A fellow music therapist—and brand-new mommy—is growing a practice while growing a family. She recently posted a question on Facebook asking for ideas on working out a childcare schedule that is flexible enough to support a crazy and ever-changing private practice schedule.
Here are some of my thoughts…
First, infant childcare is difficult to coordinate and expensive. It is difficult to coordinate in part because state laws often require a 4:1 infant-to-teacher ratio (this changes to 8:1 once a child turns two). Thus infant spots are at a premium and can be harder to come by. This also raises the price of infant care, since infants require more individualized attention. As you begin to navigate these waters, keep in mind that it will get easier as the child gets older.
Now that the barriers are laid out, what are some of your options? More specifically—what are some of your options when you don’t have loving grandparents close by who would be more than happy to spend lots of quality time with the cutest grandbaby ever?
The following ideas and suggestions are based in part on my own experiences and childcare choices, as well as on the experiences of some of my fellow music therapy mommies and daddies:
- Hire a nanny. When my second child was born, we hired a part-time live-in nanny. They were graduate students (we had two) who lived in our basement and were given free rent and utilities plus a monthly stipend to watch out kids for 20 hours a week. Granted we had the house to do this with as it had a walk-out basement, a junior master suite, and kitchenette. The advantage of this arrangement was that we could create a work schedule together that accommodated their school schedules as well as my business schedule.
- Be clear on your work availability. It may be that you set your work schedule to only have direct client contact hours certain days of the week and certain times of the day. Be clear and firm about when you are available for sessions and when you are not. As part of this, you will want to set clear cancellation policies for your practice so that you do not lose money if a client cancels last minute.
- Befriend other working parents. I have known music therapists to create a barter-like system with other new parent friends. They share child watching duties, with each parent taking one day where they watch both kids (this leaves as least 3 good working days for each parent). There are multiple variations of this arrangement. For example, maybe one house watches both kids 5 mornings and week and the other house watches them 5 evenings. Then you fit in all your work and client time during your mornings/evenings off.
- Use an home-based daycare provider. There are generally two types of state-licensed childcare facility, the more traditional daycares and the in-home daycares. The policies and procedures for in-home daycares may have more built-in flexibility in terms of their availability than the traditional daycares, which often follow a typical 8-to-5 work schedule.When my first child was born, we had him at an in-home daycare two days a week and those were the days I saw my clients.
- Find creative work opportunities and be ready to turn on. Naptime and bedtime can be valuable work opportunities, especially for the non-direct client contact parts of growing a business. Marketing, invoicing, communications…you may need to start sneaking in those business tasks when the baby sleeps. The trick is to “let go” of always having a spotless house (the dishes and laundry can wait until the child is awake) and to be ready to turn your work brain on as soon as you lay the child down.
Ultimately, I do not think there are any “right” or “wrong” ways to work out childcare. It can be tricky and complex, but you will find the right solution for your family and your family’s needs. It takes flexibility and patience, but we all work it out somehow.