Raise your hand if you’d never heard of an Au Pair before having kids.
Keep it up if you still don’t know what the heck that is.
One of the pain points in finding childcare is figuring out what type you want use. Prior to having kids, I knew two options: daycare or nanny. I’d never heard of an Au Pair, didn’t realize there were licensed and unlicensed providers, or in-home daycares, and didn’t know that childcare swap was a thing. Then there are the specific programs and philosophies–Montessori, Waldorf, Head Start, etc. It’s a lot to take in.
Today I want to share some of the pro’s and con’s for the two childcare options that we have used: daycare or nanny.
I shared on my Instagram stories the other day that my kids just started at a new daycare after having had a nanny since January. It was a good experience, but we knew going into it that it would only be for about 6-7 months. Here are some of the differences we’ve seen between using a daycare or nanny that will help you decide what’s best for your family.
Having a nanny is so much easier for my morning routine because I only have to get myself ready. The nanny can get them dressed, brush hair and teeth, and feed them breakfast. I also don’t have to pack all of their stuff in the diaper bag. It takes significantly less time to get out the door in the morning when it’s just me that has to look presentable. If presentable means spilled food on my clothes because I’m rushing to eat or my kid threw food at me right as I was leaving. Presentable enough, right?
We were looking at a Montessori school that seemed great, but I wasn’t about to pay $1600/month for a place that wouldn’t provide any meals or snacks. Not having to prepare lunches and snacks is one of the great perks of daycare! Having a nanny meant that I had to make sure there was food they’d eat in the house the next day. It’s a lot nicer to only have to worry about dinner, snacks and weekends for them. Plus, my daughter is a lot more willing to eat food at daycare than at home, so at least she’s getting something!
I’ll be the first to admit that I have trust issues, and I’m okay with that when it comes to my kids. Both settings are hard with this, especially with frequent news stories of bad daycares and nanny horror stories. And the “Don’t shake your baby” video they make you watch at the hospital an hour after you have a baby really reinforces the fact that you will never let anyone hold your child, ever. Ugh. I check with daycares to make sure they run background checks on their teachers, and you can run them on a nanny too. I personally knew our nanny, so I trusted her, but I would have a hard time letting a stranger into my home all day with my kids. For me, I felt like at least at a daycare there are other employees watching. But I know people who feel the exact opposite.
Winner: Draw. Think of your preferences and go with your gut.
In Your Home
It was really nice to have my kids watched at their own home. The girls were together having fun, it was familiar, and not gross like a lot of daycares. But, we’re in an apartment without a backyard and our complex playground is covered in bird poop and mud all the time. They can take the water table outside on the grass, which is fun, but it’s not the same as a fenced yard. And we have the WORST luck with bad neighbors (I could write a freaking book), so I don’t love that my daughters could hear epic screaming matches from the people downstairs. And it’s reallly nice to not have my house completely trashed every night when I come home. They still have 4-5 hours at home before bed, so there’s plenty of time for messes, but at least there are less dishes since they eat at school.
Cars/Leaving the Home
If one of us was a stay at home parent, it would be awesome to use our passes to the local attractions every week. There is so much in the area to do, it would be a blast. But, I’m pretty paranoid about people other than us driving with my kids. I’ve known people who have lost children from car accidents while out with the nanny. I’m not saying this doesn’t happen with parents, because my husband just got in an accident with the girls a few weeks ago that totaled the car. However, it is really comforting to know that I’m going to drop my kids off at a daycare and don’t have to worry about them getting anywhere safely, because they’re not leaving. Plus, having to switch out car seats every day or buy another one for the nanny isn’t fun. And I don’t think I could handle someone being out and about with my kids; I’d want an update every 10 minutes to make sure they weren’t kidnapped.
Since I don’t like the nanny to be out driving with my kids, it’s a little harder to get her with other kids. Sure, I could schedule play dates for the other moms to come hang out with my nanny, but that’s another thing I’d have to do. Daycare provides friends in the classroom, as well as diversity. My daughter has been in classes with kids from a variety of ethnicities and family makeups. I love that at an early age she’s making friends with so many people. Yes, there are occasional frenemies situations. We’ve had our share of accident reports because of a bite or scratch from another child, but that would happen in or out of daycare and is part of their development.
Rules & Preferences
It’s really nice to have a nanny because they will follow your rules, whereas at daycare, you have to follow theirs. My one year old really isn’t ready to go down to one nap, but the toddler classroom is set up for one nap and even though they try to get her two a day, she just can’t fall asleep if all the other kids are up and active. Having a nanny gives you a lot more control, whether it’s sleep preferences, screen time limits, curriculum, etc.
If your kid is sick, they can’t go to daycare. Well, they *shouldn’t* go to daycare and you’re a jerk if you send them anyways and get my kid sick too. Or lice. Boooo! So if they can’t go, then you need to stay home or find a backup willing to watch a sick kid. If your nanny is sick, then they can’t come or else they’re a jerk for getting your kid sick too. Then you have to find a backup or stay home. If a daycare employee is sick, then that’s the daycare’s responsibility. Hallelujah for no last-minute scrambling to find a sitter! I’ve done that so many times due to my kid being sick and for the nanny being sick and it stinks to use vacation days for that.
So neither option is cheap, sorry. But depending on how many kids you have and their ages, one option could be cheaper. Kids under one typically cost the most, and then get cheaper as they get older. A lot of daycares give multiple-child discounts, too. From research I’ve done, nannies are pretty similar. You really have to look at the options available in your area and see what the cost differences are.
These have been some of our biggest observations when we have decided between using a daycare or nanny. For us, right now daycare is the better option because of the play space and friends for the girls, and overall less hassle for the parents. If we had a backyard, I might feel differently. As they get older and are both in school during the day, it would make sense to me to have someone watch them in our home after school if needed. This is what works for us right now, even though we loved our nanny. It will look different for each family.
For those of you who have done both, what other differences do you think should be considered?