What to do When you Can’t get Childcare or Can’t Afford Childcare

As a working mom, childcare is essential. For too many, it is becoming next to impossible to get, not to mention extremely expensive. 

If you are a low-income earner, returning to the workforce, just starting your business, or returning from maternity leave or time off, you might not have the budget.

Fewer people than ever are entering the childcare profession, so what can you do if you can’t get or can’t afford childcare? 

Childcare Swap

Connect with other parents and swap childcare or create a childcare circle. Each family looks after all the kids 1 day a week and the others work.

Doing this enables everyone to work a few days a week, depending on how many are in your circle or you’re swapping with. 

Make sure it is even and you are either swapping equally or rotating through the circle equally, otherwise people get used and resentful. Set rules and make it clear what will happen if they aren’t followed so it is fair. 

When done properly, it flows really well, the kids and parents connect, careers progress and everyone gets the time and childcare they need.

Au Pair or Demi Pair

An au pair is someone who lives with you, helps with the kids and sometimes light housework in exchange for food and board, plus pocket money.

Demi pairs live with you like an older sibling of the kids. Food and board are covered but they only do 15 to 20 hours of childcare a week in exchange.

In some areas, au pairs are in such high demand the ‘pocket money’ is a few hundred plus they have a phone, car and other things covered while living with the family.

If you choose to have an au pair or demi pair, interview them well, check references, look at their social media and have contingencies in place. 

Work in Childcare

Everywhere is crying out for childcare workers or at home childcare. If you don’t have a specific career you want to get back to and love kids, working in childcare could be a great option.

Different centers have different options for the children of their staff. Some let you have your kids there for free, others charge a small fee. 

Check the regulations and necessary qualifications for your area, along with what centers are offering. Alternatively, do your own childcare at home if you have the business skills. 


Having someone in your home, dedicated to educating and taking care of your children can be wonderful. It is more expensive than the other options but it is more personalized and your children are the only focus instead of numerous children.

Finding a good nanny can be tough but if it’s in your budget, it can be an amazing experience for all involved. 

Pay Friends or Family

Not everyone has the luxury of family being wiling to look after your kids for free. Some don’t live near family, others don’t have family who would or some have family but those family members don’t want to or can’t look after your kids for free.

Nor should it be expected that family take care of anyone’s kids for free. 

If you have family willing and able to look after your kids, you are one of the lucky ones. 

Busy Play

So you’ve run out of options and have to have your child with you. If you’re at home there are a variety of things you can do, depending on your kids.

Set them up with a busy board, busy book or similar. Let them have fun with kinetic sand and a selection of toys. Roll out some butchers paper and let them draw.

Lego, blocks or similar toys might make a mess but they will keep your kids occupied. Give them water or chalk to draw outside.

One big thing most parents miss is quality time and filling the emotional cup. If your kids have regular quality time with you, it fills their emotional cup and they are content to entertain themselves for longer.

If they don’t have any quality time with you, they will constantly be trying to get your attention as a connection and desire for love.

Put your phone and laptop away, give them some quality one on one time and attention then set boundaries and let them know you need to do x, y or z then can play again.

While it’s not as effective as getting full childcare, it can help in a pinch.

What are you doing for childcare?

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