You’ll make A LOT of choices and decisions as a parent. From what to feed them, to how to diaper them, every decision is on you! And none of them are easy, really, we all just do what’s best for ourselves, our kids, and our families. The daycare choice is another parenting obstacle on a very, very long list of decisions that you may have to make early on in your parental career. And this one is tougher than a lot of them! There are so many factors involved: cost, access, comfortability. Daycare can be (and is!) a wonderful option for lots and lots of families. But, like with all of parenting, it’s not a one-size-fits-all type of thing, and it may not be the right fit for your family.
Is daycare good for kids? Yes, study after study has shown that it is incredibly beneficial for your child’s mental and emotional development – and that’s not even touching on the benefits parents reap from daycare, like being able to advance their careers or have the time they need to feel more human. But it may not be for you or your kids or your family, and that is A-OK! If you’re not sold on daycare, these alternatives may be the childcare solutions you’ve been looking for.
Friends & Family
Not everyone has family nearby that can help with childcare, or friends with whom they have a close, trusting relationship. But if you are one of the lucky ones, asking friends and family to participate in your kid’s care can be a real lifesaver and game-changer. It opens up the possibility of having someone watch your kid in your home who is already heavily invested in your little’s well-being. Depending on the agreement you work out with your friends or family, it can also be a pretty cost-effective alternative to full- or part-time daycare.
Shouldering the cost of a nanny on your own? Pricey. Splitting the cost and sharing a nanny with another family? Might be more doable for you! Maybe you aren’t comfortable with the idea of sending your kid to daycare for the three days a week you need care, and would prefer an in-home option. And maybe you have another friend or know of another family who also wants in-home care on days you happen to not need it. Go halfsies on a nanny! Nanny and sitter shares are becoming increasingly more common, as families look into daycare alternatives and ways to reduce the cost of in-home care. Finding a nanny that can work with multiple schedules and homes and who everyone likes can be a challenge, but there are plenty of services and websites out there now where independent nannies advertise their services as part of a share, and it’s definitely worth looking into.
Nanny or Au Pair
Sure, employing a full-time nanny can be super spendy. But one-to-one childcare in their own home is something that a lot of families find they are most comfortable with, and they make changes and adjustments to their lifestyle and budget to fit it in. A nanny can end up becoming like an extended family member, and having someone who is there to ONLY watch your child and prioritize their well-being in your absence to give you a peace of mind. If you’re considering a nanny, you also have complete control over the vetting and hiring of said nanny, so you likely won’t need to compromise on any of your must-haves.
An au pair provides a very similar set-up to having a nanny, and in many cases, ends up being much more affordable overall. Au pairs are people (typically from outside of your home country) who come and live with you, in your home, and are paid to look after your kids, perform light household tasks like cooking and cleaning, etc. As part of their contract, you would be required to pay their wage and also provide room, board, and in many cases, meals. Obviously with an au pair, your family would need to have the space required to comfortably house them for the length of the contract. Au pairs function as live-in employees, so you also have to consider that they need to be provided a safe work environment, breaks, days off, and the like. But all things considered, even factoring in room and board and (if applicable) an au pair agency fee, they can be a fairly affordable live-in childcare option.
We love us a good case of tit for tat, and that’s exactly what a babysitting co-op is: a group of parents form something of an alliance, and swap childcare back and forth. If you’ve got a group of friends who are also open to day care alternatives and can provide babysitting services on days they’re needed, this is a great option! The way it works is, the parents in the co-op trade off watching each other’s kids, in exchange for their kids being watched by another parent on a different day of the schedule. Kids get to hang out together, you can make it as flexible or scheduled as needed, and best of all, you don’t have to actually pay for a sitter. Friend A watches the kids one day and in return, Friend B watches their kids another day. Everybody wins!
We know, we know, why can’t any decision be easy? Families should have options when it comes to what type of childcare they are comfortable with and can afford! If you’re in the market for a child-minder and aren’t sure traditional daycare is the way to go, give one of these daycare alternative options a gander.