Childcare can get complicated when you’re a work-at-home mom. As I’ve said before, as a freelance writer I try to do as much work in as little child-free time as possible. Since I’ve never been one of those writers who can work at 5am or 10pm (I value my sleep too much), I usually have to hire someone to watch my kids while I work. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like forking over a big chunk of your paycheck to a sitter to light a fire under you. Forget procrastinating!
However, this can lead to complex equations to determine how to get the most possible bang for my childcare bucks. While I’m wrestling over hourly rates, please enjoy this post from my archives. I wrote it when my firstborn was 13mos old and I had just hired a regular sitter.
So now that I have some backup for a few hours a week, naturally I want to make the most of my child-free time. I find myself engaging in these complicated calculations. For instance, I can’t decide if I should work out when my sitter’s here, or take Miles to the gym with me. The daycare at my gym charges $5 per child for two hours. Great deal, right? Except that they don’t change diapers and they won’t hesitate to page you loudly over the intercom if your child stinks up the place or won’t stop crying.
So, I could either:
a) pay $5 and potentially enjoy 120 minutes to myself (only 40 minutes of that time actually engaged in exercise; the rest spent sitting on the mat “stretching” and reading Us Weekly.)
b) pay a sitter $10 an hour and let her deal with the diapers and tantrums.
c) combine my workout with watching my son by taking him for a walk in the stroller — free, but no magazines or air conditioning.
Another mom math problem goes like this: is a $3.75 frappucino worth 15 minutes of cool refreshment, or is that money better spent on:
a) approximately 22 minutes of babysitting (at a rate of $10 an hour or roughly 17 cents per minute),
b) 3.75 songs downloaded from iTunes, or
c) a small tube of store-brand diaper rash cream.
The hardest to justify are the rare date nights my husband and I plan. We usually have the sitter come in time to feed Miles dinner at 6 pm; however, we’re often still getting ready and don’t actually leave the house immediately. Then, it’s too early to go to dinner and too late for an early movie. But the clock is ticking. We don’t want to go over that four-hour mark, or the night will really end up costing us some cash.
And, admit it. Doesn’t it bug you to pay someone to watch “Law & Order” while your child is sleeping peacefully? I almost feel a perverse sense of justice when the baby has a tough time going to bed when we’re out. At least the sitter had to WORK for her money!!
As we all know, though, a good sitter is worth her weight in frappucinos. If it weren’t for my sitter, I wouldn’t have the luxury of standing around the supermarket on a Tuesday afternoon debating whether the organic bananas are worth the extra cost, or if the pesticide-sprayed but cheaper ones are fine since you don’t eat the skin.
Come to think of it, Miles doesn’t mind the supermarket. Next time I’ll bring him along and save my sitter time for something more valuable. Hmmm… Is my $10 an hour better spent catching up on e-mail or bathing suit shopping?