Choosing child care can be a nightmare, especially if you have more than one kid. You have to find the perfect person or team to take care of your children, within your budget, that can work with your schedule. Infants, young children and kids with special needs add more variables to consider. What should you look for when choosing child care?
Before you start flipping through the phonebook, you need to take a look at your own family. Ask yourself these questions:
1. How many children do I have that need child care?
2. How old are these children?
3. Will any of them need transportation to or from school?
4. What about extracurricular activities?
5. Are there any special circumstances that may require a particular type of child care?
6. How long will I need child care every day?
Ideally, you'll want your children to be together, whether you choose in-home child care or a local day care center. If you have an infant or a child with special needs, you should find a service that caters to those specific circumstances.
School-aged children will need a caregiver or facility that offers transportation before or after school, or both, depending on your schedule. You will also need to find child care that works with your schedule. If you've got a career that has you working early mornings, late nights or overnights, you don't want to send your kids to a day care center that closes their doors while you're still at work.
Child Care Options
What are your options when it comes to child care? Depending on where you're located and your situation, you may have access to:
· Extended family: If grandma lives nearby and doesn't mind watching the little ones, you might not have to spend anything on child care.
· Day care center: This is one of the most common types of child care. These often offer before and after school care, as well as transportation to and from school.
· Home day care center: Licensed day care professionals watch your children out of their own homes instead of a separate facility.
· Nanny: A nanny is a professional child care worker who will live in your home. Nannies are usually local and may hail from your town or one nearby.
· Baby sitter: Who didn't earn a little extra cash baby-sitting as a teen?
· Au pair: This is a young woman from Europe who comes to stay with your family for a year to help you care for your children and manage other minor household chores, in exchange for room, board and salary. An au pair will help you with child care for up to 45 hours a week and will have a driver's license so she can chauffeur your children to and from school.
You're not limited to the stereotypical crowded day care center. When it comes to child care, the only limit is your budget.
The next thing you need to look at is your budget. How much disposable income do you have to spend on child care every month? The cost will vary dramatically depending on what kind you choose to use.
Day care, for example, will charge per child. For a single child, you can expect to pay around $10,000 a year for day care centers, and approximately $7,500 a year for in-home care.
Baby sitters can vary dramatically, depending on the age of the sitter and the number of days a week they're caring for your children. Utilizing a baby sitter for an infant, five days a week, could cost as much as $30,000 a year.
Nannies, as child care professionals, charge a bit more than baby sitters. On average, a live-in nanny could cost you as much as $40,000 a year.
Au pairs are unique. You're providing them with room and board in a foreign country, while they help with child care and chores related to the children. They may also want to study at a local college while they're here. They're one of the least expensive options if you wish to have live-in child care, costing on average $18,000 a year.
Take a close look at your budget and see how each of these fits into it. Keep in mind that these big numbers are annual costs. The actual payments will be broken down weekly, bi-weekly or monthly.
Selecting the Best One For You
How can you choose the best type of child care for you, with all this information at your fingertips?
If you only need child care during the day and aren't interested in having someone else living in your home, day care centers or in-home care can be a great option. They're less expensive, and while they do charge per child, many offer discounts for each additional child.
If you want an in-home child care professional, a nanny is your best bet. It's the most expensive option but offers a lot of flexibility with scheduling.
If you want to improve your children's cultural education while giving a young woman the chance to live and study abroad, an au pair is the choice for you. These young women bring their language and culture with them, so your children can experience them without ever having to get on a plane. Plus, experts believe it's easiest for children to learn a second language between the ages of 11 and 13, and there's no better way to do that than by immersing them by having a native speaker stay with you.
A lot of thought needs to go into choosing the best child care for you and your family. Make sure you're considering your family size, financial situation, and what kind of child care experience you want before you make a final decision.