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Childcare Options 101: Part 1

Updated: Jun 14, 2023

Children's blocks that spell "childcare" and "abc"

Finding out that you or your partner is pregnant can be one of the most joyous times in your life! All that dreaming about what your future will look like is now starting to turn into a reality. For many parents-to-be, it can also be an overwhelming time, filled with many decisions requiring research hours. Do we want to breastfeed or bottle feed? Do we believe in sleep training? What products do we want on our registry? Ahhhhh! Before your baby gets here, you will also need to decide who you want to care for your child in their youngest months and years. Hopefully you have a village filled with other parents and quality healthcare professionals that can support you in navigating some of these important decisions. ProEarly Co is here to join your village. Below is an introduction to some of the childcare options to consider as you begin to determine what childcare setup is best for your growing family.

Parental Leave

The United States is one of the few countries that does not provide any national paid parental leave (which is a disgrace and will be the sole topic of a future blog post). Your first step is determining what, if any, paid leave you have available to you so that you can calculate how long you will be able to provide care for your infant yourselves. Some states have started to pass laws to provide their residents with the support of paid leave. According to the Center for American Progress, there are now eleven states that have passed paid family and medical leave laws which include: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, as well as Washington, D.C. Many employers are also starting to provide paid parental leave (this can be for biological mothers and fathers, as well as adoptive parents) as part of their benefits packages. If you do not have paid leave options, you may be eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FLMA). Talk to your HR department to see what benefits you have available to you.

Pro Tip: If you are not pregnant yet, but plan to be, carefully review your benefits options at your next open enrollment. Some benefits employers offer require you opt-in to receive them, such as voluntary supplemental short-term disability.

Family Care

Believe it or not, family care is American families' most common type of care. This type of care is when a family member, usually a grandparent, cares for the child in your home or theirs. If this is an option for you - you have a family member that is willing and able - then it is worth considering. According to the Center for American Progress, “the annual cost of childcare for an infant in a childcare center is higher than a year’s tuition at the average four-year public college in most states.” Utilizing family care, even if it is just for a short period of time, can save your family a significant amount of money that can ensure stability for your future. In addition to the cost-saving benefits, many families report feeling significantly less stress and anxiety when leaving their child with a family member. Family care also offers greater flexibility - not having to adhere to a strict drop-off and pick-up schedule and more tolerance for illness. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, parents missing work due to child illness has recently reached an all-time high, so a family member who doesn't shy away from the sniffles can really come in handy.

Pro Tip: Family care has its challenges too; it’s important to prioritize making the situation work for everyone involved! Have both parties outline what they need to make this arrangement successful - think: boundaries and ideological differences about raising a child. Write them down and establish regular check-ins.

Nanny Care

Nannies are childcare professionals who, typically with an educational background or formal training, care for your child in your home. They require a contract, which includes a set schedule and may also include making meals, providing transportation, and completing light household chores, among other tasks. While nanny care for many is the ideal situation - professional care in the home and the absence of intergenerational family dynamics - nannies are often the most expensive childcare option. According to the 2022 International Nanny Association Salary and Benefits Survey, the median hourly rate is $25 an hour, not including overtime pay. Pay rates differ by location, highest on the coasts: California, Washington, New York, Maryland, and Massachusetts. Families are also starting to include benefits such as paid time off and health care as part of their compensation offerings. Another challenge is managing unplanned days off for nannies due to illness or other unforeseen events, which can often leave families without a backup option. If you are interested in this option, check out ProEarly Co’s Nanny Interview Guide to support your selection process - coming summer 2023!

Pro Tip: If nanny care is your first choice, but it is not in your family’s budget, consider a nanny share with another family in your community with a child of a similar age. This option will not only reduce the cost, but also provide your child with the benefit of socialization!

Au Pair Care

Au pairs provide similar services to nannies, with some notable differences. According to AuPairWorld, “an au pair is integrated into family life as a temporary family member. The au pair has a room in the family home and eats meals with the family and receives monthly pocket money instead of a salary.” If you are open to integrating a childcare professional from abroad into your family, then hiring an au pair is something for your family to consider. Au pairs offer the benefits of a nanny, with increased flexibility, at typically a more affordable rate. There are some initial upfront costs, such as a matching fee for an au pair service, but going forward, it can be relatively inexpensive - the U.S. minimum is $195.75 per week. There also may be some additional educational costs associated if the au pair enrolls in approved courses. The one downside to note is that au pairs usually only sign contracts for 1 or 2 years, so the transition out of the family can be tough on everyone involved.

Pro Tip: Choosing to hire an au pair is a serious long-term commitment. Choosing an au pair service that meets your needs is essential to making this arrangement work for all parties.

All of the options for childcare we outlined in this blog post also have the benefit of being an incredibly supportive option for breastfeeding if mom has the option to be in the home full or part-time. If breastfeeding is a priority for your family, one of these options may fit your family best! If you enjoyed this blog post, be on the lookout for part 2, where we will talk about center-based and home-based care!

Thanks for trusting the team at ProEarly Co to PROvide EARLY care content, coaching, and community so you feel confident selecting and securing the best childcare option for your family!

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