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The Child Care Dictionary

Tiffany Smith
Feb. 26, 2018

Finding the right care for your family.

As a new parent preparing to return to the work force, or a parent who just needs some time to him- or herself, the type of child care you choose will depend on several factors.

  • Will one or both parents work outside the home?
  • Do you only need help with the baby, or do you need help with housework, errands, and cooking, too?
  • Are you looking for someone who will live in your home?
  • How frequently will you need the child care?
  • How much money do you plan to spend?

Child care provider definitions

  • Au pair. An au pair will live in your home and will help with child care and housework related to the child in return for room and board and an agreed upon allowance. Au pairs, who are 18 to 26 years old, are regulated by the U.S. Department of State. In addition to caring for children, they must also be enrolled in a post-secondary institution. Most are foreign students who should be treated as part of your family.
  • Babysitter. Babysitters generally work for hourly rates. They are strictly there to watch your children, and should be paid extra for additional services. You can either hire a babysitter for one night only, or have a regular schedule (so that, for example, you have someone to watch the kids while you're at yoga).
  • Day Care. Day care can be provided by public or private institutions. They can be run out of centers or private homes. Day care generally allows your child to interact with other children and develop social skills.
  • Doula. A doula assists with childbirth and helps the soon-to-be mother throughout her pregnancy and delivery. Many remain with the family after the baby's birth to help with baby care and housework and ease mommy's transition to motherhood.
  • Mother's helper. A mother's helper is usually a "babysitter in training" or other novice child care provider. The job is to generally make the mom's job a little easier while the mom is still in the house or leaves for brief periods of time. The mother's helper will come over at scheduled times to assist with housework, run errands, or play with the kids while the mom cooks dinner or works from home.
  • Nanny. A nanny is similar to an au pair, but she does not need to be enrolled in school, and she can be any age. She can stay with you in your home or live nearby.

You will find someone perfect for your situation. It will make your search easier if you know exactly what you're looking for.

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Tiffany Smith is the senior associate editor here at Care.com. She has written for All You, Time for Kids and the Boston Globe. And as a former babysitter, she knows a lot about fun games to play with kids. Getting them to eat their veggies -- that’s a different story! Follow her on Twitter at @tiffanyiswrite

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