With fewer child care options and health and safety concerns, getting work done at home while also keeping an eye on her two children has been a struggle for Wendy Gilch.
“Our family ... had to look at what sacrifices are we going to be making, because if I’m not bringing in a paycheck, and I usually did work while they were at school, what happens to my work when they are both home?” said Gilch, who works in real estate. “My schedule has completely changed and I’m just doing work when I can find time to do it. I find comfort in knowing that everyone is going through this, but it doesn’t make it any easier.”
Parents working from home are familiar with that stress and looking for creative ways to get a few moments to themselves. Recently, Gilch has been using an online service started in Pittsburgh to help carve out some more time for work.
Before the pandemic, Gilch met Priya Amin at a networking event where Amin’s company provided childcare. Amin is the CEO and co-founder of Flexable, a company specializing in pop-up child care at workplaces and conferences since 2016. When the pandemic hit, Amin said the company had to pivot its model to try to fill child care gaps.
Now, it’s offering what it calls online child care. A remote host connects via video chat and leads children from 3 to 10 years old in music, art, story time and even magic.
Gilch’s 7-year-old son recently learned magic tricks during a session.
“I didn’t have to come over and check to make sure he’s still paying attention or make sure he was doing what he was supposed to be doing,” she said. “To have that hour to catch up on everything was so amazingly helpful.”
The sessions allow for two-way interaction rather than just watching videos.
“We’re trying to create those engaging moments so kids feel that sense of normalcy that they have not had since March,” Amin said.
Session costs range from $15 to $45 dollars for half hour or hour-long sessions. That’s time, Amin said, parents can focus on work.
“We can’t solve the problem of the childcare crisis right now from a virtual perspective. It’s impossible to have your kid sit on a Zoom call for eight hours a day. But if we can help for an hour at a time, that goes a really long way in helping parents be productive.”
Amin said she thinks this model will have longevity, especially as the fall remains uncertain for many school districts.
Gilch says he 4-year-old daughter’s preschool is considering moving to a fully remote learning model.
“If her preschool goes all virtual I will ... probably sign her up for more of the Flexable camps,” she said. “Just because I know they are one-on-one and I know she’ll be able to learn something from someone else other than myself.”