5 Main Childcare Options: Pros and Cons

According to the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, average parents spend around $1,000 on babysitting, and the prices of nanny services may reach $19,000 per year). That’s pretty much. What to do if you cannot afford hiring nannies? You have the choice even when running on a shoelace budget! Let’s observe five basic childcare options for you to make an informed decision.

1. Nanny

Nanny for kids

If you want your children to stay in your home and receive consistent care from one person who will grow to know and love them, then you are likely looking for an in-home caregiver or nanny. The title “nanny” can refer to a large spectrum of potential candidates: from a college student looking for work or course credit, or a woman (or man) with years of experience but no formal training, to a graduate of an accredited nanny school.

The cost of employing a nanny also varies accordingly. A nanny may live with your family, or she may live elsewhere and come to your house each day. One other distinction is that a nanny is your employee. That means you have more control over her job description and expectations, but you’re also responsible for tax forms, employee benefits and possibly worker’s compensation in the event of an on-the-job injury. You can find a nanny through referral agencies, or you can find one on your own using agencies, newspaper ads, “word of mom” referrals, or local college career placement and job centers.

Pros Cons
No need to rush everyone out of the house in the morning! Many parents like the fact that their children get to stay in their own home and play in their own neighborhood during the day.


It’s usually the most expensive care. One recent Wall Street Journal article cited the annual cost of a live-in nanny at more than $27,000.

You get one-on-one care. After all, the nanny is responsible for your kids – and your kids alone – so they’re likely to receive much more individualized attention.

Finding the right person can be a challenge, as qualified nannies are in high demand.

Accredited nannies have some commitment to the profession and have probably chosen it as a career because they love working with kids.

Kids miss out on the natural, daily, social interaction that takes place in situations where more children are present.

Some parents feel as if they have more say in how their children are cared for because the nanny is their direct employee.

A nanny may not have backup when he or she is sick, and if she were to leave your employ, you may suddenly be left without childcare.

Your nanny may also take on laundry and other household chores.

Loss of privacy, as your employee is now living and breathing your life.

2. Au-pair

Au pair - non-expensive childcare option

If the idea of hosting a foreign exchange student appeals to you, then an au pair might be an option. An au pair is a young person in the United States on a cultural exchange visa. In exchange for the chance to experience American culture, she or he agrees to take on up to 45 hours per week of childcare responsibilities. Like nannies, au pairs care for children in the home. However, an au pair is not an employee, but rather a member of the family for the time she is in the United States.

Pros Cons
Agencies take care of much of the paperwork and the stress of finding a compatible match for your family. Au pairs can only stay for a specified time, although new rules have extended the maximum time to two years from one.
Children learn about another culture, and sometimes they are introduced to a new language. Many families cite the international social experience as the primary reason they chose an au pair. In-home care is the only option when you bring in an au pair, and the loss of family privacy is difficult for some. Also, your home must be big enough to allow an au pair her own room.
You receive flexible and convenient childcare options from someone who gets to know the children and their routines very well. Au pairs do not necessarily consider childcare a chosen profession, and their experience and skills vary widely.
Although hosting an au pair isn’t cheap  – you must pay agency fees, a weekly stipend, and room and board  – it does cost less than hiring a full-time, qualified nanny. Because au pairs are fairly young (18 to 26) you may feel as if you’ve taken on the responsibility of raising a teenager along with your own young children. Even when au pairs and family members adjust easily, there’s a give-and-take to the relationship that you might not experience with other types of caregivers.


3. Family daycare

Family daycare

If you want your children to have playmates in a home atmosphere rather than a center-based environment, then a family setting might be a great childcare option for you. Family care is provided in the home of the caregiver and usually involves six or fewer children. Caregivers who take in more than six children must employ assistants and have adequate space. Usually, children are of mixed ages, which means siblings can often stay and play together.

Pros Cons
Family daycare tends to be the most affordable type of care and the easiest to find. Licensing requirements vary from state to state, so the onus is on parents to research the caregiver and the facility. Standards of caregiving and hygiene may vary greatly.
Many parents feel that a home is a more natural, family-like setting and that the children receive a more intimate experience than they would in a large care center. Often there is no backup if the caregiver is sick.
Children play in small groups. The ages are usually diverse, so they have the opportunity to learn a variety of social skills. Even a group of six can be a lot for one person to handle when there’s no one to offer breaks or assistance.
Many feel that a home care situation offers more flexibility in terms of routine and activities than the large child-care center.

 Many people go into family childcare so they can stay home with their own children. This is good in the sense that the caregiver has experience as a parent, but it also means the person may have chosen this form of work for reasons of convenience rather than love. Investigate and use your mom radar to help assess whether the caregiver has the enthusiasm that is clearly necessary for working successfully, full time, with children.

Related Topic: 20 Group Games for Toddlers

4. Babysitting Cooperative

Capitol Hill Babysitting Coop
Capitol Hill Babysitting Coop

If you ever watched your neighbor’s kids and then she returned the favor by watching yours, you’ve participated in the most rudimentary form of the babysitting co-op. This type of childcare is generally used for occasional babysitting, although some full-time childcare cooperatives have emerged using a cooperative business model. Parents in a neighborhood get together and design a simple system (usually using points or coupons) by which they will exchange babysitting hours and keep records so that every family can benefit from the co-op and parents have numerous people to call on when the need arises. By the way, there are many forms of types of free childcare options like that.

Pros Cons
Babysitting budget = $0.00. In general, co-ops focus on occasional babysitting, not full-time childcare needs. (And the ones that do take on full-time care involve such complications as capital investment and boards of directors.)
The co-op is neighborhood-based, so you and your children get to know other kids and parents. The success of cooperatives relies on how committed the participants are, which can vary considerably from co-op to co-op.
Babysitting co-ops are simple and popular, so there are plenty of models to choose from. You should always have the right to refuse the services of a particular sitter. However, this can lead to hurt feelings and tension among neighbors
You have an obligation to provide sitter services yourself in these no-cost co-ops.

Set a maximum number of members. In some cases, co-ops may become so large and impersonal that families don’t know one another and regularly only use the same few parents. If this happens it’s probably time to break the big co-op into smaller ones, which allows people to know and be comfortable with one another.

By the way, you can start a new co-op or find existing childcare options in your neighborhood using the Komae app. 

5. Stay-at-Home Mom or Dad

Childcare options - stay-at-home parent

Maybe you’re tallying up the costs of quality care, comparing it with your salary and coming up with a number that defies common sense. Or maybe you’ve decided that spending days with your child might be fulfilling in a way that professional life is not. Or maybe you’ve realized that you really do want involvement in the day-to-day care of your child. Many parents decide, for a variety of reasons, that the stay-at-home option deserves some serious consideration – it has a lot of advantages to other childcare options.

Pros Cons
You get more time to bond with your child during the early years. One parent loses the source of income.
You have complete involvement in the type and quality of care your child receives. In other words, you’re in full control. Time away from a professional career can hinder advancement later on.
Many stay-at-home parents enjoy the temporary change of duties and pace. You’re never off the clock. No matter what your previous professional life entailed, it’s unlikely that it took the constant concentration that caring for infants and toddlers does. Breaks are rare, and the responsibility is great.
You pay no salaries or day-care fees. Your child has fewer opportunities to socialize with peers than in a center-care situation.
Your child gets all of the advantages of other forms of in-home care: one-on-one attention and the opportunity to remain in a familiar setting. You will likely have fewer opportunities to interact with adults.
You’re more likely to be present during major milestone moments in your child’s life – like that first word or those first steps.

Don’t assume you know whether you’ll enjoy being a stay-at-home parent until you try it. For example, some parents dream of staying home but later say they had enough after only a few weeks away from work. A lot of adults miss having a professional life and return to work. Some mums admit they start losing sanity when spending time on 24/7/365 basis with their kids – parenthood is the hardest job, all in all!

No matter what your budget it, you can always figure out a few adequate childcare options – there are more opportunities than we think! Do not despair, there are many free babysitting options, as well (we will observe them in the next post).

Cover image: Pexels.com

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About nikamarvelmaker

I'm a loving mom with a strong passion for creative writing and wordplay. Freelancing since 2013, I focus on translation and crypto copywriting (Bitcoins can be fun, too). My jam-packed daily schedule includes parenting, homemaking, work and blogging on MarvelMama, and I enjoy every second of my ever-busy life.
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