Friday, July 24, 2009

5 tips on child care options for your new baby.

One of the biggest decisions you will have to make once you have decided to have a baby, is "if you are going to return to work, who will care for her in your absence?". Many families have a clear idea for what they would like, but some are finding that it is not so simple to find the right child care situation for their own personal needs. Also, financially many families are being faced with the necessity for cutting back on expenses just now, and that can mean finding an affordable alternative for your baby. Here are the five most basic options for child care, and the benefits and risks of each.

1. SAHM (Stay At Home Mom) care giver.
Nannies eventually marry and have babies of their own, and many of them have twin experience. If you can find an ex-nanny who is looking for some extra income, she would make a perfect candidate for child care provider to your little one. A common place to look for this type of child care situation is on "craigslist.org" but there are often ways to network with other parents to find contact info for a SAHM with nanny experience. Always be sure to conduct thorough background checks and get a driving and fingerprint report before leaving your baby with anyone. One reason this is a great option for working families is that the SAHM is often much more affordable than a personal daytime nanny.

2. Day nanny.
Of course this is the most popular option for those who can afford it. A nanny who comes to your home, takes one-on-one care of your baby, and tidys up during nap times is most parents ideal scenario. If you go through a nanny agency you will save yourself the trouble of having to conduct background checks yourself, but I still recommend that you talk personally with a couple previous employers. A good personality fit is essential for creating a really stable mutually beneficial situation for you and your nanny, and it is often easier to get a clear picture of a nanny's personality by talking to people who have personally employed her.

On a side note, live-in nanny positions are perhaps the most difficult type of child care to manage. You are put in the position of balancing several different types of relationship with one person. The nanny is your employee, your roommate, your tenant, your baby's protector and potentially your friend. Imagine if your employer could see what shows you like to watch when you are winding down from a stressful week, or what comfort foods you liked to eat, or knew how often you did your laundry. It is stressful for an employee to feel constantly observed, and unless your off-the-clock routines are compatible, there is bound to be some trouble down the line. Most live in nannies are also young, and might want to indulge in an active night life. All of these issues should be sorted out and addressed before you ever enter into a long term agreement with someone for this type of position.

3. Share care.
This is where two families have the same nanny, who either watches all of their children at the same time, or watches each families children in turn. This is an arrangement that is mutually beneficial to parents and nannies, because the nanny generally makes more money, and the families get a marvelous discount. The split can be 50/50, or one family can pay a slightly larger portion of the overall price if they will be using the nanny more often or if the nanny will be preforming more duties for them, such as housework. A share-care nanny can expect to make a minimum of $20 per hour for two children and two families. Share care does have its drawbacks though, sometimes the families will disagree with the parenting philosophy of the other family, or jealousy over a feeling that the nanny is giving one child preferential treatment is fairly common. I recommend to parents that they interview potential share-care families as thoroughly as they would the potential nanny, even if the second family are friends of yours. The more issues you address before you enter into an arrangement like share-care, the fewer problems you are likely to encounter later on.

4. Aupair.
There are a lot of benefits to considering hiring an aupair (a nanny from a European country) through an aupair agency. First, they are formally educated in child care techniques, they are very affordable, and they nearly always know a second language which they can speak exclusively to your baby. Some of the potential problems have to do with the fact that they will be live-in, they are generally young and somewhat inexperienced, they most likely will have cultural difference with you in regards to child care (some countries still do not encourage the "back sleep" position for SIDS reduction for example) and they might suffer from homesickness, or become overly involved in social activities to the point of interfering with the quality of care. Like any issue regarding child care, be sure to bring up all of your concerns while interviewing, and place a high value on finding the right personality fit.

5. Daycare.
Many parents balk at the idea of daycare for their little whipper-snapper, yet it has many benefits. Licenced day cares are held to certain standards of cleanliness and safety that some nannies are not even aware of. A daycare will socialize your child sooner, and promote flexibility of nap routines in babies. Some day cares offer language immersion, and preschool activities for older children, while others offer online video feeds so you can check on your baby at any time during the day with just a click of the mouse. Daycare workers are required to be certified in infant and child CPR and First Aid, and are given thorough background checks. All of this and they are one of the most affordable options available for infant and toddler care. Some potential hazards include the risk of an illegal daycare posing as licensed when it is not (always ask for the license number and check that they are legitimate), too many children for too few adults (always ask the ratio and get written confirmation) and a lack of flexibility or incompatible hours (you might need to get to work an hour late or leave early in order to accommodate the daycare's schedule, and if you need to cancel a day for a family emergency, you will still pay for it under most daycare agreements).

Most parents would love to be able to stay at home with their baby until he could start kindergarten, but for most of us, that is just not an economical possibility. Finding the right child care fit for you and your family is an important and stressful decision. Take your time, and be sure to discuss all of your concerns, hopes and fears with whoever you decide to trust with your precious baby. Nearly any issue can be worked out, including money concerns, as long as everyone's needs are respected and considered while negotiating your agreement. If you find these tips helpful, please forward them to any new or expecting parents you might know. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!

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