Many parents who know they will be going to go back to work after their maternity/paternity leave feel overwhelmed by the childcare options, and don't know the pros and cons about each of the different routes they could take. We are here to help navigate this! Let's discuss the three most common child-minding options here in NYC.
A nanny is a professional caregiver who cares for children in your home. This option provides lots of one-on-one time and is highly personalized to your needs, as the nanny can keep the child safe and engaged in their own environment. A nanny may also do additional tasks related to the child, such as cooking, dishes, laundry, transportation, and activity and schedule planning. A nanny may speak multiple languages, or have multiple education degrees. The nanny may live-in like an au pair but it does not affect her pay and is more for the sake of convenience. Your child has the comforts that come with having a home base throughout the day -- the ability to be home for meals, playtime, and nap times is a huge plus to many families. A nanny can also structure the day exactly as you'd like. Know of a cool story time? Want your child to have extracurricular activities like music, sports, art, and play dates? Your child can do these things easily. Also, the relationship between a family and a nanny is incredibly special and unlike any other in that your child relies on this person just like they would a close relative, which creates a nice sense of security for your child. A nanny is also convenient for the family, too -- he or she will come to your home before you leave for work, and stay until you get home. No shuttling your children to a different location. No packing lunch and cleaning out a backpack each day. The nanny is an extension of you while you are out.
The number one downside is cost. Hiring a nanny is expensive -- depending on qualifications and education, a full-time nanny can cost between $45,000 and upwards of $120,000 or more in New York City. This person is your employee, and must be treated as such with guaranteed legal protections such as taxes withheld, overtime pay, and vacation and sick time. A nanny also works day in and day out in your home: they will see the good, the bad, and the ugly. Having a bad day? Be prepared to act professional in your home instead of relaxed and unfiltered. Many first-time families and some nannies also do not know how to navigate the close relationship with professional boundaries, and find themselves in sticky situations where expectations and personalities were mismatched. Luckily, with the right resources such as a nanny agency like us, and an accountant/tax withholding company, these expectations and pay requirements can be handled seamlessly to make the working relationship smooth and stress-free.
An Au Pair is someone foreign to the US, between the ages of 18-25, who comes abroad on a J1 visa to live with an American family and care for their children in exchange for housing and a small stipend for up to one year. This option is great when you want your child to learn another language and have exposure to other cultures and care. If you have space in your apartment or home to host a young woman for 6 months to a year, and you are really short on cash for childcare (legally an au pair is paid $195 a week for 45 hours of work or less) this is a great option. Each au pair also receives childcare training before they start to help fill in some gaps in learning and standard procedures. They often can feel like a "cool aunt" or a big sister to the children. If you are a stay or work at home parent, this may be a preferred route. However, this option has a lot of different important points to consider.
Having an au pair can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it's crucial you have someone who has experience with the age of your child. Hosting someone who is an adult yet still quite young, you often must act as a parent, as their own parents are trusting you to care for them and watch out for their wellbeing in a new country. Some families think it can be like having a teenager in the city, especially if the au pair is from a rural environment in their home country come to a city, or vise versa. Also, sharing your space may feel invasive if you don't have much to spare (i.e. City apartment life), or aren't accustomed to having guests around. An au pair may feel like a babysitter, because that is often what they are. If you are wanting someone to help guide you in your parenting, or help you with behavioral or developmental issues your child is facing, most au pairs just won't have this skill set because they have not had the training or experience like many nannies or teachers in a center would have. Also bear in mind that an au pair will have a different cultural upbringing, and so it is important to discuss developmental theories and your personal behavioral approaches before hiring (potty training, time-outs, eating times and nutrition).
Daycare or Childcare Center
This option has many great pros. First, your child will have many opportunities for socialization. They will learn to share, to listen, and will have a jam-packed day, everyday, along with their naps and meals in the company of many other children and adults, and they also learn to get onto a set, reliable schedule. It takes a village to raise a child, and many parents who have their children in a whole group setting love the community aspect. It is also the semi-affordable option only if you're looking for care 40 hours a week or more (though many centers cost as much as a nanny, but have the structured extracurricular activities built in). The state mandates ratios so your child would never be left in an environment where a caregiver is overwhelmed with many children. Each center is different and has their own policies, but all child care centers must pass the same city safety inspections. But there are some downsides.
The most obvious concern is that your child may be sick, often. Even a properly sanitized environment will still have some germ sharing, and this may be a positive or a negative depending on how you look at it - they are building their lifelong immunities, but the frequency of illness may be higher than in private care, and if they are sick, they can't come for the day, which puts working parents in a hardship if they do not have access to last minute backup care. The other concern would be the amount of individual attention given to your child. This would certainly be less than a nanny or au pair. Of course, their basic needs like diapering and feeding will certainly be met, but the room teachers will be balancing all of the children and engaging with many at once. The variety of experiences they will have in the day will also be very structured and the majority of time will be spent at the site of care, instead of on field trips or outings as with a nanny or an au pair.
Whichever route you choose for your child, make sure it is an environment where they are happy, safe, and engaged with the world around them. Hopefully with this guide, you will have a clearer picture and are able to make the most informed personal decision for your family.
Until next time,
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