Parents seeking childcare in today’s world are often trying to find something that falls outside of the traditional 9-to-5 model. When you consider that most parents these days either work odd shift hours, or a hybrid of office and remote work from home, childcare providers have to move away from the norm to best accommodate the needs of parents in a post-pandemic world. In this article, we will examine what sort of arrangements need to be made to meet this new demand and look at statistics that point to the need for customized childcare services.
The New Direction
Certain conditions have led to the need for a shift in how childcare services are delivered. The new work model, which contains a mixture of remote and office days, and the ever-increasing cost of childcare has pushed for a change. The new direction is a service that is customized to where it has been configured to fit the needs of today’s parents. This may involve care provided by a parent two days a week, a babysitter two more days a week, and a childcare provider the rest of the week—all at different hours of the day to fit the working schedule of the parents involved. It has become a new challenge in providing a service that is so badly needed.
Statistics Show Why Changes Must Take Place
The 9th annual Cost-of-Care survey conducted recently by Care.com revealed that 51% of U.S. parents claim they will be spending over 20% of their income this year on child care. That exceeds the federal government’s definition of affordable at 7%. The survey also showed that only 31% of parents spent that much in 2019 because of the soaring costs. Plus, it is those costs that will impact how and where childcare services are delivered in the long term.
What They Had to Say
Care.com CEO Tim Allen says the numbers indicate a huge change. “Families are coming to look for childcare that they can work into the new world order” of remote work or hybrid schedules. He says parents no longer need the traditional 9-to-5 nanny or daycare service anymore. “They need two days a week, or they need someone to pick up the child from school and then stay for a couple of hours while they’re at work.”
UrbanSitter co-founder and CEO Lynn Perkins says she has noticed the same trend developing along with parents working together in groups to pooling resources. She says these groups, known during the pandemic as pods, would then share a nanny who would work a couple of days a week in this home, a couple of days a week in another, and so on. She says that families are trying to find a single care provider who they can guarantee so many hours a week, but require flexibility within that. “Parents are saying, ‘Hey, I need at least four afternoons a week in this time range, but I’m somewhat flexible.”
More Stats from the Care.com Survey
The Care.com survey on childcare revealed some rather interesting facts. For example, the most expensive place to hire a nanny, at the average weekly rate of $855, is Washington, DC. The next-highest rates were $840 (Washington State), $834 (Massachusetts), $829 (California), and $763 (Colorado). The survey, which was conducted earlier in the year, contained responses from 3,003 adult participants.
The survey also discovered that weekly nanny rates took a sizable jump during the pandemic—increasing as much as 23%—from a U.S.-wide average of $565 weekly in 2019 for one child to $694 a week. After-school babysitting also increased during the same timeframe, but only 7% to a national weekly average rate of $261. Conversely, rates at childcare centers went up just 5% to $226 weekly. The hitch here is that even though it’s a great rate by comparison, there just aren’t enough seats available in childcare centers. In other words, if you have a space for your child, you are extremely lucky.
It Is an Economic Issue
Care.com CEO Tim Allen calls the situation an economic issue “not only for families but for all Americans.” He says that with less disposable income to spend on other things, and more required to pay for childcare, families struggle to make ends meet. As parents’ needs shift to accommodate the new working arrangements in place, Allen says, “you’re starting to see more nannies who are picking up multiple jobs” to supplement their income and families covering their childcare needs for the week by hiring more than one sitter.
Plus, in-home daycare and daycare centers are not normally a consideration as the costs put both of these out of reach for the average American household. In other words, both of these options have become considered luxuries that only a certain demographic can afford. This is particularly true for parents who do not have a work-from-home job. These are the parents who rely on the “patchwork” care model.
The Quality of Providers Has Also Shifted
One of the biggest changes to come from the increased cost of childcare is the quality of the service providers. For example, the field has attracted tutors, occupational therapists, former teachers, daycare workers, and more. The downside to the level of expertise these business professionals have has contributed to pushing childcare fees up. There is a silver lining to this trend—it means that service providers will finally make some decent money after being underpaid for many years, but it does not really make a better childcare system.
Today’s work-from-home or hybrid work schedule is not a 9-to-5 configuration. This means that childcare services must adapt to meet these unique situations. This appears to be happening as parents utilize more than one source of child care to fill their needs. Flexibility is the key, and it seems to be working these days. However, the cost of childcare is slowly slipping out of reach for most Americans, and this is a problem that needs to be addressed and resolved soon.
Sandra Chiu works as Director at LadyBug & Friends Daycare and Preschool