The great thing about today's sophisticated storm tracking equipment is that it allows us to prepare for extreme weather well in advance. Shovel? Check. Rock salt? Check. Hot cocoa and marshmallows? Check. Backup child care plan? Oh, need to get on that.
With schools bound to close at some point during the winter, caregiver driveways certain to be snowed-in and jobs undoubtedly still needing your attendance, how do you get a babysitter during a snowstorm? Here's advice for winter storm prep that will get you to work and your kids cared for -- no matter how miserable it is outside.
Tip 1: Watch the Weather
Justin McNaull, director of state relations for AAA agrees: "Pay attention to the weather at least 24 hours ahead. If it's obvious you're going to get a ton of snow and the roads aren't going to be safe to travel, you generally have a chance to figure it out with at least a couple hours of warning."
Tip 2: Call in the Backup Care Cavalry
Did you know that many companies provide backup child care as a work benefit? If your company offers child care onsite or at a nearby facility, great. Get on the list. The trick is to register before the snow comes to ensure you're in their system.
If your employer doesn't offer emergency child care or it was booked, you'll need to get a bit more creative and find a last-minute sitter. A faster and easier way to find that person is through My Town, Care.com's online feature that offers a map-view of all the sitters in your neighborhood and lets you browse their vital stats and availability. Theoretically, these sitters are walking distance and can don a pair of snow boots and trek on over to your house. Problem solved.
Note: To use Care.com's My Town service, you need to be a member, which is a free and relatively painless process. Once you're in, much of the legwork is done for you. For example, premium membership entitles you to unlimited access to free preliminary background checks. References are equally as streamlined. Care.com records interviews with caregiver-provided references and makes them available to all members.
Start now before the snow and interview walking-distance backup care providers, adding the ones you love to your list of favorites. When the snow hits, Care.com can send them an instant message announcing your need for help. Ideally, your crisis is solved before you can even shovel out your car.
Tip 3: Create a Care.com Co-op
A shared child care experience, based on a point system, you can join a co-op and swap babysitting jobs with other local families -- for free. (The point system tracks it to make sure no one leans on another too much.) Other get-creative ideas include doing a kid-swap with your neighbors, either for the whole day and returning the favor next time, or half the day at your house and half the day at her house. Alternately you and your spouse can have an agreement that you both work from home on such days and watch the children in shifts.
Tip 4: Start a Neighborhood Group
If care exchanges interest you, consider Care.com Groups, which help facilitate neighborhood friendships and play dates. For example, you can start a group and invite parents in the neighborhood to join. Or add a group of parents within your child's school system. "It's a really convenient way to set up a group and then start to arrange backup care with local parents," says Jane Price, a director at Care.com, who recently started one in her own neighborhood.
She also offers this tip: "If you expand your group to your school system's class, you might find parents who aren't normally on your playdate list or in your circle of close friends, but who live nearby and are trustworthy and your child knows and would have a fun time hanging out with for the afternoon."