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Planning for Childcare

Childcare can come in many forms, ranging from a volunteer family member , hired help at home to daycare. Even daycares vary- from home daycare to more “institutional” versions. Choosing what, if types of Childcare you may employ, with some pointers to help you in your decision. Childcare may be desired whether or not you are returning to work, however your schedule will determine what form of care will or will not work for you.

Family Member
If you are returning to work full time, it may be difficult to find a family member willing and able to care for your child daily, however, in many families this is the case.  If you do have such a family member, be very grateful – not only for the help but for the reassurance of knowing that someone you rust taking care of your child. If this is something you are considering, you should still take into account the following:

  • Is this family member physically able to do this (while the best of intentions may be there, we don’t want Grandma overdoing it –daily childcare presents its challenges to the best of us!)
  • Will this family member respect & enforce your child-rearing beliefs/”policies” e.g “no means no”
  • Will this arrangement put a strain on your relationship?
  • What is your back up plan in case of illness- your child’s, or the caregiver’s? With H1N1 on the loose, we all need to have such back-up plans.

In-home care
In home care presents many advantages & disadvantages. I personally was resistant to it. When my fourth child was about 6 months old I reluctantly agreed to try it out. It didn’t work out at first , and while there are always issues that come up, I am grateful to have help at home- It allows me to accompany my kids to their piano lessons and doctor’s appointments individually and it means that I am not folding laundry on my bedroom floor nightly until midnight. Here are some pros & cons of hiring help at home:

Will free up some of your time to allow you to accomplish some or all of the following:

  • Work
  • Spend more time enjoying your baby (as opposed to doing things like cleaning, cooking & laundry “around” your baby)
  • Take yourself or other children to Doctor’s appointments without baby in tow ( good idea not to take baby to such places- exposing them to outside viruses, etc)
  • Relax with a cup of coffee or a friend
  • Attend an exercise class
  • Provide you with “Freedom” to come & go as you please.
  • Grocery shop solo (not too bad with one baby in tow- more complicated with more than one)
  • Pick up older children while baby is napping comfortably in her crib
  • Take older children to extracurricular activities without baby in tow.


  • Cost
  • Some loss of privacy
  • If you have issues trusting someone with your child and/or with your home…this is an obstacle
  • A housekeeper, cleaning lady , or nanny, like any other employee, requires management. You will need to devise a management system that works for you. This includes training as well as providing day-to-day direction.
  • This relationship can sometimes (but need not be) be taxing, depending on the personalities involved- both hers & yours.

Choosing a daycare can also be a stressful decision. First & foremost, you should make sure that if you have not already done so, you get yourself on the waiting list for those daycares that are of ANY interest to you. Many mothers are doing this while they are still pregnant.
Choosing a format: home daycare vs. institutional
There are arguments to be made for each & different moms have different preferences. Ideally , you should visit a few of each before making your decision.
Below is a list of factors to consider when making your selection:

  • Cost- is this a fully, partially or not subsidized program? ( Fully subsidized would be $7/day)
  • What are the daycare’s opening hours?
  • What holidays do they close for?
  • What is the ratio of daycare workers/educators to children
  • What is the age range of the children attending?
  • What is their policy with respect to diapering (for older children)
  • What is their policy with respect to cloth diapers?
  • What is their policy on parental visitation?
  • What type of food do they provide?
  • What precautions do they take for children with allergies?
  • Is it a nut-free environment?
  • How much time do the children get to spend outdoors?
  • In the case of a home-based daycare- what happen if the main educator is ill or absent?
  • What procedures are in place in the event of an emergency? (This includes asking what happens should an intruder enter the building/home)

Upon your visit, observe:

  • How do workers interact with the children?
  • Do workers get down on their knee(s) to speak with children “at their level”?
  • What is the “feeling” in the class? Do the children seem happy
  • How clean is the daycare?
  • What food safety guidelines are followed?
  • Where do the children nap? Will I need to provide a playpen/porta-crib?

You will undoubtedly think of even more questions-don’t be shy- ask them all. You should feel 100% comfortable with your choice of Daycare. As for the separation anxiety….That’s a separate issue!

The MFA offers a great checklist with great step by step questions and points to look at when choosing a daycare. Click here to view.

Good luck with your search!


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