The big event is over, the names are chosen and you brought home your beautiful, perfect baby girl. Your six weeks of maternity leave are flying by and soon you will return to work. But what will happen to your baby?
Who will take care of your daughter while you work? This question is asked by millions of mothers across the country every day. Where will I find quality childcare? What does ‘quality childcare even mean? Do I really want strangers taking care of my baby? Do I really want these people I call family taking care of my baby? How much can I afford to pay and what will I get for my money?
These are difficult questions to answer and no one can answer them but the parent. To find the answer its best to start at the beginning and then look around to find what’ss available. The first option to consider is can you stay at home with your baby and care for her yourself? This is not an easy question to answer whether its your first child or your fifth. In order to be a stay at home mom you have to ask some tough questions. Are you really ready to give up being an individual and become a mommy? Can your household survive on only one income? What sort of sacrifices will you need to make? In some families, if the cost of both parents working is more than the cost of one parent staying at home then it makes sense to consider becoming a stay at home mom. If you add up expenses you often find that you are paying to go to work each day and can save money by avoiding child care costs and living a bit more frugally.
Realistically, though, this is not the case for most women, especially if they are single parents or if their partner is not employed at a job that will sustain the family’s needs. If it is necessary to go back to work you have to examine your childcare choices. For most people these fall into four categories: family or friend care when relatives or friends help out with babysitting while you are at work; nannies or au pairs who stay at home with your child and care for them in the home environment; licensed home daycare which is a small group daycare set in a person’s home; and licensed day care centers. Each option provides its own advantages and disadvantages and its very important that a parent examine each choice before deciding which is right for their child.
The first child care choice, family or friend childcare is an excellent choice if you want great childcare at a low cost. Most of the time grandparents, aunts, and friends are willing to keep the baby for you for the sheer joy of being close to the brand new addition to the family. Some may charge a small fee but are less likely to charge you what you would pay for private childcare from a nanny or group setting. Let’s face it.Who has more experience at raising a child than your parents or your partner’s parents? If there are tense feelings between one set of parents or the other a baby makes a wonderful ambassador. If grandparents or other relatives are safe, sane and responsible then let them share in the joy of raising the new generation.
Relative/friend care for your new little girl has relatively few disadvantages but there are things to watch out for. Make sure, if the relatives are older, that they have a clean bill of health and that they can manage the demanding schedule of caring for a newborn. Remembering how to mix formula or re-heat breast milk, burping, and managing changing diapers can be difficult if there are any restrictions that affect an older relatives memory or coordination. Make sure the house is childproof and also make sure they have the patience to deal with things like colic, teething, gas, and other things that might make babies cry for long periods. Most importantly, make sure the ground rules are set. Some people are reluctant to bring up the issue of payment and later feel they are being taken for granted. If your relatives expect you to pay them for child care make sure you set a rate and stick to it. It’s also important that you respect the caregiver’s home. You may not agree with you mother in laws political views but if she’s willing to keep her grandchild for free it’s probably worth biting your tongue if the subject comes up.
Relative/friend childcare can be a lifesaver but sometimes it’ss not available. If you and your partner live in Rockford and your family is scattered around the country it’s time to look for outside help. At this point many couples and single parents consider hiring a nanny. Hiring a nanny has many advantages.
First of all, your child is cared for at home so there are no bumps and tears as the baby settles into a strange new location. Your baby girl will be cared for by only one person, which helps calm attachment issues and stranger anxiety. Second, depending on the hours and type of care needed a nanny can take the baby to run errands, help out with household chores, and stay late on the occasional evening when you need to work late or go out. If you have a nanny who comes from a different cultural background you can provide your child the opportunity to experience a variety of child rearing experiences as well as the opportunity to learn a second language. There are many excellent nanny services out there but don’t expect Mary Poppins. A good nanny or au pair puts the needs of the child first, the same as you would, but there are also disadvantages to having a nanny.
To begin with, nannies are expensive. The going rate for a nanny in the greater Chicago area is ten to fifteen dollars an hour depending on where you live and whether you need a full time or part time nanny. If you need a full time live in nanny you are not only paying their salary. You are providing board and keep for another person and taking responsibility for any accidents or mishaps that might occur while she is under your employment, without any workman’s comp to fall back on. You also have to pay the nanny’s federal income taxes and social security taxes as well as making sure your nanny is legally employable in the U.S.Hiring a nanny who does not speak English fluently can create communication barriers that are difficult to overcome. And let’s not forget, there have been horror stories of nannies that mistreat or abuse the infant in their care.
So you decide hiring a nanny is not the best option for you. Where else can you look for high-quality childcare? Maybe just around the corner. Many stay at home moms or grandmothers have licensed day care in their home. Licensed home daycares are limited to the number of children they can have and have to abide by the same DCFS and Health Department regulations as their larger counterparts. Some have partitioned their homes into a daycare downstairs and a family home upstairs or some kind of similar arrangement. Others incorporate the family living area into the daycare. As with any childcare choice it is important to keep in mind the advantages and disadvantages of home daycare.
One advantage of a licensed home daycare is the size. Since daycare providers are restricted to the number of children they can have in their home you can be assured your child will get plenty of attention and nurturing. They will also get exposure to a family-type environment, where older children help with the younger children. Since babies are fascinated by older children your baby girl will enjoy the different types of interaction she will experience.
Another advantage of home daycare is flexibility. While most home daycares do have set hours of operations they can vary those hours when necessary to accommodate the occasional special need. If you work nights and weekends you are more likely to find a home daycare that meets your needs as opposed to a traditional large group daycare. Home daycare is also good for moms who only need part time care since the person providing the service can adjust the days and times for each child. A lot of home daycares share time with another child, caring for one child in the morning and another in the afternoon.
Like all child care choices there are disadvantages to home daycare. If you choose to have your baby cared for in someone else’s home make sure they are licensed by the state of Illinois to provide child care. Unlicensed home daycare is a lawsuit waiting to happen. They may not observe health rules or may keep more children than the law allows. The person providing care may see themselves as simply a babysitter and do little to nurture and expand your baby’s growing mind and body. Your child might spend hours in a swing or playpen while her caregiver watches TV or reads magazines. Home daycare providers, even licensed ones, may not keep current on issues happening within the field of early childhood development and education and use out of date practices that, while not harmful to your child, may not provide them the best experiences. If you choose home daycare do what you would do if you were hiring a nanny or a babysitter: interview them. Visit the location and judge for yourself. Are there gates to block stairs and covers in electrical outlets? Do children and caregivers wash their hands, especially at diapering time. Does the home have a sanitary diapering area that is cleaned with bleach or sanitizer after each change? If you have any qualms about the provider, the location, or the other children in the home daycare then discuss them with the provider. Follow your best instincts before agreeing to enroll your child.
The final childcare choice for your six-week old baby is a large group daycare where your child is kept in a room with other infants and assigned a particular caregiver. It’s difficult to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of large group child care centers, such as KinderCare, because a lot of the advantages are also disadvantages. Child care centers are licensed to have so many children in each room based on the age of the child. Your six week old would be in an infant room and in the state of Illinois an infant "classroom" can be licensed for up to twelve babies with three caregivers. That would make your child one of four infants assigned to one person for their care and interaction while you are at work. At first that doesn’t sound like much but ask yourself, would you want to take care of four babies at one time? Obviously the caretakers are trained and educated in how to care for young children right? Not necessarily. While most childcare centers prefer to hire employees who are daycare teacher qualified they legally only have to have one teacher qualified person in the room. The other two employees need only a high-school education to work in a child care center.
At first glance a group child care center may look like a terrific place. It’s clean, shiny, there are lots of toys and everything is kept as sanitary as possible. Children can only spend a short amount of time in cribs (unless they are sleeping, of course), swings, or bouncy seats. Teachers usually have a basic curriculum to follow designed to stimulate a baby’s growing mind and body. But even the best child care centers may have all the bells and whistles and accredidations and still be lacking. For instance, there is very little flexibility. Your child can only attend during the hours when the center is open and that is usually Monday through Friday from 6am to 5:30 or 6pm. If you are late picking up your child they can charge as much as five dollars for each minute you are late. If you don’t drop your child off before 9 or 9:30, depending on the center, you may not be allowed to drop your child off at all. This makes it difficult for parents whose job starts later in the morning.. And while it may be wonderful that the caregivers wear gloves to change diapers and sanitize the diaper area thoroughly they are also required to change each baby’s diaper every two hours, unless the child is asleep when changing time comes around. Health rules require them to use at least three wipes for each diaper change, not including extra wipes needed for bowel movements so you can expect to spend a lot more money on diapers and wipes.
Child Care centers are also expensive, especially for infants.Weekly costs can be close to $200 a week or more, depending on the center. It is important to ask yourself what it is you are getting for your money because if the center operates on a for-profit basis you may be paying for the bottom line instead of for high quality care. When you tour a child care center be sure to ask lots of questions about caregiver/child interaction because some centers discourage affection between caregiver in charge. One center in the Rockford area tells its workers not to kiss the babies because "they aren’t our babies.". Watch for red flags, such as smelly diaper pails, caregivers who spend more time talking to each other than they do caring for their children, or directors who seem more concerned about whether you will be paying full price for care or if you will be receiving child care assistance from a government agency, such as the YWCA here in the Rockford area.
Finding the right childcare fit for you and your baby is not an easy process and it shouldn’t be. After all, this is your most precious possession. You want to be sure it will be treasured, not ignored or exploited. Before deciding what is right talk it over with your partner, or, if you are a single mom, with a trusted relative or friend. It may be helpful to talk to someone in the childcare business or who knows about early childhood development and education. Remember, it won’t be easy to leave your child with someone else and only you can make the right choice concerning care. Use this advice and make it a good one!</p>