We’ve all heard the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” But increasingly in our global society, many new parents settle in places far away from their hometowns or home countries and have only a limited or nonexistent village of family and friends nearby to help share child rearing duties.
This happens even in a place as bustling and friendly as Portland. Though Skype and FaceTime are wonderful ways to stay connected with people virtually, they cannot replace in-person visits and child care help. If you’re a parent struggling with these issues, as I am, and especially if you are new to town, finding local support can be difficult, and invaluable.
Here are some pointers to help you get started in the right direction in the City of Roses.
GYMS AND COMMUNITY CENTERS
Drop in child care services at your local gym or community center can be very economical and veritable lifesavers. They come with the added incentive of helping moms keep in shape, relieve stress, and make new friends while their kids have fun, too.
Some gyms, like VillaSport in Beaverton, even include a certain number of child care hours in their memberships. Many gyms, from large chains like 24 Hour Fitness to smaller neighborhood spots like NW Women’s Fitness and Southwest Community Center, offer child care for a nominal rate. Most require you to stay on site, which is a great excuse to work out and meet new friends in classes. If you want to walk or run outside instead of the treadmill, though, head to Garden Home Community Center, which allows parents to leave the premises for only a slightly higher rate. Explore the adjacent Fanno Creek Trail or head for coffee or an errand across the street or across town!
WHILE YOU SHOP CARE
Larger Fred Meyer stores in the area, such as the Tigard Pacific Highway and Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway locations, offer free child care for children up to kindergarten age and height while you shop. Imagine roaming the aisles uninterrupted! IKEA also offers care for little ones while you shop for trendy Scandinavian furniture or eat meatballs and drink lingonberry juice in their reasonably-priced cafe. You can even take advantage of free wi-fi to sneak in some work or internet surfing.
DROP IN CARE
Services like Baerly Big, WeVillage, and Kids Klubhouse offer flexible schedules and payments, even offering early morning and late evening options for those burning the candle at both ends. Such centers can come in handy for everything from job interviews to doctor appointments to date nights. Speaking of those all-too-rare events, consider watching a movie at Academy Theater while their child care staff entertains your wee one.
NANNY SHARES AND PARENT HELPERS
When I needed child care help stat, I felt very fortunate to discover a lovely family in my neighborhood with a similarly-aged child who was willing to share their nanny. It was a win-win for everyone, as the kids had opportunities to socialize in a comfortable setting, the nanny made a bigger buck, and it was more economical for everyone. Ask neighbors in person or via small neighborhood groups like Nextdoor or Facebook neighborhood groups. Or if you interact with other parents at parks or classes, they may offer great leads, too.
Another reasonable option would be to hire a youngster who is just starting out babysitting. Many pre-teens have become certified Red Cross babysitters, but they might need to gain some experience and confidence before sitting on their own. Hire them as a parent helper and have them play with your child while you get things done around the house or work from home.
CHILD SWAPS AND BABYSITTING CO-OPS
Some of my friends have had great success setting up half or full day “child swaps” where one parent watches multiple children from both families and then another parent returns the favor the next time. This allows each parent to have essentially a free half or full day of child care! Babysitting co-ops can work similarly if there’s an established mom’s group or other structured group of people to rotate.
SHORT-TERM NANNY SERVICES
Spilt Milk Nannies, Care.com, and Savvy Nannies are a few of the nanny services available here in Portland. These agencies help find a fit tailored to your specific needs, either short-term or long-term. I’ve encountered nannies from these agencies while playing with my own child at playgrounds. They are often college students who are studying to be teachers or early child educators. I’ve been impressed with their energy and attentiveness to their little charges.
Coming from a smallish town in central Washington that had very limited child care options in general, these creative child care solutions in Portland simply astound me. How lucky we are to live in a place with so many possibilities to help expand our village, help us get things done or have some leisure time while ensuring our children are well cared for.