For many women, the mere thought of returning to work after the birth of a child can cause panic sweats and next level feelings of anxiety. It makes sense. After weeks or months of being your baby’s primary (and perhaps only) caretaker, you suddenly have to leave your precious newborn in the care of someone else. No matter how much you trust your caregiver, you will probably struggle with all kinds of questions and fears. Will this person know what my baby needs? Will my baby miss me? Am I hurting my baby by spending so much time away from her? Will I miss important milestones?
If you’re feeling this way, know that your feelings are completely normal. Even if you’re excited to return to work and get back into the swing of things, you probably won’t be able to help feeling the slight sting of guilt that comes with outsourcing your childcare. The good news is that children actually benefit from having working mothers. And with a number of childcare options, you can find the right solution for you.
When deciding on childcare from child care providers, you have some options, like family child care. Family child care means leaving your child with a family member, which can make the initial transition much easier for new parents and cut child care costs. After all, who can you trust more than a family member to love and care for your baby while you’re away? Having a family member care for you baby also often comes at no or low cost compared to other childcare providers. If you’re fortunate to have family nearby, you would be surprised at how many of them would be willing to pitch in. Even if they can’t take care of your little one full time, having a grandparent, cousin or other trusted relative help out a few days a week can make things easier for everyone. They may even be able to offer after-school care.
If you don’t have family or friends who are close by or able to help with your infants and toddlers, you can hire a professional nanny. One of the biggest advantages of hiring a nanny is that your child will be home, which means a lot less work for you. Your child will also get one on one attention, and many nannies will take on all the work related to your baby – preparing bottles and meals, doing and folding laundry, and tidying up toys. Some nannies even engage in light housekeeping to keep your house looking neat while you’re away (bonus!). On the downside, nannies are typically expensive, and some families simply don’t feel comfortable with an unsupervised stranger in their home all day.
Finding the right nanny can be a tedious process. You can start by asking family and friends for referrals. Ask coworkers with children or post an ad on your parent group, at your local college or in your church bulletin. You never know who is looking for childcare work.
You can also use sites like Care.com or Sittercity.com. These sites offer free services, but do charge fees for some of the more advanced features, like background checks. The fees can range, but when you consider that you’re looking for the person who will come into your home and care for your precious baby, many parents find the upgrade worthwhile.
Once you’ve selected a group of candidates, you will want to interview them. It might be helpful to start with a phone interview to get a sense of the person before inviting them for an in person interview. Some questions you may want to consider asking include:
- How long have you been caring for children?
- What have been the ages of the children you’ve cared for?
- Do you have CPR and/or first aid training?
- What is your educational background?
- Why do you enjoy being a nanny?
- Do you drive?
- Are you willing/able to travel with us if necessary?
- Where do you live and how will you get to work?
- Can you stay later if necessary?
- Do you have children of your own?
- Do you smoke?
- Tell me what a typical day might look like with my baby?
- What methods do you use to teach children at different stages of development?
- How do you discipline children?
- Why did you leave your last job?
- Do you still keep in touch with families you’ve worked with?
- Do you have experience potty training?
- What salary are you seeking?
- How do you prefer to be paid?
- Do you have references?
After interviewing your nanny, you will want to speak to his or her references. Below are some questions you can ask a reference:
- How long did you work with the nanny?
- What was your experience like?
- How did you find the nanny?
- Did you ever have any problems with the nanny?
- What was your favorite thing about the nanny? Least favorite?
- Was he/she on time for work?
- How much did you pay the nanny?
You may also want to consider running a background check on your chosen candidate and asking him/her to submit to a drug test. You should expect to pay for these tests. Finally, you can do a test run with your top picks and see how the day goes.
Once you’ve made your choice, it’s very important that you are very clear about the specific duties you want your nanny to carry out. This can save you a lot of headaches and misunderstandings down the line. It is helpful to have a written document that outlines everything you discuss regarding employment. This includes the specific tasks your nanny will complete, as well as payment, how you will handle time off requests, vacation and sick time, and any other details that are important to you. Give your nanny a copy and make sure everyone is on the same page.
Another thing to remember when you hire a nanny is that you are now an employer, which means that you will have to pay taxes, including Social Security, Medicare, and federal and state unemployment insurance. This can get a little complicated if you’ve never done it before, so make sure that you do your research. You can also use a company like NannyChex to take care of this for you.
If you decide that in-home care isn’t for you, you can take your baby to daycar; there are tons of child care centers. A daycare center (or child care centers) can offer a more structured and varied day for your child and is often more affordable than hiring a nanny. Your baby will spend time with other children so he or she will learn to socialize early, and daycare employees are usually trained in early childhood education and child development. Your child will also benefit from continuous care since many daycares have programs for infants through preschool. Some daycares offer camera options so that you can peek in and see your child throughout the day. You will also likely get daily reports letting you know how you child did that day, how much they ate, how many diapers they went through, etc.
While many families find daycare to be the best option, it doesn’t come without some downsides. You should expect that your child will get sick when they first start daycare. With so many children, there are more than enough germs to go around. You also will be responsible for preparing and packing your child’s meals, clothing, and supplies for the day. This can make mornings a bit more hectic, so you should try to prepare as much as you can the night before so that your mornings can run as smoothly as possible.
When looking for the right daycare, below are some things you should consider:
- Is the school clean? Bright? Cheerful? Does the child care program reflect that?
- Do the teachers seem to be engaged with the children in the child care program?
- How do the children relate to the teachers?
- What is the teacher turnover rate?
- Does the daycare follow a particular educational philosophy?
- Is the school licensed/accredited?
- Are the ages mixed or are children separated by age?
- What is the cost?
- What is the teacher/child ratio?
- How do they discipline children?
- What kind of parent involvement can you expect to have?
- What is their policy when it comes to child care assistance for sick children?
- Does the day care offer any early childhood education?
- What about child development in the child care facility?
Another childcare option is an in-home daycare, which is hybrid between having a nanny and sending your child to a traditional daycare. In-home daycares are typically smaller in size than facility-based daycares, and as the name implies, take place in someone’s home. These daycares offer the warmth and intimacy of having in-home care, while also providing children with structure and socialization. They are typically subject to licensing requirements, but laws vary from state to state so be sure to be up to date on what your state requires if you choose this option.
Remember that as your child grows, your needs may change. Perhaps you will start out with a family member or nanny and later transition your child to a daycare center. No matter what option you choose, feel comfort in the fact that you’ve done your research and have chosen the best option for you and your child.
There are tons of child care providers and childcare workers for your young children — and quality child care, too, so you can rest assured that your infants and toddlers are safe in any child care facility you choose. Whether you choose day care, after-school care, child care services with an au pair, child care services by swapping with neighbors, or hiring in-home childcare workers, there's some kind of quality child care for everyone with young children or kids in early childhood.