One of the hardest challenges I face right now is growing my independent software business while taking care of my 21 month son. Like many other dads out there, my wife works. But what is not typical is my wife is a flight attendant. When she works she is gone for 3, sometimes 4 days in a row, leaving me to fly solo with the kid.
Over the last 21 months we have tried a number of things to help me find time to work on and for White Peak Software. Some attempts have been more successful than others, but in the end I still struggle to find quality work time.
Taking care of the kid myself and work while he sleeps.
This was a disaster. Taking care of a kid all day is exhausting, and with the wife away I not only had to use the time when the kid was sleeping to catch up on my own sleep, but I needed to clean up around the house, cook myself lunch and dinner, and so on. This meant I didn’t start work until 10 pm or so on most days. And this was at the time when the kid was waking during the night. I was doing good if I got 3 hours of work and 3 hours of sleep in a day.
Daytime babysitters to the rescue.
I definitely needed help so we tried babysitters. This past summer we had 2 sitters that were awesome. Best of all the kid really liked both of them. The sitters would watch the kid for approximately 6 hours a day. This definitely helped. I used that time to shower, eat breakfast and lunch, and work. Unfortunately it still left me with only about 4 hours of quality work time per day. I could have logged more hours by working nights but honestly after months of going solo with the kid while the wife was away I needed the sleep. So I stopped working as much at night and used the time to catch up on sleep and re-energize.
All good things come to an end.
The two sitters we had during the summer were awesome, as I already said. They set the bar for how to judge all other sitters, and the bar was set high. Unfortunately for us, but good for them, each sitter got “real” jobs. The babysitting thing was only during college years and not a career choice.
One thing that helped with these babysitters is that we used a set schedule for each week. One sitter was always here on Tuesday and Thursday and the other was here Monday and Wednesday, and sometimes Friday. The set schedule made it more predicable for me regarding when I could work. The problem was my wife’s work schedule isn’t predicable, so this meant there were times we paid for a babysitter even though we didn’t need her. When my wife isn’t working a trip, she is more than happy to spend the day with the kid.
This lead us to try using babysitters on a flexible schedule. We might need a sitter on Monday and Tuesday of one week, and Wednesday Thursday of the following. This was problematic because even babysitters like to have some structure in their work life.
Finding sitters who could be flexible was challenging, and there was even a period of time when we didn’t have a sitter at all. I was once again watching the kid all day and trying to squeeze in as much work as possible at night. It was very exhausting.
What’s next? Daycare.
Since the flexible babysitting thing didn’t work out, and since we don’t need to have a babysitter at the house all the time, we have decided to give daycare a try. Daycare provides the benefit of having set days when the kid will be in daycare (we’re doing part time, 3 days a week for now). This means once again my work time is predicable again. And if we decide not to put him in for a day, it’s doesn’t cost us as much. The daily cost for daycare is about half what we pay for a babysitter. So on days when we don’t need someone else looking after the kid it will not cost us as much as it did when we used a babysitter.
We still may use a babysitter during the day from time to time, and lucky for me, the daycare will allow us to switch around the 3 days from time to time. So I’m hopeful this next attempt at finding me time to work will be good for both me and my wife. Time will tell. The kid starts daycare tomorrow.