A Breakdown of Childcare Options for Your Family
Are you new to looking for childcare and want to know what types are available to you? Or maybe you’ve had childcare in the past and feel like there may be a better option for you and your family? Before making any choices, it is helpful to become familiar with the childcare options available to you — whether that is a babysitter, nanny, or even a parent’s helper.
Childcare is a big industry – according to a recent study, 59% of children in the United States age five and under are cared for by a non-parent at least one day a week.
The most common forms of modern childcare include:
- Nanny Share
- Family or Friend Care
- Parent’s Helper
- Family Day Care
- Day Care Center
Read on for a more in-depth discussion of these options and feel confident that your childcare planning is heading in the right direction!
If you have children, you’re likely familiar with the concept of a babysitter. These childcare providers are hired to care for your children in your home and are generally employed short-term or as needed. In general, babysitters have fewer responsibilities than someone like a long-term nanny.
While they are of course responsible for entertaining and maintaining the safety of your children, babysitters may not be expected to drive the children anywhere, prepare meals, or perform housework. The details of the work arrangement can vary depending on babysitter’s willingness and family needs. Typically, babysitters are best suited for shorter jobs, like weekdays after-school or date nights. If you are looking for childcare only on occasion, or for only a few hours on given days throughout the week, a babysitter may be the right choice.
Unlike babysitters, nannies are usually intended to be more involved in the child’s life and the household. Nannies are a great long-term solution for a family that knows they need regularly scheduled in-home childcare over the course of months, weeks, or years. For households with working parents, whether they work inside or outside the home, a nanny can take on the role of an additional parental figure.
A nanny’s job description will vary according to your needs and should always be discussed prior to an employment agreement, but some possible nanny duties may include:
- Driving children to and from school
- Creating and planning activities
- Assisting with education and homework
- Meal planning and preparation
- Laundry and light house cleaning
- Arranging and attending play dates with other parents or nannies
A nanny will spend a significant amount of time with your children each day (or as their schedule dictates). This means your children will possibly grow to love and trust the right nanny as they would a family member. Also, where babysitters are seen as an occasional expense, nannies are typically seen as household employees with a predetermined salary.
For people who want the benefits of a nanny but don’t need someone full-time, nanny sharing may be an excellent option. Nanny sharing works by two or more families coming together to employ one nanny. The nanny may split his or her time between families as arranged, or care for all the children together. By sharing a nanny and the salary expense, families can employ a nanny while staying within their budget. Nanny sharing is also helpful for families who may only need part-time hours, as they can combine their needed hours to offer a full-time schedule and salary to a nanny.
Family or Friend Care
Childcare is a big business, but having friends and family members care for children is still a very common practice. The family member(s) or friends providing childcare may be a grandparent, aunt or uncle, adult sibling, close friend, or neighbor.
Care arrangements look different for everybody, and duties of course depend on the friend or family member’s capacity, availability, and willingness to take on tasks. Many families who have a family member or friend providing childcare don’t pay a salary, as some families and friend groups consider childcare to be a normal and expected part of life. For those who do pay a salary to their friend or family member, that arrangement will look different for everyone.
While this option sounds ideal to some, others prefer not to go the friend or family route as it does have some downsides. Many people feel that any service arrangement is too risky between family and friends, as things may get awkward or tense if things don’t work out. There’s a greater chance of hurt feelings or unclear boundaries, and discussing pay with friends or family can be difficult. Some may also feel that friend or family care would feel too informal or flexible and prefer a formally structured (and paid) situation with an unrelated caregiver.
Traditionally called a “mother’s helper”, this type of childcare provider cares for children while the mother or father (or both) are present. A parent’s helper is often someone with less childcare experience than a babysitter or nanny and may be someone younger like a preteen or teenager. They have less independent responsibility than other childcare providers and are usually employed to help by occupying or entertaining children so that the parent(s) can be productive elsewhere.
A parent’s helper is ideal for anyone who may need some time for housework, self-care, cooking, or hobbies that can’t be done effectively while caring for children. They can also help with these tasks while the parent is tending to children, but again the specifics will depend on your family’s needs.
Family Day Care
For those looking for care outside the home, the family daycare model offers a home-like environment. Family daycare centers are run out of the home of someone who is a licensed childcare provider, and their home is usually adapted to accommodate several children according to state regulations. A family day care may include one or two care providers, or perhaps an assistant, but these programs tend to be small due to the capacity of a private home and the desire to maintain a family environment.
This can be a good choice for children who prefer more intimate settings or who may need more attention since the number of children enrolled is less than larger daycare centers. It is important to note that in searching for family day care providers, you will likely come across unlicensed family day care programs.
Each state will have its own rules and regulations for in-home childcare, and in some instances, an unlicensed program is legal and just as good as a licensed one. Your best bet is to become familiar with the home childcare rules in your state before looking into family daycare options to be sure that you’re only pursuing legitimate and reputable providers.
Day Care Center
Daycare centers come in all shapes and sizes, though they usually have many more children enrolled than family day care programs. As opposed to other private childcare options, daycare centers are appealing to many for their structure, regulations, and things like regular inspections required by your state.
They typically offer a predetermined curriculum according to age and can feel more like a school or preschool. Many parents prefer this type of setting as they feel that it does a great job of preparing children for pre-k or kindergarten by starting a more formal educational plan at an earlier age.
Depending on the center, some families may also feel more comfortable with their child’s safety at a daycare center versus with a nanny or babysitter. Most centers require all employees to be properly certified in CPR and first aid, and many have safeguards throughout the building and grounds to protect children from any unsafe conditions. Cameras are common throughout daycare centers, as are protected entrances/exits and reinforced gates or fences surrounding outdoor areas.
Daycare centers have a lot to offer but may not be as flexible as some families need. They have set hours of operation, meaning parents with unusual or changing work schedules may not be able to work within their open hours. Many also charge a fee for a late (or early) pickup or drop-off.
So, What Type of Childcare Should I Choose?
At the end of the day, the right childcare is the one that you’re comfortable with that also works with your family’s schedule. It’s not unusual for families to try out one or two options before finding a perfect fit, but it’s a good idea to clearly outline your needs, schedule, and preferences up front to narrow down your search.
Finding childcare can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. Think a nanny, nanny share, or babysitter may be right for you? Here at Perfectly Nanny, we make it easy for you to find your perfect match. Contact us today and take the first step toward getting connected with the best childcare provider for your family!
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