting) or will there be one location?

  • Is there wifi that is strong enough for everyone in the pod to be online at the same time? 

  • Are there enough electrical outlets for charging devices? 

  • Will all students be on the same Zoom call at the same time, or will they be on separate calls? (Consider noise implications.)

  • What are expectations as far as socializing during learning periods/teacher Zoom calls?

  • Remember to utilize and support Zoom programming of local cultural institutions as part of the curriculum. Ideas include Turnstile Tours, the Natural History Museum, and the Tenement Museum. 

 

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