Finding Suitable Childcare
Deciding what option is best isn't always easy...
It may take a significant amount of time and effort to find a childcare arrangement you are comfortable with, especially if you only require part time care of or if your child has special needs. If you have suitable (and free) childcare available to you such as grandparents, consider yourself lucky!
The cost of childcare will vary depending on whether you hire a nanny, or take your child to a day home or daycare. Even if your salary barely covers the cost of childcare, you may prefer to work outside of the home – being a stay at home mom is a full time job in itself, and certainly is not for everyone.
Consider thinking about childcare earlier than later. Depending on demand where you live, you may need to get on a wait list when you're pregnant!
Remember that what works for one family won't necessarily work for others. All families have different needs, schedules, values and preferences. There is no shame in making a decision based on what works best for you and your family!
When to start looking for childcare
Depending on the availability of childcare where you live, you may want to begin searching for options at least three to six months before you know you will need. Make sure to explore all of the childcare options available to you because you may find yourself stuck with plan B until plan A is available. Some daycares literally take years to get into, but you may be able to put your name on the waitlist while you are pregnant or the day your baby is born.
Note that if you hire a nanny a month or two before you need her to start, you may risk losing her to another family if you do not pay her for the period before she starts.
Things to consider
You may not be able to find a perfect childcare situation for your child, but should be comfortable with the arrangement you choose. The following considerations may be helpful to you in your search for a childcare provider (some may be more important to you than others):
- hours of availability and flexibility (availability for overtime if needed)
- does the childcare provider(s) have up to date first aid and CPR training
- is the daycare or day home accredited and in good standing under applicable laws
- is the childcare provider(s) kid friendly, and does she appear to like caring for children (how does your child react to her?)
- does the childcare provider(s) have early childhood education training
- cleanliness and safety of the environment you child will be playing in, both inside and out
- child to adult ratio, including the ages of the children being cared for currently and in the future
- ability to accommodate special needs, and related policies
- policies and rules regarding discipline, eating, napping, quiet time and potty training
- daily schedule (what are the designated times for eating and napping/quiet time, and is there flexibility in terms of allowing children to eat and drink when they are hungry or thirsty?)
- food – what type of food and drinks are offered, and do they accommodate food sensitivities and special requests (some daycares and day homes do not permit any outside food, even if parents are willing to bring it for all of the children being cared for!)
- daily activities, indoor and outdoor, including length of time children are permitted to watch television and play with electronic equipment for each day
- notice period for termination of the childcare arrangement.
Is it better to have a nanny?
There really isn't one universal option that is better than any other when it comes to childcare because each child and family has different needs and preferences. If you look into all of the childcare options available to you, you will be able to make a more informed decision about what is best for your family.
Based on information we received from the parents we talked with, the main benefits to having a nanny are that your child will be cared for in your home (or the home of the family that you nanny share with), and there is a lower child to adult ratio compared to most daycares and day homes. You also tend to have more control over the daily schedule for your children. Another benefit is that your nanny may be able to help you with daily tasks such as cleaning, laundry and meal preparation, as well as driving children to and from school and extra-curricular activities. It is convenient not to have to get your children ready and out the door in the morning before work. It may also give you peace of mind to not worry if you are running late at the end of the day.
However, nannies are costly, and you are completely reliant on one person for childcare – if your nanny requests time off, you may find yourself stuck taking more time off work than you might like. Also, if your nanny is only caring for one, your child may miss out on social interaction if she is not involved in play groups or other activities. Lastly, you can only hope and trust that your nanny is being honest with you about where she is taking your child each day and how much time she is allowing your child watch television for (unless you have a nanny cam set up).
The jury is still out on whether it makes a difference if you have a nanny until your child is preschool age to help protect against colds and germs. Keep in mind that children will be faced with colds and germs when they go out in public, and certainly when they start school.
If you are contemplating hiring a nanny, read Hiring a Nanny – What You Need to Know.
Always have a back-up plan
The peace of mind that your child is being well taken care when you are not around is important to your health and wellbeing. Having at least one backup plan isn’t a bad idea just in case you change your mind, or if your plans fall through.