Written by guest contributor, Amanda Tallent:
As much as you wish you could look after your little one every day, life doesn’t always allow for that. As a parent, choosing someone to watch your child is a big decision so it naturally takes a lot of thought.
From daycares to nannies, this guide will let you know what your childcare options are and help you make the best decision for your family. Create your own wish list of things that you’re looking for or use this downloadable checklist from Bestow to help you in your childcare search.
How much should childcare cost?
There is a ton of information out there about childcare options and to no surprise, they all can be rather pricey. Childcare is expensive and though there is a relatively large variance from state to state – it causes quite a burden on most families.
The average cost of care is around $700 a month per child in the least expensive state of Mississippi, but skyrockets to $3,000 a month (on average!) in the most expensive area, Washington D.C.
The specific number is not quite as important, however, as the percentage of your income that it represents. The recommended annual percentage of your salary that should go to daycare is 10%. However, most parents spend significantly more than that.
In D.C. it equates to more like 26% of an annual salary on average, and even in Mississippi the average is 12%. In reality, the average amount a family spends on childcare is more like 20% of their annual income.
If that seems like way too much to spend, you might choose the most obvious childcare option: yourself, your spouse, or a willing relative or friend. If you are fortunate enough to be able to take this option it may be the best way to avoid the financial burden.
For many reasons, however, going back to work may be the only option for you. If so, make sure you have a handle on your tax options as it may change your budget expectations. For example, looking into the Child Dependant Tax Credit could be a game-changer.
Choosing the right childcare options for your family
If you’re returning to work or need some extra help watching the kids, just know you have so many childcare options. While daycare and nannies are some of the common ones, you may also want to consider getting help from a family member or friend closeby. Think about your ideal childcare situation and go from there.
There are a number of different kinds of daycares to choose from. Luckily, this means you have more room to find one that fits your family’s needs.
Home Daycare: Though often less expensive than larger childcare options, these generally feature one or two caregivers in a converted house. The difficulties can be getting in (space is often at a premium and you may have to know someone to be placed there) and that if a caregiver is ill (or gets injured), it might mean that the option is not always available.
Group Daycare: This larger daycare option is more expensive, but has an organization behind it which generally means a larger staff, organized activities, and better insurance. It also reduces your worry about if a staff member is sick, replacements and even subs are generally available. There will be more availability for placement too.
What to look for in a daycare
- Government Licensing and Certification: This means they are up to code on mandated health and sanitation standards.
- Childproofing: Standard childproofing like outlet guards, foam protection on sharp corners and all the things you are supposed to do at home should be in evidence here.
- Age Consciousness: It’s important that a daycare have something in place to separate infants and toddlers/older kids. Make sure this is in evidence.
- Excellent reviews: Make sure you check online for reviews of the place that you are planning to invest in.
- Stimulating play: While, of course, your priority is safety, you also want your child to be engaged in play and learning. Ask what kind of activities are arranged at daycare.
Related Post: 13 Reasons Why I Actually Like Daycare for My Toddler
Similar to your daycare choices there are nanny choices you have to make when you are considering cost and other options.
Full-Time Nanny: While a full-time nanny is generally more costly than daycare, it might work well if you have the budget or have a schedule that can make it feasible for that person to be a nanny only part of their day. For example, if you and a spouse work different hours and you only need someone to cover child care for a few hours, a full-time nanny can be a good option.
The benefits over daycare are many, including the undivided attention of a caregiver and more bonding time with your child. Also, because nannying takes place at your home, you don’t have to worry about the issues that might come up at a separate facility.
Your food is there and the toys you approve of, etc. Of course, if your full-time nanny is sick or gets injured you may need to have backup options lined up. Find a local nanny through Care.com or get recommendations through a local Facebook mom’s group.
Nanny Share: A popular and money-saving option is a nanny share. This usually means teaming up with another couple or two and having a nanny watch your children collectively. The cost is lower and usually you trade off weeks so that sometimes the kids are on familiar ground and sometimes they are at a friends house.
This means less specific attention, but is better for socialization. Again, however, if your nanny gets ill, now you have even more parents who have no options but to stay home from work.
NannyLane is a popular site to find Nanny Shares or other family’s looking to share the cost of a nanny in your area. You can also find local Nanny share families, caregivers, or programs through your local Facebook Mom Groups.
What to look for in your nanny
- Experience: The best possible situation is to find someone who has kids that are aging out of having a nanny that they recommend. Often you can get recommendations from wonderful experienced nannies that way. Many nannies also start working on their own after previous experience at a preschool or daycare.
- Certifications: A certification in, for example, infant CPR, is a good indication of someone serious that is prepared to watch your child with safety in mind.
- Degrees: An early childhood or education degree is very desirable because it means that the person will be ready to work with your child and have them learn and grow.
- A great rapport: Of course you have to really like your nanny in order to feel comfortable having them watch your child. But it’s also important that they connect with your child. Try to interview your prospective nanny with your child to see how they interact together.
These elements should give you more insights into the types of childcare options available. Of course, there are many factors like budget and personal preference for style of care.
Make sure you understand your payment options, tax credits, and the aspects of a specific daycare or nanny before making any big decisions. Of course, if something isn’t working out to your liking you can always change the situation around. But make sure to look before you leap and make informed decisions.