Child care can make or break a working mom's career. If you're stressed about your child's well-being, it's hard to focus on your job. You spend time questioning the competency of your provider and if your child is OK. How can anyone really commit themselves to their to do list when thoughts like this swim around in your head?
When you are confident that your child is being well taken care of in a safe, loving, and stimulating environment it frees you to excel in the workplace.
When looking for child care there are five basic choices:
- A relative
- A babysitter
- An au pair
- A family daycare
- A daycare center
Here are the pros and cons for each of the above choices.
Care From a Relative
You may be lucky enough to have a father, mother-in-law, or sibling who offers to care for your child. Before accepting, think it through.
|The care may be free, or less than you'd pay a stranger||The care may be free of cost, but not without strings. Your mother may feel comfortable ignoring your feeding, sleep or other care preferences. After all, her rules worked fine for your childhood.|
|You can be far more confident that your child is with someone who loves and cares for her.||It may be harder for you to maintain appropriate boundaries when your employee is also a relative.|
|The emotional bonds your child forms build upon an existing family relationship, and will last a lifetime.||If the arrangement doesn't work out, lingering resentment may haunt your relationship with the relative.|
Care in Your Home
Whether you call her a nanny or a babysitter, the role is the same. They are someone you hire to care for your child in your home.
You don't have the hassle of packing up your child in the morning.
|There's nobody supervising your nanny while you're at work.|
|If your child sleeps late, you won't have to wake him. You can leave once the nanny arrives.||Your child will have limited opportunities to socialize with other children or learn group manners.|
|Your child will have a higher adult-to-child ratio than in a center.||You're wholly dependent upon your babysitter's availability. If she gets sick or quits suddenly, you're stuck with no care..|
|You'll have more flexibility to set your own rules for discipline, feeding, and schedule.|
This is usually the most expensive child care option.
|Your child won't be exposed to the germs of a group child care setting. (You may see this as a con, because some early illnesses strengthen the immune system.)||You'll shoulder the burden of background checks, verifying employment eligibility, and employment-related insurance and taxes, including Social Security and Medicare.|
An Au Pair
Several agencies match young women looking for a way to visit the U.S. with families looking for inexpensive live-in child care. The catch is finding the right fit.
|Same advantages of a nanny: no packing up your child in the morning, set your own rules, favorable adult-to-child ratio, no group care germs.||Same minuses as a nanny: nobody supervises the au pair while you're at work, limited socialization, and you need backup care when she's sick.|
|If you don't need the au pair for all the hours she's allowed to work during the week, whether 35 or 40 hours, she may be able to babysit on weekend evenings.||An au pair must adjust to a new country, culture and possibly language. You may end up effectively having another, teenage child struggling with homesickness.|
|An au pair is usually much cheaper than a nanny and many daycare centers.||You'll have less privacy with an au pair living in your home.|
In a daycare center, teachers care for children in groups and are supervised by a director. Most states have licensing rules and minimum standards that the center must follow.
|There are multiple adults watching to make sure nobody abuses or neglects your child. Not only the teachers and director, but other parents are your allies.||When your child is sick, you'll need to arrange backup care.|
|Your child will learn from other children in her room, making for easier transitions such as weaning from bottles and potty training.|
Your child will have a lower adult-to-child ratio than with a babysitter.
|If one teacher is sick, your child will still be able to attend.|
You'll have limited ability to change the center's routines or rules.
|Many centers offer a preschool curriculum and enrichment activities for 3- and 4-year olds. This is a convenience if you plan to have more than one child.||Rarely do you have control over the teachers assigned to your child's room.|
Your child will become socialized and learn to enjoy other children's company.
Family Child Care
A family daycare center combines some of the good and bad points of a nanny and a daycare center. Your child is in a home setting, but socializes with other children.
This is often the least expensive option.
|There are few other adults keeping an eye on the caregiver. Often, any assistants will be the caregiver's relatives, making them less likely to report sketchy behavior.|
|Your child will socialize with other children.||Licensing standards may be looser than in a daycare center.|
|The setting is more homey and less institutional than a daycare center.||If the primary caregiver is sick or on vacation, you'll need to provide backup care.|
Edited by Elizabeth McGrory.