There are just as many different childcare settings and arrangements as there are the childcare needs that each family presents. Some families have two full-time working parents and require childcare for 8-12 hours, five days a week. Others require part-time arrangements, and yet others have a parent who is able to be home full-time and provide most of the daily childcare needs. Whatever presentation your family sets forth should be one that you and your partner have agreed upon, as the best option for your individual family. Some moms or dads seem almost meant to stay at home and provide the childcare, whereas others are better parents when they are working full or part time. Whatever makes you the best parents you can be is the right choice for your family. With all of this being said, there will be a time when you will have to escape the house for an appointment, or better yet, a date! So regardless of your daily needs, there will come a time when you will have to rely on someone else for a bit of care.
There are various childcare settings and arrangements, each with their own unique sets of pros and cons. To help lay out the foundation for the childcare discussion, a fairly exhaustive list follows.
A nanny is an individual who comes into your home on a prearranged basis. They will provide the daily childcare ranging from feeding, changing, napping to outings, and various classes. A nanny can be salaried, hourly, with benefits, or without depending on the arrangement you make at the outset.
The upside of having a nanny is that most of the care is done in your child’s familiar environment, allowing for a nice schedule continuation, controlled feeding environment, and very low child-to-provider ratio. The cons of having a nanny are that you must do all the discussions and planning in partnership with your nanny, they can be more costly than a childcare center (depending on your geographic location), and with your child mostly in your home, socialization may not be as great or easy as in a daycare center setting.
A childcare center (or daycare center) is a designated building, usually with multiple childcare rooms and age ranges, where people drop off their children to spend a half-day or a full day. Childcare centers often have a curriculum, child education, and development trained individuals, and a plethora of toys, activities, playgrounds, etc. Good childcare centers will have a fairly low child-staff ratio (3 or 4 children per staff member), and rooms that do not exceed 12 or so babies.
The pros of a childcare center are the socialization and exposure to many other kids and adults, access to a multitude of educational activities, toys, equipment, and other age appropriate options. The cons are that because of its larger size, there is slightly less control or individual attention given to the families/children, and the greater exposure to other children can cause a lot of early illnesses.
These in-home settings have sprung up, largely in response to an over-crowded traditional childcare setting, and to allow for a medium between having an in home nanny or utilizing a larger daycare center. The pros are the small size and usually close neighborhood proximity. The cons are that the center owner may or may not have any real educational training in childcare and/or education. If you chose to go with an in-home center, make sure it is licensed and registered!
These are larger centers, with some over-all leadership, but most of the direct caregivers are parents of the enrolled children. Pros here are obviously that at least for some part of each week, you are providing care to your child, and thus have a more direct role and control in the care given. The major con is that you have to be available to give care and support to the center, which isn’t always realistic for full-time (or even part time) working parents.
Offering to watch a friend or family member’s child for a few hours or a day, in exchange for the favor being returned is a nice way to find reliable, comfortable, free childcare. The pro is obviously that your friend or family is watching your baby, but that can also surprisingly be a con. It can become a bit tricky to exert control over choices or the type of care your child is receiving if you are concerned about hurting feelings or stepping on toes. Make sure that you are able to openly discuss and address any complicated issues without feelings of guilt, embarrassment, etc. if you choose to go this route.
Extended Family Member Childcare
Like the previously mentioned exchange sitting, oftentimes family members (especially grandparents) are willing to offer a limited (or unlimited!) amount of free childcare. It is great for bonding and comfort levels to have a family member watching your baby, but as previously mentioned, it can also be complicated at times. Make sure that clear boundaries regarding parental decision-making have been addressed, and a mutual agreements/understanding has been arrived at before embarking regularly scheduled family childcare.
Occasional Babysitting Need
Many families, even those with children in daycare centers or with nannies, will require random weekend or evening times when childcare is needed. This is when having a few local “babysitters” on hand is a lifesaver. These are usually students or community members who provide a limited amount of hourly care for your baby, at more random (not regularly scheduled) times.
Find childcare that works for you!
With all of these options for childcare settings and arrangements, it is important to take some time with your partner to closely examine all of your real and potential childcare needs, and see what will work best for your family. Use our childcare setting planning guide to help you start down the right path! After you’ve decided what will work best for your family, read about how to find childcare and use the Childcare Interview Questions Planning Guide.
Get Ready! Look at the Childcare Planning Guide Planning Guide.