What to do when your nanny calls out sick: backup care options

It’s Monday morning, your little one just woke up and you’re set to start the week on the right foot. Just as you check your phone though you notice your nanny has messaged you to say they cannot come in. You have a meeting you can’t get out of first thing in the morning, so what do you do? Whether you get an hour, two hours or 24 hours, having backup care needs to be a part of your child care plan.

Not having a plan B (or C for that matter) in place before this inevitable part of having a nanny for your little one may cause a lot of panic and anxiety. Besides, not all of us can take a day off at a moment’s notice or have the work flexibility that allows us to move our day around to stay home on that day. And so let’s explore the different options out there.

  • Check with your employer. Some companies have programs in place to let their employees use backup care centers and in some cases in-home care when their primary care provider is unavailable. These typically are with a regular corporate care provider that also runs a network of backup daycare centers. The number of days, conditions, and applicable co-pays vary depending on the agreement between the employer and provider so it’s always wise to first check with your company’s human resources department. The upside of using this option rests in its flexibility: choose the center closest to your home or office, drop off your little one, and pick him or her up at the end of the day. Beware though, that most of those centers require the same documentation (forms completed by both parents, medical forms completed by your child’s pediatrician) as other daycare centers, so it can be time-consuming and means you need to get this stuff ready in advance. Plus, if your little one is not used to daycare settings, this may be a bit upsetting for them at first. All in all, though, this can be a cost-effective solution, and frankly a lifesaver.
  • Some daycare providers also offer programs where you can prepay a number of sessions in advance to use when your primary care arrangements fall through (or really, just if you need a break…). It can be a great alternative to using a traditional babysitter since you can forego the entire process of interviewing, checking references etc.
  • Hiring a backup nanny. This solution requires quite a time investment since you really want to go through the same rigorous process you would have gone through to hire your primary nanny the first time around. Recruiting such a person can prove complicated, however, since a lot of potential nannies may be turned off by the random nature of the assignments. If, though, you are able to find such a person and they are willing to be your backup person, then you’re in luck! It would still be wise to look into getting a plan C in case your person in plan B is also unavailable (solutions 1 and 2 above).
  • Make arrangements with family or friends. Probably the oldest backup care option, the good ole informal network of friends and extended family babysitters. Obviously, this one may not apply to everyone since our circumstances may be different. If you live close to family, you may be able to call on them to care for your little one for a while. The downside of this option, as many of you know, is that while you can always count on some friends, you may not know where exactly the line is in terms of what is too much time, or whether they are/were comfortable with the idea, to begin with. And again, everyone’s situation will differ. Relying on family was never an option for us given the closest relative lived about 300 miles away. Like our third solution here, it would always be wise to try and organize backup care at a center if possible.
  • Flexible work arrangements, you said? And so, our last option is the (for some) dreaded phone call or email to the boss to say that yes, once again, you’re going to have to miss this important 9 am meeting with the client. Like option 4, this is not applicable to all. Some have unmovable, tight, and hectic schedules and jobs where this simply is not an option. If, however, you have discussed this type of situation with your manager before going back to work, then the call or email may not need to be dreaded as much.

If your family situation involves two parents, then having the conversation with the other parent before this situation arises is also advisable – the easiest solution may be to simply share the days off amongst both of you if your work situations allow.

And most of all remember this: it will happen.

Leave a Reply