One of the most stressful, and impactful decisions that parents face is deciding on childcare. Whether or not you are a full-time student, employed, or doing some hybrid of the two, you’re going to need someone to take care of LO while you’re busy. We decided to breakdown some of the factors that parents should consider when making their childcare decisions. Here are just a few of the questions you should ask yourself:
Who? This, to me, is the most critical question. Who will be the person/people who will be responsible for your kids? A family member tends to be a comfortable (not to mention cheaper) option, if anyone is available and suitable. Even then, there are several details to consider such as the person’s experience, childcare certifications, and whether or not you can honestly imagine having a solid, cooperative relationship with this person. Grandma might love the heck out of your kid, but she might also ignore your wishes! Then there are non-family options such as a nanny, babysitter, or one or more employees at a childcare center. Childcare co-ops (working together with a group of your friends to take turns watching each others kids) have also become popular. This could work if you’re predominantly a SAHM, who only needs a few hours a week of coverage.
What? The specific services you are looking for will vary a ton based on the age of your child and the particular interests of your family. In general, the care provider needs to be able to provide for your child’s basic needs, maintain their safety, and provide developmentally appropriate learning and recreational activities. Older kids, who might just be in a before/after care situation, might enjoy something themed like a karate camp. Some of these after school camps/activities will even transport the kiddos from school to the location. Make sure you also check into options offered by your kids school such as clubs and sports. These can buy you some time and likely save you some cash. However, there is a word of caution with the competitive activities. Sooner or later you’ll probably have to attend a game or something, so be prepared for that!
When? Do you need childcare for the full day? Maybe half-day childcare would give you enough time attend a class or get some work done. Do the kiddos need someone to watch them daily or just a few days a week? The options abound! Oh and if your kids are in school, don’t forget to plan ahead for before- and after-school care (if needed), early dismissals, teachers’ professional development days, etc. Also, pay special attention to the time frame that your selection is open each day. A particular daycare may be amazing in a multitude of ways, but if pick-up time conflicts with your evening commute, it might not be the best fit. ScholarMoms also have to grapple with their own class schedules, which may sometimes require being out of the house at odd hours. Planning ahead is the name of the game.
Where? Would you prefer in-home care (yours, the care provider’s, or another family’s home if using a nanny-share), a school, a daycare center, or some other establishment? Each of these options come with their own pros and cons. For example, choosing a daycare for your toddler that is located in a school might give you an advantage if you would like to stay there for preschool. Another factor that is infrequently mentioned is the importance of selecting a geographical location that makes sense for your commute (if you have one). Don’t just think about work days either. If you have a day off, do you really want to still drive LO an hour away to daycare, which is closer to your job. Personally, I’m an advocate for close to home OR somewhere in the middle. I figure you have to go home no matter what, and if you have a live-in significant other it makes sense to choose a location that is convenient for both of you.
Why? Keeping your motivation for seeking childcare in mind every step of the way will help guide you decisions. Beyond the fact that you need time to work, study, catch your breath, etc., what other factors feel non-negotiable? Maybe the where isn’t too important to you, as long as LO gets to have some socialization time (which would probably rule out in-home care). Perhaps the availability of tutors is of paramount importance to you but you can be flexible on the pick-up time. Some people are sticklers for their babysitters having a particular academic background, such as early childhood education, while other parents feel experience speaks loudest. Figure out what matters most to you and start there.
I hope this post opened your eyes to factors that you should consider when selecting childcare. It is a very personal decision that will look a bit different for everyone. Actually, maybe I should draft up a childcare decision tree! I’m studying for comprehensive exams right now and decision trees are LIFE.
Bonus Question! How, as in how the heck are you paying for this??? I have no answers for this one, but if you do, be sure to leave them in the comments!