According to the Office of National Statistics, the gap in employment rates for women with and without children has narrowed over the last fifteen years, and in 2011, 66.5 per cent of mothers with children at home were in work. This means that more families than ever are exploring child care choices and weighing all the financial, logistical and emotional decisions that come with them. Here, Care.com carefully consider and point out everything parents should consider when choosing between day nurseries and nannies or childminders.
Day Nurseries & Childminders:
Builds social skills. With other children to play with and learn from, day nurseries and childminders provide the benefit of socialization. This is especially important to children once they are three or four, and to children who like lots of novelty and stimulation.
Rich resources. Most nurseries and childminders offer a wide array of toys, games, stimulating activities, play equipment and more. Nurseries may have more materials one home could ever provide, ranging from art supplies and educational games to dress-up outfits and building blocks. Many nurseries also bring in experts for extra activities or lessons like music or gymnastics, and both are regulated by Ofsted and must adhere to certain standards.
Day nurseries must abide by national regulations around safety, sanitation, staffing, space issues and more. It is a plus that Ofsted also require workers to have a certain level of training and certification. Of course, this also shouldn’t be assumed. When visiting day nurseries and childminders, be sure to ask to see their license.
Additional supervision. In most centres, teachers are supervised by a Director and there are many families and teachers popping in and out of the classrooms, providing an extra level of safety and supervision.
Your schedule. You are stuck in a meeting as the clock ticks toward the end of the day. Since day nurseries and childminders have specific closing times (although many childminders can be more flexible), you may have to leave work before you are ready or pay the fines for late pick-ups. Not to mention walking in the door at dinner time and having to get you and your little one fed and watered.
Your child’s personality. Certain children may struggle with a multitude of transitions and stimuli throughout the day (while others may be fine). But every child’s temperament is different — know yours. Some children find group care overwhelming and are sensitive to too much stimulation, noise and teacher transitions.
Group realities. Other children’s behaviour and development can impact your child’s day. How will your child be influenced by a child who needs additional discipline? How do you feel about teachers caring for a few infants at one time?
Sick policies. Yes, germs and children go together like tea and digestive biscuits. Day nurseries and childminders often have a strict “stay at home if you’re sick” policy. That means you may get called at work to pick up your ill child or you will have to arrange last-minute care if he has a temperature.
You can call the shots. According to Kogan, some mums find this sense of control reassuring. Since you are directing one person – your nanny – about your child’s day, you have more control over what your child does, when he does it and how he does it – not to mention where he goes and what he is exposed to. And, you can keep your child on a schedule if you so desire – from naps and snacks to meals and play time. You can also ask for detailed daily reports and picture texts during the day to make you feel part of their fun.
One-on-one attention and attachment. Nannies provide the benefit of a single attachment figure, which can be especially important to younger children and to those who have strong reactions to new and unfamiliar situations. The nanny is focused on your child’s needs, and there’s no competition for attention.
Logistics can be a lot easier. Some parents actually enjoy their child-free commute to work! There is a lot to be said for walking out the door with your laptop, on time and without a nappy bag or toddler’s backpack. Dinner and the first hour home can be a bit easier; if you forgot to put the casserole in the oven, you can call home and ask your nanny to do it. When you need a plumber, you don’t have to take time off work to wait – your nanny is there to let him in. Many nannies help with light housework, children’s meals or the children’s laundry.
Depending on one person. You may be out of luck when your nanny becomes sick or moves. A nanny coming down with the flu or needing time off can send parents into a tailspin. There’s no group of staffers to step in. You’ll need to have a back-up plan or take time off work.
No regulation or oversight. Despite the OFSTED voluntary register, in essence, the nanny is only regulated by the employer who hires her. Nannies aren’t required to have certain levels of education or child development coursework (though many do). Screening nanny candidates and running background checks is up to parents (or the nanny agency).
The parent becomes the employer, meaning that you must pay taxes for your nanny. It also means you can claim child care vouchers (if you have that workplace benefit). In addition, nannies are often full-time employees, depending on a weekly salary. So there is an obligation to pay them for sick time, holiday time – and time you might take the kids to grandma’s. It’s best to talk this out up front and put your agreement in a nanny contract. Remember, you are the employer and you should commit to ongoing supervision and feedback for your nanny.
Let’s face it, this is one of the hardest decisions out there. So, how do the experts think you should choose? Think about your child. What is his or her temperament, personality, and experience with transitions? Does he have any special needs? What makes the most sense for your schedule and your finances? Which of these weigh most heavily?
All these factors can help you understand your options, but there is no one right answer. What one parent may see as a pro (she’ll fold the laundry!), another may see as a con (I don’t want anyone touching my stuff!). And some families decide to set up nanny shares (2 families, 1 nanny), or have back-up babysitters for childcare emergencies.
Then do your homework. Before you take time to visit a day nursery or childminder, think about its location and if it’s on a logistically realistic route to work. Tour the location or home to observe how the child carers interact with children. Interview nannies. Make a list of pros and cons as you imagine each choice fitting into your life. Then, given all these considerations, you can do what’s right for your family and child – and make the arrangement that works best.