Can working parents realistically pick up their children from daycare/preschool at 6pm?

A PSP member asks the group how working parents can realistically pick up children from daycare by 6pm.  Members share their experiences of how they manage busy work schedules with strict pick up times.



As the original poster writes:

"My husband and I have started the process of finding a preschool/daycare for our almost 2 year-old. Currently she is home full-time with our Nanny. We have found that a lot of the schools we are targeting close at 6pm and those that close at 6:30pm have long waiting lists!. Since we both work and commute via public transportation it is nearly impossible to get to the school by 6pm. We thought about finding locations closer to our perspective jobs but unfortunately if one of us is traveling it would not logistically work if one of us has to do both drop-off and pick-up. I would love to hear some feedback on what other parents do in this type of situation? We have thought about hiring a babysitter to pick the baby up and sit with her until we get home which is usually between 6:30 and 7pm as well as just paying the late fee every day?  Any thoughts or recommendations would be greatly appreciated."




Negotiate flexible time:

"I think the answer depends a lot on your jobs and the culture of your company. My kids 5.5 and 2 years both started daycare 4 days a week at 6 months from 8am to 6pm, the fifth day they are with my mom. Until a year ago my husband was a consultant and traveled 4 days a week which meant that I was pretty much on the hook for pick up and drop off four days a week. Now that he works in the city we are able to share the responsibilities. For the first three years I tried to work one day a week at home which gave me more time to work by eliminating the commute. I also work to and from work most days on my phone and iPad. I frequently also work at night once they are in bed. My boss is a single mom and I've been with my organization for over 8 years so that gives me more flexibility. And it's not like the issue will go away once the kids start school. My daughter's hours in public school are even shorter than before even with after school and I have to pick up in two locations now."

"I've also negotiated to work at home every other Friday (a flex schedule that's available at some workplaces). This is very helpful in managing the hectic factor. It takes some adjusting but is doable."

Related reading on PSP: Negotiating


Have back up babysitters on call:

"The other challenge is that when the kids get sick so you can't go to work. I've gotten back up babysitters so that I don't miss work as often but it's still hard. I can't say it is easy but they both flourished in day care and I am happy that they have been there even if my life is more hectic this way. And the parents all of their classmates over the years have both worked full time so I know I'm not alone."

Related reading on PSP: Last-Minute Backup Childcare


Split pick up duties with your partner:

"My partner and I found the best situation was that one of us changed our work hours so that the burden could be split and work did not suffer. I get to work earlier and always pick up, he goes in later and does drop off. We found resentment would build if the burden was on one for too long. Occasionally we switch if one of us had an early or late meeting etc but try to stick to a regular schedule. There are also those days we both need a later night and have a back up sitter ( teacher at school willing to stay later for extra cash usually)."

"We took the same approach. My husband changed his schedule to 7-3 and I work 10-6. So, I drop off and he picks up. On days when he needs to work later, if I leave my Midtown office by 5:05pm, I'm generally able to make it back to Windsor Terrace (on F train) by 5:55pm."

"We do the same thing. My husband works 8-4 in Brooklyn, so he does pick up and can be at our babysitter's in Kensington by 4:45. I work 9-(mostly) 5, so I do drop off. My husband shifted back to an earlier schedule when I went back to work, meanwhile I fight tooth and nail to be out the door at 5 some days."


Find a daycare closer to where you work that offers longer hours:

 "I'm a single mom so I do both pickup and drop-off. I found somewhere in manhattan (where I work) that has regular hours that are 8-6 and additional extended hours if needed. I drop my son off and then its only 15 minutes to get to my office, which means i can stay until 530. I try to do 830-530 at work (and I say try because lately its more towards 9) and its hard to give someone a tough time about a very productive 9 hour day. I also discussed it upfront with my potential employer to see if it would be a problem. There are so many parents who need to do this that it shouldn't be unheard offend the reality is that these parents are probably much more productive during the day because of the fixed times versus someone hanging out talking and then staying until 8.

Related reading on PSP: Commuting into Manhattan for Daycare


Be honest with your employer about your scheduling needs:

"I found that it was easier than I thought to negotiate my work schedule with my employer once I just talked to them honestly about the situation and assured them no time was lost. I also frequently take shorter lunch breaks."


3 golden rules to making it work: negotiate, share, compromise:

"Having children seems to constantly be about negotiating schedules, sharing responsibilities and compromise."


Find a flexible daycare if you can:

"It helps our daughter attends an in-home family daycare so the owner is somewhat flexible. She doesn't "close" until 6, so as long as one of us can leave the office by 5, we can be there by 6. Also since its her residence the late charges are pretty reasonable."

Related reading on Park Slope Parents:  Daycare for Parents Who Work Late


Find out if any of the employees at your daycare would be interested in picking up some extra hours:

I also manage - I drop my daughter between 8 and 8.30 in Park Slope - am in the office (lower Manhattan) between 8.30 and 9 and leave between 5 and 5.30pm. It is hard as I did work slightly longer hours prior but we can swing it. My challenge is that I also travel for work. My husband covers while I am gone but he has a longer commute - over an hour, so when I am away he has to work an abbreviated day. His boss is OK with this so far and he sometimes brings work home. I have noticed that occasionally our daycare staff have taken other kids home - they are willing to babysit out of hours and so in a pinch we might be able to see if this would work for occasional trips vs. getting a babysitter for just an hour or so which could be hard.

The other challenging aspect - including today - is when our daughter is sick and cannot be at daycare. This would not be an issue with a nanny but we have had to stay home with her. She has been ill quite often - pretty normal at daycare and not really concerning - but can be very disruptive to work. However she loves the group environment, multiple staff and varied program of activities so we really want to make it work.


Know you are not alone:

We are in this situation too. My husband's job is a lot more flexible so he usually does all the picks up AND drop offs (which itself is not fair, and I am not sure it's sustainable). But when he is traveling for more than 2-3 days, I find that I can not handle it. Half the problem is the office cultures, still prevalent out there apparently, which do not recognize flexible working arrangements (working from home, working after hours once the baby has been put to sleep) as valid work. In my case, my commute is close to one hour, so I waste two hours of productive work time daily. I am not sure what to do about this. Your solutions are the same ones we have hit upon, but it's stressful and I for one constantly feel guilty: either for not being with my kid, or not being with my colleagues/at work. I'd be interested in hearing from others, I am sure many people have been there and maybe they have more creative ideas.