Determining the best care for your baby or toddler can seem overwhelming. Each option has positive and negative aspects, not to mention serious financial implications for your family. Mikel Van Cleve, USAA’s director of personal finance advice, suggests considering the pros and cons of the four options faced by many parents to determine which one fits best for your family. You may find a combination of these options works best. Or you could start with one and change to another over time.
Prior to the baby’s arrival, consider a trial period where you adjust your lifestyle and expenses to account for child care cost or a reduction in income, as if the baby was already born. If one of you will be leaving a job and staying home, try living off one income and set aside the other in savings. If both of you plan to continue working while the child attends day care, factor that cost into your budget and set the money aside in savings.
Whatever you decide, your best bet is to evaluate your choices well before you need child care.
Stay At Home
Pros: No one knows your child better than you. Caring for your child allows for extra bonding time and allows you complete control of their schedule and development.
Cons: Giving up your career can impact your family financially. It may also leave a gap in your work history. Stay-at-home parents also may feel a loss of self-worth and isolation from friends and colleagues.
Pros: You can opt for personalized attention from someone who cares for your child full or part time in your home. A nanny knows your child’s needs, yet allows you to set the rules for play, sleep and meals.
Cons: The costs are higher than other child care options, and you have to deal with reporting the nanny’s salary come tax time. Plus, unless you install a “nanny cam,” there may be a certain level of unease and worry about your child’s safety and care.
Pros: Day care is the most popular choice when both parents work. It offers lots of social interaction and play with other children of a similar age. Day care also instills a sense of routine and acceptable behaviors to children. What’s more, preschoolers begin to learn letters, numbers and other basic skills they’ll need for school.
Cons: More children means more exposure to germs, so expect your kid to have a heightened risk of sniffles and other childhood maladies. Day care centers also have specific hours of operation. Working parents may have to adjust their schedules to fit pickup and drop-off times. And day care centers with high marks from parents often cost more and have long waiting lists.
Family or Friends
Pros: Having a trusted friend or family member care for your child means more flexible scheduling, a homey setting and little or no cost.
Cons: Friends and relatives who agree to take care of your child may do so out of obligation, which could turn into resentment. If things don’t work out as planned, it could damage your relationship.
Get Ready for Child Care Costs
Put in the cost of different child care options to see how they affect your overall monthly budget.