Baby sitters on speed

The French have a new service –
speed dating
for families who want to find after-school care givers, and students who want to be after school care givers. While I have never heard of a similar service in New Zealand, I have from time to time found baby sitters, and friends have found after school care givers, through Student Job Service. There’s good match making potential between students who want just some part time work that can be fitted around lectures and tutorials and studying, and parents who need someone to care for their children between 3pm and 6pm.

After school care is the bane of parents’ lives, along with all the other banes like extra curricular lessons, sports practices, visits to friends after school, sick children, school trips, and never ending fund raising requests. Students are often a good option because not only are they only looking for a few hours work a week in term time, in addition to that they are usually happy to help the children with their homework, and do some extra hours during school holidays, and can even be available at short notice to help out with a sick child. But failing a student, what are busy parents to do?

Some schools have after school care programmes running on site. That gives children some stability in their day, so that they are not rushed frantically from one place to another in the late afternoon when they are getting tired. However after school care programmes are not universally available at schools – our local primary, one of the largest in the country, doesn’t have an on-site programme. That’s not just inconvenient – it says that the school doesn’t give a damn about parents in paid employment. Even when after school care programmes are available, they don’t enable kids to do anything extra, like go to sports practice, or to a dance or music or drama lesson. Nor do they enable kids to do not much, as kids need to do at least some of the time. The children must continue to cope with being in a social environment, and being in a place that is not their home.

Of course, after school care programmes cost. Not a lot, in comparison to creche care or nanny care for infants and pre-schoolers, but enough to make it noticeable.

The government has from time to time made noises about increasing the productivity of the work force, and just plain increasing the size of the workforce. As they look about to see where needed workers might come from, they see the group of parents who choose not to work, even when their children are at school. A wonderful source of workers, if only they could be persuaded to do so.

I suspect that the critical hurdle for most parents is affordable and accessible childcare, including out of school care. It’s easy enough to make out of school care affordable, through subsidies and grants, but accessibility is another matter. I don’t want my small children having to walk 500m at the end of the school day. I know it’s only a short distance, for an adult, but for a tired 5 year old, it’s a marathon.

It’s not an issue that concerns me personally at present, given my current unemployment (more on what I intend to do next in a day or two), but having been there, in a stressful job that occupied virtually every moment of my day, and far too much of my nights as well, I know all too well about the stresses and strains of being a family with both parents in paid employment. I don’t want to go back to work for quite some time yet, in part simply because I have found it impossible to arrange good care for my children. If I could solve that problem, then I would start looking for a job.

In the meantime, gentle reader, if you are a parent, and you are trying to arrange after school care, may I recommend contacting Student Job Search.

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4 responses to “Baby sitters on speed

  1. This is such a loaded area. I have experienced this myself. Part of the problem is that the NZ Govt. seems to be in four minds (or none) about working parents, as you have pointed out. There’s obviously no votes in it. Hmmm this opens a whole can of worms. I guess what we do is what all parents do and have done who work wage paying jobs…we simply make do. Good advice on the student search, just make sure they can drive safely.

  2. Oh and by making do, I mean we have to throw money at the problem.

  3. What I find interesting is the one option that never seems to be mentioned- the school day could be extended. At the moment its parents and employers who have to work around schools- but it doesn’t HAVE to be that way.

  4. Yes, it could be extended, but it’s probably already long enough for small children. As are the school terms. You wouldn’t believe just how many tired, scratchy children there are at my daughters’ school this week.