The 7 Kinds of Childcare Every Lucky Mom Has in Her Life

It takes a village to raise a child . . . seriously. No parent can do it totally alone, a fact we all quickly learn, and the more trusted helpers we have for our little ones, the happier, less anxiety-ridden we tend to be as their main caretakers

I can’t tell you how many times a babysitter, a grandparent, or my gym’s childcare workers have saved me from losing my mind by giving me a safe, loving place to leave my children while I go out in the world (or just trek on the treadmill) in an effort to regain my sanity. Sometimes it takes an hour, sometimes a few days, but knowing that my kids will be well cared for and happy when I return allows me to have the space to take care of myself, an important effort every mom needs and deserves in order to be her best self for her kids.

Of course, not all childcare is created equally or is appropriate for every situation, but here are the seven kinds the luckiest moms have in their back pocket.

  1. The solid babysitter. This is your go-to person to watch the kids for a few hours during a weekday afternoon or the weekend. Because she knows you and your kids well (and seems to like you all enough to keep coming back), the requests, hellos, goodbyes, and payment exchange are all easy. You love her because she keeps the house picked up and anticipates your kids’ needs (bonus points if she bathes them and puts them to bed); your kids love her because she’s fun and never turns down a craft project.
  • The back-up sitter. When your regular sitter isn’t available, this is the person you call next. She might not be quite as neat or mature as your solid sitter, and you know she occasionally zones out on her phone, but overall, she’s trustworthy and your kids never complain when she comes around.
  • The devoted grandparent(s). Need a last-minute Saturday night sitter or someone to watch your baby every single Thursday afternoon or maybe even for an entire week? Then having a great grandparent in your life is the best gift ever. Not only are they usually up for watching your kids, even changing their own schedules to accommodate yours, they’re totally excited about it — and your kids are, too. Just don’t ask how much candy and ice cream they ate while you were gone.
  • The drop-off buddy. This is usually a neighbor or nearby friend who’s willing to watch your little one while you go to a doctor’s appointment, volunteer in your other child’s classroom, or complete some other relatively short, baby- or toddler-unfriendly task. No payment — just reciprocation — required.
  • The affordable “parent’s day out” program. In my town, there’s a childcare program so amazing, so affordable that moms literally line up outside in the dead of Midwestern Winter to claim a space for their child the following Fall. It’s called PDO (parent’s day out), and for less than $60 a month, your child will be well cared for, fed, and entertained for three hours, one morning a week. Run errands, watch Big Little Lies, get your nails done: if you can find it, it’s guilt-free you time.
  • The great gym childcare. If you can find a gym that has a wonderful childcare program, you’ve hit the jackpot, no matter how much it costs. Not only will you gain some motivation to exercise (most of these programs charge a monthly childcare rate, which means you get much more bang for your buck if you visit often), you’ll also get some much needed time to yourself. After all, no one said you have to sweat anywhere but the steam room.

The overnight caretaker. A morning, afternoon, or evening away from your children is nice, but going to sleep and waking up kid-free every once in awhile is pretty much bliss. My kids’ grandparents do the majority of our family’s overnight care, but if you’re far from family, there are other solutions. Two of my friends came up with a clever kid-swap system to get 24-hours of cost-free sitting each month. One set of parents takes both families’ children the first night, the other does the same for them a week or two later. It takes some planning, but if you can pull it off, it’s genius.