Offering Housing in Exchange for Childcare
Archived Q&A and Reviews
- Student (board/food) in exchange for watching kids
- Have you hosted a college student in exchange for childcare?
I need some insights and advice on hosting a college student (bedroom, shared bathroom, food) in exchange for watching our school-aged children ages 7 and 9 (now). We are working parents with pretty time intensive, FT jobs and commutes.
So far we had aupairs and we are very happy with the program. However the hours of actually watching the kids are getting less and less and the kids become more independent, thus the aupair program is not the best for us anymore going forward (cost and utilization-wise). We are not a big fan of after-school care for a variety of reasons and are looking for alternatives.
We need help in the AM before school (breakfast, getting lunch and kids ready for school), pickup from school around 3 pm, homework supervision and ''shuttling'' kids to soccer/karate/dentist/etc.once or twice a week making dinner for the kids and possibly bringing them to bed. Coverage during non-school days when working parents do not have a day off. Occasional baby sitting on weekends/evenings.
Has anybody hosted a college student and watch your kids to a similar schedule as outlined above? Does the college schedule ''interfere'' with the kids school and afternoon scheduled? Did you pay them anything extra? How did you find a student/how did you interview them? Where did you advertise that you need a student?
Thanks in advance for any advice! Stefanie
Check the Cal housing site (Cal rentals) for up to date information on average Berkeley rents--they have a category for ''work exchange'' for students.
Berkeley UC co-dependent
I haven't used an arrangement like you describe. However, I do teach and work with college students and so have some insight into their lifestyle and motivations. My sense is that this would not be a very appealing position for a student. First, I suspect that most students would see it like living at home, only with a lot more chores. Regarding the living arrangement - a student is likely to want privacy and autonomy as opposed to a shared bathroom and shared meals and/or someone else making their food decisions. So the room and board option you are offering in exchange for childcare may not seem like much of an incentive to a student.
Second is the work hours. If you are asking for help, let's say, 6-8 a.m. and 3-8 p.m., that is close to full time, before you even get to the additional occasional babysitting. Also, every college has afternoon classes (sometimes even evening classes). It would be difficult to find a full-time student who is available M-F after 3 p.m. Most of my parent friends who have used students for after-school care use 2-3 different students per week, because each student only has a couple of afternoons free per week. And then the students get a new schedule in the new semester and it changes all over again. Last, full-time college is *supposed* to be a FT job. Of course, many students do work PT during the school year, but not usually as much as you would be asking for unless the student is only taking 1-2 classes. A full load of, say, 15 credit hours is supposed to mean 15 hours in the classroom plus another 45 hours studying/working outside of the classroom (60 hrs total). So yes, I think you would find that the college schedule would interfere with your childcare needs. I hire students PT in my lab, and they are often very hard workers, but when gets to be finals time or they have a big project due, they tend to drop everything and make that their first priority. That seems too risky in the case of your kids.
Given that you found that au pairs didn't work for you because they weren't available enough hours, I think you almost certainly need someone who is *more* available than an au pair, and has *fewer* outside obligations. A college student is not that! I would suggest a live-in nanny if you can swing it. An alternative might be look for multiple people to do this one job and not have them live with you. If you drop the request for morning care, you might be able to hire 2-3 students to each pick up your child from school 1-2 days a week and help take care of them until bedtime. The downside of that arrangment though is that it is unreliable. Students get sick (like nannies), and they are more likely than nannies to have other things come up in their life that they feel are more important (''I won't be able to work this week because my sister is visiting from out of town''). So you might not want to go this route unless your job would allow you to leave at 3 p.m. some days.
Good luck! professor & parent
Ah, one of my favorite topics! Not only have I had students living in my house and providing child care, we also advertise such positions to students in the UC Berkeley Community Living office (642-3644 and it's free to list).
The biggest issue for us is scheduling, particularly in the morning. We always need someone whose morning schedule will not conflict with my husband's and mine, since we both need to shower and so forth and be out the door early in the morning and we have only one bathroom. I have also discovered it's important to me to have my own space and private time for cooking most meals. Some of the students have loved to cook, and others not, and you can build that into the job description or not, as you prefer. You can also do the same with housekeeping and errand-running.
It's really good to have some house rules in writing if you are allowing this person to intermingle in your daily life. For example, hours during which music or TV can be played, kitchen privileges, times when showers or baths can be taken (to allow sufficient hot water for everyone else!). You may also want to outline the duties and have the person sign off on the job description.
General rules: Expect the student to perform 12 - 15 hours per week of child care for a straight room exchange, perhaps a few more hours if you are including food. Extra hours should be paid at whatever you would normally pay a baby sitter. Initially, you may want to set up the housing and the duties on a month-to-month basis until you are sure it will work out, then you could negotiate for a longer-term type lease.
In addition to all this, of course, you should ask the standard questions one should always ask of child care providers!
I wanted to share my experience with offering a TINY room in my house in exchange for childcare (10 - 15 hours/week--for me it's been after-school care for my daughter that I've needed). My family has had pretty good luck (and with our current person, FANTASTIC luck!) with offering a teeny-tiny spare room in our basically 2 bedroom, 1 bath house to a live-in person who looks after my daughter for a couple of hours each work day after she gets off the school bus. The room fits a single futon bed, build-in shelving, a desk and a chair--just barely. What I did last year was advertise this room plus board in exchange for the childcare.
We are very fortunate right now in that we have a Chinese scholar living with us who takes her classes up to mid-afternoon and then is home for my daughter. Best of all--she loves to cook, and we are having all sorts of wonderful Chinese food in the bargain! The thing you have to be careful about are house rules--for us it's really important that my husband and I pretty much get to monopolize the single bathroom in the early morning on weekdays so we can jet off to work on time!
I've had 3 different people this way (one had to leave after just a summer to go to Grad school, the other had a schedule the next semester that didn't work out with the duties) and they've worked out quite well. I realize this isn't for everyone, but it might be a workable solution for someone. You can advertise for a student through my office, Community Living (now called Cal Rentals), and tell the person taking the ad that you want to list a work exchange. Essentially 12 - 15 hours a week is expected for a straight exchange -- no rent. I throw in food, too, because the room we are offering is SO tiny and also I don't really have spare space in the kitchen for someone to carve out a niche for her own foodstuffs.