Daycare vs. Nanny: Pros and Cons

Babysitter and baby
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For many new parents, the decision of who should watch their baby is stressful, emotional and confusing. Many moms are not emotionally ready to go back to work, but have limited or no maternity leave policy. Without paid maternity leave, many parents are left without many options. Aside from being a stay-at-home parent or having relatives watch your child, the two most popular childcare choices are enrolling your child in a day care center or hiring a nanny to watch your child in your home.

Both choices have positive and negative aspects, but it is most important that you find a childcare situation in which you are comfortable and where your baby will thrive. Evaluating the pros and cons of both options can help you make the decision that is best for your family.

Pros of Day Care

  • Helps Build Social Skills: Day care provides the benefit of socialization where kids can learn and grow with other children. Children are stimulated by other kids and develop social skills through their daily experiences in day care.
  • Toys, Books and Resources: Most day care centers offer a wide variety of toys, books, games and play equipment. Day care provides opportunities for creative play with art supplies, educational games, dress-up outfits and building blocks. Some day care centers also bring in people for extra activities, such as music or yoga. These items are usually included in your monthly or annual costs so you don't have to pay extra for the supplies.
  • State Regulations and Accreditations: Day care centers must follow state regulations around safety, staffing, sanitation and space issues. Ask about the center's most recent state license and if they have been accredited through the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
  • Multiple Teachers: Many day care centers have wonderful teachers who have been working with kids for many years. Some may have training in child development. Children will be supervised by a group of teachers and form relationships with more than one individual.
  • Cost: The price of day care tends to be more affordable than a nanny since you are sharing the cost with other families. The price varies based on location and type of facility. An in-home day care center, also known as family care, is usually less expensive than a traditional day care.

Cons of Day Care

  • More Germs and IllnessGerms are prevalent in day care with kids sharing so many toys, wiping their noses and touching the toys again. Given close contact with so many children, in daycare a child may get sick more times a year than one not in daycare.
  • Sick Policies: Day care center have strict sick policies so if your kid falls into their "sick" category, you have to take off from work or find other childcare arrangements when your child has an illness. Further, if your kid gets sick at day care, you will have to come pick them up and keep them home until they are free of the illness.
  • Accidents: Bites or falls are more common at day care. With many kids, it is difficult to keep an eye on all kids at one time so there may be more bumps and bruises.
  • Inflexibility: Day care centers run on specific hours so if you are late picking up your child, it is probable that you will be subject to an extra charge. If you have a job where you cannot leave at a specific time each day, you may need more flexibility than daycare can offer.
  • Your Kid's Personality: Day care has many transitions and stimuli, so it's important to know your child's personality and think about whether they will be overwhelmed or overstimulated by this environment. Also, other kids' behavior and development can impact your child's day. Will your child be influenced by a child who needs additional discipline? How do you feel about teachers caring for more than one baby at a time? What if your child isn't adjusting well to day care?

Nanny Pros

  • More Parental Control: With a nanny in your home, parents have more control over what their child is exposed to, where he goes, what he eats, and what his schedule looks like. Most nannies provide detailed reports of the day and send parents pictures. If this is important to you, a nanny is a good option.
  • Individual Attention: Your nanny is focused on your child's individual needs. There is no competition for attention and the nanny can solely concentrate on your child's development.
  • Attachment: A nanny provides the benefit of a primary attachment figure. With a nanny, your child can develop a special relationship with one person and rely on them to be a secure and comforting person in their lives.
  • Logistics: Having a nanny come to your home makes being a working parent much easier. If you forget to do something at home, you can call your nanny. If you are having a repairman come to the house, your nanny can be there to let him in. Further, many nannies help with light housework, cook your child's meals and do their laundry. These tasks lessen the parenting load for you.
  • Flexibility: You set the hours for when you need a nanny. If you start work later in the day and work evenings, you can find a nanny who will work with your schedule. If you are stuck in traffic, your nanny will be at home waiting.
  • Consistent Care: Most nannies stay with their families from birth through school age. Turnover at daycare centers tends to average at least one caregiver leaving each year or sooner which may be emotional for your child.
  • Convenience: With a nanny you don't have to prepare or pack up for the day. No lugging pumped milk or packed lunch across town with you.

Nanny Cons

  • Parenting Style Conflicts: If you and your nanny disagree on topics such as discipline, sleeping, or other parenting issues, it may be a conflict and make for a difficult relationship. It is best to find a nanny who is on the same page as you in terms of parenting style. Consistency between caregivers is important for child development.
  • Cost: Nannies usually cost significantly more than daycare centers. Nanny costs vary depending on location, number of kids, and other factors. If you want a nanny, but cannot afford an individual nanny, think about a nanny share where two children share one nanny.
  • Lateness: If a nanny consistently show up late then it makes you late for work. Since the nanny is coming to your home you cannot control her tardiness.
  • No Coverage for Sick Time: If your nanny gets sick, takes a personal day or has to leave town, you will have to stay home or find a back-up plan.
  • No Regulations: Nannies are not required to have extra education on child development or specific certifications. Many nannies are CPR certified, but not all. Screening nanny candidates and running background checks is up to parents.
  • You are the Employer: Having a nanny means you are an employer. You should keep your nanny "on the books" and then pay taxes on your nanny's salary. You can also take advantage of tax breaks via the Child Care Tax Credit and/or dependent care flexible spending accounts. When hiring a nanny, you should discuss sick time and vacation days and create an agreement or a nanny contract. Also, as the employer, you should give your nanny feedback and have open conversations about her work.

​Final Thoughts

When choosing a childcare situation for your family, sit down and make a list of what is most important to you family. Be honest with yourself about your needs and wants and think about things that may upset or frustrate you. Remember that no decision is permanent and you can always change your situation based on your needs or your child's needs. 

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