Though you are technically in school, a PhD program is going to be much more work intensive than an undergraduate or even master’s program. You will need a full work week to dedicate to your studies every week. I know we all want to be seen as super moms and dads who can of course watch the kids, study, write an award-winning book, and bake beautiful cupcakes on a lazy Monday, but reality is to focus you must have some time without being primary childcare. There are many options for childcare, each with their own positives and negatives.
1) Check your school for subsidized childcare options.
Some schools offer subsidized childcare to students and employees as a benefit. Sometimes, these are stand alone childcare facilities, but many times they incorporate the school’s early childhood education program. These subsidies can reduce the cost substantially and these programs are typically top-notch.
2) Ask family or friends to watch your child at a reduced cost.
Many students have their parents watch their children during the day. This type of childcare has the added benefit of a more secure relationship between your child and their grandparents. Despite sounding convenient and inexpensive to many, this option is not open to all. A similar option is to ask a stay-at-home parent friend if they would like to watch your child in addition to their own. This option gives trustworthy and local care without a huge price tag.
3) Hire a “Mother’s Helper” to play with your children while you are in the home.
Several of the teens and preteens in our neighborhood are more than happy to pick up hours acting as a mother’s helper for less than minimum wage. In this situation, the hired helper typically plays with the children while you are in the home. You do not have to worry about the safety of your children as they are close by and you will not have to pay for a full-fledged sitter. This option is limited to your feelings about working with the children in the home and limiting your ability to attend on-site meetings and classes. In addition, you are tied to hours which teens would be available, typically after school hours.
4) Look into traditional home or center daycares
This option may be out of reach for many. Full time daycare at a reputable center typically has costs similar to rent per child each month. If you have more than 1 child, your stipend most likely will not cover this type of full time care. To reduce cost, you may wish to limit the days your children are in care or put them in a half-day program. Using center daycares and preschools on a limited basis give your child the benefits of a daycare, including the learning activities and social interaction, with a reduced cost. You also have the option of segmenting your work into more intellectually strenuous work to do while the children are out of the house and less intense work which may be done with the distractions children may bring.
5) Hire a full time nanny or au pair.
This is typically the most expensive option. There may be exceptions, i.e. if you have more than 2 children or live in a particularly high cost of living area. A nanny typically has set hours during the week and will come to your home, though flexible arrangements are possible. An au pair will typically live in your home and have a set number of hours which they are allowed to work on a flexible basis. It is important to reflect how hiring help in your home will affect your interpersonal relationships with your children and your spouse. In addition, au pair assignments are usually 1 year in length and most do not get renewed. As such, you will have to weigh introducing your children to a new caretaker every year.
What childcare options do you use to get your work done? Do you use one of the above options, a different option, or a combination?