How to Choose the Right Childcare
Deciding on and finding childcare is not an easy task, and for parents that go back to work it's something to start thinking about even before your baby is born. Childcare is unique for every family and it can be difficult to know where to begin your search. We took the liberty of gathering the top questions we hear about finding childcare and answered them for you.
When Should I Start Looking for Childcare?
In many major cities childcare is a commodity in high demand, which means getting into a daycare center or home preschool isn't always easy. In fact, in many places such as Denver and New York City, you need to decide on where your baby will go long before they are born. Preferably, at least six months before the due date. And this is where your childcare journey begins.
How Much Does Childcare Cost?
Unfortunately childcare can cost a lot. Baby List surveyed over 2,000 families and found that around 80-percent of parents were surprised by the high cost, and 70-percent said childcare is one of their biggest expenses. According to the data gathered by Care.com in its “Cost of Care Survey” in 2020, getting weekly care for one infant runs on average $565 for a nanny and $215 for a daycare center. That's a national average and can differ greatly between states.
What Types of Childcare Are There?
Lucky for us there are many types of child care to look into. The first step in deciding is to set a budget, know what you want and don’t want, and look into options from there. Other things to think about include whether or not the facility serves food or if you will have to pack a meal each day, the hours of care available, size of center and whether you feel good about the staff and space. The main types of paid childcare available include, a nanny or nanny share, in-home faculty, daycare or childcare center or an au pair. More about what each of these types mean below.
One benefit of in-home childcare is the intimacy of the venue. For my younger son we found an at home preschool that he went to from ages 18 months to 4 years, and became best friends with the kids and small staff that went there. This type of childcare really varies, and it's best to tour the facility and chat with other parents about it before committing. After all, what you want for your family is all subjective, so it's good to go into a childcare search with goals, desires and what you don't want in mind.
- Lower cost
- Ability to get more pictures of a child's day
- Knowing the other parents and kids well
- More available in small neighborhoods
- Random days when the center is closed
- Stricter rules about sickness and runny noses
- Building your schedule around the owner's desired hours
- Not vetted as well so quality varies
Most parents go for the daycare, also called childcare center, option. This type of facility has more spots to fill than an in-home preschool, so the waitlist tends to be shorter. There are also more kids, often of all ages from baby to 5-years-old.
- Children can go their from infancy to preschool
- More reviews and easier to research
- Regulated by state agencies
- Longer hours and less days off
- More kids mean more germs and the possibility of sickness
- Less one-on-one care, especially when your child gets older
- Many don't offer food
- No late pick ups
Nanny and Nanny Shares
Hiring a nanny to watch your kid is one of the more expensive routes when finding childcare, but it is also the most flexible in terms of scheduling. There are many ways to go about this, starting with looking at local nanny and childcare groups online. Depending on where you live there are also services geared toward setting up your family with the right person. Of course recommendations from peers is another great way to score a good nanny.
Whether going through a company or directly through an individual it's important to create a contract so everyone in the party knows what to expect. This means agreeing on a schedule and/or expected hours, pay rate including overtime, paid holidays, any vacation time paid or unpaid, sick leave and conduct. The latter can be more about where the nanny can or cannot take your kid, rules about driving your child, play dates, food choices and so on. Care.com has a good sample contract to look at and work off of.
All of this can be applied to nanny shares too, which is when you have a nanny and share them with another family(s). This can mean the nanny switches off days or both kids are being watched at the same time. Things to consider in this situation is the other child's schedule for naps and meals, the hours each party needs childcare for, whose house will be the host and whether or not you feel the other family is a fit. If you need to cart baby gear around or leave at another's house for a nanny share it's good to purchase lightweight items that are easy to use and clean. For example a gently-used pack and play, a colorful activity mat and an easy-to-use diaper bag stocked with diapers, bottles, snacks and changes of clothes.
- Setting your own schedule
- Direct contact with nanny at all times
- More personal care
- If the nanny is sick there is no childcare
- More expensive
- Working around another family's schedule
- Harder to find a good, reliable person
An au pair is a lot like a nanny, but this person lives in your house for a period of time. All au pairs come from another country and tend to be between the ages of 18 and 30. They get set up with the host family, you, and help with childcare and sometimes housework too. They get a free place to stay and a stipend for their service. To find an au pair one needs to sign up for the service on sites such as Au Pair in America and Au Pair 4 Me. You must first meet all the requirements to host an au pair and then you can create a family profile to match with someone.
- A lot cheaper than other modes of childcare
- Your kids get to know the person intimately
- Short term
- The person may not fit well with the family
- Must have space to be considered
- Au pairs live with you 24-7
- Gaps between available au pairs can happen
Planning For When You Don’t Have Childcare
It may seem that once your baby is in daycare or any other childcare situation your days to work and play are set. This isn't totally true. You need to plan for sick days, vacation time and various holidays, even the ones your own work isn't giving you the day off of. If your child is sick they can't go to daycare, and if you have a nanny they may call in sick from time to time too. In short, having a kid means you need to be flexible and always have a plan B.