Congratulations on your bundle of joy! By now you have mastered the swaddle, you are an expert on the football hold and you might even be getting some sleep. If you are planning to go back to work –then your next big mountain to climb is finding a safe, affordable daycare for your new baby. Welp—if the concept of daycare is new to you –you might be in for big surprise. One the biggest and most surprisingly expensive costs of parenthood is DAYCARE.It is enough to make you scream--(hence the picture!) And if you live in a relatively expensive area like I do (DC metro area) then your daycare costs will be so pricey --they will have to be added as a line item on your budget. We recently decided to put our 2 year old toddler in a private school/daycare --after using a nanny for nearly a whole year. We looked at a number of alternatives to the full blown cost of daycare -and I have shared a few of those options below. A word to the wise –it is never too early to start researching options. Many of the best daycare centers have extensive waiting lists especially for the smaller and more expensive infant classes. Good Luck!
1)Find a Nanny Share/Part-Time Nanny: A nanny share is a great option if you only need partial daycare. Perhaps you only need coverage for mornings or just evenings. This works well if you have a friend or a neighbor with kids near the ages of your kids. You and the other mom(s) can coordinate the required coverage of the nanny and then share the overall cost of her care. This is a good way to keep a great nanny around --especially if your childcare costs are getting too high. Full time nannies are fantastic since they provide your child with dedicated focused time and attention. But you definitely pay for every penny. I was fortunate enough to hire a part-time nanny for my son for ages 4 months to 15 months. During that period I worked from home about 2 days a week so I was able to the cut costs and care for him. Having a nanny for my son during his infant years was simply wonderful. I enjoyed the adult chatting time with my nanny and I cherished the focused time and attention that she gave my son. I also loved that fact that I could walk two steps into another room in my house for a few extra cuddles throughout the work day. We ended up spending only $8000 total for childcare for my son’s first year versus the average whopping $25,200 annual cost for a higher end school based daycare option in DC.
2) Consider an Au Pair: Au Pair's offer dedicated in-home childcare, for a fraction of the costs. Many programs operate on a 2 year schedule, and after paying a flat program fee ($20,000 annually) and offering room and board for the Au Pair, you have the flexibility of nearly always having childcare. (I can't even imagine that!) The program seems pricey but if you compare this to the price of a FT nanny (at $20/H), an Au Pair is much cheaper. This is the option that plenty of my friends have chosen. My friends that have Au Pairs have at least 2 children and live in large homes --with ample space for a live-in household employee.
3) Explore Church/Home Daycare Services: Some large churches offer daycare/Christian school for young children. The prices of these services may vary but they are a worthy option. Also home daycare are also an option. A word of caution --please take the time to explore home daycare services. Many of these services are run "under the table" to avoid paying taxes. Steer clear of these kinds of home daycare services. Centers that will cut corners on taxes may cut corners on caring for your child!
4) Explore Part-Time/Drop-In Daycare: Some daycare centers provide a range of flexibility with attendance. Some programs are only mornings/part-time and others are only a few days a week. Do your homework and select the best option that works with your schedule and budget.
5) Be Nice to Grandpa/Grandma: Grandparents are a fantastic option for daycare --if you are blessed enough to have parents that will sign up to care for your little one on a regular basis. Be sure to do something special for them so that they know you appreciate their support. If you can't give them money each week, try bringing them dinner or helping them out around the house.