Managing work and child care has its challenges, and for some parents it’s a real rush – or simply an impossibility – to pick up their child before closing time.
Bad traffic, late meetings and long shifts can make things tricky, and sometimes all-day sessions at education and care services still aren’t long enough.
In recognition of this, a new child care centre in East Auckland is offering extended opening hours.
Rainbow Corner’s Flat Bush early learning centre is open from 7am to 8pm, so let’s look at what this means for families, and investigate other ways to organise child care outside normal business hours.
What is the thinking behind Rainbow Corner’s extended hours?
The Flat Bush centre provides care for up to 200 preschoolers, and its owner, Rrahul Dosshi is offering extended hours to ease the time pressure on families, and make child care drop-offs and pick-ups more convenient, flexible and workable day-to-day.
The extended hours:
- Meet the needs of shift workers (such as emergency workers and staff at the Auckland District Health Board) whose shifts often finish at 6pm or 7pm;
- Help parents avoid Auckland’s heavy peak hour traffic;
- Provide flexibility for parents who have scheduled or unscheduled commitments outside the nine-to-five (including late meetings or unexpected work calls); and
- Support all families in maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Over the last two decades, Mr Dosshi has seen an increase in the number of parents who start work early or finish late, and he doesn’t see things changing, going forward.
Instead, he describes extended opening hours as, ‘The future of centre-based child care’ and, already, Flat Bush’s hours have received a positive reception from parents.
The service says that the longer hours are, ‘Really helping parents balance their family and professional lives, and with the demands of the Auckland traffic, families are grateful for the opportunity to drop their children off at a time that suits them.’
Are preschoolers at the ECE service from 7am to 8pm?
Although children could theoretically stay at the Flat Bush service for 13 hours straight, this is not something that Mr Dosshi is encouraging or witnessing.
Since the ECE service opened late last year, there’s has been no real trend in how long children stay each day, because every child and family is different in their requirements. That said, most children are in the centre for four to eight hours per day, with some attending for less time.
Flat Bush says this is standard across the industry, and the focus is on flexibility and offering hours that suit the needs of parents and care-givers, rather than putting preschoolers in care for the whole 13 hours.
What facilities are offered to children at the Flat Bush centre?
As well as offering extended opening hours, this ECE service works hard to provide children with, ‘The best opportunities to develop, learn and discover at their own pace within a natural environment.’ To nourish and engage preschoolers, the Flat Bush service offers:
- Healthy, nutritious meals made in the centre’s commercial kitchen;
- Wrap-around services, including a café, GP practice, specialist nurse, pharmacy, podiatrist and physiotherapist;
- A large outdoor play area for children, complete with a soccer field, athletics track and large playground; and
- Natural elements inside and out, with wooden furniture, an African-themed design and lots of places to play, imagine, create and explore.
What other child care options are there for parents who work early or late?
Flat Bush’s long opening hours aren’t shared by many ECE services, and if your child’s service closes earlier than you finish work, or doesn’t open till you’re already at work, then it’s still possible to organise care.
There is the option of wrapping additional care around your child’s normal ECE service hours, or sharing the load with your partner, parent or other care-giver, and here are some formal and informal child care options for non-standard hours:
- Nannies are professionals who can be employed on a live-in, live-out, full-time or part-time basis. A nanny can look after your child during the day, outside ECE service hours, or even overnight, and nanny sharing is a good way to split costs and child care hours with another family.
- Home-based education and care services see an educator caring for up to four children from birth to five years. This kind of teacher-led ECE service operates out of their place or yours, and it can offer flexibility around hours if your work starts early or finishes late.
- Au pairs provide live-in child care with a cross-cultural bent. They can help your child get ready for the day, do drop-offs and pick-ups, look after night-time routines and do light housework in exchange for board and lodging. Au pairs are paid pocket money and work a set number of hours each week, usually with weekends off.
- Babysitters can be booked through an agency or recommended by word-of-mouth to fill in the hours when you’re working. Sitters can be booked on a regular or occasional basis, and our babysitter articles will help you choose and prepare for a sitter.
- If you and your partner are shift workers, then ‘mirror shifts’ are a good way to share the child care. They involve one of you working an early shift, and the other a late shift, so that there’s always someone looking after your child.
- Alternatively, one of you may be able to negotiate flexible working conditions (e.g. working from home or starting early/finishing early) to fit around your child’s ECE hours and the other parent’s non-standard work hours.
- Grandparent care is a popular type of informal child care that can be emotionally enriching for children and grandparents, and cost-effective for working parents. This article provides tips for making the arrangement work.
- If you don’t have a willing and able grandparent carer, then another family member or friend might be able to help out. Reciprocal child-minding is a good option for some families, and it involves parents taking turns looking after one another’s children (e.g. a parent friend might look after your child on Monday evenings, and you’ll look after theirs on Saturday mornings).
At the end of the day (or week), a blend of formal and informal care often works well for families with non-standard hours, and whether an ECE service is open till 6pm or 8pm, take some time to think about the child care mix that’s best for your family.
The CareforKids.co.nz Work-life Balance Tool Kit contains lots of helpful information for working parents, or those thinking about going back to work.