For a working parent, a childcare emergency is always going to happen. It may be a dreaded call from the school nurse or daycare letting you know that your child has a fever or your caregiver letting you know that she has an emergency and can’t make it today. It can be very stressful, especially if you do not have a backup option or a co-parent or significant other to help.
It can be hard to focus on work when you are faced with a childcare emergency, and your productivity may take a hit. You might have to take a sick or personal day if you don’t have flexibility or a plan. Worse, for some, this may go unpaid. This is the reality that working parents face, but it’s something that can be planned for and managed.
Here are some tips that will help you stay focused and respond accordingly:
Plan Ahead and Regularly.
Before you even get that unexpected call, take steps to understand your time and any commitments on your calendar. Planning your time helps you maximize your productivity and enables you to address unexpected surprises more quickly.
Every night, prepare for the following day. This can make a difference if you have a childcare emergency. You’ve already identified what you needed to accomplish for the day and how to make it happen, saving you valuable time when emergencies do come up.
When creating your daily plan, you know what you’re working on or what meetings you have. When you have a childcare emergency, you can quickly assess which sessions must stay and which meetings to move to. You’ll also know who you need to contact about your change of plans.
Understand the Situation and Ask for What You Need.
There is a big difference between your caregiver having an emergency and your child having a broken bone from the playground at school. But once you get the call, pause for a moment to understand the challenge and how you need to address it.
What do you need to do? Do you need to go to the doctor or pick up your child and head home? By taking the time to understand what your next steps are and you’ve decided on your plan of action, you’ll know how to communicate with your boss and coworkers, and you can face the situation calmly.
Create a Community to Help You.
Many people don’t live near family, so it’s not as simple as picking up the phone to ask your mom or sister to come when your child has a fever. And sometimes, you can’t turn to a significant other or co-parent for help.
While it does take time, creating a community of friends and resources you can lean on when facing a childcare breakdown can help. To make this, think about connecting with people where you already are. You can get to know your neighbors; interact with parents at school functions, parent meetings, or birthday parties. You will start to find parents with a similar mindset to yours and form friendships. These relationships can become a crucial part of dealing with childcare emergencies.
Remember that working parenthood will continue to have its day-to-day challenges. You can prepare for the emergencies that could come up to make overcoming them that much easier so they don’t derail you.