Infant Child Care Centers, Baby Sitters, Nannies or Family – Things you should know while finding a Caregiver:
We as parents always want the best for our kids, from food - to toys - to clothes - to education, we research everything! However, one thing that tops the list here is to find a safe environment for our kids, especially when we (Parents) are not around. Staying at home and taking care of our kids is definitely an option, but not for everyone. Here I want to share the research I did when I decided to get back to work when my baby was 7 months old.
Family or Relatives
For many of us, our immediate family and mostly our own parents come to our rescue. Grandparents are mostly the best caregivers, provided they do stay in close proximity, they are healthy and most importantly – they are willing. This option seems to be the most attractive one, the trust quotient is high, kids find the environment familiar and hence are comfortable, and this is cost efficient.
As a parent myself I would love to have my parents or in-laws to take care of my kid, on a daily basis. However, practically it is not possible for us as we reside in different countries now.
These days, I see a lot of online options and agencies that offer Baby Sitting services – Temporary, Daily, Ad-hoc, Baby Sitting at our home and Baby Sitting at Baby Sitters place. For some, this is a proper profession and some are just freelancers (college goers looking for a part time job). Here, depending on your baby’s age we need to make a wise choice. Here is the most effective and efficient key – Feedback or word of mouth.
- Personalized and supervised care can be given – depending on what you want your kid to be fed, or watch, or read, or any activity that you think would enrich your kids learning process.
- If the kid bonds with the babysitter well, a kid can actually flourish with the undivided attention and care
- Flexible time schedule – Since it’s a single person whom you deal with, they are generally flexible regarding time. They may charge you extra for the extra hours they pitch in, but mostly it is manageable
I know of many cases when babysitters are offered a full-time nanny job, as the parent finds the baby sitter reliable and sensitive as a caregiver. Do note, Baby Sitting is mostly a temporary set-up where both parties, we as parents and babysitter/agency can pull out under the agreed notice period (verbal or contractual).
- In most cases, Baby Sitters are just strangers, at times even from other countries. We have to put that extra effort to know more about them. Do a background check, ascertain any red flags (criminal records, feedback in general from the past employers), personal hygiene and most important, the vibe you get from the babysitter.
- Trust & Security issues – most of us worry regarding the safety of our kids, especially during the time they spend exclusively with the baby sitter. Many of us try to tackle this anxiety by installing CCTV system at home, monitor the footage periodically; some do even go for live feeds from the CCTV systems to their respective Smartphone’s.
Note: Baby Sitters are made aware of the fact regarding the presence of CCTV systems at home
3. The Cost Factor – This option is less costly than the Infant/Child Care Center, however, depending on the experience of the Babysitter, Baby sitters specializations (nurse, music, academics etc.), kids age, the cost may vary.
I always believe that we as Moms are blessed with a gift which we all know as “Mother’s Instinct”. Do rely on this, if you feel something is amiss, but you can’t exactly put your finger on it, then don’t think twice.
Nannies are full-time baby sitters and at times even more. Some nannies agree to stay with the baby 24*7 and have just a day off each week, also known as “Live-In Nanny”. They may or may not agree to do a part of household chores; this totally depends on the age of baby and contract agreed by the nannies. Some nannies have specializations – Maternity Care, New Born Care, Montessori trained etc. However, do remember that all of these come with a cost. Similar to Baby Sitter agencies, there are dedicated Nanny Agencies too. The key here again is to - a thorough background check, feedback from the previous employers and your instinct.
- Undivided attention from a specific individual on a long term basis, that too in the most familiar environment - HOME
- Flexible time-schedule: As a working mother, this may sound absolute Gold, especially in case of “Live-In Nanny”. You may get to work stress free at office for long hours (if needed), a back-up support especially when you are working on high priority projects which may require you to stretch.However, think again on how you plan to structure your day so that you get to spend quality time with your own kid.
- The bond a child shares with the caregiver – This is the most beautiful part and also a tricky one. This part depends on how the caregiver/Nanny bonds with the baby, and over a period of time how they (baby and nanny) react (body language, actions etc.) in your presence. Having a person dedicatedly around your kid could be emotionally rewarding, however, this depends on the baby sitter too.
- Trust Issues – Similar to the baby sitter’s case, many parents tend to resolve this by installing CCTV systems at home and tend to monitor it on a timely basis.
- Lack of social interaction – As compared to kids in daycare centers, who have an advantage to meet their peers on a daily basis, here it may not work out in that manner. However, you may want to work on this part by interacting with other parents in your neighborhood and plan some activities for kids. Activities where the kids get to make friends, and maintain them.
- Personal Hygiene – As a parent one of the biggest red flags for us is the general hygiene of the environment and of the folks who stay in close proximity to our kids. The best way to tackle such a situation is by having a one-on-one discussion to sort the matters.
- Dependency – To avoid any issue with the continuance of the Nanny’s services, do work on the notice period clause, before you sign the contract. Replacements are not easy, and importantly you will require time
- Paper Work (Legal/Insurances/Taxes) – In case you go via the agency route, you may feel a bit exhausted by the numerous papers you may end-up signing before you can hire one. The complexity may vary depending on the hiring agency and the laws of the country you are staying in currently.
Infant Care/Baby Care Centers
The concept of traditional family system is rapidly transitioning towards nuclear family entities, due to space constraints as big homes also cost higher. Also, more people are settling abroad because of their work ambitions and commitments, and some just need personal space. With all these going, Infant/Baby Care Centers are on the rise. Care Centers promise the young parents an environment fully supervised with expert care and provide 24x7 surveillance. Many share a colorful prospectus with pictures of happy kids and even testimonies from some parent, of course all telling us how good they are. Some do share the teacher/caregiver to kid ratio (again this varies with the age of the kids), the balanced diet they provide to the kids at the center, additional courses that you may chose – singing, dancing, any musical instrument, swimming etc. These days we have a plethora of options to choose from. However, here is the key to crack this puzzle.
Points to look out:
Ask for a guided tour of the Care Center and look out for the following:
- Check the kids bathroom, changing area and the overall smell and feel of the place
- Observe the behavior of the kids towards their teachers/care givers
- In case of babies and toddlers, make sure the place is baby friendly – no electrical outlets, no cleaning liquids should be within the reach of kids. Check how the doors open and close, they shouldn’t be heavy or have sharp edges or be closed with a bang. In fact, look out for any heavy item that is above the kid’s height and its proximity to the kid’s environment. Do note: Most kids are exploratory in nature and many risks are associated with this action.
- Do go through the material and toys which your kid will be given to play and learn
- Do spend some time in general in the environment where your kid will spend time
- Have a heart-to-heart talk regarding your expectations with the specific caregiver/teacher assigned to your kid, giving a heads-up regarding your kid’s behavior and needs, or any other specific detail that you think is important.
- Check for online forums for Feedbacks and try to meet some parents who already have kids enrolled there. This will prep you better.
- Developing of social skills – The best part regarding a Care Center is the fact that your kid gets to meet other kids on a daily basis. This part is of pivotal importance in a kid’s mental development. They learn a lot by seeing their peers (good and bad) – playing with toys, picking up new words, actions etc.
- Learn to be independent and organized – Each item has a specific place and each activity has a specific time. The teachers/caregivers mostly make sure the kid abides by those specifications. In fact, I have noticed that each item has a specific place – be it toys, books, puzzles etc. with the specification written in bold letters. From putting the shoes on, or taking their clothes off, to getting dressed, or washing their hands, many such minor activities are picked up by kids.
- Follow a curriculum to enrich the learning process – Many childcare centers have a given curriculum set for the kids, depending on the age. From coloring, to rhymes, to field trips to connect with the natural environment, they make sure that the kid is busy. In fact, the commendable part is seeing a child follow that schedule: when to eat, when to play, when to learn and sleep.
- Every childcare facility will follow a certain set of rules – e.g.: won’t accept kids if they have fever (even though its mild). The reason is straight forward, since a fever may point towards any infection that a child may carry and can be a potential threat to other kids. However, in a practical scenario, especially for a working parent depending exclusively on the care center, this could turn out to be tricky.
- Kids tend to fall sick often, especially during the early days of joining/age – Kids going to a care center usually show a higher tendency of falling sick (depends on kids immunity too). From a runny nose, coughing or at times even HFMD (Hand Foot and Mouth Disease), kids are prone to these and it’s contagious. The key is basic – Hygiene, however, with so many kids, the challenge is high.In many countries, e.g. Singapore, if a kid is diagnosed with HFMD, the doctor informs the government, which in turn bars the child from the day care for at least two-weeks. In case any more kids at the center complain of HFMD, also translated as – full blown outbreak, the specific care centre is closed mandatorily for 10 days.Such situations can give working parents’ calendar/schedule a jolt, so be prepped!
- Holidays followed by the childcare facility – childcare facilities may follow holidays e.g. Teachers Day, Pooja holidays, Facility Cleaning, Teachers Training etc. – that do not match the regular government declared holidays. Most of the facilities share a holiday list before you start the term. If not, then ASK!
- Expensive – As per my research, this is the most expensive option of all. Younger the baby, higher the charges are, as they require personalize care. Some Infant care centers accept infants from three months onwards. So this option needs to be thoughtfully sorted out by taking your monthly budget into account.
In the end, here again I would say, keep a tab on your kids’ behavior and your mothers’ instinct. At times, although they (Kids) can’t speak much, but we (as Parents) can gather a lot from their body language and general behavior (clinginess, tantrum, unwillingness to go to school etc.). If the kid is not comfortable in the environment for unknown reasons, then do take a call.