Choosing the right form of childcare for your infant can seem like a daunting task. In today’s world, parents are usually working to make ends meet, friends are doing the same (and often have little or no experience with raising children), and family members live far away.
So what do you do?
First, take a breath. This may seem like a high-stress decision (it is a very important one, at the very least), but once you prioritize and look at the different options available, you can be confident and informed in selecting the childcare for your infant or toddler.
What works best for you?
That is the first question you should be asking. Before you start picking names form the yellow pages, you need to identify whether you want to send your little one to a childcare that’s close to your work or close to your home. You might also want to look into the size of the facility, and narrow things down based on whether you want your child to have a lot of social interaction, or if you want it to be a more personalized experience.
Now that you’ve taken the first steps, you can move onto the next big question.
Licensed Vs. Unlicensed Childcare?
There are valid reasons to go with either, despite what your initial reaction might be. Both have their advantages, so let’s take a look at each one.
Licensed Childcare Providers are those who meet the standards laid out by the individual state regarding taking care of infants, toddlers, and slightly older children. These can come in the form of Family Childcare Homes, which usually offer a mixed-age setting with a greater ratio of adults to children. Often these facilities are actual homes, and the structure is more akin to a family setting, with group games, field trips, arts, and activities. While the cost obviously varies, sending your child to a Family Childcare Home usually rins in the $125-$250 per week rate.
Another option for those parents leaning toward the Licensed Childcare Provider is that of Child Care Center. These typically have more children (separated by age group), and fewer adults on hand than the home setting. The activities are highly structured, and the cost varies quite a bit. As a rule, the cost for sending an infant to a Child Care Center is higher than that of a toddler.
In term of unlicensed, or License Exempt Childcare Providers, these typically fall under the general headings of “nannies” or “au pair.” With these, you have the ability to really shop around, do personal interviews, and see how your child interacts with the individual. You can also ask for references, negotiate prices, and they will come to you, rather than dropping your child off somewhere else each day.
The advantages to a nanny or au pair is that the experience is more personal, you won’t have to worry about a lack of attention, and you can ensure that things get done your way. You can put to rest the idea that your toddler might catch a cold from another kid, and you won’t have to adjust your daily commute.
The cost of nannies and au pairs varies greatly. Some come with live-in costs in addition to a weekly rate of pay. Some will be more expensive based on references. There are even agencies that specialize in nannies who will be able to recommend ones based on your needs and budget.
Lists Are Your Friends
The bottom line here is to do your research. Get out a notepad and break it into columns. Make a list of what is important to you, the budget you have to work with, what you are willing to negotiate on, and those points which are absolutely out of the question. Now write down the possible options in your area, along with their pros and cons. Next, compare those possible childcare options to your list of priorities to see the best fit for the needs you’ve set down.
One Last Note On Research
It cannot be stressed enough that there’s no such thing as too much research when it comes to choosing the right childcare for your infant or toddler. We live in a day and age where information is at our fingertips, and the internet is a great way to not only find daycare centers, nannies, family childcare homes, and au pairs. In addition to finding these places, you will also be able to check reviews from other parents and sift through their opinions and experiences to see how each of these options works for them. Barring all of that, actually go out and talk to people. Remember, parents love talking about their kids, so asking them about what they are choosing for childcare will almost guarantee you a detailed answer.
Not everyone gets Mary Poppins flying through the window to take care of the children and the house and make everything perfect – but with a little organization and research, you can come darn close.