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Daycares and Nannies and Au Pairs, Oh My! Exploring your child care options
It is never too early to start planning for your child care situation once the baby arrives. You'll need to determine whether the child will be home with a parent, home with a nanny or other caregiver, or in a daycare center. Allow yourself plenty of time to conduct research, visit providers, and determine a plan that will work for your family. Knowing that you have a plan in place can allow you to enjoy your pregnancy and newborn. without worrying about what will happen when, and if, you return to work.
Some families determine that the most cost-effective and desirable option for child care is to have one of the parents stay at home with their child. If you are considering this as a possibility, it can be a good test of your finances to start living on one salary now, and saving the salary of the person who plans on staying home. This will give you an emergency cushion to work with for those unexpected expenses, while also allowing you to see if the numbers really do add up.
Other families find that what works is having both parents working. It may be that neither parent wants to give up a job they have worked hard to be successful in, and that they enjoy. It may be that financial factors mean both salaries are necessary. Whatever the reason, when you know that it is necessary, developing a child care plan early in pregnancy has definite benefits.
There are many options for child care, from nannies or au pairs who care for the child in the home, to in-home day cares, to large day care centers. Costs vary widely, depending on the area in which you live, the hours your child will attend, their age, and the type of care you choose. A great place to begin your search for a care provider is through the recommendations of friends and family. Once you begin to look at different options, keep lists of the things you learn. You may find that you are leaning toward a certain type of center, or that you prefer the idea of having someone come to your home instead of taking your baby elsewhere. Starting with an expansive search can help you to hone your priorities and narrow down your choices to ones that you are truly happy with.
Once you find a place or a person that is right for you, make sure to make your decision known. Some centers may have a waiting list that is months long. Good caregivers are always in demand, so putting a plan into action early can ensure that you'll be getting the care you choose.
And despite all of your careful planning, be sure to also give yourself permission to change your mind once your baby comes. Follow your instincts as a parent when it comes to finding the most suitable arrangement for your child's care.