Who would look after your children in an emergency?

mum on phone
mum on phone Photo: Getty Images

Having spent all morning vomiting, Becky’s* husband was now lying on the living room floor. She kicked herself she hadn’t taken his complaints more seriously. She’d thought it was ‘man flu’ … it was actually a burst appendix.

An ambulance was on its way. She wanted to accompany her husband to the hospital, to sit with him and hold his hand. But there was a small logistical problem – because while her husband lay in agony, her two young children ran around the house unfazed by their father’s plight.

The children couldn’t go in the ambulance, but her husband didn’t like idea of going to the hospital alone. With no family living nearby, Becky did the only thing she could think of: she knocked on a neighbour’s door and asked the young mum who answered if she could look after her young children.

Of course the neighbour agreed, despite hardly knowing Becky or her children. It was an emergency and she graciously agreed to help. But what would have happened if she had said no? Or if she had been out when Becky knocked on the door?

Like Becky, I don’t have any family living nearby. I hardly know my neighbours, and although I have lots of friends with children, none live within walking distance of my house. After Becky’s experience I started thinking about what I would do in an emergency. Who would I call on if I needed someone to look after my kids?

First on my list of potential helpers are my neighbours. Although we don’t know them very well at the moment, having only lived at our current address for six months, I’m trying to build relationships. We take round a plate of cake whenever we bake at home and take time to say hello when we meet in the street. I’m optimistic that in a real emergency they would happily take care of my daughters.

Second are our friends who live a short drive away – it would take them a little longer to get to us, but they have the huge advantage of knowing our girls. I decided to ask a few friends if I could call on them in an emergency and of course they all said yes.

Another option is out-sourcing. Sydney mum Sharon Mitchell set up her business Mayday Mummy for exactly this scenario. “So many of us don’t have extended family living close by to assist and support with raising our children,” she says.

Mayday Mummy is a Sydney-based emergency call-out childcare service that is available day and night. The carers all have Senior First Aid Certificates and Working With Children Clearance. 

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“When the unexpected happens, you really want to leave your children with someone who can step into your shoes. You need another mother, who is experienced, caring, empathetic and intuitive,” explains Sharon.

Sharon says that Mayday Mummy has been able to assist with numerous emergency situations in which parents had no one else to call on. “A dad came home from work with chest pains and the mum had to call ambulance – with no one else to help with her sons, she called Mayday Mummy. We were able to have someone there to care for her children within minutes of receiving the call – the ambulance was still in their driveway,” says Sharon.

Of course the thing about emergency situations is that you can’t predict the circumstances, so no matter how much planning you do you will still have to think on your feet.

But for those of us who don’t have family living nearby, the question of who to call on in an emergency is one that is worth having a think about.

* Name has been changed 

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