Let’s talk about child care- shall we?! I honestly could chat about this for ages. And no one seems to talk about it! Being a mom is really important to me and spending quality time with my son is a priority. But I also like to get things done. I feel happier when I have a project to do and a little time on my own.
Note, this is a sensitive subject so I’m officially calling this a judgement free zone. I’m sharing what works best for my family, but I know other things work for other families. I’m trying to raise the happiest kids I can and so I hope you’ll join in this post as a discussion and brainstorming session with me!
Second note, for even more ideas, I really suggest listening to the Awesome with Alison podcast. On episode 77 “But Who’s Going to Watch the Kids?” she goes deep into child care and it’s such a good conversation!
what we did this year
This fall my son started preschool. We started with a 3 day preschool that he attended for 2 hours each day. Besides being at our house or with family, Don (my 4 year old) hadn’t been watched by anyone else. So I was nervous about preschool. But it went great! He loved it and I felt great that he was playing with kids his age and learning things.
Right when he started preschool, he gave up his nap and all of the sudden I lost 2 hours of getting computer work done. I became overwhelmed in work and felt like I was drowning. So in October, I found a second preschool that he could attend the other 2 days a week. Preschool is so affordable! For me, this was the best way to find budget friendly child care that I felt good about.
For this school year, he attended preschool 5 days a week for 2 hours. It was my new “get stuff done” time and I treasured every minute. For 10 hours a week, my son is at preschool and the rest of the time he is mostly with me. It’s a good fit for our family and the age/stage my son is in.
I’ll be honest though, as summer has been approaching, I have been feeling a little panicked. When will I do my computer work? How will I get a little time to myself?! I’m excited for the warm weather and hanging out with my son outside and doing fun summer stuff. But I’ve still got to get stuff done!
Finally, I’ve took the time to put together a game plan that I feel really good about. I thought that I’d share in case anyone else is nervous about summer too.
how to get things done with kids home this summer
I’m going to share what works for my family. I hope some of these ideas helps you! Because we all need time without our kids and that is ok.
outside child care
Ok, I’m starting off with one that can be hard for people. Honestly this was a hard one for me, how do you even find someone you trust to watch your kid? I never felt comfortable with it until this winter- I came up with the idea that I could find a sitter and she could watch my son while I was in another room of the house working. That felt comfortable and safe to me.
And you don’t even need to do work to try this idea out, you can take a bath or watch TV or whatever you want to do. I just want to put it out there that it’s ok to get a sitter even if it’s just to have some alone time.
We moved to a new city this year and I didn’t know any babysitters, so I posted on a local Facebook classified page and found a few applicants. On my post I mentioned that I would be home during the time they were there and the pay rate ($10/hour) so there wouldn’t be any surprises.
P.s. I’m putting every detail on here even though it makes me a little uncomfortable. I just wish I’d had something like this to read when I was trying to find child care. I live in a small rural community and $10 per hour is the going rate here for watching one child.
Next, I checked references and did a 30 minute (paid) interview with the person I liked best. For the first 15 minutes, we chatted so I could get to know her and I gave her my expectations (i.e. no TV and I like toys to be cleaned up before she leaves). For the next 15 minutes, I had her play with Don while I was in the next room listening. I wanted to make sure Don was comfortable and I felt good with how they played.
When that went well, I scheduled one day a week for 2-3 hours for her to come babysit. I have certain work tasks that I do every week while the sitter is watching Don. Or I work on renovating if we have a big project. She is really fun for Don and they have a great time together!
child care trade
If paying for a sitter isn’t an option, maybe you can find a parent who’ll trade child care! I wish I had a mom friend here to do this with! It’s a great way to socialize your kid for free.
When I was a teenager, a group of moms in my neighborhood did this 5 days a week. There were 5 moms and on each weekday, one mom would watch all the kids for 2 hours. Then one Saturday a month, they’d pay for a sitter (sometimes me) and all the moms would go to lunch together! So fun!
My mother in law is amazing and takes Don to do things for a few hours on some Saturdays (or they play at her house). He loves hanging out with my in laws and I love that they’re building a strong relationship. She is the reason I can get projects done on Saturdays!
Check with your family and see if they want some time to hang out with your kids. Even one hour each week can really feel like a nice break.
Don will be doing a dinosaur camp this summer once 2 hours each month for the summer. He is so excited for this as he’s super obsessed with dinosaurs! His preschool also has a few camps that we might sign him up for.
Look at local rec centers, zoos, and museums for kid activities that your kids will love. Sports, dance, art classes, music lessons- it’s a great way to get some extra time while your child learns.
For this summer, I still have my sitter coming 3 hours once a week when she’s available. But I still felt like I needed more help. I found on my trusty Facebook classified group a suggestion for a summer preschool that ended up being right by my house. It’s 3 days a week for 2 hours for most of the summer. There’s a few weeks off for holidays, but I was THRILLED when I found this option!
Don doesn’t get a lot of chances to play with kids when he’s not in school, so this felt really good for me. It’s a win win situation. It’s less time than in the school year, so he gets a break, but he still learns and I get some work time.
Side note, again, I’m a little nervous to put this out there. Don loves school and I need a little work time so this is the best fit for our family. He’ll have plenty of time for summer fun- I promise 💗.
I just wanted to put the idea out there that if you have a preschooler, there might be a place in your city that has an option for you.
encourage independent play
So now you know that I’ll have my son in summer preschool and will have a sitter come over once a week, so what about the rest of the time?
First of all, I really like to encourage independent play. There’s all sorts of research for how good this is for kid’s brain and creativity so we embrace this at my house. Here’s how I like to facilitate this-
- I set a timer on my phone and play with my son for 15-20 minutes. And I focus all my energy on having fun with him and setting up a really fun play area.
- For the next 5 minutes, I sort of fade out and let him play while I start doing something next to him. This is when I do projects like paint furniture (you can see an example on this video). I strategically set him up playing next to my work area.
- Then I do my project while he plays. He has fun and we sometimes chat. I play music on my phone while we both do our thing. It is great!
Here’s another variation I do that works to start independent play.
- I start a project that I know my son will find fun and I figure out a way for him to help. Note- before starting the project, I set up toys close to where I’ll be working.
- As he looses interest, he starts playing with the toys next to me. He knows that if he wants to play with mom, he needs to help on the project or he can play with the toys.
- Again, we work/play next together, both happy.
set a schedule
On the days my son isn’t at school and we don’t have any place to be, I make sure to set a schedule. This helps so we don’t just waste the day away and actually do things. One thing about independent play is that your kid needs to feel loved and fulfilled. I just find that if my son feels neglected, he won’t leave me alone to work. Here’s some things I do to spend quality with him.
- Exercise- we watch a YouTube video that’s 10-15 minutes and do yoga or step or a dance party together
- Arts and Crafts- next, we paint or draw or do sticker time at the table. If that goes well, he practices letters.
- Backyard Watering- we walk our whole backyard and water and see what’s growing. It might be my favorite part of the day
- Independent Play- he plays while I work on a project
- Walk- take the dogs for a walk or go to the park or the duck pond or a little free library
- Bake- make something in the kitchen
- Independent Play
- Activity of the Day- go to the thrift shop or the craft shop. Stop by the library or farmer’s market. We’re also trying to visit each park in our city this summer so we do that’ll go in this time slot
- TV time- I’ll do computer work while he watches a show. I also put out toys in the hope he does more than watch TV
- Family walk/games/bike ride
- Clean up of toys/clutter
- Bed time
know what you want to accomplish
This is a really important note- make a list of things you want to accomplish each day. That way, you can really focus when you have time! Have you ever spent 45 minutes on IG stories and Facebook? And then wondered where the time went? Me too! But if you want to get things done with a kid around, you have to prioritize your goals.
Know what you want to get done, have it written down, and have the supplies on hand so you can do what needs to get done. You will feel better at the end of the day knowing you did what your goal was.
Side note, take advantage of sleeping time. For me, currently evenings between 9-11pm is when I get a bunch of computer time done while I watch a show with my husband. I’ve also woken up early to get stuff done. Walking down the hall used to wake my son up, so I’d put my laptop in my room and work in bed. Just some hints in case you have the same issue!
I really feel passionate that if you’re happy as a mom, your kid will notice and it’ll shape them. No one wants a mom who feels depleted and unfulfilled. It’s ok to make time to do what sets you on fire. And you can do it with kids. In fact, you should show your little ones that going after your dreams is your priority so they can know to go after there’s too.