Backup Sitters

As a working mom, I consider myself relatively lucky: I have a pretty “portable” job. If need be, I can work at home fairly easily. If O is sick, if I’m sick, if a “real” White Death hits the Cincinnati-metro area—I don’t have to worry about my job too, too much. I will be able to get most of my work done. I have a laptop, internet connection, and phone. As a writer, that’s about all I need.

(But I’m not saying it’s easy to work at home with a toddler. Definitely not. He watches waaaay more TV than I’d like, and when I work at home I feel like I have try extra hard to always be available, answer requests and emails quickly—even moreso than when I’m at work! I gotta make sure no one thinks I’m goofing off. I’m practically tethered to my computer, which can be stressful.)

But a lot of working moms can’t work from home if their children are sick, if there is a snowstorm, etc. They have to go to work—whether it’s for financial reasons, they can’t perform their job from home—whatever.

So what do working moms do then? I’m curious.

Do you and your husband/partner switch days? What if you don’t have a husband/partner? Or he/she works a job where he/she needs to bet there, too?

Some moms might turn to family to help out, but what about those moms who can’t do that, either? Maybe their family doesn’t live close by, or maybe the family all works, too!

Do you find a “back-up” sitter for just those days? How do you find the sitter? Does it work out? How do you get over that initial trust factor of letting someone you don’t really know, and can’t be monitored, watch your child?

I’ve been tempted to try to find a back-up sitter for days when *I’m* sick and don’t feel like schlepping O to daycare. Or if he’s sick and can’t go to daycare–but I have lots of meetings and working from home isn’t really an option. But the thought that there is this perfect sitter that’s available whenever I may call her seems… um, unreal. Am I wrong?

20 thoughts on “Backup Sitters

  1. Eliza & Sophia says:

    I am new to your blog, but thanks to Real Simple Magazine I found you!
    This is a huge issue I am having and am looking forward to hear what other readers do. My twin 2 year olds just began daycare. So, in the past when I had sitters coming to my house to watch them, getting sick was not a big ordeal. The way we have dealt with it so far is that my husband will usually take half of the day home with them and I take the other half. If the sickness persists longer than a day or two we usually have to call our mothers who live an hour’s drive away. They have come to our house or in the worst case scenarios we have met them halfway and exchanged vehicles. No matter what it always seems to be an exhausting issue to deal with. Is it possible to have someone waiting at my beckon call? I am willing to pay almost anything not to have to stress about it!

  2. I’ve been the sitter “on call” for sick kids. childcare has been my life since I was 15, I wish I was close enough to do it for you! I don’t do childcare full time anymore but am always glad to be available to a sick child – or a sick mom! Wish I could help you out!

    It IS possible to have someone in the background at your beck and call. Finding them however is something I don’t know how to help with!


  3. Some daycare centers have “sick” care. Where I live, Rainbow Station has a room where kids can come for half or a full day when they’re too sick to go to their regular daycare. There are some rules so that they don’t get kids who are seriously ill, but those with the low grade fever who can’t go back to regular daycare for a day would fit in. You pay to be “registered” for this service, then you pay based on how long your child is there during the day. My fear has always been that there are even more germs there, but if you have no other choice… Also, one of my husband’s work benefits is something called Bright Beginnings. They offer back up care for children (and senior adults) at licensed centers, or in your home. This would be if your kid is sick, or if your regular daycare isn’t available (for example, my daughter’s daycare decided to close for the first time this year on Martin Luther King Day, when noone I know is off work; I could have used it then).

  4. just4ofus says:

    Jason and I usually switch off days taking turns.
    If not, like last week when my sitter’s kids were sick, well I turned to a friend.
    Thank god for her. She saved us.
    I think it is good to have back up, but it isn’t easy to find and it is hard to trust some random stranger.

  5. I have no idea how to find backup childcare, but I wish I could.

    My mother-in-law watches my daughter, which means I can go to work when she’s (daughter) sick, if I have to. But when my mother-in-law is sick (or has a dr. appointment, or has something important to do that can only be done during the day), I have to stay home (or my husband does; just depends who can get the day off).

    We have no other family in town and I don’t have anyone else I can turn to in these situations. That’s why we don’t plan vacations — we use all our vacation time to stay home with our daughter when her grandma can’t watch her.

  6. Well, my mom is retired and only lives 45 minutes away, so on days where I need a back up, I can often rely on her.

    With sicknesses though, I tend to take the time off or sometimes alternate with DH.

  7. It’s always a panic. I hate it when people ask what I do, and I say that I am an engineer and a writer that works from home, and they say “you are so lucky”. While I do realize I have worked out a great arrangement, I still have the same childcare concerns. And when I am booked, I am booked. There is no way out. The other day, my sitter called me the night before I was to lead a webinar for 20 paying customers all over the US. My husband had something on his calendar, and I was trying to figure out how I could possibly juggle my 5 month while broadcasting. Put the portacrib in front of the TV and pray he doesn’t scream? Luckily, my husband was able to take the day off. But every single time this happens, there is some kind of a “my job is more important than your job” standoff that makes both of us feel like garbage. We’re struggling to find a good solution.

  8. Funny that I ran across this blog, because just today I was faced with this problem. I had to miss work because my 16-month-old had fallen ill overnight (vomiting). It’s been a problem ever since I’ve gone back to work. So far we’ve taken turns taking the day off and have discussed taking a half-day off each in the future. But like you, we realize that we need to find a back-up person, which is very hard to even think about. I have trust issues and feel as though we’d be opening our home and subjecting our child to a stranger. I’m happy to hear what others have to say about this topic.

  9. Deb - Mom of 3 Girls says:

    We struggle with this all of the time. Neither my husband or I have jobs where we can work from home. I have paid sick days, but not very many of them. My hubby can take (some) time off, but it’s unpaid. We try to switch off if one of us needs to stay home, but it’s always difficult, especially if for more than a day. We have a neighbor who can watch our kids as a backup, but only if they’re not sick (like when our daycare provider is on vacation).

  10. Family doesn’t live close to us, although I am sure my Mom would travel here if we needed her…

    My husband is in real estate, and can juggle his schedule a little more than my corporate job. So we trade off.

    I know there are sick daycares out there, but none in my area.

  11. Anything Else? says:

    These situations basically eat up most of my PTO days during the year. All of my babysitters are employees at the daycare that I use, so they can’t be used for backups – I am lucky to have my parents living 10 minutes away (and Mom who I can usually count on to be home).
    I am lucky that my office allows me to take additional days during the year with out pay, but I would love to get hooked up so that I can work from home a day or two a week – these days it seems most jobs can accommodate that – all you need is a computer, phone and internet hookup!

  12. RookieMom Heather says:

    My husband and I have been trading days or splitting days to care for our toddler and baby when they’re sick. I would exactly say it’s working well. The back-up sitter is a nice idea in theory, but seems like hard to secure (especially if baby is feeling sick or otherwise vulnerable).

    Anyway, I’m about to leave my job to get that baby and take him to the doctor…

  13. So… I guess my assumption was right–finding a perfect backup sitter that’s ready at your beck and call is pretty darn hard.

    Le sigh.

    O’s dad never takes time off of work, we don’t have any family nearby, so it’s a struggle. Even though I can work from home, sometimes my son needs me. Or, heaven forbid, I’m sick, and just unable. Plus, while I applaud working at home, I think when we do it when we are sick or our kids our sick, it contributes to the “never disconnected/never shut off” culture working America tends toward sometimes.

    We only get four (!!) sick days a year, and while I can take paid-time off, it’s not like I can afford it. I guess I just gotta deal, huh?

  14. sittercity.com, perhaps?

  15. The Q Family says:

    I’m so glad to find your blog. I have been lurking on the blogosphere for a week and mostly ran into SAHM sites. I have nothing against anyone choice. I’m just glad to find blog that I can relate to my everyday life.

    So I’m the lucky one who has a family that we can rely on. My hubby is the only child so his parents move to be closer to the grandkids. So we pretty much rely on them in case of an emergency. But most of the time, for doctor appointment, sick day we will just take turn. Plus both of our jobs can easily be done from home. So that helps as well.

  16. Just yesterday I found myself going crazy trying to find a “back up” sitter. You see, my sitter is expecting again and I know that prengnacy is difficult. I have continued to ask her when enough is enough and she has to let me know. So- I decided to search for sitters. This is one of the hardest task as I find myself in guilt having to leave my eleven month old anyways. Thank you for your blogs… I love them. I am putting you on my blogroll! thanks again!

  17. Anonymous says:

    I am SOOOOOOOO interested in this issue. It has absolutely governed my life every week of this new year (2008). Our dau. goes to PT preschool 3 days per week. However, she is 18 mo. old and so she picks up EVERY SINGLE bug out there! So far in 2008, she has gone one week, gotten sick, been home a week, then gone back, gotten, sick… you get the idea. Last week she had PINK EYE! Two weeks before, cold, viral infection, killer fever, then viral rash!!! I work for myself so I have some flexibility but I still have things scheduled 6-8 weeks in advance and things I cannot change. I think what bothers me the most is the hit to my reputation and career. “BC” (before children), I was able to pride myself on being reliable, hardworking, productive, profitable, etc. etec. etc. Now I feel like I have almost no value, EXCEPT as my DD’s mom. We have no family close by and cannot find ANYONE, not even nice little old church ladies, to come in to our home on days when our baby is sick. My friend with a 4 y.o. swears to me that it will get better. She had better be right!! 🙂

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