A caregiver is more than a babysitter for your child. The caregiver will take part in some of the earliest development and education that your child will receive. For that reason, choosing childcare can be a hard decision.
Childcare can be one of the largest costs of raising a child. So the choice often comes to finding a balance between what's affordable and what's the optimal setting in which your child will spend five days a week.
Day care centers are a moderately priced option for childcare, but averaging between $400 to $1,000 a month, they are still expensive. You may be lucky enough to be employed by a company that offers day care as part of its benefits package. Churches, schools and community centers often offer lower-priced day care. The center should be staffed by trained and licensed day care professionals.
Day care centers are an attractive childcare option because they provide a stimulating environment for children and typically have several caregivers working at any given time. They also welcome unannounced visits, helping parents feel comfortable with what goes on while they aren't there.
But day care centers are usually closed on holidays and if your child is sick, they won't be allowed in day care so you'll have to take the day off, too. They also have stiff monetary penalties for early drop-off or late pick-up so if something unexpected happens, you'll pay for it.
Family day care differs from traditional day care in that the caregiver provides care in his or her own home. Since they are run from a residence, they are often located more conveniently than other centers and can be much less expensive, around $300-$400 a month. You should still insist on licensed caregivers. Family day care is often less structured so you'll want to make sure the caregiver's ideas on playtime, feeding, napping and other issues as well as their value system are a good fit with your own ideas and values. You'll also want to inquire about and possibly run a background check on the other people that live in the home, even if they are not caregivers.
While usually the most expensive option, costing $1,500 a month and up, both live-in and daytime nanny and au pair childcare have definite advantages: One-to-one attention, the familiarity and convenience of your own home, a consistent companion for your child. You also don't have to worry about getting your child ready and out to day care before you leave for work. If you pay enough, light housekeeping chores may be included in the deal, too.
Keep in mind that you will be an employer, so legally you are required to withhold money for taxes and pay Social Security, unemployment insurance and any other costs according to your specific state and local laws. Nannies get sick occasionally, so you will either have to find a substitute on short notice or stay home.