Daycare: Near Home or Work?

should you choose daycare near home or workIs the best daycare near home — or work? We’ve talked in broad strokes about the pros and cons of different childcare options, but not specifically this.  A reader wrote in pondering this question a while ago, so let’s discuss.  First, here’s her question:

Kat, I’ve searched the site but I can’t see that you’ve addressed this question before. Is it better to have a daycare near home or near work? Near work sounds attractive because I could visit the baby during the day or at lunch, and we could spend time in the car together on the way to and from. But near home is attractive, too, for times when my husband or mother will have the workday off and can drop off/pick up the baby, or if she gets sent home sick, etc. Plus, to make friends close by.

Interesting question!  There are definitely some pros to having daycare near home:

  • The BIGGEST pro I see is that you and your partner can much more easily share drop off/pickup duty if it’s near your home — unless you both work at the same company or in the same area, you’re going to end up doing everything
  • It’s definitely a pro to have friends nearby your house — whether they’re mom friends for you or playmates for your child
  • If you forget something kid-related you can run home quickly
  • A short commute for your child (whether by walk or by car), which reduces the risk of him or her falling asleep in the car at a time other than naptime
  • Your own commute is unencumbered by kiddo, which may mean you can start focusing on the workday ahead of you — or that you get a bit of personal time to listen to a podcast or some music — also, if you run errands on your way home you don’t have to worry about bringing your kids in with you
  • If your work situation changes you don’t have to worry about moving your daycare as well

On the flip side, there are some pros to having a daycare near the office:

  • If your daycare is through your work, there may be significant cost savings
  • If you’re still nursing, you can pop in to see your baby during the workday (but — note that a lot of kids may be more upset to see mommy for a short visit that doesn’t end in their going home)
  • If there’s some emergency at daycare you can be there quickly
  • Depending on where you live versus where you work, you may be more interested in networking with the parents at the daycare closer to your office

Ladies, what are your thoughts? I think after going through the pros of both, I think my vote goes to the daycare near home — it’s just easier all around.  Ladies, what are your thoughts? Does your answer change if you’re considering daycare for a little baby versus a toddler? 

Pictured: Pixabay. 

Should you choose a daycare near home or work


  1. hoola hoopa says:

    Home. No question. With the exception of the lucky few who have a daycare in the same building, so it would actually save them a stop.

    It’s easier to divide pick up/drop offs.
    Kids hate commuting. (And you’ll hate commuting with kids even more than commuting solo).
    There will be days when you’re not going to the office but the kids are going to daycare (working remotely, sick day, etc).

    I know some people say to have infants near you so that you can breastfeed during the day and/or visit – but I’ve had that arrangement and (1) It doesn’t save you from pumping, (2) It’s a huge time sink and I’d rather have the time truly home as a family, and (3) It’s easier for the kiddo to say good bye once a day, (4) you’ll probably do it less than you think and they outgrow nursing relatively quickly compared to their entire time at daycare.

  2. octagon says:

    Another thing to consider – do one or both of you telecommute (or have the option to)? I telework fairly regularly so it was a no-brainer to have daycare near home. I don’t want to have to drive into downtown DC just for a daycare drop-off.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Near home.

    Commuting with small kids is not quality time together (exceptions of course)

    Nursing at lunchtime rarely works out – better to pump and get back to work and leave sooner. Having to say goodbye twice in one day is hard on baby.

    If you lose your job/travel for work, it can be a huge pain to make alternate drop off arrangements.

    It’s SO HARD to do both drop off and pick up every single day, all year long – close to home means splitting duties is much easier.

  4. I have a daycare next door to my work and love it. Starting out I nursed at lunch most days – kept my supply up and my anxiety level down. Now that she’s 9 months and the weather’s nice, I pop over for the occasional lunchtime stroller walk instead. I have also popped in at random times and have been able to develop a good working relationship with the infant room ladies and admins. In turn they’ve become an amazing resource for me.

    Love my arrangement overall, primarily due to work proximity!
    Note though, I only have a 10 minute commute so you could also fairly say it’s close to home.

    • ETA after reading above posts:

      Hubs and I still split dropoff and pickup. Totally agree that having both in one day is too much.

      I found bf’ing at lunch to be almost as fast as pumping (and so much better for supply). Might depend on your overall response to pump? And our pumping facility sucks.

      I have had zero problems saying goodbye twice in one day. Currently 9 months. When that changes we’ll deal with it.

    • I have a long commute (over 30 min), but daycare is a 2 minute walk from my building. I love it. I miss my daughter much more on the days she is not “with” me. She’s only 8 months, but even hearing her babbling in the car during the commute means something to me. I love the cuddles, and I feel more comfortable with daycare since I get to observe the teachers for an hour during my lunch break.

  5. Anon MN says:

    Home. We split drop off and pick-up (I love not having to do drop off) so it works better for us. Plus we both work from home sometimes, or when someone is sick it makes it easier. If you get off early (once you have a toddler and are no longer rushing to get the baby, haha) you can run some errands near home without having to worry about traffic. Plus for sick days it makes it easier if your partner travels.

    I know people would rather be there sooner when a child is sick, but I can’t imagine having to commute home with a sick child. I would rather have it take me longer to get there and then be home quickly.

  6. Aleene says:

    Home. My husband and I travel a lot for work, and our offices are not near each other, so if daycare was near one of our offices it would be a huge inconvenience for the other person. We alternate drop offs and pick ups when we are both in town. I just moved my son to a daycare much closer to home (a 5 minute walk vs. a 20 minute walk) and even just having an extra 15 min at work in the morning and in the evening has helped me out a lot. Now, we live in a big city and do not have long commutes in a car to get to work. Perhaps if you were 1-2 hours away from your child when at work you’d want them in a daycare closer to the office? I don’t know.

  7. Momata says:

    Home. This way you and your partner can divide up dropoff and pickup however is most equitable based on commuting times, work commitments, and specific commitments on specific days. And it is imperative to have the kid in the car for the last amount of time as possible.

  8. Kristen says:

    I’m choosing a daycare near our home. The main reason is baby’s SAFETY on the road. I commute and the less time in busy traffic (mainly interstate for me), the better for baby. Plus, I can enjoy the silence (or my choice of music) and have some decompression/transition time on my commutes alone. Other reasons include my husband/fam/friends being able to help out if the baby needs picked up early, etc. Their schedules are more flexible than my work schedule. Plus, it is cheaper for the area that we live for daycare – the city that I commute to for work is almost 3x higher. Someone else made a good point that if I left this job, I would have to find daycare elsewhere. Stick to your roots – go close to home. That is my take because that works better for us.

    • When we had our baby, my husband and I both worked an hour in opposite directions, and my commute was by train. Every morning on the train I would see 2 moms commuting with their toddlers, and it seemed ideal to me. But when I looked into it, not only was it hard to find daycares in strictly business district, but the ones I found were waaay more expensive than the area of town we lived in with lots of families.

      I can see though, that commuting time would play into this. If you commute an hour it might be hard to get back by the pick up times the center sets.

    • Sarabeth says:

      Plus, not knowing if your baby will hate the carseat. Mine did, passionately. I can’t imagine having to drive 45 minutes each way with a screaming child. I guess maybe she would have adjusted and gotten used to it? But I’m pretty glad I didn’t have to find out.

      Everything else about splitting pickups/dropoffs is also important. Unless you and your partner work in the same area, daycare near work is signing up to be the primary parent for all of that stuff, and the one who has to leave work every time the kid is sick. If you want to maintain equality in your marriage, set yourself up for success.

      If you can have daycare that is near work and home, that’s the best of both worlds, of course.

      • Thankfully my baby just uses the nearly hour ride home for nap time.

        Plus, she gets me in the carpool lane!

  9. My husband and I are looking into this now actually (I am due early next years). By far and away the winner is actually WORK, but his work, not mine. The facility is subsidized by his job so it is significantly cheaper than the other options plus it has amazing credentials. If an office subsidizes day care, then that may be a significant factor.

    • Our daycare is by my husband’s work. It’s the only option that we could make work for us, and we love the daycare itself. Schedule wise, it works for us — neither of us can get home in time for a daycare pick up in our area (none are later than 6:30, most are not later than 6) and we also can’t afford one near our house. By his work is affordable. So, it was the best solution for us.

      But… it’s a pain. There is no way for me to get to the daycare so my husband does 100% of drop off and pick up. Luckily in the past year our baby/toddler has NEVER had to come home sick, but he would have to do that too. (I am unable to drive to work for various reasons, so am reliant on public transit, which does not run to the daycare — which is also at least an hour from my workplace even driving.) It’s a real pain on those few days when my husband has to work late — either finding another ride home for baby or me schlepping near there on transit and picking up the baby/car. Also a pain for those days when he doesn’t have to go in to work but we still need care (think academic calendar).

  10. Christina says:

    Absolutely near home. I don’t always start and/or end my day at the office, so it is much easier to have daycare near my home – where I always start and end my day. I don’t want my children spending an extra hour each day in the car. I’d rather have them playing, eating, or napping at the daycare during my commute. It is significantly easier for my husband and I to switch picking up the children. Also, if we need to take the children to the doctor’s for a well-visit or sick-visit, it’s much easier to have the child’s daycare near home and the doctor. There is no way I could stop in and see my kids during the day. Whenever I have come to the school in the middle of the day, it disrupts their routine and the rest of their day is thrown off.

  11. CPA Lady says:

    Pick one by your house.

    Your baby’s time as an infant will pass in the blink of an eye. Your time nursing the baby will pass in the blink of an eye. If you like the daycare, your kid will be there for 4+ years. Once you have a toddler, it will most likely become a huge disruption to your kid’s classroom and upsetting to both you and your child if you just drop in during the day. Don’t make a decision about daycare location being close to work based on your fantasy of what it will be like during the very brief infant time-frame. Especially if you are not REALLY on board with being expected to handle all drop offs and pick ups.

    Our daycare is about 10 minutes from our house. However, it is also between our house and my job. My husband’s job is in the opposite direction and he has a weird work schedule where he works either 7 am- 3:30 pm or 5 am to 1:30 pm, so I always have to do the morning routine + drop off by myself. He argues that its more convenient (for him) if I do ALL drop offs and all pick ups, since it’s on my way and because he doesn’t want to leave the house once he gets home. This attitude enraged me and led to a big argument, but we came up with a compromise that involves him having dinner on the table when I get home with our kid. This dinner is something he is 100% in charge of. I do not shop for it. I do not plan it. I invest zero time or energy into it, it just magically appears. It has been working out well. But … just be aware that if the daycare is closer to your work, you’ll probably be doing not only all the child schlepping, but also all things related to the daycare– the extra projects, the emotional labor, remembering to drop off the monthly payment, picking the child up when sick, etc.

  12. Mrs. Jones says:

    Home. No question. Otherwise one parent has to do everything daycare-related.

  13. We did a daycare near work when my son was an infant and we had a 45 minute commute, and a daycare near home when I got a job near home with a ten minute commute. By home is so, so much better. He gets to stay and play with his friends until I get there, and we don’t have to deal with cranky/hungry toddler sitting in traffic.

    That said, I could not have done a daycare near home when I had a long commute. The problem is those days when a last minute meeting erupts or a conference call runs long. Being able to stay at work until 5:45 and pick my son up before 6 was absolutely critical. But it was miserable for everyone involved, so I am much happier with a short commute and daycare close to home!

  14. Jamie says:

    Work all the way. It gives me extra time with my kid to sing along to the radio while commuting together. Back when I was still nursing (and having a hard time producing enough to send to daycare), I could pop in to nurse and deliver a bottle of milk that was pumped this morning. When my kid had a serious infection and needed medicine administered every day, I was able to do it myself. And since daycare closes at 6, I can work up to 5:50pm if I have to without spending the entire commute home rushing and worried I’ll be late. I love leaving at work knowing I’ll be able to see my kid in 5 minutes.

    • Jamie says:

      I should add that I live in a smaller city and my commute is 25 minutes, husband’s is an hour but in the same direction, so he could pick up if needed. If we still lived in Chicago, we would have had no choice but to have daycare by home due to cost and the ability of both of us to easily access the location.

  15. I’ve done both. For reasons others have said, I vastly prefer the close-to-home option. With the exception of the first few weeks back to work, when having the baby so close by helped me ease my transition.

  16. Amber says:

    Home. I have a 45 min commute each way which many have pointed out is not ideal especially when you have traffic. Honestly, the 2 biggest factors for me were that if I work from home or take a weekday off it’s easy to still take them daycare and we have family close to daycare but not my work so it’s easy to arrange pickup if they get sick during the day. If daycare were close to my work, there are still times it is hard to just pick up and immediately leave to pick up a sick kiddo.

    When I started my job I did negotiate slightly adjusted hours (7:30AM – 4:30PM) to allow me some buffer to make it before the pickup deadline of 6PM, so that helps, but also, with family close by, if something runs late it’s a lot easier to have someone else pick them last minute.

  17. atlmom says:

    One benefit I don’t think anyone mentioned is that if you pick one near home, when you have another child, it’s easier send the older one to daycare while you are on mat leave with the new baby.

  18. ChiLaw says:

    My kiddo goes to daycare by/at my work, and I love it. Work has subsidized daycare on-site, so it was a pretty easy decision to make. It’s actually the next building over from mine (the company grew and is now in two buildings) but it’s comforting that she’s so close by. It’s about a 25 minute drive from home, which is a little annoying for my husband to do when I’m traveling, but the advantages outweigh that. Mostly, I love that when they have “Mothers Day Lunch” or other cute events, it’s so easy to pop in. She tends to nap when I take lunch, but I still peek in and watch her sleeping.

  19. Lauren says:

    I am surprised that everyone said home. I love having day care close to work. I nursed both kids when they were younger, am able to get there quickly when sick or an emergency. Day care closes at 6 and it takes me about 25 minutes to get home. If day care were by home, I’d have to leave earlier to be able to make it to day care before it closed, and be constantly stressing if I got caught in traffic as often happens in Seattle. With it close to work, if I get tied up a bit, I’m not panicking that a missed traffic light will make me even later to day care. And if the drive home takes 45 instead of 25, I have my kids with me so we can enjoy that time together, talking about their days, what we’re having for dinner, etc. I much prefer having the extra time together.

    I will say that my husband and I both work in close proximity to day care, so we do have the option to split pick up and drop off.

  20. Totally work. Although to be fair our commute is 20 minutes and daycare is in DH’s way to work. But I’m easily there in an emergency, and I know if I leave at 5:55 and be there at 6. I would lose my mind if I had to worry about traffic at night since I have clients who love to call at 5:45. That convenience is well worth the 1-2 times I’ve had to take a pukey kid home from school, IMO.

    Also – I love being able to drive by on my way back to office from meeting with clients and seeing them on the playground.

  21. For my family, a daycare close to my work is the best option for us. We live in what I would say is a more rural area of a suburb (30 minutes from the major downtown area that I work at, but there’s really not much within 15 minutes from our house) and a good daycare is going to be at least 15-20 minute drive. When my son was a baby I nursed him at lunch most days and loved it. It helped me get to know his teachers and classrooms and the way daycare worked in general, and seeing him mid-day helped me feel like I didn’t miss as much. Also, my husband visits customers and travels a lot (I don’t travel at all for work) and drives a work van with no backseat. So he can’t transport kids anyways and it would be more of a hassle for him to swap vehicles to help with drop off and pick up.

  22. I was pondering this recently – despite being just TTC. My husband and I work on the same campus – a 35 minute bus ride from home and within a 10 minute walk of each other. He works fewer hours (8-4) but I have more flexibility in my day. When the time comes, I think we’ll go with the daycare near my office (10-15 minute walk for him, 5 minute walk for me).

    Not loving the idea of bus commuting with a baby but the daycare nearest our house doesn’t look nice at all. The better one would include 15-20 minute walk + 20 minute bus ride – fine on nice days but don’t fancy pushing a buggy up the hill in the rain or snow.

    The daycare near work looks very nice (I see the groups of kids heading to the park during the afternoon and they seem happy/workers seem cheerful) and I think it’d be nice to be able to grab a coffee and head to the park on nice summer days when the baby is walking.

  23. Great discussion! I didn’t really consider this pre-baby, and was lucky that what we chose works for us. Day care is two blocks from home, and has been really great!

  24. Threadjack: What is the best way to deal with visiting Monster-in-laws as a new parent?
    From comments about weight/body shape (and i am an objectively tiny, size0-2) to actively disregarding parenting preferences (tossing the food i prep for MY child) and general meanness and cruelty, ‘m seeing it all.
    I know it is only a few more weeks, but it is a few weeks too many.

  25. Seventh Sister says:

    My kids went to daycare close to my office because the kind of center that I wanted, especially at the infant stage, just wasn’t available near my home. The daycare centers near my house are all home-based centers, which would have been fine, but I vastly preferred the outdoor spaces and overall size/scope of the larger daycare centers near my office. It was a long car commute, but it all worked out great in the end.

  26. We’ve done both. I preferred close to work when I just had one child. Once we had the second baby, commuting with two became really difficult. With just one kid, I really treasured the time we spent on the metro, and it allowed me to spend an extra hour per day with her. With two, I was stressed out and not by best self.

    We have since moved to a new city and have a day care close to home. My work schedule has changed and I work from home half of the time and downtown the other half the time. The downside of the arrangement is that on the days I’m downtown, I feel like I spend SO much of the day away from them. I really hate that. My commute is 45 minutes though.

  27. I’ve always done near WORK. That said, I live only a 15 minute drive from home, and I would be open to one near home if one existed. Also, while the daycare is closest to my office, it’s only 15 minutes walk from my husband’s, so he can help with pickup/dropoff on occasion (my schedule is better for it most days).

    Daycare is a 5 minute walk from my office. I am going to try nursing my newborn on my lunch break, but that is a bonus and not a motivation to be there by any means. Being near work mostly gives me reassurance that I can always make it to pick him up in time, even if I am running late. We briefly used a daycare once that was a 30 minute drive in traffic from work (and opposite direction from home too – we were desperate) and I was often biting my nails hoping I would arrive before they closed.

  28. Elizabeth says:

    Home. Children make friends at daycare and then end up going to kindergarten with these same friends. Our daycare will bus the kids from the local schools back to daycare for after care as well.

  29. If you ever work from home (without your kiddos), having your childcare near home offers a quick turn around. Since I often do this, I appreciate my daycare being close to home.

  30. I feel mom guilt even saying this, but it was a no-brainer to have day care near work for us because of the hours we both worked (luckily each of our offices was only a few blocks from our centrally located but very expensive day care). Our youngest is now 10, so this was many moons ago, but we were both associates at law firms. So even though our daughter(s) were the last to be picked up from day care, we (whoever was on pick-up duty) was often the first young associate to leave the firm in the evening. And so it began – the feeling that I was managing to shortchange my child AND my career in the very same action. (And let’s not even talk about how we were shortchanging our marriage, sigh. What was that about having it all?)

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