By Melissa Batai
As your children move into the toddler and preschool years, you may find it necessary to hire someone to watch your children so that you can concentrate and enjoy peace and quiet while doing at least some of your work.
The challenge is to find affordable child care. After all, there's no point in hiring someone if you're own hourly wage after the sitter is minimal.
Here are some ways you may be able to make child care more affordable:
1. Swap child care duties with another mom. This option is great. One day a week you watch your children in addition to another mom's kids. The next time, the mom watches her kids and yours. Say you watch her kids on Tuesday from 1 to 5. She reciprocates on Thursday from 1 to 5. Now, you have free child care, and your children have built in play dates. (Just make sure your kids get along with her kids.)
2. Find a mommy's day out program. Many communities offer a mommy's day out where you drop your kids off for a few hours in the morning a few times a week. I found something similar to this. My daughters are in a preschool program 3 mornings a week for about 2 to 2.5 hours. I work on site in the parent parlor and am available if my girls need me. The fee is on a sliding scale based on income. Currently, I pay $17 per visit, which equates to $8.50 per hour for two kids. Not bad in our urban area where babysitters routinely charge $15 an hour for two kids.
3. Hire a mother's helper. Rather than hiring a babysitter, if you plan to work from home while the care taker is with your child, why not hire a mother's helper? Mother's helpers are generally younger and are often paid less because you're readily available if they run into difficulty. Some people have luck finding mother's helpers through their church or their homeschool group.
If you think outside the traditional babysitter role, you'll likely find that there are plenty of ways to find affordable child care. Then, you can have a few hours of highly concentrated time to do your most mentally demanding tasks.
What's your favorite strategy for finding reasonably priced child care?
Melissa is a freelance writer who is a homeschooling mom to three kids, ages 9, 4 and 3. She blogs at momsplans.com, where she writes about personal finance, family, homeschooling, and living with food intolerances.