Childcare in the Big City

Dsc_6708 If you ever are in need of childcare then you know how hard it can be to find the right kind for the right price. Finding childcare really depends on the age and type of child you have. Here are a few options and how they compare:

Daycare Center: 

Typical Care Hours:  7am – 6pm Monday through Friday

Cost: between $40-$70 per day

Daycare centers can be good for toddlers from ages 2-4. It teaches them how to play in a group and helps them learn valuable social skills such as sharing and communication. Most Daycare centers have a variety of activities for the kids to do throughout the day with a naptime somewhere in between. There is usually a good ratio of kids to supervisors and some centers have started including video feeds from their web site so you can see your tot while he is away from you.  Daycare centers take kids as soon as they are potty trained and can keep them up until they reach pre k. Some even have public pre k classes funded by the state.

Some possible downsides of a daycare center are that your child may not get the personal attention that he was getting from Mom. This can sometimes be a rude awakening combined with temper tantrums at the daycare door or refusing to let go of your leg. Let me assure you, this shall pass and, if you can stand your ground, he will be having a good time by week’s end.  With the good children there are always the bad, the biters, the yellers, and the downright mean. You may have to contend with these precious pumpkins if they have a stab at torturing your little one. The key to handling these situations is to do it diplomatically and without losing your temper. It is as important that the biter learn to be kind to others as it is for your baby to get his apology. 

My daughter attended a local Kew Gardens daycare from ages 2-5. During those years she made some friends who she still has at age 10 and learned some early reading skills from some very qualified teachers. She was also bitten, fought with, and got sick from every child who picked their nose and wiped it on the walls. The choice is yours. Here in Queens, Daycare Centers are hard to find and sometimes not a good alternative due to the proximity of them. I was lucky to have one close to my home but that is sometimes not the case.

In Home Daycare:

Typical Care Hours:  7am – 6pm Monday through Friday. This can also be negotiated with the daycare

Cost: between $35-$50 per day and usually includes meals

An in home daycare is run out of a private residence, usually by a mom with her own kids. There are not as many children in this type of setting and can sometimes be catered more towards babies and little ones that are not potty trained. The caretakers are usually very loving and your child will become part of a more cozy care environment similar to a family. They will do activities with the kids but it is much less structured than a center. You should ask what activities and schedules they keep so that you have some idea of what your baby is doing during the day.  I would recommend this type of care for a small baby or young toddler.

In Home daycares are often not regulated by the department of education or health. This means that you will have to be continually conscious of how clean and safe your child’s environment is. You should also be able to develop a quick trusting report with the caretaker since she/he will be the only eyes on your child every day. I am a big fan of the at home daycare. It usually has all of the good aspects of a larger center as well as a cozy setting. I am also a fan of craigslist which is where you can find many listings for in home daycare services.

Babysitter:

Typical Care Hours:  Negotiable

Cost: between $ 9 – $15 per hour

A quick note on pricing and budgeting for a sitter. If you use a babysitter while you are at work, make sure to calculate your travel time as well as actual work hours into your budget. Also try to add a few extra hours for date night or just plain running behind in traffic.

Babysitters can come from a wide variety of sources, babysitter services, craigslist, and word of mouth to name a few. The goal is to find a babysitter who lives close to you. The closer they live, the more flexibility you have with their schedule and higher likelihood that they will be on time. If a sitter who has to commute to your home is running late, you will be stuck waiting by the door, not fun.  Having a babysitter is a good part time solution for evenings and weekends. Unlike nannies, babysitting is usually not their full time job. They can be students or waitresses trying to make some extra money. For this reason it is nice to have the names and numbers of a few babysitters in your phone just in case one is not available.

Trust is a big issue when picking the right sitter. Since they will be with your child one on one with little to no supervision, you must be able to trust them implicitly. That is a difficult thing to do with any virtual stranger but you must rely on your parental instinct to guide you through picking and trusting the right person. As a backup to parental instinct, getting their social security number, driver’s license number, and emergency contact info should go a little way in setting your mind at ease.

Live Out Nanny:

Typical Care Hours:  Full Time 40 hours a week Part Time 20 hours per week. Usually Monday – Friday

Cost: between $600 – $1200 per week depending on factors that I will discuss.

A Live Out Nanny is probably the most expensive child care option for your home. A nanny has made a career out of taking care of children. Some of them have degrees in child education and are CPR certified. They can cook, clean, play games, and have good knowledge of child safety.  They are good for children of all ages whether it be taking small babies on long walks or picking the older ones up from school. You can hire a nanny from nanny agencies, craigslist, placing a private add in the newspaper, and a variety of nanny finding websites. Their pay scale will vary per person and will depend on their experience level and hours that you are looking for. You and your nanny should discuss in advance how she would like to be paid, on the books (which require paperwork to be done by you) or on cash basis where she is responsible for declaring what she makes and has her own healthcare etc. Since a nanny is technically an employee of your family, you should sort this out first before beginning her employment.  I find that a good starting point for a nanny is about $ 100 per day with possible pay increases the longer she remains under your employ.  But then again I don’t live on the Upper East Side.

                Things to pay attention to when looking for a nanny are her age and English skills. If she is older, you may want to consider her level of energy with taking care of a toddler. She may or may not have the ability to chase after your newly running tot while he is plowing toward a major intersection. If she is younger, she may or may not have the patience to handle a screaming inconsolable infant. The same thing goes for language skills; you may not want a nanny with limited English skills paired up with your toddler who is just learning how to speak. The call is yours but always go with the person who you trust the most to act in your babe’s best interest.

Live In Nanny:

Typical Care Hours:  Full Time 40 hours a week Part Time 20 hours per week. Usually Monday – Friday

Cost:  between $250 – $600 per week including living expenses like food, a room, possibly a cell phone, extra cable line etc.

A Live In Nanny can be one of the most cost effective ways of caring for your kids if you work full time or have irregular work hours. They live with your family in your home and take care of the kids during hours that you work or are away. The benefits of having a Live In Nanny are that you have all that a Nanny has to offer but without the crazy price tag. They really do become a part of your family and your children can become very attached to them. I have had a Live In for 4 years and have made it work for our family. She is available 24 hours a day and there is never a chance for lateness or not showing up.

There are some logistics to sort out before you make the choice to have a Live In Nanny, living arrangements being number one. You should have a room or basement area that is livable and clean. Our nanny lives in our third bedroom and shares a bathroom with my daughter. You will have to adjust yourself and your family to the notion that you now have a roommate who deserves her own privacy and respect. If you can accomplish that you can have a very long and successful relationship with a Live In.

Then there is the topic of pay and living expenses. You can work this out with your Nanny and come up with a scenario that you both feel comfortable with. We pay our Nanny $400 per week and that includes her room and food. You can negotiate a smaller weekly pay and give things like a cell phone, a metro card, and other incentives that are not that expensive beyond what you would normally be spending. This situation is not for most but it can offer you certain freedom within your home if that is desired.

Au Pair:

Typical Care Hours:  Full Time 35 hours a week Part Time 20 hours per week.

Cost:  between $160 -$350 per week including living expenses like food, a room, possibly a cell phone, extra cable line, schooling etc.

An Au Pair is another word for a mother’s helper. They live in your home and usually work on call if you have to go to the store would like some free time. They are usually young girls from abroad who would like to experience living in another country. They can also come from inside the United States but are usually from small towns. A good resource for looking at au pairs and hiring people who are U.S citizens is with Great Au Pair. They have a free search engine and you can pay to begin contacting people if you see anyone you would like to interview. If you would like to hire someone from abroad, you legally must go through an Au Pair agency. They charge a fee and assist you in doing the paperwork and preparing for an Au Pair. The agency fee and paying the Au Pair in cash usually works out to about $350 per week even though you will have to pay some of that in lump sums.

                Some families, like mine at one point, hire Au Pairs instead of nannies to save on costs. But the reality is that Au Pairs are not nannies. They can be as young as 18 years old and have very little experience with childcare. They also will be experiencing a new local culture and language at the same time that they are trying to care for your children. All of this is not necessarily bad, but it does require some extra effort on your part. You will be taking on the responsibility of a person who may need some advice and help navigating your local system.  

Your Family:

Typical Care Hours:  Flexible

Cost:  Free – you can’t beat that.

In the days of a recession, two working parents, and still not enough money to pay the bills sometimes one’s own family is the only option for childcare. I find that when soliciting help from your family, it is important to spread out the responsibilities if you can to avoid any one person from feeling over burdened. An example of this would be asking for 2 days a week each from your parents, siblings, cousins, and friends. This way one person may only have to commit 2 days over the course of 10 days depending on how many people you can ask. This ensures that the people who are watching your precious little muffins are rested and prepared to care for them in the best way possible. Do not assume that family will go the extra mile just because they are family.

                The city is a wonderful place to raise kids with all of the options you have at your fingertips. Those options also apply to childcare. There are mothers groups, nanny sharing, and services of all kinds available to you as a parent. It is up to you to decide which one will be right for your family.