As the sun sets on a Friday night, eight sets of parents walk into Over the Moon, Mumbai’s first night crèche, and hand their children over to a trained psychologist, who will care for them while the parents party, dine or enjoy a date night.
Started on Christmas Eve, the crèche is open on Friday and Saturday nights, from 7.30pm to 2am, specifically to give parents a chance to have an adult social life over the weekend. “We started the night crèche because, as parents of two-year-olds, we know how hard it is to find someone to take over and give you the night off,” says Tripti Singh, a child counselor who runs Over The Moon with fellow counselor Shwetambara Sabharwal, and a friend, Dhruti Lingam.
The three mothers take turns to babysit and charge Rs750 per night. The centre is situated in Sabharwal and Singh’s therapy centre at Khar. In less than a month, the crèche, which began with an average of three children per weekend night, has begun receiving at least eight children per night.
And it’s not the only flexible new option available to Mumbai’s pressed-for-time parents. Across the city, preschools, crèches and activity and day-care centers — which once accepted only full-time members — are beginning to offer flexi-packages ideal for stay-at-home parents, homemakers and freelancers.
At day-care centres such as Kudos, Jumping Genuis and The Little Company, parents can now turn up at the door, hand over their child and pay by the hour, or buy coupons valid for a month and usable at their convenience. They can also opt for a month-long subscription, ideal for that annual hectic work season or even if you’re just having the house redecorated.
“I drop my five-year-old son, Kabir, off at Kudos whenever I need to go shopping or go out with friends once in a while,” says Kashish Vazirani, 34, a confectioner who works out of home. “It’s convenient, and it’s such a solace just to know there’s a place that can help out, take over for a few hours, and yet keep my son happy and engaged with dancing, board games, storytelling and puppetry.”
At Kudos, the number of ‘walk-in-and-drop-off’ instances has risen from three in July 2011, when the centre started the service, to an average of 10 per day.
The Little Company similarly offers a walk-in full-day programme for Rs750, as well as prepaid flexi-coupons valid for a month. “With more mothers re-entering the workforce, smart childcare-management business ideas are bound to mushroom,” says clinical psychologist Neha Patel. “It also helps that there are trained professionals at these centres, allowing parents to enjoy their ‘me’ time knowing that their child is being cared for properly.”
The increasing importance of ‘me time’ is an important factor driving parents to these centres.
“Sometimes we get mothers who drop their children off for a few hours just so they can go to a beauty parlour, lunch with friends or rekindle their interest in long-lost hobbies such as pottery or painting,” says Amrita Singh, co-founder of The Little Company.
Back at the night crèche, lights are dimmed at 9.45pm, all the children have been fed the home food dropped off with them, and a soft nursery rhyme slowly lulls them to sleep.
“I’ve used the night crèche twice,” says Sweta Sureka, a homemaker from Prabhadevi. “The first time, my friends were visiting from the US after two years and I didn’t want to miss out on a girls’ night out. The night crèche was the perfect solution.”
Up next for Sureka, a date night with her husband.