Soon after arrival one of the first things you would have to do as a working immigrant parent, is finding a place to stay for your child while you’re off to work. No matter what city or state you got settled in, there are usually a handful of child care options if not more. As a stay at home parent with a working spouse you don’t need to figure this out just yet, but you might want to explore your options down the road in case you’re thinking about joining the work force yourself.
Let me try to give you a quick overview of your options along with some pros and cons. The cost can vary greatly in different states and cities, so don’t look at these numbers too closely.
Let’s start with the by far cheapest option to get a few hours of “alone time” to run errands, go to the gym or taking a much needed nap during the day. A Playdate is when you meet with other parents and their kids, so that everybody can sozialize and the kids can play with each other. If this playdate is a group of friends that you trust, you could consider dropping off your kids and just pick them up after a couple of hours.
- It’s free and based on favor exchanges
- Give you a nice little break
- Are your friends really trustworthy?
- Are your kids fine with you leaving?
- Who’s responsible in case of an accident?
Cost: FREE or return favor
Not a lot of immigrants have the luxury of having relatives around all year long. If you do, congratulations! Grandparents usually enjoy having more time with the little ones. But beware, they might spoil your kids or go by their own rules.
- It’s free
- Grandparents or other relatives get to spend more time with your kids
- Bonding with family members
- Peace of mind for you
- Will your relatives stick to your rules?
- Are they spoiling your kids just to keep them happy?
- Are they physically up for the task?
Cost: FREE or return favor
Family/Home Day Care
If you are more comfortable with a home setting where your child can play with younger and older kids, family day cares are for you. There might even be one in your neighborhood, since these are usually run by individuals in their homes. Family Child Care are regulated in most states, however not as strict as day care centers. They also don’t have to be licensed in many states, if they only provide for a certain amount of children. The drawback would be, that the owner of the family day care could get sick and won’t be able to work, forcing you to take precious time off from your job, that you could’ve spent elsewhere.
- Less kids, less risk of catching illnesses
- Cheaper than Day Care
- Consistent primary provider
- Difficult to check background and safety record of provider
- Will you have to stay home if provider calls in sick?
- Home Cares are a lot less regulated by the state
- Usually just one adult present
Cost: $75 to $200 per week depending on state and neighborhood
Drop-in Day Care
At Drop-in Day Cares you only pay for the hours or days that your child actually spends in there. It’s more expensive per day than regular full-time day cares, but it could be a valuable Plan B, especially if you’ve signed up for a Part Time Day Care and need to fill the afternoons. There are facilities especially for drop-in child care, but some full time day cares offer this service too based on availability.
- Pay as needed
- Usually available 7 days a week until late evening
- Similar trained stafff than in full time day care centers
- Difficult for kids to build relationships with inconsistent schedule
- No real routine, if kids get just dropped off occasionally
Cost: Around $7-15 an hour. One that I checked out in Charlotte, NC, wanted $50 per day.
Kids age 2 to 5 have the option to go to Pre-School as an alternative to Day Care. Pre-School is more focused on the school schedule rather than the working schedule of parents. That’s why it’s usually only a few days a week and during summer or spring break pre-schools are closed. Parents have to cover for any holidays and school vacations.
- Cheaper due to reduced hours
- Great for parents with flexible hours
- Kids are being educated and not just playing and napping
- Parents need to cover for holiday and school vacations
- Hours and availability may not work with parent’s work schedule
Cost: Very much depends on the amount of time they spend in pre-school, but average rates are around $200-250 a month. My daughter’s pre-school in Charlotte, NC, is $235 a month for Monday through Thursday 9am to 1pm.
Day Care Centers
This is the most common option for working parents. Day Care Centers or Child Development Centers are highly regulated by the state and accept infants that are as young as 6 weeks old and up to age 5. The daily schedule is structured with lots of play time, nap time as well as education.
- Parents can get back to their job as early as 6 weeks after giving birth
- Schedule accomodates working parents
- Lots of interaction with other kids of the same age with lots of play time
- Professional staff that is available at all times during work hours.
- Expensive – In most states daycare costs more than sending your kid to college
- Your kid will get sick more often due to exposure to many other kids and probably pass it on to you
Cost: Roughly $75-300 per week depending on state and rating of day care center. Church day care centers are usually a little cheaper. My daughter’s was $165-175 per week for a church day care center. Other day cares in Charlotte, NC go up to $250 a week.
For parents who prefer a dedicated caregiver for their child as well as flexible hours, a nanny is a popular option. Nannies are basically professional babysitters, that also feed your child with the food you provide as well as drive them to appointments or playdates. You set the rules of what duties the nanny should take care of.
- Nanny will be in your home and feed your food
- Will develop a deep bond with your child
- Some Nannies help out with chores and errands as well
- Nannies can quit overnight, leaving behind a devastated child, if the relationship was strong.
- Background check and interviews is the parents’ responsibility
- Not every nanny is a good match for your child
Cost: $10-20 an hour
Au pairs are foreign nationals age 18 to 26, that live in your household and take care of your kids for up to 45 hours a week besides taking college courses in their free time.
- Agency pre-screens all candidates
- Kids have a chance to become bi-lingual
- Au Pair can help out with chores and errands
- Odd hours are no problem, because they live in your household
- Less privacy for as long as au pair lives in your home
- Au pairs can quit at any time
- Usually there’s no option to meet candidates in person other than phone calls or video chat.
Cost: $12,000-17,000 per year plus fees for agency, training and local counselor.
Photo credits: © Serhiy Kobyakov, Tyler Olson, Jörg Lantelme – Fotolia.com