Depending on where you live, you might need to make childcare decisions long before your child has even arrived! For parents who will return to work after having a baby, choosing a childcare provider can be one of the toughest decisions they’ve faced. It is very difficult to trust your child to someone else’s care, and to feel confident that all your child’s needs are being met and exceeded.
Here are some things to consider when researching potential childcare providers:
Spend time with the actual childcare providers. Ask lots of questions. Get their opinions and advice. Ask what they do for special dietary needs, special sleep needs, and special behavioral needs even if your child doesn’t require any of these. How they accommodate and handle the needs of other children (and how they talk about those needs to you) will tell you how your needs will be handled when they come up. Maybe your child is a very “easy” baby right now, but will have a tough time transitioning to the toddler room. These questions will demonstrate the amount of compassion, organization, and respectfulness shown to other families in the provider’s care. Make sure they are responsive and that you are able to easily check in throughout the day.
A nanny or babysitter at your house has both advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that, especially in freezing cold winter climates, you don’t have to get your child all packed up and bundled to go somewhere else. Sometimes these sitters also offer laundry and cooking/light cleaning services as well. Do you mind if the sitter knows that you are secretly slobs during the week and you just clean up before hosting BBQ’s on the weekends? Another disadvantage is that you have no way of monitoring or overseeing the behavior of this caregiver. This is also usually the most costly option.
A daycare has an advantage in having checks and balances for each caregiver because there is typically a center director and other teachers to always have their eyes open. Also, centers provide a variety of age-appropriate toys and activities so your child does not get bored. Your child might even meet some cute little friends. Those other kids come with one major drawback—a major influx of germs. If you choose a center, your child may be exposed to more germs and perhaps receive less attention than an individualized situation.
An in-home daycare may be the least expensive option, but you want to check the certification of the center, and ask how many children and of what various ages she will be watching at once.
Relatives often can offer a free or less expensive babysitting option. It’s nice that you know and trust them, but the downside is that they might feel more entitled to not follow a specific schedule or set of rules that you’ve laid out. Also, Granny may be free, but can she keep up with the smearing of grape jelly across the couch…? That’s just one more thing to consider.
If you trust your instincts, tour any set-up at least twice, and have a “contract” of understanding between you and your caregiver, you are sure to find childcare that you love.
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