With some daycares so selective they require you to sign up before you're pregnant, and some jobs requiring unpredictable hours, many moms struggle to find the perfect childcare solution for their families. Whether you can't find a nanny you can afford or you live in a daycare desert, these 10 childcare alternatives bust the myth that you must choose a daycare, nanny or relative if you work.
1. Cooperative Working/Childcare Spaces
Although onsite daycare isn't a new concept, the way the Detroit Parent Collective is approaching it certainly is. They provide quiet co-working spaces, for parents who don't already have office space somewhere, and reliable childcare in the same building. Workers can keep the littlest tots by their desks, and mobile children can go to the onsite daycare, where parents rotate to support the teacher.
2. Wee Wagon
Created by and for moms in film, Wee Wagon is a mobile childcare unit staffed with early childhood professionals that parks itself at different sets and takes care of female employees' kids—a huge help since moms in this industry constantly change sets and work long hours. As of now, the trailer, which is equipped with a pumping station, is available on sets in the West Coast—but the founders say they hope to expand to the East Coast soon.
3. Babies at Work
As part of its Infant at Work program, the Arizona Department of Health allows employees to bring their babies to work and stay at their cubicle. In case you're wondering how this plays out, the program has been so successful, other Arizona departments have followed suit, as well as Indiana-based advertising and public relations agency Borshoff, who has their own "Bring Your Baby to Work" program. And so does Badger Healthy Body Care in New Hampshire. Their Babies at Work program allows parents to bring in infants up 6-months-old, who aren't yet crawling.
4. YMCA Early Education
Sure, the YMCA offers standard part- and full-day early education programs, but moms looking for part-time work can also apply to be childcare associates ... and get paid to watch other kids along with their own. Many YMCAs also have a Childwatch program where you can bring your child for up to two hours, while you work out or use the onsite computers—and it tends to be completely free for members.
5. ChildTime Flex Care
If you only need childcare occasionally, say, when daycare closes for a winter break or your sitter quits before you find a new one, ChildTime lets parents buy five days at a time on a prepaid card and reserve a spot just 48 hours in advance. There are multiple locations in 19 states, so you can check here to see if any are close to home.
6. Grandmas at Gma Village
Some families don’t have the option of having Grandma nearby for babysitting. But if you happen to live in California, you might just be able to hire one. Crowdsourcing site Gma Village allows families to hire prescreened, health-and-safety-trained grandmas full-time, part-time or just once to watch youngsters.
7. Hobbies Day Camps
If you have an active or creative kid who easily gets bored with a babysitter or at daycare, he or she might be happier at a “day camp” on days off. Rico’s Martial Arts in Nevada offers a high-energy and structured daycare from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., on holidays, spring break or on staff-in-service school days off. Is your kid not into martial arts? Rebounders Gymnastics in Maryland has half- and full-day options for when school is out. Check with local businesses to see what’s available—the results might surprise you.
8. High School Daycare Programs
Who could possibly be a more eager teacher than an excited and energized high school student? Some high schools offer daycare services inside, where the instructors are students who are enrolled in an early-childhood class and want to gain experience working with children, while working under the guidance of grown-up pros. Programs like this exist across the country, so research your local high schools to see if it's available.
9. Intergenerational Daycare
While it might not be the most obvious option, many nursing homes and assisted living facilities are doubling as childcare providers. The elderly residents love having young'uns around, and the kids are thrilled to have such a rapt audience at their disposal. Such centers already exist in Seattle, Grand Rapids, MI and Los Angeles](https://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/17/day-care-for-all-ages/).
10. Sharing your Home with Students and Recent Grads
If you’ve got extra space, consider opening your home to a caregiver. Instead of an au pair from another country, you can find a struggling student or recent grad for the semester/year. College students have large breaks and holidays off, which make them the perfect fit to watch little kids. It's an easy trade-off: shelter for childcare.