Cheaper child care is increasingly necessary as budgets tighten, says Lisa Belkin, a New York Times reporter who covers workplace issues.
Here are some of the creative ways working families are reducing the costs:
Shared care: Two or more families with children of similar ages and schedules share a caregiver. Works well with families that know one another, but you can also find like-minded parents on community boards, such as Craigslist.
Babysitting co-ops: Parents within a group take turns being the baby sitters. A number of web sites (www.babycenter.com, for example) and handbooks explain how to start one.
Child swapping: An informal agreement between friends—I watch your children this afternoon while you do errands, and you do the same for me tomorrow.
A “Mommy Nanny”: A nanny with her own baby or child comes to your house to care for your children. Because the nanny also brings her own child, she typically charges less than a regular nanny.
Bringing baby to work: The idea espoused by the Parenting in the Workplace Institute (www.parentingatwork.org) is that babies can come to work until they begin to crawl. The site lists 100 companies and public agencies that have policies allowing parents to bring their babies to work. And they offer advice on how to persuade to allow this at your office.
Staggering work hours: One spouse works the early shift and another the late shift, meaning there is less need for backup care.
Making work mobile: With a wireless card and a laptop, some workers can take their work out of the office, even if it’s only for post-school hours. Works well with older children.
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