I heard from a mom this week who has postpartum depression and needs help finding child care services. She has a 4-year-old and a 4-month-old and she’s desperate for sleep. Her baby is not sleeping well, and she has no one to help her get some rest, as her husband works the overnight shift. She says none of her family or her husband’s family live anywhere close, and she has no friends. She can’t think of a single person who could help her by coming to take the baby.
A mother may be in crisis for all sorts of reasons, whether it’s postpartum depression, a debilitating illness, economic turmoil, problems of addiction or abuse, or something else. Whatever the reason, it’s so important for them to feel they have a safe place for their children to go, whether it’s for a few hours or a few days. For many of these women, lack of childcare is a major barrier to getting help.
The awesome members of the Postpartum Progress Facebook page and I came up with a list of options for all of these moms, who we know are out there and just need some help. Most of these options, I admit, are for getting help during the daytime. They are low- or no-cost ideas for getting support for the millions of moms who don’t have daycare or babysitters or nannies and who can’t afford them, but still need and deserve options for getting a break. As we all know, it’s hard to recover from postpartum depression if you can’t get time to take care of yourself.
1) Churches and Community Centers – Many churches offer “mom’s morning out” programs where you can drop your children off for a few hours and get some time to yourself to run errands, go to a therapy appointment or support group meeting, or just rest. You can search “mom’s morning out” or “mother’s morning out” and the name of your town on Google to find such a program in your area. Note that some are free whereas others may require a fee.
2) YMCA – Some YMCA’s have drop-off hours where they will watch your child for a few hours. Look up your local YMCA and give them a call to see if they offer such a service. I know our YMCA has special babysitting evenings once a month where you can drop the kids off for three hours in the evening on a Saturday night and go on a date. Or go take a nap.
3) Babysitting swap — When my sisters were little, I remember my mom was part of a local group of women who would trade babysitting services with each other. One day another mom would watch my sisters while she was out running errands and doing what she needed to get done, and my mom would return the favor when that lady needed someone to watch her kids. There are actually organizations that focus on this now, like Sitting Around, Care.com’s Care Exchange, Babysitter Exchange and Mommysitters Club. You can also check Meetup’s list of babysitting swap groups.
4) Subsidized childcare — For information on finding childcare services that are subsidized (at a significantly reduced fee), Child Care Aware offers a childcare finder that will connect you to a local agency that can help you identify local childcare resources. Many states offer financial assistance programs for childcare. Just Google “financial assistance childcare” and the name of your state to find yours. Here are examples from Tennessee, Washington state, Virginia and New York.
5) Head Start – Head Start is a program of early childhood learning for children ages birth to five for low-income families. If you’re looking for a program for your infant, look for Early Head Start programs that focus on children up to three. To learn more and find a program near you, click here.
6) Crisis nurseries – Crisis nurseries, also sometimes called respite care, are generally open 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days a year, rather than just during business hours like traditional childcare. Many provide free emergency daytime care and overnight stays for up to a specified number of days. Here’s a list of crisis nurseries around the country. There is also an organization called Safe Families that provides temporary “foster care” for children while the mom still retains custody, if longer term care is needed.
These are just a few of the options we’ve identified. If you know of others, please list them below so that mothers with postpartum depression who need help will see they do have options. (Just please be sure they are free or low-cost.)