Three Daycare Options for Working Parents

Updated on May 29, 2018
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A Seattle-based writer and single mother of two, CJ Bagdon has many years of experience researching daycare options for her daughters.

According to a 2015 US Department of Labor study, over two-thirds of women with a child under the age of six work outside the home and rely on some form of child care. With many child-care options available, which one is right for you and your child?

Family Daycare

Family daycare is typically provided in the caregiver's home. The provider may be a relative, neighbor, friend, or child care professional.

Pros of Family Daycare

Less Expensive – Typically, family daycare is the least expensive option for parents. According to the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA), home childcare averages from around $330 to $920 a month, depending on the area. Often, a friend or family member will care for a child for free or for a nominal charge.

Smaller Number of Children – Most family daycare providers care for a smaller number of children allowing for a better child-to-provider ratio and more individual attention for your child.

More Flexibility – Family daycare providers are better able to deal with part-time or unusual work schedules and can adjust fees accordingly. Because of the homelike atmosphere and smaller number of children, family daycare providers are often more willing to accommodate your child’s sleeping schedule, food preferences or other special needs than center-based care.

Cons of Family Daycare

Less Stability - Although many in-home providers make it their career, some in-home providers are friends, family members or others looking to earn additional income or to be able to stay home with their own child. They may not be willing to watch your child long term, necessitating having to make frequent changes in child care arrangements.

Less Flexibility – With family daycare, you may be at the mercy of the provider’s schedule in terms of vacations and holidays. If you are fairly flexible with your own work schedule and taking time off, this may be not be an issue. However, if you have little vacation time, work flexibility or are employed in a fields such as retail or accounting that require working longer hours during certain times of the year, you may need backup child care arrangements.

Less Regulated – Although regulations vary by state, most family daycare is less monitored than center-based care.

Center-Based Daycare

Center-based daycare ranges from programs at large, for-profit companies such as KinderCare, to centers run by nonprofit organizations such as a YMCA, church or synagogue to employer-based centers. Costs are usually based on a monthly fee and vary depending on the age of the child and location. According to the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies, the average cost of center-based daycare is $972 per month, but can range from $300 to $1,564 monthly, depending on the area you live.

Pros of Center-Based Daycare

Stronger Educational Component – Many large centers provide educational programs and activities aimed at child development and school readiness and often require staff to possess backgrounds and/or degrees in early childhood or elementary education. Large centers may also provide activities such as swimming, art lessons and field trips.

Better Stability – Larger daycare centers are more likely to stay in business and be open year-round. Although centers occasionally close due to holidays or weather, center-based care tends to be the most dependable. Many can accommodate children as young as six weeks or as old as twelve years, allowing your child to grow up in the program.

More Regulated – Larger daycare centers usually operate under stricter health and safety guidelines and child-to-provider ratios than family daycare.

Location – Many child-care centers are located near major places of employment. Many large employers also offer on-site care making it easier for you to visit your child during the day (a plus especially for nursing mothers).

Cons of Center-Based Child Care

Less Flexibility - Most child care centers have set operating hours and provide full time care. This may not be a good option for those who work part time or a non 8-5 Monday-Friday type shift. Many child care centers may charge you a full time rate when you only need part time care. Also, larger child care centers may be less likely to accommodate ill children, non-toilet-trained kids or children with special needs.

Higher Child to Provider to Staff Ratios – Although the number of staff to children is more regulated than home-based care, the ratio tends to be higher. Children (especially babies and toddlers) may not get as much one-on-one attention as they would with other types of care.

Illness – Because of the larger number of kids your child will be exposed to, the likelihood of your child become ill is much greater.

Nanny-Based Child Care

Nanny-based child care consists of an individual that watches your child or children in your own home.

Pros of Nanny-Based Child Care

One-on-One Attention - Your child will get more one-on-one attention. Often nannies become trusted members of the family.

Less of a Transition for Your Child - Your child is cared for in his or her own home rather than having to adjust to an unfamiliar environment.

Flexibility – Since the nanny is your employee, you set the hours and conditions of employment. If you need evening (especially overnight) or weekend child care or perhaps someone that can travel with you and your family to watch your child, a nanny may be your best option. A nanny is also better equipped to deal with your child’s special dietary, sleeping or behavioral needs than center or home-based care and can stay home with a sick child.

Cons of Nanny-Based Child Care

Cost - Nanny-based care is generally the most expensive child care option. According to the 2017 INA Nanny Salary & Benefits Survey, the average hourly rate is $19.14 per hour, which computes to $766 per week for 40 hours. Expect to add an additional dollar or two per hour for multiple children. Typical nanny rates range from $10 per hour in Phoenix to $17.77 per hour in New York City. In addition, you may need to withhold and pay Social Security and Medicare taxes, pay federal unemployment tax, or both – depending on the nanny's income. Many nannies also receive benefits such as medical insurance and paid vacations.

Stability - In many cases, nannies provide care for a number of years. However, many individuals choose to become nannies as a temporary job while attending school or looking for other employment. Although you can request that nannies give adequate notice before leaving, you may need to make often very quick alternative arrangements should the nanny quit.


Selecting the right caregiver for a child is one of the toughest decisions a working parent will make as there are many advantages and disadvantages to the various child care options available. However, which one you choose depends greatly on financial resources, your work situation and, most importantly, what ultimately will be best for your child.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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      8 years ago

      Great hub! As someone who has worked in the child-care sector and is considering a long term career in that field I find it interesting to see various perspectives on the topic. In my state (Massachusetts), In-Home Childcare has to meet most of the same regulations as center-based childcare! (The differences have to do with some certifications like Center Directors, I believe). Laws actually restrict you from advertising if you aren't a state licensed facility. Interesting how different the laws and policies can be in various states.


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