Harried, With Children Child-care options for entrepreneurs with kids

By Laura Tiffany

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You started a homebased business with the fantasy of yourtoddler playing quietly by your feet while you make phone calls.Reality has set in, however, and said toddler has eaten the Post-itwith your client's phone number and decided oatmeal belongs inyour disk drive. "But," you say while pulling out clumpsof prematurely gray hair, "What's the point of working athome if I still need child care?"

Think no commute, flexible hours and lunch meetings with yourkids. "The beauty of working at home is that your hours areflexible and your choices of child care are, too," says EllenH. Parlapiano, co-author with Patricia Cobe of Mompreneurs: AMother's Practical Step-by-Step Guide to Work-at-HomeSuccess (Perigee Books, $13, 800-788-6262). If you'reworried about the cost, Parlapiano suggests these alternatives:

  • Child-care co-op: Get a group of work-at-home parents toshare duties. You receive a token or ticket for each hour youbaby-sit each child, then cash them in when you're in need."The plus is, it's free," says Parlapiano. "Thedownside is, you routinely have to give up some work time to keepthis system going." For more information on co-ops, visitwww.cooperative.org.
  • Trading places: A pared-down version of the child-careco-op involves you and a good buddy trading off child-care days. Toavoid getting taken advantage of, Parlapiano says: "Keep thelines of communication open. Make sure you're both clear onwhen and where you're going to take care of the kids. Also,make sure the kids get along and that you share a commonchild-rearing philosophy."
  • Sitter-sharing: Share a full-time sitter with a friend.You can either split the cost and have the sitter watch all thekids at once, or trade off days. Parlapiano suggests having awritten agreement outlining your expectations, when and whereyou'll use the sitter, and how you'll pay.
  • Barter: Trade your goods and services with neighborhoodparents for child care. For example, if you have a cateringbusiness, bring baby-sitting parents meals a few times a week. Ifyou sell children's clothing, outfit their kids inexchange.

To come up with child-care solutions, Parlapiano says, call onthe same networking prowess you use in business. "[Tell]everyone you know you're looking for child care. Think of it interms of teaming up, just as you'd team up to find a businesspartner."

Testing, testing

Can you handle working without child care? Take this quiz tofind out. The more "yes" answers, the better your chancesof survival.

  • Are your kids in school full time?
  • If not, are they easy to manage and good at entertainingthemselves?
  • Do you do the type of work that can easily be interrupted?
  • Can you do most of your work while your kids are sleeping? Doyou have the stamina to keep this up?
  • Does your business require very little phone time?
  • Does your business require very few face-to-face meetings?
  • Can you bring your kids with you when you pick up or drop offwork?
  • Are you in a laid-back industry where clients are apt to befairly kid-tolerant?
  • Are you in a field (such as toy-selling or children'sfashions) where having kids around is actually a plus?
  • Do you have a business partner to rely on when you're in abind?

--Excerpted with permission from Mompreneurs: AMother's Practical Step-by-Step Guide to Work-at-HomeSuccess

Kid Around

These sites can help you get a grip:

www.bizymoms.com: articlesand chats

www.familyinternet.com/dad/dad.htm:Web site for work-at-home dads

www.hbwm.com: a nationalassociation for homebased working moms

www.momsnetwork.com:network with work-at-home moms

www.wahd.com: an e-mailnewsletter and Web site for work-at-home dads

Wavy Line

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