Who’s left holding the baby? – Childcare and what’s right for you and your child
Deciding whether to go back to work or not after becoming a parent is a huge decision to make. You sit for hours weighing the pros and cons, whether it will be financially viable, whether your brain has turned to mush since you’ve been off and whether you will be able to get to grips with a work environment after months of CBeebies and Wotsits. Once you’ve got your head around that, the next big decision rears its ugly head – who’s going to have the kids?
Of course, if your children are of school age and your boss is flexible enough you can juggle the mad rush that is the school run. But if your children are younger, or your hours just can’t stretch to the pick-ups and drops-offs for school or nursery, what do you do?
There are several different options available to you, some will work better than others dependent on your situation, but it is worth considering all options so that you find what fits best for you and your family.
A childminder is someone who looks after children in their own home. Childminders in England need be registered by Ofsted, which is a governing body who make sure that all health and safety and educational guidelines are being met by the care provider. The good thing about childminders is they are usually mums themselves, so they have experience with children first hand. You can have a search about and find one in your local area, which is perfect for minimising travel times when you’re getting your kids to and from the childminder. They will usually care for several children of mixed ages, which is great if you have more than one child and they aren’t the same age. Where they would be split up into age groups in other settings, with a childminder siblings will be together, giving them a sense of familiarity and comfort. Childminders are self-employed so are more flexible with hours and days, which can be a great help.
There are of course downsides to using a childminder. If they get ill, or book a holiday, you have to find someone else to look after your children. Conversely, if your child gets ill you will have to leave work to come and collect them, and still pay the childminder for their shift. If you book a family holiday on the days your children should be with the childminder, you will also still have to pay. Although there might be some childminders that do the school runs, you will still have to get your kids to and from the childminders house which can cause issues when your employer isn’t particularly flexible on your hours.
A nursery is similar to a school, in fact some nurseries can be attached to primary schools and are a good way to get your child ready for the school environment. The days will be fairly structured, with your child learning through play and through socialising with other children of a similar age. Nursery can be a great choice for your children as all social, mental and educational needs will be met through structured play which follows the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) guidelines. Nurseries will also be registered and monitored by Ofsted. One of the key positives about nursery is the fact that your child will be socialising and playing with other children, something which is so important at a young age. Other child care options can’t provide this. Nurseries are a constant, reliable source of childcare as regardless of staff sickness or absence, nursery will always be open for your child. No rushing around at the last minute trying to find someone to have the kids! Most nurseries offer a settling in period to see how your child responds in that environment, with some settings offering this trial period free of charge. Nursery is a good place to build up your little one’s immunity too – any veteran parent will tell you that your child will always pick up a bug or virus of some kind at nursery. But it’s a good way to prepare them for school and get all those childhood illnesses out the way nice and early! As there are a group of children in the setting, this leaves little one to one time between the teacher and your child. Although children will be assigned a key worker who specifically monitors your child, that key worker will have more than 1 child allocated to them. Nursery hours are usually quite strict, with late fees being applied in some settings. This can be particularly problematic if you don’t have much flexibility in your working hours.
A Nanny can provide one to one care for your child, and because they work within your home your child will be in a familiar environment which can help immensely. There is also the bonus of not having to drag half the house out with you – all the things your children need are already to hand. No more packing changing bags until they burst! Another point to consider is that because your children will not have as frequent or prolonged exposure to other children, as they would in say a day nursery, the chances of them catching viruses and bugs is greatly reduced. A Nanny is an ideal way to make sure that your child is getting a well-rounded and varied start in life – there is no set structure to the day which allows for lots of trips and outdoor activities that you might not get in other settings. Of course, finding the right Nanny for your family can be extremely stressful. They aren’t all Mary Poppins, and you must make sure the person you are bringing into your home is the right fit for you and your children. Some parents may not like the idea of bringing a stranger into their home, and would prefer to keep the childcare separate from family life. You must also consider that you would be an employer, and the Nanny a member of your staff. This throws up a whole new set of worries and responsibilities. If your Nanny is sick or on holiday, you will also have to find alternative care for your children.
A popular choice for some, if you have family members that are willing to take on your children it can be a saving grace. You can rest assured that your children are in safe hands with someone you trust, and someone your children are already close to. The bonus of low or zero cost can play a big part in making this decision for you, as most family members will not take a ‘fee’ but purely ask for a contribution towards food or activities. If you’re lucky, they won’t ask for anything at all! They are often extremely flexible and can fit around your needs. Being at Granny and Grandad’s house will be very comforting to your child, and you won’t have to worry about picking them up from a setting when they are sick. The only drawbacks to consider would be parenting styles. Often older generations can have different ideas on how to bring up children, and this could cause conflict. If you are considering this childcare option, it might be an idea to sit down with the family member to draw up an agreed set of ground rules going forward to make sure everyone is on the same page. Keep in mind your chosen relative will probably not have had any official training in childcare, and their energy levels may not be at their peak.
The bottom line is, when it comes to finding someone suitable to look after your child whilst you work, there is no right or wrong answer. For some it can be a case of trial and error, seeing what works and what doesn’t. Or you may just need to weigh up what is best for your family. A lot of families have a mix of child care providers, and cobble together a hybrid timetable of nursery sessions and drop offs to Granny to make things work. It can be a very emotional time for all involved, but rest assured when you find the right fit you will know it, and you and your children can begin to move into a new phase of your lives happy and settled in your choices.
If you need any advice on finding the right childcare option for you, or are looking at finding someone to take care of your children, please give us a call on 02035380300. Here at Simply Mums we are experienced in helping you find the right fit for your family.
To read about Mammysaurus’ formidable efforts to find childcare, click the link here: