Doulaing full time can be a tricky business at the best of times, but add small children into the mix and you may wonder if it's even possible. The logistics of being on call with young kids can be overwhelming, but with some solid planning and a bit of out-of-the-box thinking, there are ways to make it sustainable. Here are 4 possibilities.
Do you have a partner? Is their work situation flexible? Perhaps they could make arrangements to work from home on days you're called to a birth or to trade shifts with a co-worker. This can be the ideal situation as your partner is usually already firmly established in the rhythm of your family. However, if your partner's work isn't really set up for or prepared for some of the potential downsides to on-call work - namely the unpredictability of when you'll be called or how long you'll be gone, it can create resentment and stress. If your partner's missing more work than their employer expected, their employer may become less accommodating over time.
2. Friends and Family
Is there a family member (your mother or mother-in-law? sister or brother?) or good friend who might be willing to act as on-call childcare for you? This can really be a great arrangement as it is likely your children are familiar with them and they are familiar with your children. Some things you'll want to discuss with them in advance: what happens if they are sick? how and when will you contact them (do they want to know the second your client may be going into labor or do they only want a call when it's time for you to go)? will they come to you, or will you take your kids to them? While there's a good chance that they'll decline, consider offering payment, whether that's a certain amount per hour of care, an on-call fee whether you call on them for care or not, or an exchange of child care services, the offer makes it clear that you value them and their time.
3. Formal, Paid Childcare
You may be able to find a dayhome or daycare that offers short notice drop in child care. This has the benefit of being professional and reliable but it can get expensive depending on whether you have to pay a fee to hold a spot for your child and how much their hourly rate is. You'll need to make sure to take this into consideration when setting your own fees for your services.
4. Business Partnership
Alright, I'll admit, I'm totally biased but I think this is the ultimate solution to living on-call with children! Sharing your doula work with another doula allows you to set your call schedules to whatever works best for the both of you. In mine and Christine's case, that means I'm only on call when my partner is home from work so when a client calls, I can drop everything and go to the birth knowing he's holding down the fort. Conversely, when he's at work and it's much trickier for me to be able to get out of the house on short notice, Christine's on call so I don't have to worry about it! The one downside is that because you are sharing the work you are also sharing your pay. Depending on your particular situation, however, you may be able to take on enough clients per month to make up the lost income. It can also be helpful to diversify the services you offer to help cover any income gaps.
Tell us: have you found a practical way to doula while parenting? Please share in the comments - your idea may be just the thing someone else is looking for to be able to follow their passion too!