A very large percentage of new mothers on maternity leave while caring for their newborns have seriously considered the thought of finding a way to be financially okay without returning to work once the leave has run out. I bet the percentage is as large as 75, 90 or even higher who crunch numbers, lay out budgets and crunch the numbers once again in the vain hope that they can stay with their baby without working away from home. Unfortunately, the vast majority of them must go back to work to support the family. This ultimate realization does not come without guilt and falling tears. They are forced to select a day care center for their new baby and are determined to choose the very best one they can find.
But what does excellent daycare look like? And how can you find it? The first decision to be made is what type daycare you are looking for. A good, state-licensed daycare center provides security, an up-to-date curriculum and modern equipment. A home daycare offers a local mom who loves kids and promises to care for your child as if he were her own. A nanny would come to your home and care for your child in his own environment. Or there is always a friend or family member who offers and says it would be no trouble. Each type has advantages and disadvantages that need to be weighed.
A state-licensed day care center offers a staff that has passed strict background checks, and attained a degree of early childhood education. The facility provides safety and security measures, and has a mandated ratio of staff to children to ensure individual care. Of course there are also drawbacks to this type of care. It seems that if one child in a classroom sneezes, soon everyone has a cold, and if everyone is crying at once, there may not be enough laps and arms to go around.
A home daycare provides one caregiver to cater to your child's needs and becomes something of a surrogate mother. A strong attachment often forms between a child and a home daycare provider. But what happens if that caregiver herself gets sick? Or one of her own children? Do you want her to take your child along on her daily errands? When her family decides to go on vacation, where will your child go? And what will his reaction to another new environment?
A nanny has many advantages. They come to your home where your child is most comfortable. An attachment between nanny and baby is sure to form in this arrangement as well. And once again, you must consider the nanny will want days off, may become ill or be called away on personal business.
Grandma or the loving neighbor who offered their services can also be a good deal. You do trust them, but shouldn't they have a life of their own? Yes, they should, and you shouldn't plan on them staying with your baby for very long.
In conclusion, there is no right or wrong solution to your daycare dilemma. Parents must look at every aspect, bad and good and make the most informed decision they can for their family's needs. There are some things to be considered that apply to all of the options, though. While cost should never be the driving factor in your choice, it cannot be overlooked. You should never, ever engage a stranger in the care of your child without having them provide airtight reassurance as to their character, whether it be strong, current references, a state-sponsored background check or a long accessible track record of excellence in the daycare field. There are many states that have child welfare agencies that will provide private parties with the results of their background checks. If a caregiver will not allow parents to drop in to the center or home without prior notice, stay away. For your older children, discuss with the center how they handle disciplinary problems and what measure they take to correct them. If your child is engaged in after-school hours at the center, find out what activities are offered to them so they can spend the hours there productively.
Planning for this situation ahead is the key to your success. This can never be a last minute decision. Parents should always expect some feelings of guilt, some separation anxiety and some tears, but a well- planned and realistic analysis of all the daycare options available will help alleviate the stress on parents and the entire family.
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