You’ve just welcomed your little bundle of joy into the world, and the parenthood adventure is in full swing. Sure, there have been some hiccups but, by and large, you’re doing pretty well. In fact, you’ve maybe just gotten a real sleep schedule going or feedings down to a near science.
Then, just like that, you realize your maternity or paternity leave is coming to an end…already?! You’re processing the emotional component of not seeing your baby each moment of the day when the logistical hurdle hits you – and, no, it’s not work itself. It’s the question of who is going to care for your child.
Depending on your household income, work schedule, number of other children and personal preferences, you might be considering several different options. To help make this evaluative process more manageable, we’ve broken down the three most common potential paths forward – staying home, daycare or a family member’s help – and explored each option a bit.
Let’s walk through these together:
If it’s financially possible for your family to live on your partner’s income or an alternate source of income, staying home with your child can be an attractive option. And the economic value is real -- the estimated 2018 annual salary value of a stay-at-home parent
is a whopping $162,581. While having one parent stay at home does forfeit an additional source of tangible income, it also saves the cost of outside child care, allows you to play a direct role in your child’s development or provides an opportunity for more flexible/part-time work.
Daycare can sometimes get a bit of a bad rap – cold season, anyone? But actually, daycare can be a wonderful child care option. Daycare programs provide reliable and consistent care that often include early childhood education opportunities with trained professionals.
Daycare also offers your child the opportunity to socialize with other children. Parents also benefit from the opportunity to meet each other and create a new network of support. In terms of the monthly cost, it varies, but the current national average
is a not-so-insignificant $972.
A Family Member
There are definitely benefits to having a relative care for your child – there’s the opportunity to create a strong familial bond early on, the potential cost savings of paying for full time professional care, and the ability to be in close contact with the caregiver.
That said, there are some additional considerations when selecting this path. It can be difficult to enforce your rules and expectations if they differ significantly from what the relative feels is best. Open and honest communication and a clear delineation of the caregiver role, including expectations around holidays, sick days, and vacation as well as the importance of developmentally appropriate activities, are important to agree upon upfront.
Selecting the right child care path is just one of the many decisions you’ll make as a parent. While some of those decisions might feel overwhelming initially, it's important to take it one step at a time, and think about what is the best fit for your family. Remember, when it comes to child care, there is no one-size-fits-all approach and you can always adjust as your circumstance change.