If you are in a household with two working parents, the biggest decision that you will have to make before returning to work is who will take care of your little one(s). It can be hard to imagine your child spending so much time with anyone but you – especially if he or she is still only weeks to months old! Whether you are going back to work because you want to, or because you can’t make the numbers work to be a stay-at-home-mom, the last thing that you want is to worry about your little one while you are at work. Finding a childcare provider that you can trust will help to ease the mom guilt and anxiety. Let’s talk about how to find childcare. This post will cover the types of childcare available and how to go about finding the right place for your little one to be while you go to work. I’ve included a printable childcare worksheet for you to keep notes when comparing potential childcare providers.
Click here to open the full-sized Childcare Worksheet.
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There are several options when it comes to finding someone to care for your little one while you are at work. At times, it may almost seem like there are too many options…but at others, it will seem like there isn’t an option that is perfect for your schedule, your financial situation, and high parental expectations all at the same times. In the end many factors will play into making the best decision on childcare for your family.
The basic options are – a friend or family member, a daycare center, a babysitter or nanny in your home, or a babysitter/nanny in the caregiver’s home (aka in-home daycare).
A Friend or Family Member
There are a lot of benefits to having a friend or family member available and willing to watch your baby. If you have this as an option for full time childcare, consider yourself blessed because not everyone has someone like this in their life! Usually a friend or family member will be able to watch your child for free or for a lower rate than a professional would. A friend or family member will already love your child. You know the person and know that you can trust him or her. You know what to expect from this person with your child. There are some pretty obvious benefits to this arrangement.
Yes, there are definitely some downsides to having a loved one care for your child. If you aren’t paying a loved one to watch your child, he or she may be less flexible in working with your schedule. This person may have their own ideas about how to raise the child, and might be less open to listening to your rules. Likely, your loved one won’t be a trained child care provider, so you won’t have the benefit of structured learning activities.
What to look for:
Make sure that you and your friend or family member are on the same page about what their days with your child should be like. Even if it is someone that you trust, you are the child’s parent and your rules should be followed. Obviously, this should be someone who you trust in emergency situations.
A Daycare Center
Daycare centers have standards that they must meet to be legally licensed. You can look into the licensing regulations and any infractions because they are all public record. Daycare centers hire qualified teachers/caregivers who will make sure that your child is getting the simulation and engagement that he or she needs everyday. In addition, the structured schedule and socialization will set your little one up for success when it comes time to transition into school. Daycares are frequently the most cost effective for a 5 day a week schedule.
Some people don’t like that much socialization for their children (especially babies) for various reasons. Your child will be exposed to more people, which means more germs and illnesses. Additionally, there will usually be anywhere from 3-5 children for each adult at a daycare center. Your child will get less one-on-one attention as a result.
What to Look for:
Make sure that you do check all regulations and infractions in place in your area for each childcare center that you consider. Go into the daycare at a busy time of day to see what it will really be like when you leave your child there. Think about the atmosphere, the cleanliness, the activities, and the people who will be around your little one. Take the time to introduce yourself to some of the care providers and ask any questions that you may have. You will also want to consider the child-to-staff ratio for your child’s age group. The lower the ratio, the more individual attention.
A Babysitter or Nanny
A babysitter or nanny that comes to your home can be very convenient! You won’t have to add any time onto your commute to and from work. Your child will be able to play in an environment that is familiar to him or her, and you will know what kind of germs and illnesses they are exposed to. You know that your child is getting one on one attention and you know what their surroundings are like all of the time.
Usually you will pay for the convenience with this option, so if you are looking for budget friendly, a babysitter or nanny may not be the first thing to try. You are also sheltering your little one inside of your own home instead of teaching him or her to adapt to new surroundings and new people.
What to look for:
A babysitter or nanny should have experience and recommendations from previous families. Check references to see what other parents liked and didn’t. Make sure that you have an interview with all potential candidates and think about how their personality will match the personality of your child. For an older child, find someone who has similar interests for things like books, crafts, and activities that your kiddo will like. Some parents will also look for a caregiver who will do some light housework during the day. That is also an option, but make sure that you and the caregiver are on the same page when he or she is hired.
An In-home Daycare
In many ways, this can be the nice middle ground between a babysitter and a day care center. Your child will be in a home, but out of your home. He or she will have friends to play with, but not too many other children around. They can grow to be a part of another family while they are away from yours.
Most in-home daycares are one woman (or one man) operations. It will usually be something like a stay-at-home-mom who takes on extra children. This is not any less safe than a mom who is home alone with her own four children, but it is something to consider as opposed to a daycare center where there are plenty of adults around. In-home daycares also don’t adhere to as strict of regulations as child care centers. In some states, you can have up to 4 children in your home that are not yours before you even have any regulations at all.
What to look for:
In this situation, you are looking for all of the things that you would in both a daycare center and in a nanny. You want to check out the environment that your child will be in, ask how their days will be structured, make sure that you are happy with the person who will be giving your child a great deal of their daily attention.
In all instances you will want to find out what is provided by the parents and what is provided by the caregiver – do you need to pack diapers, wipes, formula, food, blanket for naptime? These are small things to factor into making your decision, but you will want to know down the road anyway.
How do you find childcare providers?
Deciding what kind of childcare you want to look for is hard enough. After you’ve completed that, you need to go about finding options for childcare providers in your area. This step can be the hardest one of all to get started.
Here are a few places that you can look to find potential care providers:
Friends and Family
The recommendations that you will trust the most will come right from your closest friends and family members. Ask around, call your friends, post on Facebook, and see if anyone has suggestions.
Care.com is a great resource for finding potential caregivers! It’s a great search tool and way to look at candidates before you even speak with them. You can search through providers and create a listing for free just by creating an account. Plus, if you sign up for a membership you can even have Care run a background check and references for you. This makes it very easy for you to have some extra piece of mind about who you are trusting with your child. (this link here will get you 20% off a premium membership if you go that route.)
Stop the neighbor across the street and ask where their kids go. To extend this even more, see if you have something like the Nextdoor app in your area. It’s like a facebook group for neighborhoods, and people will ask for recommendations on there.
When all else fails – google it! Just pull up google maps and see what options are available near your home and/or work. Usually they will have some reviews and photos listed and from there you can go ahead with checking the accreditation, licensing, any write ups, and any other information.
Find a few places that you think you may like and give them a call. You can ask initial questions like hours and rates to narrow them down right away, but you will want to go visit each place. Think about your little one’s personality. Try to imagine how he or she would be in that place without you all day. Ask as many questions and you want to and take notes if you’re a note taker.