I stayed home for five years to raise my first two babies. When surprise baby number three came along, I had already launched my own healthy meals company and staying home was no longer an option.
Like many working moms out there, I had to make the difficult choice of finding suitable childcare for my new baby. I struggled to make this decision but deep down I knew the baby would be just fine.
Selecting the right type of childcare that fits your family can be an overwhelming process. I had to consider in-home childcare, childcare in someone else’s home, or at a daycare facility.
WHAT TO THINK ABOUT WHEN LOOKING FOR THE BEST CHILDCARE
Convenience: Think about your driving routine. Do you have other siblings to drop off at school on the way to work? Decide whether you want the childcare closer to work, home or somewhere in the middle. Never go in opposite directions.
Do Your Homework: Ask neighbors and friends where they send their children. What does each facility or person have to offer? Make a list of pros and cons for each option.
Budget: Realistically, what can you afford to pay? I would love to have a full time nanny but I can’t afford one. Think about what you can reasonably afford and then subtract $100-$200. The baby will get sick and you might have to miss work (with or without pay).
Hidden Fees: Facility pricing will vary. Are meals included in the price? What about “before care” and “after care” fees? Extra curricular activities? If your child has special needs, ask about those fees too. Everything adds up.
Interview: Make appointments to visit each daycare center during “non-visiting” hours. Interview in-home sitters. Ask as many questions as you can. Think of everything and then go ask your friends who have kids what else you should ask. For example:
• How many children are there per classroom?
• How many teachers or aides?
• What kind of curriculum do they offer?
• What is their sick policy?
• What about meals and snacks?
• What kinds of foods are they providing to the children—are they healthy options?
• How often do they clean and disinfect their facility and toys?
References: Get a list of references from the daycare or childcare provider. Call and check each one, asking questions and getting their feedback on the care they provide. Some online care websites offer pre-screened options with full background checks.
Test Drive: Bring your child to the facility or sitter and watch him interact with the teachers and other children for a few hours. Test their comfort, and yours. This will also help make the first day easier, because your child will already have spent some time and have a better understanding where they are and who everyone is. If you have a baby, check the level of competence and skills of the caregiver.
Wait: Typically the best places have waiting lists to get in. Make sure to get your name on their list to ensure you provide the best care for your baby you possibly can. For this reason, I recommend looking for a childcare facility before you deliver the baby.
Read Related: Adventures in Babysitting
What did I end up doing for baby number three? I moved the office to our home and hired a live-in au pair for the first 6 months. An au pair is a combination of a nanny and an exchange student from another country. They come to learn English and learn American culture while caring for children. An au pair was half the cost of a nanny but more expensive than the childcare facilities in my area.
After six months, I went through the whole process of looking for childcare again. Ready to throw in the towel and cry myself to sleep from frustration—I made the decision to hire a part-time nanny, continue to work from home during school hours and catch up at night when my husband gets home.
Finding childcare can be a difficult and exhausting process. Don’t get discouraged. Figure out what you really need and what you are willing to sacrifice. Unless you decide to stay home with the baby, there is no perfect option. Good Luck!