What do you do with your children between the end of the school day and the end of the work day?

The question of what happens to children between the hours of 3pm and 5pm is a tough one, especially for families with both parents working full-time.

They say it takes a village - but who looks after the children when everyone in the village has to be at work?

For some, close relatives or after-school programmes are a life saver. Others aren't so fortunate.

Advertisement

What if you have no family nearby? What if you really have to work those hours because otherwise you can't afford to pay your bills? What if you can't afford the rates of the after-school programme? Who do you trust with looking after your child?

Every day, between the hours of 3pm and 5pm (or thereabouts), some parents in New Zealand face a childcare crisis as they try to ensure their children are safe, with adult supervision, if they can't be around (and a lot of them simply can't).

Times are changing and, due to necessity or for whatever other reason, single-income families are not the norm anymore. However, average school and work hours have not aligned with the new reality. The gap is real, expensive and even potentially dangerous.

It is also holding people back in life.

Mothers, in particular, are often faced with a dilemma between staying in the workforce (and spending most of their income on childcare) or leaving it to be home with the children.

Some research points towards the negative effects this has on the gender pay gap as well.

"Historically, school has always finished at 3pm, so that hasn't changed. What has changed, is the fact that in the past, one parent - usually the mother - was at home to care for the children. With more women returning to the workforce, and also more women in senior roles, the need for families to be able to find good help nearby has never been greater," Ruth Johnson, the New Zealand Manager for Juggle Street, told the Herald.

Juggle Street is a neighbourhood babysitting and nanny network that helps busy parents find local babysitters and nannies. The company started in Australia in 2014 and officially launched in New Zealand at the beginning of September.

"Businesses like Juggle Street need to exist because life is busier than ever and families need to be able to find help quickly and easily," she said.

Johnson, for whom this gap between school and work hours is a business opportunity, says society is taking steps towards minimising the issue but things are moving slowly.

"Businesses are definitely starting to evolve and implement changes that allow more flexibility in the workplace to accommodate family life. But people will always need help to fill in the gaps."

Juggle Street works on a feedback rating basis, much like TradeMe or Uber.

Parents create a family profile on the website and can do a filtered search for helpers that meet their criteria and build a list of favourites.

To post a job they simply select the time and date, set the hourly rate, and send it out to their selected helpers via text message. They can connect, chat online and meet face to face if they wish to do so.

After a job is completed, parents rate the carer out of five stars, and can also submit a written review – which will appear in the helper's profile. Helpers can also, in turn, rate the families.

"You could have the perfect person to help you living just around the corner - Juggle Street is about helping families easily connect to good help in their local area," Johnson said.

"Whether your family needs a casual babysitter, before and after school care, a nanny or a home tutor – we believe that 'It does still take a village' and this will never change."

Juggle Street is currently free for parents to post jobs until November. After this, parents can choose to either pay $15 to post a one off babysitting job, or $60 for a year.

An annual subscription to all the care types is $120. Parents on a subscription-based membership are automatically covered by the company's AON Personal Liability Insurance.

"Parents can undertake whatever level of checking they are comfortable with. Some parents may be happy to trust a helper with lots of positive reviews, others may wish to ask the individual to provide a police check – and that is entirely at their discretion. We encourage parents to do their own due diligence and validate references and qualifications provided by helpers," Johnson explained.

Are you a parent in New Zealand? Join our parenting group on Facebook.