At my house we’ve tried all kinds of childcare. First, a nanny I recruited and hired, then home daycare, daycare centers, then a nanny referred by a service, then another nanny I hired, and finally back to the winner – the same nanny referred by a service. Through these rounds, I’ve learned that when you find the perfect combination of provider, child and mom, it’s like having extended family lovingly watching over your cherubs. When it’s not right, it can be like a sucker punch to the gut filled with broken trust, mom-guilt, and frustration.
Take it from from someone who has been through the ringer, whether it’s your first or fourth time selecting a childcare option, it never hurts to go a few mental rounds before starting the process.
Round 1: Scouting
If you go the nanny route, there are many search options: care.com, sittercity.com, craigslist, word of mouth, and nanny placement agencies. Daycare centers in your area may not be plentiful and they may be full. I’ve been at the receiving end of many an evil eye from moms who knew I had lucked into a coveted daycare spot. Winner: Nanny
Round 2: Hiring
Once you’ve narrowed down your options, it’s time to get to the business of selecting a childcare provider. Daycare centers or in-home options will provide references and allow parents to visit any time during the day. Resources like parentaware.org independently rate child care programs. Conversely, screening a nanny can be like falling down a rabbit hole. Place an ad, review resumes, schedule interviews, wait for no-shows, pay for background checks, call references, arrange meetings with your kids, etc, etc. All this and if he/she gets another gig, you are back at square one. The agency route is easier but not all agencies are equal and you may end up doing much of the legwork. Winner: Daycare
Round 3: Cost
Before you assume a nanny will be more costly, do the math. Daycares may appear less expensive, but factor in any additonal hours, holidays, and travel costs to/from the location. If you have two or more kiddos, the cost for a nanny may even out. Winner: Daycare
Round 4: Schedule
Nannies can allow for greater flexibility, but this isn’t always this case. He/she may have their own children, another job, or a long commute that prevents them from covering your entire schedule. Discuss your schedule as early as possible. If their hours will change, be upfront about the level of flexibility you need. If your schedule is set but you need longer days, a daycare might be a better fit. Factor in your leave time as well, your children won’t be able to attend daycare if he/she is sick or for 24 hours afterwards. This can add up to a lot of time away from work. Not all nannies will do so but many will care for sick children so you can go to work. Winner: Nanny
Round 5: Clean Up
Cleaning up after kiddos is a huge part of any mom’s life. If they attend daycare they make most of their mess there. However, I am constantly surprised at the disaster that little people create with only few minutes. Even if your nanny only agrees to pint-sized laundry and dishes, it can still make a huge dent in your to-do list. Winner: Nanny
Round 6: Extras
When a nanny relationship goes well, your children form a bond with another special person and they learn there are other adults they can count on. If you find yourself a great daycare, they gain a teacher relationship, friends, and maybe some for you as well. When you are new to an area or the whole SAHM gig, daycare pick up is a great place to “pick up” a few mom friends. Winner: Daycare
Round 7: What kind of Mom are you?
Do thrive in a structured environment? Do you like having a hand in your children’s daily routine? How much interaction do you want with your childcare provider? Are you more of a cruise director or a master delegator? The truth is no one can tell you which childcare option is better for you. It depends on who you are, who your child is, and all the details of your life. So a little soul searching before you step into the ring will help you go the distance with your final choice. Winner: Draw by Decision.