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Childcare options: how do I narrow it down?

When it comes to childcare, there’s probably not a mum out there who hasn’t worried that she’s making the right decision. While we can’t make the choice for you, we have prepared a list of your options with the pros, cons and costs of each option to make it a little bit easier.
First up is day care at a day care centre. This is usually a cost effective choice and one that guarantees full time, reliable and well trained caregivers. It’s also a regulated industry and your child will benefit from social interaction with other children. The down side is the care is less individual than, say, a nanny, and there are often waiting lists for popular, well run facilities. Your child is likely to get sick more often when first starting at a day care centre and there are strict rules about drop off and collection times. Day care centres also routinely close for holidays, so you may find that your child is still left without a caregiver over these periods.
Home day care is another option that many mums consider. Unlike a large day care facility, these are run from private homes and guarantee a warm, homely environment. It’s also cheaper than other care options and you’re likely to be able to negotiate flexible drop off and collection times. Your child will also benefit from being socially engaged with other children his or her age. On the other hand this type of day care is typically run by one person who may not be trained for the job and is probably not compliant with all the childcare regulations that govern day care centres. If the caregiver gets sick, you’ll be left without somewhere for your child to go and since it’s a private business, there’s no one to supervise your child’s caregiver.
A nanny is an expensive option but one that many mums choose. The benefit of a nanny is that they provide one-on-one care for your child (or children) and that they do so in your own home. This is more convenient for most mums and it’s usually also possible to negotiate after hours care or care during holidays. The down side of choosing a nanny is that if your caregiver gets sick, resigns or walks out, you will be stuck without childcare. There are also many legalities involved in hiring a nanny and it’s the most expensive childcare option. If you want your child to benefit from play with other children, either you or your nanny will also have to arrange it.
Care by a relative is another option that many mums choose. Of course, one of the biggest benefits of this type of childcare is that it’s often free, although you may choose to pay your relative for their efforts. It’s also much more personal and your relative is likely to be more flexible. If you and your relative have the same values and ideas about child rearing then it’s likely to be an easy transition. However, when you do have a difference of opinion with a relative, you can’t bring the employer / employee relationship into the equation. You may also find that you differ on childcare principles or that your older relative simply can’t keep up with your child. There are no regulations governing this kind of childcare and although you would obviously choose a relative you trust, there’s no special training or supervision.
Becoming a stay-at-home mum is your final option. Here the benefits are that you won’t have to pay for childcare, that you can watch your child grow up and participate, and that you have total control of how your child is raised. There’s also no guilt about being a working mum to deal with. The down side is it means you and your family will need to learn to survive on one salary and the possibility of loneliness, isolation and loss of identity. It’s also incredibly emotionally and physically taxing to be a full time mum and you will need to ensure that you arrange play dates if you want your child to socialise with other children.
There’s no right or wrong decision when it comes to childcare. What you decide will ultimately be based on your unique circumstances. Just make sure you weigh all the pros and cons when deciding.

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