Sunday, June 3, 2012

What do YOU do for Child Care When Traveling?

It's been a tough few weeks in my household. First there was a proposal deadline, and hard on the heels of that, I'm about to disappear for a week for work travel.

It's hard enough managing things when I'm away for a week at a time. My husband has to pick up the slack on child care, which usually translates to taking vacation time, since day care hours generally aren't long enough for him to work a full day in between.

But what do you do if you want to go away for longer? There are institutes, schools, and fellowships of various sorts which can allow a researcher to spend months at a time at a different institution, not to mention sabbaticals. Sounds wonderful, except what happens with the kids? Since my husband can't simply up and leave his job, one or the other of us would be a single parent for the duration.

I have certainly passed up some opportunites for long-term travel such as this, precisely because of the child care issue.

So what do you do? Surely others out there have encountered this issue before. What have been your solutions? Or do I just have to wait until the kids go to college?

9 comments:

Eilat said...

We have a wonderful college student babysitter who helps us out in the post-daycare hours 2-3 times per week. Our babysitter is highly qualified; she is majoring in early childhood education at the local college. We "discovered" her at my kids' preschool; she was working part time in the after hours. Many preschools hire high school and college kids so their staff can go home at 3:30 or 4pm. Lots of kids get picked up by then, so the aftercare is usually staffed by part-timers. If your kids are not in preschool, you should talk to the local preschool director and see if any part-timers can be recommended.

What my sitter does is 2-3 days a week (we have a schedule) she picks my son up at the bus stop after school around 3:45pm, then drives him down to my daughter's preschool, picks her up and takes them to the library or the park. She brings them home around 6-6:30pm. This allows me to stay at work later on those days (otherwise I have to leave by 4:45pm to get to my daughter's preschool in time for pick up). On days when one of us is traveling she hangs out a little extra after dropping off the kids so that dinner can be prepared without chaos. We pay her $10/hour.

This summer she is providing 2 1/2 weeks of full time care when camps/daycares are closed, etc.

So, I highly recommend finding a good reliable babysitter that can help out in the after school hours. Going through a preschool means someone has vetted her (or him!) for you and that the person genuinely likes kids and knows basic things like CPR, etc. That way your husband doesn't have to take vacation days anymore (or at least fewer of them) when you are traveling. It makes single parenting a lot easier.

Unknown said...

I strongly second Eliat's comment. Figure out how to afford some kind of regular help. Most of us don't have family nearby to fill that role. If you have someone else with the kids on a regular basis then it ts less stress all around when mom or dad are gone. I traveled what seemed like all the time when my son was little. The longest stint was a month away. And yes, there were things I didn't do because I just didn't want to be away from home again. When I was a post-doc I recall being asked by a senior member of the team if my husband was coming with me to a team meeting in Europe. Post-doc salary? Child Care? Are you nuts? My son is now in college and last November, for the first time, my husband accompanied me on a business trip to Europe. You can look forward to eventually having fewer travel restrictions. Good luck sorting out the present.

Eowyn said...

It is a tough trade-off. We have neither relatives nor a good babysitter at hand, so it is a matter of careful planning when I or my husband travels.
For each trip I make sure that
1. There is something in it for me, such as giving a talk, or meeting several people who are VIP in my job network.
2. I limit the days away to the bare minimum. Last year I traveled from Europe to Australia for a week visit.
3. I exchange a work day with my husband. We both work four days per week, when I travel for a full week, I will have another day at home the week after, so my husband can catch up a full day on his job.

With the kids getting older (ranging from 3 to 10) it should be possible to travel for longer, but I haven't done any trips longer than 2 weeks. This is mainly because I don't like to be away for much longer, so that's a personal choice.

Laura Peticolas said...

I travel a lot for my job and have two small kids, but never for more than 10 days. When I go for 10 days, I try and buy a ticket for a relative to come join me for the 10 days so I can at least bring the toddler/baby along. But I have not thought about months-long travel before. If I did consider it, I would suggest that either you do wait until the kids ar older, or find a situation where you could go for several months over the summer so that the kids could come with you for a big chunk of the time. Then look for grants from foundations or states that would help support you having your kids with you (travel, housing, childcare) - maybe even ask the institution hosting the sabbatical. When my dad was a professor and took year sabbaticals to Europe, the whole family came. Perhaps your husband could take a leave of absence for a sabbatical and do some work that he has always dreamt of doing, like writing a book or...? I love the phrase - where there is a will there is a way. Good luck and I hope you can find a vision for you and your family and make it happen.

Orsola De Marco said...

Sabbaticals are very tough. My solution: I decided the only way to take my sabbatical was to go for the entire duration (6 months) to my home town (Bologna, Italy) and take the kids with me. My parents are there and can pick up the slack. Six months are sufficient to have the kids adjust to the difference and even go to regular school. My husband... he had to make sacrifices: in theory he does not even need to come with me, but he does not want to be away from us for 6 months, so.... he will take 3.5 months of leave with no pay and spend 2.5 months in Australia. While in Italy, he will be allowed to work 2 days a week remotely, so we do not lose too much money. What allowed this solution: my university, Macquarie University in Sydney, pays me a full time salary while on sabbatical (we get 6 months every 3 years of service). We will still lose money, but we can cope with that. My parents are willing and I can reduce costs going home. I managed to find a fitting host (and a great guy) for my work at the University of Bologna. The downsides: my husband takes a big hit in salary and also in the fact that he will be in Sydney without us for 2.5 months. I had a few snide remarks that I was using the sabbatical to go see my family (if I had absolute freedom I may have gone to other places, Italy was a compromise). The alternative for me would be not to take the sabbatical since our university does not allow us to just take the time off teaching and just sit in the office. I cannot leave for more than one week without logistical problems for my husband.... and we even have a babysitter (Orsola De Marco, Macquarie Uni, Sydney, Australia)

Megan said...

A sabbatical? I do not see how that is possible for those of us with school age children. Particularly seniors in high school. Some things just do not fit no matter how we squint. Life can be good even so.

O'Keeffe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alice's Astro Info said...

I really need help with this.
I've got a nursing 14-month-old and I go to one conference a year. ONE. It's my only chance to network outside my workplace. I missed it last year due to maternity leave ... but my daughter is still nursing and I'm not willing to give that up for the sake of a conference.
I'm also not willing to give up my job and future prospects (via networking) because I decided I wanted a family too...
What to do?

Harley Jackman said...

I usually take them to my mothers house. She is the best child care learning centers around, at least for watching my kids!