You’re pregnant! When do you need to start thinking about childcare?
So much of our planning surrounds trying to get pregnant, sustain a healthy pregnancy, and bring baby home that expectant parents sometimes don’t know when to start planning for childcare. Returning to work after having your first (or second, or third…) baby is a sensitive time in parents’ lives. Some of us have the luxury of several months’ leave from our career responsibilities, while many of us have to take far less time. Follow this timeline to achieve quality childcare:
Pregnancy, Months 0-6: Decide on institutional or individual childcare.
Some parents have strong feelings about whether a nanny or daycare program is the best fit for your family. Research and discuss your options before the baby is born, while considering finances and work flexibility. (Stay tuned for next week’s NannyTracks post which discusses the differences between in-home and outside childcare.)
If you’re choosing institutional childcare, start researching and reserving a spot as soon as you know your return-to-work date, and check with them about phasing your child in part-time for a few weeks before that so all of you can settle into a routine.
If you’re looking to hire a nanny, put out feelers around your second trimester with mention of your ideal start date.
Pregnancy, Months 7-9: Look for recommendations from friends and neighbors.
Whichever type of childcare you opt for, talk to people you know about people they know. Ask friends and neighbors if they know of any nannies who are looking for new work (especially useful if you’re working part-time as many parents enter into “nanny share” agreements with other families). Remember, the best nannies don’t need to advertise their availability—they have new jobs lined up when their old ones expire. And a family who no longer has a need for their beloved nanny always wants, and typically helps, to find them a new family. Regardless of how strong a recommendation is, you should always be conducting additional reference calls for a full-spectrum representation of any nanny candidate.
If daycare is your chosen route, do your due diligence here, too. If you’re cold-calling daycare centers, hang around the parking lot or stroll by at pick-up time and ask parents about their feelings about the program. You can ask for references, too, though clearly these are cherry-picked families who would likely have only positive comments about the facility and staff.
Baby, Months 0-3: Don’t wait too long to commit.
Do the daycare centers in your area involve a lengthy registration process or have waiting lists? Does your dream nanny know that her current job is wrapping up in 2 months? Starting early, while it may seem an overwhelming endeavor while caring for your newborn, will ensure a more seamless back-to-work transition. If you’re interviewing daycares or individuals to hire, you’ll want to start setting up these meetings at least 6 weeks prior to work, so commitments can be made at least a few weeks before you go back to your other job. Conducting necessary and thorough background checks, like the NannyTrack Report, will also take time. Having childcare in place early enough allows for a getting-to-know-you period which provides both you and your baby with a sense of security and comfort.