One of the biggest challenges working parents struggle with is finding adequate child-care. We all want consistency, with a nurturing and stimulating environment for our children to grow in. But when working outside the home is best for your family, you’re essentially co-parenting with your child care provider. Finding the right provider for your family may be difficult, but meeting someone who shares your values, fits your schedule and your budget will can make all the difference in feeling good about going to work.
Not one size fits all.
Every family is unique, and so is every child-care provider. When I needed a Saturday night sitter for my three boys, I asked around for a reference. A friend (and a mother of two infant girls) put me in touch with her sitter- a life-long daycare provider in her 70’s. Although I was in complete awe of this woman’s gentleness and charm (and her mad skills in the kitchen), I realized after our first meeting that her age could not keep up with my high energy boys. Instead, I hired a 17 year old with obnoxious shoes and a mouth that never stopped running. My kids loved her, and even though they’ve lived on frozen pizza, it was the right fit for our family. Finding child-care isn’t about finding just anyone, it’s about finding someone who fits your family’s lifestyle.
Find your expectations.
So you’re away at work and you need to make sure your child is fed and kept out of burning houses. But what else do you want from your child-care provider? Do you want an in-home nanny to clean the dishes and wash the laundry? Do you want your child to spend a certain time learning academics? Do you want to limit screen time and increase outdoor play? Before you begin the child-care hunt, it’s important to go in with a clear list of wants, needs and expectations. If you know what you’re looking for, you’ll know when you’ve found it. When putting together a list, make it reasonable and reflective of home. If your child has a similar routine and schedule at daycare and home, the transition between the two will be easier for the child (and you).
Find your budget.
Finding a child-care budget may be easier said than done. Even if you’ve budgeted for the monthly bill, there may be unexpected costs. Some childcare centers expect donations of supplies, a packed lunch, extra outdoor gear and field-trip fees. If you’re hiring in-home care- you’ll be covering food and entertainment for an extra adult. When building your budget, factor in these implicit expenses and don’t stretch yourself too thin.
Once you’ve nailed down what you want out of a child-care provider, the next trick is finding one. With your long list of expectations, budget and scheduling needs, this might prove to be a difficult task. Luckily, there’s help. Here’s some great websites to help you find your match.
Most county websites offer a free list of certified providers. Community bulletin boards and classified adds can be helpful too, but always do background checks and screening when hiring a stranger!