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What kind of childcare works for flexible schedules?

Rachel Carrell, Founder & CEO of Koru Kids, with her children.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that childcare is expensive and difficult to arrange. For people who work a flexible schedule, it can be even harder.

That’s because traditional options like nurseries often charge more per day for part time care, or even require full time payment for parents whose days move around. This is understandable from the nurseries’ perspective—they have rent, rates, and staff to pay. But with the average UK parent already paying more for childcare than for their mortgage—and with nursery fees pushing £100/day in some parts of London—the cost can be so painful it makes many parents wonder if it’s worth going back to work at all.

Worse still, once kids get a bit older and go off to school, things don’t get much easier. After school clubs can be hit-and-miss, and there are also school holidays, inset days, sick days, and days when the school suddenly turns into a local council election voting booth.

Is there any hope for the flexible working parent? Maybe.

Here are four avenues you may not have already considered:

  1. Flexible nurseries:These are hard to find, but they do exist. In North London,Little Crickets is one that charges by the hour. For very young children with parents who are not sure of their exact needs from day to day, this can work out well. While the per-hour cost can be greater than a full time nursery, at least there’s no paying for unused hours.
  2. University students:For older children, university students can make great after school nannies, picking them up from school and taking care of them in their own homes. With no need for full time hours, uni students will happily work just a few afternoons each week. In London, after school nanny specialistKoru Kids recruits university students with childcare experience and trains them in how to be a good after school nanny.
  3. Childminders:Childminders have to adhere to strict ratios for younger kids—they’re only allowed one baby under one year at a time—but these ratios relax for older kids. So if you’ve only got one eight year old, it might be possible to sort out a flexible deal. A good place to start looking for a local childminder is the local council website.
  4. An au pair:If you’ve got a spare room in your house, a foreign au pair can be a great option. Au pairs can provide some childcare in exchange for “pocket money.” Because they live with you, they can work mornings and evenings on a flexible basis, occupying themselves with language study in the middle of the day. Au pairs are primarily in the country for a “cultural exchange,” and are expected to be treated like one of the family.

The working parent juggling act is never easy, but there are services out there trying to help make it work. Good luck!

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