Choosing Childcare: What is Best for Your Family?

by stacie on November 21, 2020

Childcare is one of those things we agonize over. To send or not to send? In-home daycare or center? Nanny or babysitter? Part-time or full-time?

It can really drive a parent crazy!

But when choosing childcare, one thing is the most important: your gut feeling. I’ve been looking for daycare for one child or another since 1999. And in almost 13 years, it’s never gotten easier — or cheaper.

However, there’s a few questions you can ask yourself before you start looking for childcare.

Do you need part-time or full-time childcare? This is actually the very first question you should ask, and here’s why - it will have bearing on what type of childcare choices you have. In many places, if you are only looking for part-time care, a home-based daycare will likely be ruled out. Since states regulate how many children can be at a daycare, as well as the child/provider ratio, many home daycares are reluctant to take part-time children because it messes up the ratios and gives them one less full-time slot (and, frankly, full-time = money).

What is your budget? As parents, we are often reluctant to admit that we have a budget on what we can spend on childcare because we relate what we are able to pay with what we are willing to pay. Which is unfortunate, because these are two totally different things. If you have an unlimited budget, you have unlimited options; if you’re on a budget like most of us, you need to make some decisions. A home-based daycare is typically less expensive than a daycare center, but a center will have more flexibility. A nanny will typically give you the most flexibility, but will cost you the most money per hour.

What type of care do you want for your child? One-on-one? Lots of social interaction? A mix of the two? For most of us, a healthy mix of both is often the choice. A center will give the most social interaction, while a nanny or babysitter will give the most individual attention. Typically, a nanny is more willing to take your child out for story hours and play dates than a babysitter (unless you get really lucky) because a nanny makes more money. You can view our earlier post on how to choose a good nanny if you’re thinking about going down that path.

Are you able to set boundaries? This is actually a very important question, though you’re likely wondering why I’m asking it here. With a center or a home-based daycare, the rules are set for you because the people caring for your children are also business owners. However, with a nanny or babysitter, it’s your job to set their rules and enforce them; that can mean some uncomfortable conversations if you’re unhappy with your care provider.

I can speak from two camps: the home-based daycare and the nanny. My first daughter was in a home-based daycare with a wonderful woman and equally wonderful children. Twelve in all with one full-time and one part-time provider. Our second daughter is with a nanny — first a nanny share and now by herself. As she approaches two, we are thinking about a part-time preschool situation, just to get her some additional socialization with kids her own age (the only drawback I can think of with a nanny).

What have your experiences been with childcare?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Henny Ort November 21, 2020 at 2:28 am

It’s so confusing. Indeed, I’m grappling with this question now, that i know i have to work, yet want to have my baby near. I figure that I’ll want a sitter as close as possible, so that i can nurse the baby, and give her back when she is cute and giggly.

k8 November 21, 2020 at 7:57 am

One thing I DON’T recommend is hiring family to work very limited hours without a contract or anything. We had a cousin watch our first for a few months and she was forever late and causing my husband to be late to work. And she brought her 2 year old and didn’t clean up her mess before she left! I should not have been having to clean up my kid’s mess before she could even roll over, wtf.

I changed my working hours after that to stagger our schedules and we haven’t needed childcare since. I am considering going back full time soon, though still with semi-staggered schedules, so it’s good to know part-time care is mostly only available in centers.

Adventures In Babywearing November 21, 2020 at 12:06 pm

I have observed my friends using a lot of different types of childcare. I have thought about getting some part time help during the week but have no idea what to choose. I think my daughter would do better in a group setting.


Ruby T. November 21, 2020 at 1:56 pm

If you can afford to stay home with your child, I would strongly suggest it. My second choice, if I had to make it, would be to use a small home-based daycare where a child would get a Mother-figure and the same small group of children to socialize with, to give her a sense of consistency and not get overwhelmed. But that’s my own two cents, everyone has their own choice to make.

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