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Day care, nanny or au pair?

It's hard enough to imagine a stranger caring for your kid, so choosing a day care, nanny or au pair shouldn't add to the stress. Here are the pros and cons of each

Nannies and au pairs can be expensive, but day care comes with its own set of issues.
Whether your baby is still in utero or new to the world, the looming question for every working parent in Chicago is, What do I do about child care? We've gathered information on some of the more popular child-care options, including nannies, au pairs and day care, to help make your decision a little easier—at least until you have to start fretting about preschool.

Day care
Most daycares require you drop off and pick up your child at a certain time every morning and evening. Kids spend their time playing together, learning new skills and eating meals.
Average price
$1,800–$2,500 (for infants and toddlers) for five days a week including meals
Mingling with other children allows your kid to be exposed to a social setting and classroom-type environment.
Kids in day care tend to get sick more often, and the sickness usually spreads through the class. Once your kid gets sick, you have to keep him or her home. Day care offers less flexibility time-wise—many day cares charge fees for late pickups.
Where to look
Research what's in your neighborhood and do site visits. Friends who send their kids to day care can be a good resource, as well.
When to look
Because it can take a while for a spot in your child's age group to open up, many day cares require you to get on a waitlist even before your child is born.

A nanny is a caregiver who comes to your house to take care of your child. Some nannies will take your kids to extracurricular activities, the park and even teach your child a new language.
Average price
$12–$16/hour for one child
The nanny is at your house so you can choose the hours, stock your fridge with healthy foods you want your child to eat, and eliminate any drop-off or pick-up issues. Most nannies will also help with some light housework like your child's laundry and sanitizing the playroom. Some will even run errands and cook.
This option tends to be one of the most expensive. Your child is also usually one-on-one with the nanny for the majority of the day with little social interaction with other kids.
Where to look
Many nannies post and respond to posts on the Neighborhood Parents Network message board (must be a member). Word of mouth, Facebook mom groups and websites like Sittercity are also good places to start your search.
When to look
Most nannies are looking for an immediate hire, so don't begin the search too early. Think about looking about a month before you go back to work (unless you want help during leave).

Nanny share
A nanny is shared between two families (most often the kids are around the same age), and the nanny cares for both children at the same time (or some solo hours, some combined hours), usually splitting her time between the families' homes. A typical day involves the kids playing together, trips to the park or library, naps and meals.
Average price
The families split the $14–$18/hour fee.
You can have most of the flexibility of a nanny while your child gets some social interaction. Kids in a nanny share tend to become built-in buddies.
You have to be in sync with the family you are sharing with on things like discipline and food, and it can get complicated with three parties involved. You also have to be okay with constantly exposing your home to another family and have a place for the other child to sleep, eat, etc.
Where to look
Mommybites and Bump Club and Beyond's nanny share board, NPN and networking with other moms to find a family of similar-age children
When to look
Unless the two kids are the exact same age, you'll likely look when the first set of parents are ready to go back to work, and the other family will join in progress.

Au pair
An au pair is a live-in caregiver, typically from another country. The family provides room and board, and the au pair provides flexible child care for the family.
Average cost
$1,500–$1,600/month, which includes meals and other living expenses
You provide a schedule to the au pair and she is required to watch your child for up 45 hours/week. Those hours can be used for anything from a workday to a Saturday date night and can change from week to week. Fees don't change even with more kids.
The au pair lives in your house, so she often will be present even when she has time off. There also may be a language barrier at times.
Where to look
There are many agencies that can help place an au pair in your home. Cultural Care Au Pair is a very reputable one that serves the Chicago area.
When to look
It usually takes two to three months from the time you start your search to the time your au pair arrives at your home, so plan accordingly.


Joey W

I think that the best way to figure out the best nursery is to get info from people who have used them. I am hoping this works out well for me. My son is getting to the age where he can go to one. http://www.stonemans.com.au 

Callie M

I had no idea that you could share a nanny with another family to lower the cost. That is a really good idea, because I have learned that two kids can entertain each other more often than not, and make the job easier for the caregiver. Thanks for differentiating the child care options, the price comparisons were really helpful.

Jason S

Being able to have these three choices broken down really seems like something that can be very beneficial for making sure that you are able to have your children be as happy as possible. I personally like the idea of having some kind of nanny for my kids. That would just allow for them to have a personal interaction with someone. That seems like something that can be very important when both parents are working all day. Thank you for sharing. http://www.kayekarechildcare.com/Child-Care-Programs-Falls-Church-VA.html 

Ebony K

That's nice that there are different child care options depending on what you need and what you can afford. I've had a few friends that have become nannies or au pairs and they seemed to like the experience. I would still like to be able to raise my child on my own if possible, but I'll probably have to go back to work sometime to help supplement our income. My husband is still in school, so he doesn't have a solid full time job yet that allows me to stay home full time. http://www.twelvecornersdaycare.com/about_us.html 

Gerald V

It's really helpful to see the pros and cons for the different child care options. Child care is something that you definitely don't want to get wrong. I would hate to send my son somewhere that he'll be miserable. Some of these methods sound like a really good option for him, though. http://www.achildsviewlearning.com/about_us.html

Gary B

I think my kids prefer the daycare situation.  We have tried a few different child care options and they seem to do best in day care. I think they like the feeling of going to school and interacting with others. They are definitely social butterflies. http://cottageschoolsco.com 

Lacey R

I just got offered an amazing job, and I couldn't be any more excited. The only thing is, I don't know what to do with my daughter. I want her to have the best care while I am gone during the day, but I don't know what that is. I really like the list of pros and cons you gave of these three different options. It helped make it really clear. 


Kelsey H

My sister-in-law is trying to find the right child care for her daughter so she can return back to work. She has been looking into the day cares in her area, as well as interviewing a few potential nannies. It is so important to choose the right person/people to look after and help raise your child. I wonder if she has considered doing a nanny share. I know she wants her daughter to have some social interaction, which is why she is leaning towards a day care, but a nanny share might be a good option for her as well. http://www.brantchildrenscentre.com/ 

Rachel B SpammerBanned

My sister has to go back to work and needs to find childcare for her children.  She has been researching her different options.  Neither one of us has heard of nanny sharing.  This seems like an interesting idea that she may have to research more.  It seems like nanny share would be fun for the kids if they were with friends with being cared for. 

Emily M Spammer

I agree with you guys, it is difficult to allow a stranger to care for your kids. You should always do your research well before hiring someone. The internet is a really great source for this. Thank you so much for sharing this information.

Casey J SpammerBanned

Thanks for the information on the various options for childcare.  I have a new infant that will be needing some sort of care during the day.  I will look into my local day cares and also look into getting a nanny.  Thanks for breaking down the costs of each.