What are the pros and cons of different types of childcare arrangements? How do you decide on whether to hire a nanny, choose daycare, ask for help from family members, etc.? We’ve talked about taking business trips as a mom, but we haven’t had a conversation about this yet. How did you decide what was best for your family? Or, if you’re pregnant, how are you evaluating the options for how your child will be cared for when you’re working? Let me start by saying: Whatever you end up doing is the right choice. Truly, there are pros and cons to everything, so try not to listen to people (online or otherwise) who feel super strongly about the issue. Here are some key differences among childcare options that I’ve noticed:
The Pros: Your child gets individualized attention, in your home; you can be very specific about what you want re diet, activities, feeding, and more. You can negotiate for housekeeping and cooking as well.
The Cons: Hiring a nanny is expensive. Interviewing and payment can be a headache (especially if you are trying to figure out the “nanny tax”). If the nanny gets sick or is unreliable, you’re SOL. Even if you are specific with your guidelines, there’s no guarantee the nanny is doing what you ask (e.g., serving carrots instead of cookies, limiting TV time, etc.). By the time your kid is 3 or 4 you’ll probably want to pay for preschool on top of nanny services for socialization/school readiness.
Nanny share: This setup has many of the same pros and cons as above, but with added pro of socialization and added con of finding a suitable family and dealing with tricky conversations such as the extent to which they’ve baby proofed their home.
The Pros: Your child is getting socialization and you get extremely reliable childcare. Strict federal rules regulate the environment, and the staff, so for me safety was less of a concern. Teachers may often have bachelor’s if not master’s degrees in early childhood education. There’s no tax issue here – and if you use a dependent care flexible spending account to pay, you’ll lower your taxable income.
The Cons: Daycare hours can seem restrictive to someone used to billing 2,000 hours a year; 6 p.m. is often the latest pickup, for example. If your child is sick (and they will be, often, with all those other kids around) you can’t send him or her in, which may leave you scrambling for an alternative. As with any school environment, you may worry your child is being misunderstood, or ignored, or otherwise cared for in a way that worries you.
The Pros: Cheap! Loving! Family!
The Cons: Your parents (or in-laws) will be more in your business than ever. (Brace yourself for child-rearing opinions galore!) Depending on your relationship, you may or may not be comfortable telling them how you want your child cared for, not to mention enforcing your rules. Grandparents may have antiquated ideas about important issues like safety, breastfeeding, baby proofing, etc. — and they may be set in their ways. Also, depending on your relatives’ physical health, your child may end up being less active (e.g., not as much time spent running around a park) than they would with a nanny who is younger. In addition, if your child will be spending this time at their home rather than yours, you either have to bring the needed supplies/baby gear back and forth every day (which is a pain) or buy extras to leave at Gramma’s house (which adds up).
At Home with Your Partner/Spouse
The Pros: Cheap! Loving! Family!
The Cons: You may have trouble discussing and enforcing childcare preferences with your partner, especially if you both feel strongly about an issue. The time spent at home caring for your child will likely hurt his/her salary and career. Stay-at-home dads may feel isolated by a very SAHM-centric culture. Plus, even if you don’t want to leave your job, you may feel guilty that you aren’t able to spend nearly as much time with your child as the other parent.
At Home with You
The Pros: Cheap! Loving! Family! You get to raise the kids exactly how you like! You’re able to meet and spend time with other moms and their kids. During naptimes (theoretically, at least…), you can get some chores done around the house.
The Cons: There is boredom. There is drudgery. A SAHM’s career is in danger of taking a serious nosedive, and it may be hard to return to a comparable salary when you go back to work. You’ll also be left more vulnerable in the case of divorce or the death of your spouse.
There are a ton of other options, of course — au pairs, unlicensed daycares, and more. Ladies, what did you choose for your kids? Have you tried a few different kinds of childcare — what were your opinions on each?
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