I'm a working mom and one of the biggest decisions my husband and I have made as parents is deciding who to leave our child with while we're at work. There are so many different options when it comes to child care and the first step to deciding what's the best option for you and your family is to understand your options. We considered four different types of child care:
Au Pair or Live in Nanny - This person lives in your home and cares for your children throughout the day and usually does some of the household duties like meal preparation, light cleaning and/or laundry. While they are visible to the children longer they should be given a set schedule so that they have personal time away from their child care responsibilities. Normally when you're negotiating a salary/fee for an au pair or live in nanny you also include room and board.
Nanny - A nanny will typically come to your residence and care for your children during the specified hours. Typically they're more expensive than In Home Care or Day Care options but they also provide much more, personal child care since, in most circumstances, they only care for one family at a time. However, with a nanny and a live in option, you are limited if your provider takes vacation or becomes sick.
In-home Care - This is when you take your child to someone else's home and they watch them there. You're typically responsible for the child's drop off and pick up. Most of the time this is the most reasonable option, cost wise, and with some searching you can find some truly amazing in-home care options with providers that will work closely with your child on their individual developmental goals.
Day Care - A day care is an organization that specializes in the care of multiple children at one time. You drop off and pick up at their designated location. These organizations typically have several classrooms each hosting a different age group. Oftentimes they have a planned curriculum but it's geared to larger groups of children as opposed to individualized learning. It's a much more social environment as opposed to the nanny options since there are several children of similar ages and education levels.
In addition to the traditional day care options there are part-time Mommy's Day out and church care providers, which can offer a variety of options depending on the location.
We've utilized a variety of these options for our little guy. He was a premie, so after his early arrival we were uncomfortable sending him to daycare, so we enlisted the help of a nanny. Simply put, she was amazing with our little guy. He loved spending time with her and we had every confidence that he loved our son. She worked with us on very individualized, developmental plan for our son and she took him on trips to the library for reading time and Gymboree for some physical activities.
After a year at home we were ready as a family for our son to start day care so he could start interacting with other children his age. After about three months we're thrilled with our decision since we've seen our son make huge strides, literally. He has quickly taken to standing independently and he's moments away from his first steps.
We did choose to switch to a new day care three weeks ago for a variety of reasons, another decision we're very pleased with.
If you're considering day care options here are some things you'll want to consider:
- Class size and teach ratio
- Age divisions / How are the rooms divided
- Sick policy
- Vacation time - do you, as the parents, have any "free" days without pay if your child doesn't attend
- Teachers and curriculum
- Hours of operation
- Amenities - for example, they provide wipes and diaper rash cream
- Field trip options / Extra curricular
Choosing childcare is difficult and there's never a one-size fits all solution for any family. My suggestion, do your research and trust your gut. If you're ever unsatisfied with your child's care for any reason don't hesitate to explore your other options.