Recently, we did a straw poll of the sort of child care related mistakes that we all run into at the beginning of a hectic term. Here are our top 5:
1. Don’t Hire When You Are Desperate
This is a little like the maxim that dictates you shouldn’t go to the supermarket while you are hungry. If you hire child care help when you are desperate, you are likely to find yourself with a “she’ll do” character, rather than the top-notch carer you could find with a little more time.
2. Don’t Underestimate What You’ll Need
On a good day, pick ups and drop offs go swimmingly, baby gurgles happily as you leave for the office, the older children skip in and gaily unpack their Stradivarus violins and proceed to practice Grade 8 scales while doing their algebra. In reality, it is mid November, you have the flu and also a key presentation to give the next day 100 miles away, and the children are desperate for some support and help with homework, school friendships, fresh air for the toddlers and the baby’s nap times are up the spout. It’s tough out there–make sure that you hire a child carer for the bleak times as well as the easy gigs.
3. Workplace Is Unpredictable
You may have adjusted your work patterns to ensure that you see as much of your children as possible, but don’t forget that there are busy weeks at work when you just won’t be able to finish at 5 on the dot. Make sure that you hire someone who can be as flexible as you need them to be. Are they adaptable to changes in routine, how much notice do they need to changes in hours, do they live nearby in case of emergency? Can they cope with the children for longer than you first expected them to?
4. Hire for Stability
As much as possible, hire someone who can commit to at least one entire school year. This gives the carer time to bond, to get used to the job, help see your children through one entire development curve. It is disruptive and hard work to re-hire in the middle of the year, as peak times for hiring tend to occur in tandem with the school and calendar years.
5. Maintain Smooth Relationship with Your Carer
As soon as your new carer is settled in, make sure that you follow our tips for maintaining a smooth relationship with your carer. There is nothing worse than losing a fabulous nanny, au pair, babysitter or childminder just when you thought you were all fixed up for the year, because you forgot about those all important but small details: Pay on time, produce a contract, make yourself available for catch-up times, etc. It’s hassle at the start but it pays dividends in the long run.
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