There eventually comes a time when every child enters school for a full day. When that happens, every working parent thinks that they can finally save some money on childcare. My advice: Don’t even think about it.
We’ve employed a few part-time sitters over the past 2 ½ years (since my nanny debacle that I wrote about last week) and I think we’ve hit on a strategy that works. The secret: Treat your part-time childcare provider as though she were full-time--with the same perks and salary guarantees.
Set a Reasonable Salary: Definitely don’t skimp on the hourly wage. When we had a full-time sitter, it cost us $500/week (obviously, weekly salaries vary depending on where you live)—that worked out to be about $8 an hour for a 66-hour work week.
We now pay our part-time sitter, Laura, $15 an hour –nearly double the hourly rate that we paid our full-time nanny. At first $15 hour seemed steep, but we are totally convinced she is worth that amount. There is the tangible work she does: the grocery shopping and other errands; making dinner for the family; supervising the homework; doing the kid’s laundry and shuttling the kids to their daily activities. But there is also the intangible: sitting my son down after a hard day at school and getting him to tell her why he was so down; negotiating the border skirmishes between my two sons; and baking and decorating the most beautiful birthday cupcakes for my son’s birthday. We had two part-time sitters prior to Laura and we paid them less. Guess what? You get what you pay for—neither of those sitters was as effective with the kids or industrious around the house.
Guarantee Weekly Income and Hours: Similar to a full-time employee, part-time workers need to be able to rely on a certain amount of income. We assured Laura when we hired her that she will work at between 16 and 20 hours a week. We also guaranteed regular hours—at least four hours a day 3-7pm, Monday through Thursday. As a college student, she worked her class schedule around my needs so the least we could do was reciprocate.
Give Benefits: Even though Laura is paid by the hour, we give her paid vacations. That means she gets paid for four hours a day even when we go away or have a day off from work. The only time she isn’t paid is when we must pay another sitter to cover hours she is unable to work. We also gave her an annual end-of-year bonus of two weeks salary.
Find A Second Job: Laura is happy with the 16 to 20 hours a week we give her, but the part-time sitter we had prior to Laura needed more hours. So, we found her another job to supplement her income. That showed we valued her enough to try and find a way to keep her.
All told, with the morning program we pay for before school, plus the cost for Laura, we’re nearly paying the same amount as a full-time sitter. But it’s not about the money, right?