By Natalie Fitzgerald
Saying there are some mixed emotions involved with preparing to go back to work after having a baby may be the understatement of the century. You might be excited about getting back into your routine: showered and dressed before noon (showered and dressed...at all!), drinking hot coffee alone on a commute, engaging in adult conversations. But that excitement doesn’t necessarily exclude anxiety about logistics. You might worry about keeping up with your milk supply, or missing out on those fleeting day-to-day moments with your little one. Many of us feel a mix of all this and more, but there’s certainly one thing every new mom heading back to work has to deal with: finding the childcare that’s right for you and your family, which can sometimes be the most stressful part of all!
Just as each baby is unique, so is each family and the way they choose to parent. Setting up childcare needs to align with your parenting style, as well as the logistics and budget. My best tip when starting on this childcare journey is to BE SPECIFIC with what you’re looking for. Write out what your ideal situation looks like. Make a list of things that are important to you (perhaps it’s the amount of individual attention, the convenience of location, or an inspiring environment), as well as the things that don’t matter as much (maybe that’s whether or not they send constant updates or the convenience of location). This can help provide clarity for what type of childcare will work best for you. Here are some options to consider.
Family/Group Day Care Homes: This type of care has home in the name for a reason—they offer age-appropriate activities for your child, along with several other children, possibly of different ages, similar to a home environment with siblings.
Day Care Centers: Usually day care centers provide care for more kiddos than day care homes, and employ more caregivers too. Your little one will be exposed to a diverse learning and social environment, and will likely be grouped with other little ones his or her age. Day care centers are required to follow strict rules and regulations, and licensing varies by state.
Family Help: If you have family who live close by and are willing to help (praise!), this can be a great option, even if it’s for a day or two each week, whether you drop your little one at your relative’s home, or they come to yours. Grandmas usually love the baby snuggles too!
Nanny: A nanny comes to your home and cares for your child alone. It’s important, as with all childcare options, that you and your nanny are aligned with parenting styles to help make things go smoothly for everyone. Nannies can help with a range of other things in the home, like laundry and food prep, but that varies depending on who you hire. Make sure you have a very specific list of things you want help with and ask about them during the interview process.
Nanny Share: Sharing a nanny with another family (or families) can help cut back on cost—nannies aren’t cheap (and they shouldn’t be!). If you only need care a couple of days a week, and have a friend in the same boat, this might work for you. It’s also possible to find a nanny that will watch two children at once, either at your home or your friend’s.
Where to Start
The search for childcare can feel overwhelming—where to begin? Join a local mom group on Facebook where you can put out feelers, or send a group email to all your mama friends; you never know who might have a lead for a great day care home, center, or nanny. Check nanny agencies like Care.com and other companies in your area. Get to tapping those networks, mama, it takes a village. You got this!