I wonder what the percentage might be of new mothers caring for their babies during their maternity leave seriously contemplating the options of making it financially feasible for them to stay with their baby and not go back to work. Might it be 75 percent? Ninety percent? Even more? Many mothers spend a large part of their maternity leave crunching numbers to try to find a financial means to ward off the day when they must leave their new baby in someone else's care because they simply cannot afford to stay home from work any longer. There is unfortunately no other option for the majority of mothers. Often this realization comes with strong feelings of guilt before jumping into the analysis of available day care centers that must be undergone.
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 center is monitored by the state to a degree and gives your child a staff that has passed background checks and who have taken at least some courses in early childhood development. Such a facility will provide safety and security and the legal ratio of teacher to child. The disadvantages to this type of facility is that all the kids need a Kleenex, they are crying all at once and there are not enough people around to hug them and bounce them on their knee.
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 might seem to be the best choice. This is someone that comes into your home to care for your child where he is most comfortable. An attachment also often forms with this type of care. But again, you must consider illness, vacations and days when your caregiver has personal business to attend to.
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.
Preparation must be laid out to make this difficult decision correctly. Last minute choices are not an option. Feelings of guilt and a few tears will fall, but a well-honed plan will alleviate parental stress and with it the stress on the entire family.
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