Daycare or Nanny? Use This Checklist to Help Make Your Childcare Decision

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Spending time with your little one is the best part of being a parent but unfortunately, we can’t always be there to watch our kids. When looking for someone else to take care of them, you want someone you can trust and the number of options can be daunting. However, by carefully weighing your needs and the needs of your child against the factors that affect your decision, you will likely be able to make an informed choice.

You’ve probably considered a daycare, nanny, or maybe a family member but which option is best for your family?


What to Consider in Your Search for Childcare

Cost: It’s likely that the number one consideration when seeking the best childcare option for you family is also based on your finances. There is no getting around the fact that childcare is excessively (even prohibitively) expensive. Studies show that while the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services quotes a healthy cost for childcare to represent 10% of the income of a family, the average cost can be significantly higher.

In places where childcare is the most expensive, like Washington D.C. for example, care can cost an average of $3,000 a month and families spend more to the tune of 25% of their annual salary. Making a budget is crucial. As you begin to plan financially for childcare, make sure you take into account your eligibility for tax credits. While the Child Dependent Tax Credit will not cover all of your expenses, it may allow you to find a more desirable option within your means.

Schedules: If you need someone to watch your child at regular times everyday while you are at work, a daycare may be a less expensive and more clear cut option for you. If, on the other hand, your work schedule tends to be a bit more flexible, or if you only need a couple of hours a day covered, you may want to lean further toward a nanny situation.

Environment: You know your child best and understand if they will thrive in a social atmosphere or if they will feel overwhelmed. This may play into your decision. Take into account the environment you want your child to grow up in and determine your ideal scenario.

To help you compare each of your childcare options, use a checklist to aid in your search and be on the lookout for all of your necessities (and red flags).

The Pros and Cons of Daycare: 

If you’re considering daycare there are positives and negatives you’ll want to run through.

Benefits of Daycare:

  • Costs are generally less than what a nanny would charge.

  • Daycare encourages socialization with other children which is important for development.

  • Curated activities are generally part of a daycare situation including educational toys, games and field trips.

  • Government accreditation can be a good indication of a daycare that is well managed and has to conform to cleanliness, class sizes and general safety standards.

  • A number of teachers mean that if a staff member gets ill you can still receive care, also it’s likely that staff members have training in child development.

  • Daycare may have many reviews that give you a sense of ease that it is reliable.

Some Disadvantages of Daycare:

  • There are more germs to be exposed to, meaning the cycle of sickness comes earlier and can infest the whole household.

  • Daycares usually have strict hours and therefore if your job is less predictable, you may have difficulty with timing.

  • The greater the number of children at daycare the less individualized attention your child may have. This means that more accidents are possible and it can be more stressful for your child.

The Pros and Cons of Hiring a Nanny:

While daycare has certain conveniences that make it favorable, sometimes a nanny makes more sense. That said there are negative aspects to nanny care as well.

Benefits of a Nanny Include:

  • Personal individualized care for your child which leads to an improved sense of attachment for your child to the caregiver.

  • Staying in a familiar environment where you can control safety, food access, and other aspects of your child’s care.

  • Flexibility that might allow you to have a more erratic schedule or be able to use the same person when you need an evening off as well.

Some Disadvantages of Having a Nanny:

  • If your nanny is ill it’s likely that you’ll need to call a backup option or stay home.

  • Recommendations may be fewer than with daycares as even an experienced nanny may have only worked with one or two families.

  • Nanny care can be costly.

  • Having to manage an employee can be a little trying, including keeping up with payments, sick time and vacation days.

Ultimately, you have to balance your options and see what makes the most sense with your budget and what your childcare needs represent. This checklist plus asking around, doing your research will help provide all the information you need to make the right decision for you.

I declared my dream of being a mom at the age of five years old on my kindergarten graduation day when answering the age-old question "what do you want to be when you grow up?" Many years later, it still seems like the best job in the world.