5 top childcare options: cost and value, from day care to nanny

Which childcare option is right for you?

3. Nanny

Sue Whittinghan (l.) and Brenda Olson (r.), students in Massachusett's first nanny certificate program Elise Amendola/AP

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.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

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If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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