The first few weeks of a newborn’s life can be tumultuous for new parents. Compound very little sleep and the resulting mood swings with overwhelming love and joy for a new child, and the thought of selecting a childcare provider can bring new parents to the brink of psychosis.
Whether parents plan on taking a modest amount of maternity leave or are lucky enough to take advantage of healthy leave options offered by Netflix and Microsoft, child-care professionals say new parents should have childcare lined up before offspring arrives. Preferably by the end of the second trimester to guarantee a coveted spot in a center or with a nanny.
“The best advice I can give is simply to start early,” said Emily Dills, founder and COO of Seattle Nanny Network in Kirkland. “So many people don’t realize the wait lists associated with daycares. I met with a large Seattle company last week whose in-house daycare has a wait list of two years.”
Dills explains that many of Seattle Nanny Network’s clients seek nanny care to bridge gaps in care until they find a long term solution.
“Exploring options — from having a family member or friend care for your baby, to daycare, to hiring a nanny — are things you want to begin navigating long before you give birth,” she said.
One of the biggest factors in this conundrum is the ever-increasing birthrate. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the childcare industry employed approximately 1,312,700 caregivers in 2012, and this number is projected to grow 14 percent by 2022. This statistic is on par with the projected increase in the number of children who will require care and preschool programing.
So the important question is, do you opt for daycare or do you go with a nanny?
If you choose a daycare center, you know your child will have many sets of eyes on them throughout the day and there are security measures in place, in addition to checks and balances between caregivers and management that ensure a child’s safety. Choosing a daycare also means that the child is getting socialization with their peers which is important even during the first year of life.
Additionally, daycare centers typically are more affordable when compared to hiring a nanny. Dills admits that nanny care isn’t cheap.
“The greatest barrier to using a nanny is the cost,” she said. “An excellent way to defray the cost is to consider sharing the nanny and the cost with another family.”
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, childcare workers make more than $19,000 a year on average, which comes out to just over $9 per hour. The closer a family lives to a city center, like Seattle or Bellevue, the higher the rate. Alternatively, nannies earn more per hour than typical caregivers in a daycare setting.
If cost isn’t the cornerstone of your decision, maybe a nanny is right for you. Dills explains that nanny care offers many benefits.
“One-on-one care tops the list,” she said. “There’s nothing like the one-on-one ratio you get with a nanny. Having your child cared for in their greatest comfort zone, their home, comes in a close second.”
Nanny and former preschool teacher, Melissa Reamer, explains this one-on-one ratio can make a difference to a child.
“When I worked as a preschool teacher I rarely felt that I was able to give each child an adequate amount of attention and support because of ratios,” she said. “Kids with a nanny get more coaching and nurturing which makes them feel more secure and happy.”
Additionally, daycares in general have a reputation for spreading illnesses between children on a near constant basis despite sanitation efforts.
“Many clients turn to us for coverage during the first year of life, when children are most susceptible to illnesses, and then economize by placing their child in a daycare setting when they are older,” Dills said.
If a nanny seems like the right fit, the next step is finding a nanny, which can be a daunting task.
There are many places to find a reliable nanny, so do some research. A wide variety of nanny websites or a service like Dills’ Seattle Nanny Network could help find the right fit. Never underestimate the power of word of mouth, and asking friends and family for a recommendation can alleviate much of the trepidation that comes with hiring a stranger.
“We often find that new parents are not fully sure of what they want until they meet that person,” Dills said. “Of course the fundamentals should never be compromised. The person you choose to care for your children should have excellent child care references, a clean background, and a solid work history. At no other time in your child’s life will you have as much control over choosing who supervises your child, which is why so many parents take this route.”
Ultimately, nanny Katharine Coleman says parents should go with what feels right and what they can realistically afford versus what they think they should do.
“It is not about a right or a wrong form of childcare, it’s about what works best for your family and for your child,” she said. “Do your research carefully and explore all options; remember that there are a variety of options because there are a variety of families. You’ll find the one that feels right to you and please never feel bad about your decision.”