Childcare is a complex and individual family decision. Difficulty finding quality and affordable childcare can keep one parent, usually a woman, our of the workforce. This is what is working for us. And when I say working, I mean it, because it’s not easy or affordable.
When you have a child and work, you’re probably going to need childcare. I say probably, because I’ve met some people who successfully work from home with children, without childcare. Full disclosure: I am not that person.
Childcare Options to Consider
Childcare options fall in two main categories: in-home and outside of the home. I don’t think either is better than the other. It completely depends on the family, work, current circumstances, and financial flexibility. So, read through the options available to us, think through your individual circumstances, and make the best decision for your child and your family.
- Family member watching your child at your house: If you live near family and have a responsible parent, grandparent, or adult sibling that can watch your child, this can be a great option. You know your child will be well taken care of by someone invested in their long-term health and happiness. If you are financially compensating your family member, make sure you are complying with US tax and employer laws.
- Pros: May be less expensive, may be more flexible, in your home (less exposure to germs, so less sick days), child can stick to their routine with less disruption.
- Cons: If your family isn’t familiar with Montessori, it may be difficult to explain parenting choices like floor beds, no screen time, toys that don’t make noise, and not using baby containing toys like bouncers or rockers.
- Swapping work hours with a spouse, so someone is home: This would not work with my husband’s job, but I did occasionally babysit for a family in grad school who were able to do this.
- Pros: Your child is with you or your spouse most of the time. This is great for bonding. This is inexpensive, if you’re not cutting work hours to make it work. This lets you fully commit to Montessori practices because you and your spouse are the primary caregivers.
- Cons: This schedule can be difficult to maintain and requires an understanding employer and flexible work schedule. This may minimize the time you get to spend with your spouse. If your child is an only child, they may not be exposed to other kids. If you both work from home, you may need to find a way to stay out of the way during work hours.
- Nanny: If you can find a nanny who is willing to learn your parenting style, this can be great.
- Pros: One person will be focused on your child, in your home. If they are willing to learn about Montessori practices, your child can still develop the skills they would with you. The child can stay on schedule, sleep in their own bed, and bond with one caregiver.
- Cons: So much tax and employer paperwork, and additional expenses for employer tax burden. If you go down this route, I recommend contacting an accountant or using a service to make sure you comply with all tax and labor laws. Can be very expensive, depending on your child.
- Occasional in-home childcare or swapping with a friend, and working during naps: This provides many of the same benefits as the nanny, but if you’re staying under the IRS income reporting limit or swapping quid-pro-quo with a friend, it comes with less paperwork.
- Pros: Child is taken care of by one, dedicated caregiver. Less expensive because you’re not using very many childcare hours or swapping with a friend. Child gets interaction with other children – yay for relational skills.
- Cons: This takes a lot of mental work. You have to keep a meticulous work schedule and be efficient in the hours you have. Be prepared to give up naps to work. Know you’ll probably do more practical life activities, like cooking and cleaning when your child is awake. It’s nearly impossible for both parents to work full-time hours with this setup, unless you work some nights and weekends. Don’t expect to maintain this schedule indefinitely if your job or business is growing.
Outside the Home Childcare
- Daycare: This option is really common, especially if both parents work outside the home. Expect an upfront research investment to find a daycare you like.
- Pros: May offer full time or drop in hour schedules. May offer longer hours for demanding work schedules. Your child will be exposed to lots of other children and adult caretakers. This can be more affordable than a nanny for full-time working parents. There are many size options: daycare centers, family run in-home daycares, and CDCs at schools, universities, military bases, and some companies.
- Cons: Unless you find a program that specializes in Montessori practices, finding a daycare that is no screen time, food at a table, not a high chair, doesn’t use containing toys like activity centers, exersaucers, and bouncers, and uses few electronic, high stimulation toys may be difficult. While your kiddo will spend time learning about group interaction, there will also be more germs. Expect to take some sick time off during their first year in group childcare. Depending on your area, there may be issues with availability. We live in an area where most preschools and daycares have long waitlists.
- Family member taking care of your child in their home: See the above pros and cons, but consider that if your child is in another person’s home, they may not have the sleep and play environment you’d like them to have.
- Montessori School with a Toddler program (for older children): If you’re considering a Montessori School for your child, finding a school or program that offers a toddler program (usually an 18 month to 3 year old class) may be a great option after the initial 18 months.
- Pros: A true Montessori will expose children to positive discipline, practical life skills, child-guided learning, and lots of movement time. This out of home option may help you be more productive during your at-home work time.
- Cons: This will probably be expensive, most private schools are. But, depending on the competition for preschool in your area, you may find it comparable to daycare options. Much like a daycare, exposure to all the other kids will probably result in an occasionally sick kiddo.
What We Chose
Our circumstances are slightly different than the average family. Will’s job takes him away from home on a regular basis, and when Bash came home, my business was bringing in part-time employment billable hours. We also didn’t have a lot of time to set up childcare. We wanted a stable environment for Bash that did not contribute to any anxiety from my husband’s travel. We also wanted to keep our initial childcare expenses low.
We opted to plan for a Montessori School with a toddler program and fill-in with nap time work and occasional in-home childcare. We found two amazing women who love Bash like the grandchild they don’t yet have. When they have time, they come over and watch him. Both have been great about no screen time, letting him have freedom of movement, and eating at a weaning table.
Since we knew we wanted to get Bash into a local Montessori school, we contacted their admissions when he was really little to find out what their process looked like and when we needed to start his application. Our hard work paid off because he’ll be starting at a local Montessori school in the fall. We spent several years before Bash was born saving for this option and keep our spending low to make this a possibility.
We fully realize this option may not work for all families due to financial circumstances, work schedules, and proximity to a Montessori School. What we do stand by is that you can do your best in the time you have with your child and be clear about your expectations with whatever caregiver you use.
What type of childcare arrangements do you use? What works and what hasn’t worked for you?