Are you looking into available options for child care? If so, you are going to be surprised to learn that child care rivals the cost of college. Prices vary across the country regardless of where you live. The following is your guide to finding the right child care for you and your family.

How Much Is Child Care?

The money you spend on child care can also influence your family life. You already know that it costs a lot of money to start a family. That includes the costs of pregnancy and delivery, baby gear, diapers, and toys. And now on top of that is the huge expense of paying for someone to care for your child when you go back to work.

It’s estimated that childcare is only affordable if it doesn’t exceed 7% of income. Currently, the national average cost of center-based daycare is close to $1,000 a month. Individual care can exceed $2000 to $3000 a month. When you look at those costs compared to average household incomes, it is obvious that many people have to struggle to find and pay for quality care for their child. And the COVID-19 pandemic has only made child care more challenging.

Child Care Options

Of course you can count on a bigger hit to your budget if you have more than one child, and especially if one is an infant. Consider yourself fortunate if your job offers childcare help or an on-site facility. In addition to price differences, the choice carries other considerations.

Think about whether you use a daycare center, a home care center, a nanny, a relative, or a preschool. You may want one type of care when your child is an infant and another type when she turns three. Remember that budgeting for child care doesn’t end when a child enters kindergarten.

Child Care Questions to Ask Yourself

Child care continues well into the preteen years with after-school care summer camps. In developing the criteria for making your decision, some of the questions you need to answer are:

  • What is most important to me about my child’s care?
  • Are there other factors that are essential to make this decision work?
  • What options are available in my geographic location?
  • How will I evaluate the options and the decision I make?

What Child Care Features Are Important to You?

Of course all parents want their child to be in a safe, clean, caring environment. You have to determine what is important for your personal values and your child.

You might feel that a small, home-based daycare provides the best situation. It could give individual, loving attention as well as socialization. Or it may be important to you that your child’s caregivers are trained in early childhood education. They have safety operations supervised in a licensed daycare center.

Dependable hours of operation and convenient location may be something you value highly. You may work unusual hours or have a schedule that requires you to hire a babysitter on an as-needed basis. Or you may have more than one child at home making hiring a nanny more financially feasible.

Often it is a combination of factors that tops your priority list, such as: hours available, geographic location, and cost. The most important thing to remember is to do your homework on whatever you choose.

Child Care Planning

Check your neighborhood or the areas near your work to see what care options are available. Convenience may become your top priority if you have to fight traffic as you race across town to get your child.

It may be worth it to you (both in terms of finances and the environment you prefer) to drive a longer distance if your child can be in the care of a relative.

Even if you work from home, getting reliable care in your home or nearby may be dependent on your location. If geography limits your options, then other wants may have to become secondary.

Often, location becomes a main reason you choose or change your childcare choice.

Making A Decision On Child Care

Before making your decision, attempt to rank the factors you have identified. If you have selected location, budget, and opportunities for socialization as your priorities you can list the available daycare or home care facilities that best fit those criteria. Maybe one center is less expensive but requires more driving. Or one in-home care option has a more flexible schedule at a higher cost.

Perhaps your child care philosophy conflicts with a relative that increases tension. There may be fewer opportunities for your child to play with others with a single caregiver. If you can narrow your requirements to three or four options, the selection may be easier to make.

You might also look at your list of must-haves and realize that the cost has to take priority. There may also be a way to combine a couple of these options. This could be a part-time nanny/part-time daycare that provides the best option at a price you can afford. The expensive option that seems to offer everything you imagined and then some, might not in the end offer the most value to you.

Or a center with classroom libraries or playgrounds may look like the clear winner. Especially when you evaluate the credentials of the caregivers. But when you meet your child’s prospective caregiver, you get the feeling that this may not be the perfect fit for your child’s needs or personality. In this case, it is clear that you value emotional interaction more than the environment. That’s even if the facility seems to offer many items on your list.

Remember that your decisions don’t have to be permanent. Even after you enroll, hire a nanny, or create a schedule. You don’t have to remain with a childcare choice that makes you uncomfortable.

Note: In some cases, you are responsible for payment for a specified time period. This is usually in preschool or if you have an employment contract with an agency or nanny.

Often, you can make a switch pretty easily if you have a better option. As mentioned, what works for your child at 8 months may not be the best fit for a three-year-old. Be open to options in case the time comes that a different situation better suits your family.

Additional Factors To Consider For Child Care

Illness may be a factor that you haven’t considered. Often young children in group care experience illness more often than individual care. Very few daycare centers or home care centers allow sick children to stay. If you rely on one individual to provide care, what options do you have if the caregiver gets sick or has an emergency?

Holidays are another issue to take into account. If you routinely work holidays that close schools or daycare centers, you need to find out if a home caregiver or babysitter or nanny will be available on those days.

Finally, there lies the question of whether it is not simply a better idea to become a stay-at-home parent. This choice sometimes eliminates separation anxiety for the child and parental guilt. It’s hard to leave a young child to spend the majority of time in the care of someone else.

Accompanying this choice is a drop in income and benefits. It can cause your family to make significant lifestyle changes. Some parents experience isolation and exhaustion from being away from their previous work. Spending their time doing household chores and socializing with an infant is tough! Others love the idea of being involved in their child’s development and being a witness to all those firsts.

Stay At Home Parenting

Are you interested in exploring staying home for the foreseeable future? You need to think about how this affects employment options and lifetime earnings.

Recent studies based on the US Census show info about new mothers who leave the workplace. Those between the ages of 25 and 35 experience the most difficulty in recovering income.

This is a prime time when most women have the energy and desire to start families. So there is no easy answer except that you need to think about your plan as soon as possible. Then research the options available to you.

Discuss your feelings and thoughts with partners, friends and relatives whose opinions you value. Weigh the benefits of each option to come up with a decision that you can live with, at least temporarily. When the time comes to leave your baby on your first day back to work, remind yourself of the reasons you made your decision at a less emotional time than today.

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