Breast or bottle, crib or co-sleep, cloth or disposable... Before your child's first breath, you've already made a heap of parenting decisions, and there are many more to come! Today we'll focus on a biggie for those mothers who have decided to return to work after their maternity leave: Childcare.
Childcare falls into two broad categories: large-group and small-group care. Large-group includes daycare centers and preschools; small-group is home-care and, the smallest of small "groups," nannies.
(One very common choice is family care -- a sister, an aunt, a mother -- but I won't be discussing that. I'm quite sure you have a clearer idea of the pros and cons of working with your family than I do!)
You will note that the same factor is often on both "pro" and "con" lists. I'm not being indecisive! These factors are very often a matter of perspective and needs. One family sees social interaction as top priority; another worries that their introverted child will be swamped by too many kids, too soon. Neither family is wrong: they just have different outlooks and challenges. You make your choice for your child and your family, not for anyone else's.
Daycare Centers and Preschools:
1.) Trained staff.
2.) Staff is often young (with lots of energy, recently graduated, full of enthusiasm and ideas).
3.) Lots of equipment.
4.) Monitored by and accountable to government or municipal agencies.
5.) Lots of other children (and the opportunity for interaction, cooperative play, challenges, conversation).
6.) Clear, professional contracts.
7.) Curriculum. Professional staff know how to introduce concepts; some centers offer "academic" elements, like learning the alphabet and numbers. (Preschools are most likely to offer curriculum).
8.) Always open, or, if it is closed for certain times, these will be in the contract and/or announced well in advance.
1.) High staff turnover. Tthis is something virtually all large-group centers deal with.
2.) Young staff (may be inexperienced).
3.) Lots of other children (can mean more illness, bullying, aggressions. Stressful for shy or introverted child).
4.) Less flexibility. Even the best of centers can't offer the accommodation of individual needs as well as one-to-one care; the closer you get to one-to-one, the more personal the attention.
5.) Late fees. Most centers have late fees, and they're generally pretty steep, in the order of $2 to $5 perminute, occasionally more.
6.) Curriculum. Some parents believe the focus on academic achievement is age-inappropriate to babies and toddlers, for whom emotional/social guidance is all-important.
7.) Monitoring. Some parents wonder how effective the monitoring can be, with visits from inspectors happening as infrequently as once a quarter. You will know if the building is physically safe and hygienic, but what of the emotional environment, which is so much harder to define and quantify?
One Work It, Mom! member has some good insight into possible pros and cons of large-group care: You'll find Trudi in the ninth comment down in this discussion.