Creative Childcare Solutions for Life in NYC

Two kids in NYC playing in a playground with childcare giver, Creative childcare s

If it takes a whole village to raise one child, then thank goodness I live in New York City.

As a stay-at-home mom of four on the Upper East Side, I’m grateful for my network of friends, babysitters, and neighbors who help when I need to be multiple places at once. Within 15 minutes of both my babysitters calling in sick today, I recruited a neighbor to monitor my sleeping toddler and a classmate’s dad to pick up my twins from Kindergarten while I hopped on the bus to collect my third from preschool.

Finding last-minute creative childcare solutions that are affordable means embracing our beloved city. While some parents might be daunted by the thought of raising kids in New York City, especially when family lives across the country, there are certain characteristics of NYC life that work in moms and dads favor when it comes to childcare.

Love your neighborhood

Take advantage of high population density. Look for a sitter in your local neighborhood so her punctuality isn’t at the mercy of traffic or transit delays. If you can’t find someone nearby, prioritize childcare givers who live near a reliable subway.

The jackpot is finding childcare help in your own apartment building. Ask your doorman for leads. Don’t rule out younger babysitters—they could call their mom for reinforcement if needed. There’s a mother-daughter pair in our building who used to babysit together. Now that she’s a teenager, the daughter babysits independently.

Neighbors are also an invaluable childcare resource when you need to run out to the doctor or grocery store and would rather not drag your kids along in the wintery mix. The family down the hall is a great opportunity for babysitting playdates.

Treat your quiet apartment like a hot commodity

Once the kids are in bed, your apartment is a priceless destination for those lacking personal space. Your quiet living room provides a refuge for single friends escaping roommate drama or married couples craving breathing room. By recruiting a friend to watch Netflix at your place, you can have a night out without draining your bank account.

If you pay a higher rate for a daytime nanny because you have multiple kids, going out after bedtime could save you some money. When the kids are asleep, many high school and college students would be eager to earn $15/hour while working on their homework rather than $20/hour while actively watching several children.

Invest in future babysitters

Hire a pre-teen as a mother’s helper during school breaks or after school, which is likely when you need the most help. With NYC transit options aplenty, she won’t need a parent to drop her off. She will love the early babysitting experience, your kids will love the helper’s youth and energy, and your wallet will thank you for finding a $5-$10/hour option. In a few years, you will have effectively trained a fully-fledged babysitter who can handle a multi-kid bedtime routine or adventure to Central Park.

Meanwhile, befriend 5-star nannies at the playground and library—the ones who actively engage the kids rather than their phone and have mastered the stroller lunch, diaper change and nap. They may have friends of the same caliber who are looking for hours.

Start a nanny share

Instead of hiring a full-time nanny, share one nanny’s time with another family. Think strategically about her hours. For instance, avoid unnecessarily paying a nanny while your child is at school. Nannies can work mornings for one family and afternoons for another or switch off days to fit with a parent’s work schedule.

A quality nanny can also watch children from two families simultaneously. For instance, one year I hired a neighbor’s nanny to stay home with my napping toddler while I picked up my older kids from school. I split the cost of the nanny with the other family for the hour she was watching both our daughters. Jointly, the nanny made $22/hour rather than the $18/hour she made with one family, so it was a win-win for all. Interested in starting a nanny share? View available nanny shares in NYC.

Put your friendships into action

Take turns with family friends picking up or watching each other’s kids after school so you have time to run errands or work out. With walking and NYC transit as school commute options, you won’t be limited by the number of seats—or car seats—in a friend’s car. When swapping childcare hours with friends, money doesn’t change hands.

If a friend needs a regular sitter but you don’t, she can hire you. She rests assured her kids are in good hands, you earn some spending cash, and the kids have the benefit of a regular playdate. I’ve seen this work well in a full-time childcare situation too. The working mom drops off her kids with a stay-at-home mom during the day. The parents’ friendship flourished, and the kids became best friends.

Search your social connections

Ready to hire a sitter but need more recommendations? Spread the word to your social circle. If someone isn’t available, their friends may be. Ask:

  • Your child’s teacher
  • Your regular sitter’s roommates
  • Sunday school volunteers
  • Childcare workers at your gym
  • Alumni from your college
  • College babysitting groups
  • Local chapter of your sorority
  • Co-workers
  • Unemployed friends
  • Babysitters you meet at school pick-up
  • Neighborhood moms groups

Celebrate your solutions

As your childcare needs and sitter availability shift through the seasons, cycle back through the search process. At least now you won’t be starting from scratch! Press on until you find the right childcare solutions for you—that holiday party beckons and your new favorite babysitter maybe just a couple conversations or a few blocks away.

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Kristin Van de Water is a former journalist and teacher who relies on humor, faith, and her mom crew to get her through the day. Raising four kids in a two-bedroom NYC apartment, Kristin is always on the lookout for life hacks to save time, space, money, and her sanity. Check out her blog, Pinterest, and Facebook!

The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.

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