Unsustainable childcare logistics or temp nanny we can't afford?

TL; DR: I'm trying to consider two not ideal childcare options: two kids in different childcare facilities that would limit my working hours given driving distance, or hire a nanny we can’t afford for baby while we wait to get an infant spot closer to home?

Details: I’m expecting our second child next month and we’re trying to nail down childcare for the baby for when I go back to work in August. Our three-year-old goes to a nearby preschool that doesn't take kids under 2 where he's doing well. I’ve gotten us on all the waitlists we can for baby. I work from home 4 days a week + commute (~45 min) once a week. My husband works from the office M-F with a 90-min commute, depending on traffic (not what we signed up for but that’s another story).

The conundrum: We just got offered a spot for the baby at a daycare that’s 20 min away in the opposite direction of home, my son’s preschool (ages 2+), and my husband’s job. Husband already leaves the house at 7:15 am to drop off my son, and couldn’t also drop off the baby at this place given his commute So I’d have to drop off the baby and pick up both kids daily, which would only give me max 8:30 am-4 pm to work (5pm pickup time both places and don't feel comfortable being away from them more than 9.5 hours, which is already tough). Sounds super stressful and unsustainable, especially with pumping. I'm imagining a horrible 4-5 pm daily where me and the kids are super dysregulated on the pickup rounds due to the rush and then the idea of preparing dinner (even just heating up our meal-prepped food) upon return sounds nightmarish (husband wouldn't get home until 6 at the earliest). 

We’d have to pay for 4 months of tuition we wouldn’t use to secure this daycare spot for August. We’re on the waitlist for a center in our town but unlikely we’ll get a spot when we need it. I’m also in conversations with all the local home daycares I could find but they don’t have formal waitlists and can’t offer a spot until maybe 1-2 months before you need it.

If we don’t take this spot, an alternative is hiring a nanny (or doing a share), which we can’t afford but could pay for out of savings for 6-12 months while waiting for a spot at a closer daycare. I don’t love the idea of using so much of our savings for this, but could it be the right use of resources for my mental health/career and our family at this stage of life? (Not open to au pairs, sorry, and neither of us can go part-time or quit our jobs. Husband earns 60% more than I do and my job has more flexibility so the more complex logistics would be on me, even though both our jobs are demanding).

Has anyone managed childcare logistics like this? How was it? What would you do in my position? What other ways we can we think about this? I know we’re privileged to even have options, and - it feels impossible. Not sure how other families do this! Thank you!

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This sounds very hard and unfortunately not so uncommon around here with lack of quality childcare, long commutes, dual income households, etc!

A couple other ideas:

-hire someone to do the pick up and meal prep; (or alternatively the drop-off/s)

-Move your 2 year old to somewhere closer to baby (this age is really resilient, he would likely adjust quickly!)

-plan to work after kids go to bed (if that flexibility is allowed in your job)

-does your husband get family leave? utilize that when you go back to work in August so you don't have to pay for a nanny or childcare for baby until later when you hopefully get off a waitlist closer to home

Ugh, this is such a tricky situation and I feel for you! We had a similar conundrum with demanding work hours and limitations on our ability to drop-off/pick-up from daycare, and ultimately went with a nanny for 1.5 years until our son aged into a preschool closer to our home. To make the cost manageable, we were able to shift working hours so that one of us started our work day much earlier in the morning and ended earlier, which allowed us to make do with a part time nanny. I understand that sort of work schedule flexibility might not be possible though. I wonder if a nanny share with 1-2 other families would be your best bet? I imagine that the cost wouldn't be significantly higher than infant daycare (especially if you're having to pay tuition for 4 months that you won't use!), and if you could host the share out of your home, or find a nearby share family, the commuting issues would be resolved. 

This is really hard!

Have you considered taking the other child out of preschool and having a nanny look after both kids (perhaps as part of a share?)

Have the nanny pick up or drop off the older child? 

Ask your work for accommodation to work shorter hours for the next year?  Use family leave more flexibly? 

Kids are often more resilient that we think, so moving the older child to a different care situation should be a consideration. My younger child went to 3 different preschools and he did fine (but I acknowledge that all kids are different). 

I’m glad you’re considering in home daycares, which, as you say, tend not to have waiting lists. There tend to be so many and you can likely find one close to your home. I really think you can rest assured that they will have spots opening up in the summer when kids typically move on to preschool (filling spots of the kids moving on to kindergarten). I know it’s hard to not lock something in, but it sounds to me like waiting for a spot at an in home daycare will be the best option for your family.

I feel for you; this sucks. But of your poor options, I'd consider the nanny share to be your best bet. Finding one starting in July or August shouldn't be too hard; hopefully you can find one that meets at the other family's house so that you can work from home in relative peace. Look for/try for one where there is an understanding that it runs for roughtly the school year or a calendar year since this provides some consistency for routines. I would definitely NOT move your older child from a preschool they are comfortable in at the same time a new baby joins the mix. That is more transition than a little person needs!

I'm so sorry that you are dealing with this situation.  We participated in nanny shares for our daughters before they were pre-school eligible -- but that is a very costly option. Given that you would have to pay for 4 months of care at the daycare -- that does not seem like a good option for you.  When do you need care to start?  Although stressful, it might be best to opt for a nanny share while searching for a spot at an in-home daycare that is located closer to you.  I found in-home daycares for both of my kids, randomly (usually through a posting on facebook or next door) and within months of needing the spot.  That would give you a chance to find something in a location that is closer to the preschool and works better for your schedule.  You might also be able to find a nanny who is willing to take three babies/kids to cut down on the cost.  

I'm not sure if this is feasible for you, but I also end work at 4 (and start around 8:30) and then complete the rest of my day in the evening.  It is very tiring but helps with all of the logistics of two kids, etc.

that sounds really tricky. here are some thoughts that i hope are helpful, and if not, feel free to ignore:

can you hire someone to help with afternoon pick up and stick around  until 6 to help with dinner etc? 

are you sure a nanny share is more expensive than paying for the daycare for 4 months that you won't use? how much is this daycare? how much do you expect to pay for a nanny share? where do you live? if you are in Berkeley, i may have some ideas

Here's an option that you don't mention: quit your job when your paid leave is up or ask to go on unpaid leave until you get an infant daycare spot closer to home? Then go back to work or find another position. Sounds like you'll need to use your savings but maybe that ultimately is less stressful than dealing with nanny/long commute.

I just made this decision myself. We talked it through a lot because it's not what I envisioned for myself. But I had an inflexible full time position with a commute that paid less than my partner's (who can also work from home). I also have a career that will be easy to jump back into when we no longer have an infant.

Good luck! It's not easy. 

It seems like the immediate decision is to secure a spot in this daycare in an inconvenient location or let that spot go, and with the need to pay 4 months of tuition that you won't use, that sounds like a lot. While nanny shares are typically more expensive than daycare, i wonder how much more when you factor in a comparison with 4 months of unneeded daycare tuition? (I currently do a nanny share and pay $17.50/hour for our half). I 100% agree with your concerns about the logistics of that much time driving around and then dealing with taking care of two kids and making dinner. If it were me, i'd let the daycare spot go. But that doesn't mean you have to commit to nanny now, you can wait and maybe you would find a spot in a in-home daycare closer to the needed date (and you also dont need as much lead time to hire a nanny/set up a nanny share).

My situation wasn't totally the same to yours, but thought id share. I have a 3.5 year old and 14 month old and currently have negative cashflow because I chose to return to work at only 80% after having the second one. We are considering nanny share a 1 year investment as that's when the younger one can go to the preschool the older one goes to. I feel 100% good about my decision, though don't love looking at my depleting savings account every month.

Good luck!

Our kids are 4 years apart. I didn't go back to work until the youngest was 9 months though. In our case, we just accepted that we'd be paying more for a nanny-share + preschool than I actually made. I paid for the luxury of working, and I know many others who do also. For us, I only had to commute 2-3 days per week, and it was only until the younger one got into the same preschool (at 18 months). One perk was that the nanny share was at a home right down the street from the preschool, and the nanny was able to take our older son on days when the preschool was closed, or even if he had the sniffles--which happens a lot. (This was pre-covid though.) If I were you, I would find out if any other parents in your older child's preschool have a beloved nanny to share. 

That said, I don't know what the wise to do is. I would say there are a TON of under-employed, talented (mostly-)women in many fields in the Bay Area whose 'careers' were forever derailed because child care is so expensive/difficult. 

Congrats on baby #2, and good luck!

An option intermediate between daycare and nanny (cost-wise) is to hire someone to pick up the baby (and/or the older child) from daycare and watch them for a short time at your house  so you have more working time in the afternoon.  I have found wonderful people to do this on care dot com.

This stuff is so so so hard, I'm sorry you're dealing with it! I also have two kids and a FT job and typically work in the office 9-4 due to dropoff/pickup logistics. Obviously everyone is in a different situation but it seems like employers are becoming more understanding of family obligations lately, but of course only you know what would work for your job. That being said I'd strongly consider a nanny share if I were you; our nanny share for my youngest is less expensive than the preschool (for ages 2-5) my oldest attends. In our share, each family pays $14/hour if you want a general idea. I think that's about an average cost for a solid nanny, and we absolutely adore ours. Convenience is super important!

One other thing I'd say is that before my second was born, the thought of all the logistics especially around the after work/school evening hours was utterly overwhelming for me. I didn't see how it was going to work. But you'll figure out what works for you and your family, one step at a time. It will be chaotic sometimes but you'll get it done! <3

I would use your savings to hire a nanny and because you work from home perhaps you can have the nanny work slightly fewer hours to save a bit of money. This won’t be the situation forever and for your own sanity it is worth it If you can afford it. You could potentially have your old child skip preschool too and stay with the nanny to save some money or do a share with another infant. 

I’m curious if you’ve worked out the difference in price for the duration if you do a nanny share vs the daycare with the extra 4months paid to hold the spot?! I’ve heard nanny shares can be a lot more affordable than an individual nanny, although the hiring process can be a bit intense and frustrating. Best of luck! I’m sure you will figure something out that works for your family and needs!

I am so sorry that you are going through this stressful mental and logistical gymnastics. If there is a good chance that a spot will open up at a nearby daycare, I would go with the nanny or nanny share option. It doesn’t feel great but a newborn / infant demands a lot of resources.  With the faraway daycare, there are so many hidden costs — your time, gas/car, everyone’s mental health. I feel that every minute counts when we are busy working parents and we need to do all we can do reduce stress. I feel bad that I splurge on a lot of things, but I feel that if I don’t pay for a bit of comfort, I would sink into depression fast. your life sounds so demanding already. Please don’t penny pinch and sacrifice your physical and mental health. As long as the extra cost is for a defined period of time and you have a plan to make up for it in the next 3-5 years, please choose the option that will not add more stress and work on you. 

I recommend that you make a point to fully understand all of the paid (and unpaid?) leave both you and your husband are entitled to. If you haven't both maxed out at least the paid time, try to do that to give yourselves more time before you absolutely need full time care. While eligibiltiy is kind of complicated, and varies, in addition to your pregnancy disability leave, you may both be entitled to paid family/medical leave, and/or parental bonding leave.  In general, the leave does not have to be taken as a consecutive block of time, so in some cases, arriving late and/or leaving early might even be an option (though some require a minimum amount of time each leave taken). (And, as others have said, can you do some of your work remotely?). 

Depending on where your jobs are (the City of SF has even more generous leave benefits), you might be entitled to more than you realized (just be sure you understand which leave is also job-protected, if that's a concern). If you are nursing your baby and/or expressing milk, learn your rights to related accommodations, too - that right was aleady pretty comprehensive in California, but was recently expanded at the federal level to pretty much everyone except airline flight crew.  Employers don't always automatically let you know about your rights, so you may have to bring them the info. Here are a few resources to check out.

Legal Aid at Work (note that their printed resources are not always fully up to date, since things change regularly, but contact them; they are very knowledgeable and very responsive): https://legalaidatwork.org/our-programs/work-and-family-program/

Calif. state paid family leave: https://edd.ca.gov/en/disability/paid-family-leave/

Federal paid family/medical leave: https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/benefits-leave/fmla

SF paid parental leave: https://sf.gov/information/understanding-paid-parental-leave-ordinance

PUMP Act (federal lactation accommodation): https://www.usbreastfeeding.org/the-pump-act-explained.html#:~:text=It%….

California lactation accommodation: https://californiabreastfeeding.org/breastfeedingrights/breastfeeding-a…