Once thought of as employees for the rich, nannies are increasingly a child care option for a wider range of families who need flexible childcare hours or who feel more comfortable with a dedicated caregiver. A nanny is essentially a professional babysitter – anyone from an undocumented worker to a highly trained and salaried professional – who works for your family as a sort of surrogate parent, coming to your home, taking your child on outings (or whatever makes you comfortable), feeding her your food, etc.
COST: There is no established standard. A scan of web forums and sites such as the Nanny Network shows $10 to $20 an hour is typical, depending on geography, number of kids and the caregiver’s experience. And then there are the “elite” nannies, the subject of a New York Times article earlier this year, who make upward of $180,000 a year, plus housing.
PROS: In best cases, a nanny develops a deep, loving bond with your child, all within the bounds of your parenting values. Because you are working with only one other individual, you may have the ability with a nanny to make arrangements that fit with odd work hours, vacation schedules, even date nights. The best nannies offer your child consistent care-giving over the years. Some nannies can provide light household work on top of child care duties. But not always – and depending on the nanny, you may find yourself on the receiving end of those flexibility requests. Think: sick days.
CONS: Because most nanny childcare arrangements are made informally (although there are also a number of nanny placement service agencies), parents need to take responsibility themselves for screening, background checking, and references. A nanny who does not make your child happy – or who annoys you – can cause a tense household situation. Nannies can quit at a moment’s notice, which can be devastating for a young child, not to mention a working parent’s job.