Classifying Your Childcare - Making Sure You're Asking and Receiving the Help You Want - PART ONE
There's something absolutely awful about buying something you really need only to get home and discover it doesn't quite fit the bill. The size isn't right, the taste is off, or maybe it's just the completely wrong item. Hiring childcare can often leave parents in this exact boat - you thought you had hired the perfect person for the job but then they're over qualified or under qualified or have a completely different idea on how to deal with kids than you thought. I want to talk about the 4 main kinds of childcare and the differences between them. Over the next couple days, I'll be chatting about how you go about finding childcare and I'll be providing you with a list of common questions you should be asking childcare providers before you both sign on the dotted line.
MOTHER'S HELPER // If you aren't ready to leave your child alone with another caregiver but wish you could have another set of hands around, a mother's helper is for you. Generally, a mother's helper is someone with a basic understanding of kids, someone typically younger and with little to no experience. They never drive your kids and are rarely left alone with your child. You could think of them as sort of a "mini mom" and they often get paid the least amount since you are there the entire time. Typical duties would be playing with your child while you shower or coming with you to the store so you can get what you need while someone distracts your child. They may take the child for a walk around the block in the stroller or help feed them so you can get some work done.
BABYSITTER // Most people have heard of babysitters and this is the most common moniker when people talk about hired childcare services. A babysitter has basic to intermediate understanding of children and are often left alone with them. They usually come for only several hours at a time and not on a fixed daily schedule. While typically they wouldn't drive your children around, once you've used them for awhile, it might not be uncommon to have them take your child to out dinner on an evening or to the park during day hours. Usually families might have a rolodex of several babysitters since babysitters usually work on a first come, first serve basis. While a babysitter is expected to cook dinner for the kids and tidy up before you get home, don't expect - or require! - them to do any housework like laundry or cleaning. Pay is somewhere around minimum wage prices, whatever that might be in your area.
AU PAIR // Full disclosure - I have never been an Au Pair and to be honest, I would never be one. This is a very difficult job. An Au Pair is usually a high school or college aged person who comes from another country and stays with your family for free and minimum pay in exchange for room and board and cultural experience for a small chunk of time i.e. 5 weeks or 3 months. IF you are deciding on an Au Pair, please keep the following in mind; choose to go through a reputable company - DO YOUR RESEARCH! This person is coming from another country so it's not like you get to meet them in person beforehand. If you have the opportunity to FaceTime or Skype beforehand, I highly recommend you do so. Remember that you WILL have to provide some sort of pay - room and board is on TOP of payment, not in lieu of. Keep in mind that this person will not have a valid US drivers license so transporting your little ones around might be tricky. There also might be a culture clash - children are reared very differently in parts of the world so you should have guidelines on how they should approach mealtimes, discipline, and other household routines. They are expected to cook for the children and tidy up after playtime as well as do the children's laundry but they are by no means a maid for the entire household! Most importantly, despite them living in your home, they shouldn't be expected to work round the clock. A relatively set schedule should be made and adhered too - part of the reason they came to the US was to get some cultural experience. If they are with your child 24/7, that's not going to happen.
NANNY // I've talked a little before about what it means to be a nanny HERE but I'll break down the basics. A nanny comes on a relatively set schedule, usually 5-6 days a week and provides between 6 - 9 hours of work a day. A nanny is often alone with your children, have an advanced knowledge of children, and can be expected to transport them to extracurriculars, the park, playdates, etc. They cook meals, do the children's laundry, tidy up, and have some household chores i.e. changing the sheets on the kids bed, loading and unloading the dishwasher etc but they are NOT a maid. They usually stay with the family for years and eventually become a part of the family, often getting invited to birthday parties or family gatherings, possibly even holidays! They make above minimum wage and should get a wage increase every year or so. They may do the household grocery and basic items shopping. With some families, it's not uncommon that the nanny should use one of the family cars while on duty or have their own family credit card. They may provide babysitting at nights for their same hourly wage. PLEASE NOTE - Families can also have live in nannies. Their job requirements are basically the same as a live out nanny but their hours are usually longer. Their pay is in addition to room and board and their scheduled days off might be rotating i.e. they might have a week off every month.
WHEW! That was a giant post but it's absolutely necessary to know what you are wanting vs what you are advertising that you want. The above are really the basics so please contact me if you have questions about something that you wish I would have covered more of. Please check back tomorrow where I'll be providing you with a list of all the questions you should be asking your prospective caregiver, I'll be covering information that matters most as well as what might not matter so much.
Did you know the differences in childcare? Have you ever hired the wrong type of childcare?!