We’ve all been there. You drop your child off at the home of your childcare provider or daycare center and she cries, “Mommy, stay with me! Don’t go!” It rips your heart out. If only I could, you think to yourself. If only there was a way. You turn back and look over the fence. Another woman is comforting your child, wiping her tears. There has to be a way.
As far-fetched as it may seem, have you considered jumping the fence to the other side of the daycare neighborhood and caring for the children of other working parents? Making the move home can be exciting, frightening, expensive, and challenging. However, if your heart really cries to be the primary caregiver to your child throughout the week, you can make it happen.
Inviting other children into your home takes much preparation. You are starting your own business and shouldn’t take it lightly. There is insurance to consider, additional infant furniture to purchase and personal adjustments to make. Let’s look at the logistics of such an ambitious endeavor.
Where do you live? If you are in an apartment, you should limit the number of children in your care. Kids need room to run and can be quite loud at times. Will you be disturbing others? Does your property owner have rules about running a business out of his or her building?
If you live in a condominium or a mobile home park, address the same concerns. Sharing walls or a yard with another family means you have to be especially considerate. If your property owner has specific concerns about liability and possible property damage, you need to meet with him or her to discuss these things.
Is there a playground near your home? Does your apartment complex have a swimming pool? Safety is always your first consideration. If there is any doubt at all about possible hazards, providing at-home childcare is not for you.
If you live in a house, do you have a private yard? Is it fenced all around? Having a fence does not get you off the hook of looking after the children at all times. Kids can find trouble almost anywhere and, when you’re three feet tall, danger lurks in many places.
Do you have pets? Just because Rover is gentle with your child does not mean he can be trusted with everyone. Pets can be protective and territorial. Aggression happens so quickly, one rarely has time to snatch a child away before getting bit or scratched. Many children have allergies or asthma. Always consider your beloved four-legged friend when planning any in-home business.
Can you afford to set up your home appropriately to care for and entertain children? Television cannot be an alternative in this case. Real live children need real live stimulation and attention. While TV has come a long way in children’s programming, nothing replaces actual eye-to-eye interaction and hands-on activities.
You must purchase age-appropriate toys and furniture. Although it’s not necessary to buy new things, use care when shopping for used items. Yard sales and thrift/consignment stores offer fantastic prices on gently-used toys, clothes, and infant and children’s furniture. Do your homework; read the consumer reports.
Will you be taking field trips or going to the park? Will you need car seats or a double stroller? Is your vehicle large enough to accommodate more children?
Consider the actual energy and time required for switching roles and being the provider of care for the children of other working people. Many people need childcare from 6:00 AM until 6:00 PM. While this may seem like an incredibly long day to you, remember the reason you are considering this option in the first place. You are tired of having a “surrogate mother” throughout the week for your child, and this is a way out of that routine that won’t eliminate your income.
By now, you know what you do and do not want in childcare for your family. This helps you greatly in providing peace of mind for other working parents. If the very thought of caring for several other children for 12 hours a day exhausts you, consider offering care for just one or two other children. Many couples would gladly pay extra for a smaller provider-to-child ratio. This brings us to the next consideration – the money.
Obviously, you need income or you wouldn’t be working outside the home now. If you have a very good-paying job, you probably will not match that with only a couple daycare children. Rework your budget and see how much you really need to live a comfortable life—don’t confuse wants with needs. Many parents gladly eat more plain foods, borrow DVDs from the library, and other such cutbacks in order to be the full-time caregivers of their children.
Spend your grocery money on fresh food items; stay away from pre-packaged foods and shop the parameters of the grocery store. Make eating out at restaurants a special treat and not a weekly expectation. Finding ways to cut back can actually be fun. You needn’t be poor to be a stay-at-home mom. However, keeping a frugal mindset will help you in many ways.
If you believe you can make it financially by coming home and caring for the children of other working parents, you need a game plan. You need credibility. Investigate your state and county childcare certification requirements. If you need to register with your state, find out how and take any necessary classes. Learn your state’s child-to-provider ratio mandate.
If there is a referral agency in your area, sign up. If you can, register with the USDA for meal reimbursement. If there is a food co-op for home daycare providers, plan to sign up as soon as you have your first daycare child.
Another important consideration for you to make is: What if you are sick one day and cannot care for the children coming into your home? Do you have someone who will come over at a moment’s notice? Do you have a neighbor who could be a backup in case you had to deal with an emergency? Do you have a friend who will help you during field trips? An extra pair of eyes and hands is vital when going out into the public. Remember that you will have the awesome responsibility of caring for the most precious people in the lives of other parents. You should be able to provide a background check for anyone you enlist to help.
Learn about your competition. Call your local daycare centers to find out what they charge for infants, toddlers, and toddlers who are toilet-trained. Perhaps you could visit some centers to see what they offer in the way of education for the children every day. Set up a program of daily activities of your own.
How much will you charge? When will you expect payment? Will you take personal checks? Debit/credit cards? Make sure you plan to claim all of your childcare income. This is often the largest tax deduction for families. Many parents believe that if you are dishonest with your government, you may be dishonest with them.
You have the budget set. You know how many children you need to care for to make ends meet. You have the extra equipment you’ll need. You have your reliable backup help in place. You know the meals you’ll serve and the age-appropriate activities. Now you’re ready.
Once you are all set up, you need to advertise. If you have registered with a referral agency, you may not need to advertise locally. Families seeking childcare call the agency and get a list of registered providers within their zip code. It is their responsibility to contact and interview you.
While your prospective employers are interviewing you, you are interviewing them. This is your business and you don’t want to be taken advantage of. Make your expectations clear and ask any questions you feel necessary. They will want your references, and you should check theirs. Do they have a good record of paying on time? Have they had personal checks bounce? Do their children have a temperament that will fit into your home comfortably? This is not the time to be either shy or desperate. With the rising percentage of parents joining the workforce, you will probably have as many children to care for as you desire.
If you feel a contract is in your best interest, draw one up. If you are caring for part-time children and are charging by the hour, a parent sign-in and sign-out sheet is necessary for clarity. This is the time to get all of the business details out in the open. Henceforth you and your charge’s parents are a team working together for the good of the child.
Staying home with your child is your motivator. Peace of mind and reliable, loving childcare is what you will be offering others. You can create a win-win situation for yourself and other families. Keep an open door and open communication policy. Always offer loving comments when the parents pick their children up. Stay positive. Never forget “the other side of the fence.”
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