This post is written by Katie Bugbee, the senior managing editor and resident parenting expert of Care.com.
Whether the baby is coming – or the kids are here (and you need a break!), you have numerous options for childcare. No matter what you need, you deserve to be able to get some of your old life back – date nights, time at the gym, steady work hours, or fun projects around the house. Here are the definitions and some considerations for all your care options. So you can decide what works best for your family. And always be sure to interview, call references and run background checks before you hire!
Mother’s Helper: Perfect for parents who need another set of hands while their home with the baby or kids. This is a great job for a teen babysitter-in-training who is looking to learn more about kids and gain hands-on experience. Expect for some hand-holding at first. You will want to go over house rules and even the basic safety tips – no matter how old your children are. You may also just want her to help make meals and fold laundry while you do the majority of the care-taking.
Teen Sitter: A step-up from a Mother’s Helper, this is a teenager with a little more experience, whom you might feel comfortable leaving the kids with while you run errands, get work done or go out at night. Teens can make great mentors to your older children (my five-year-old son loves when our 15-year-old basketball-playing neighbor comes over!).
After-school Sitter: This is a regular caregiver (also called an after-school nanny) who is responsible for school pick-up (check driving record if she’s driving your kids!), snack prep, dinner prep and homework help. She is also charged with working on educational goals with your child and coming up with playful activities if homework has been done.
Babysitter: Whether it’s an occasional date-night sitter or a regular person who comes and watches the kids while you run errands (alone!!), all parents need a few babysitter options in their back pockets. Preferably someone you can make rules with (grandparents are notorious rule-breakers!) so your kids go to bed on time and eat the foods you prefer in your absence.
Nanny: A nanny typically works 40+ hours a week. He/she comes in the morning and leaves when you get home from work. She might care for your baby or preschoolers, shuttling the kids to and from their 3-hour a day programs. This person becomes part of your family – and when hiring a nanny, you will want to think of who you can work with on a daily basis, who you would enjoy – and even learn from (nannies often have numerous years of experience). You also want to make sure that he or she is on-board to capture your kids’ milestone moments, so you never feel like you’re missing out! Make sure to make the most out of a nanny-family relationship by asking him or her to help out with activity planning, educational goals, playdates and things that might make your life easier (meal prep!).
Part-time Nanny: Some of my SAHM, WFH and part-time working friends have a “sitter” who comes to their houses 2-3 days a week for 5 or more hours, so they can get stuff done. I’d call this type of caregiver a nanny, though. It’s someone who creates a bond with your children, is depended on regularly and who is in charge of creating activity plans for each visit. It’s a nanny – just with reduced hours.
Daycare Center: A great local option that will help parents during working hours, daycare will often take babies as young as 8 weeks until they are ready for kindergarten. Make sure to find a place that will be convenient for you to drop-off and pick-up to and from work.
In-home Daycare: Often the least expensive care option (especially for one child), this in-home care option is typically a local small business run out of someone’s home. Just be sure the center has updated state certifications necessary for running this type of business.
Katie Bugbee is the senior managing editor and resident parenting expert of Care.com. A busy working mother of two, she’s an expert on many parenting dilemmas, from appeasing picky eaters to finding the perfect babysitter.