Nothing challenges our ideas of work/life balance like choosing professional child care. Your children’s safety is paramount, their early childhood development vital, and their happiness your priority. What child care choice is best for them, and for you?
What Can Child Care Centers Offer My Child?
Day care centers are a popular choice with families, for good reason. Licensing and regulation are reassuring to parents, and the group settings teach kids necessary social skills.
Many centers follow an early learning curriculum to help prepare toddlers for preschool. Your child will have a safe, structured day filled with learning activities, social play, nap times, and shared meals.
For parents, the major benefits include the cost, which is often the least expensive among childcare choices. Dependability is another advantage, with the providers’ sick days and vacations being covered by fellow staff, ensuring reliable coverage.
Common complaints about group child care include the inevitable exposure to new germs from other children, initially leading to more colds. Some argue that this helps build early immunity, but in the short term it can prove challenging.
If the lower cost and educational setting make daycare your choice, it’s important to visit your prospective center. Check out the services they provide to make sure your children will be in a safe and happy environment. A place where they can learn and play while you’re away at work for the day. If possible, interview staff to be sure the center balances a physically active program with appropriate intellectual challenges.
Should We Hire a Nanny?
Nanny care essentially provides your child with a surrogate parent while you’re at work. Agencies can connect you with a screened and trained professional to teach, nurture, and care for your child full-time.
A nanny’s training and one-on-one relationship with your family means that any child development or health issues will be recognized and addressed promptly. You’ll also be spared the hassles of packing and commuting for out-of-home daycare.
These advantages, of course, come with a price. Nannies receive on average $550 a week, nearly three times the cost of a day care center. Families with a spare bedroom can save money by offering living arrangements as part of the compensation.
Be aware that hiring a nanny makes you an employer, with all the related legal and tax issues. However, if you have more than one preschooler, family pets the nanny can also look after, or nontraditional work schedules/duties, then a nanny may be cost-effective after all.
Live-in Care with International Flair: the Au Pair
An au pair lives with your family as part of a cultural exchange program, to provide full-time child care in your home. In exchange, they’ll receive room, board, a stipend, and the experience of living abroad. These young caretakers are highly regulated by their agencies and the US State Department.
Your agency will match you with an appropriate caregiver, and provide specialized training. For parents wanting to raise their children with a second language, or specific cultural exposure, this can be the perfect choice.
Unfortunately, the application process, fees, and paperwork can be daunting, and contracts typically only last one year. For some families, however, especially the 40% of Americans living in child care deserts, this choice bridges the gap between what’s available for them, and what’s affordable.
In-home Child Care, or Early Childhood Care Center: Which Is Right for Us?
Interviewing potential caregivers, navigating applications, and researching the nanny vs daycare cost, might all seem overwhelming at first glance. Take your time deciding, and talk openly with your family about your preferences, your questions, and your concerns.
Next, take a good look at the available care choices around you, and keep an open mind. You may find that a choice you’d written off, isn’t as bad as you first thought. Be realistic about costs for each choice, too. Think about what it will really be like, to open your home to a stranger, or to add a half hour or more to your daily commute.
Each family’s situation and needs are different. Each child is different, too. If you have any questions or still find the choices in professional child care confusing or overwhelming, you can always contact us to ask questions and find out more.