Sunday, June 28, 2009

Finding a Nanny versus Day Care

I am currently going through the process of looking for a nanny. We had thought about getting one before, but I never really seriously considered it because of the complications involved and the increased cost. Day care is very expensive to begin with. A nanny, we figured, would cost even more, though we never knew quite how much. (Though we did figure if we had three kids in day care, a nanny would likely be cheaper).

The complications include payroll deduction of taxes, which I have no idea how to do. That one will probably ultimately be easy, once I get a program of some sort to handle it. Maybe something like Quickbooks from Intuit. I use Quicken for my finances (and TurboTax for my taxes) and I've been happy with those products, so I'm going to explore whether I can use something like that for payroll deduction.

Another concern is the lack of backups. With day care, if one of the people who watches our kids in a given room (there are different rooms for different age groups), the day care handles covering it with someone else. On the other hand, if we have a nanny and she is sick or unavailable, we are stuck - one of us will have to stay home. That means using up precious vacation or sick days, which neither of us has in abundance. Then again, with day care, when one of the kids was sick, they'd send him or her home, and we'd have to take a day off of work for that. Thinking about that further, we probably would be staying home more often with day care than with a nanny.

Which brings me to one of the main reasons we are looking at leaving day care, at least for our son. He was getting sick all the time in day care. For about three months, he was sick basically continuously, mostly with serial colds, but also with something nastier at one point. He also was not eating well. So he basically gained no weight for three months, which is really bad. His doctor had concerns that something very serious might be wrong with him so he had to take all sorts of blood tests and we had a really bad several months of worry. Our old babysitter saved us.

In April, she came home from her first year at college and so was available to watch our son at home. We pulled him out of day care and he stayed home with her. It was amazing how much better he got after that. He stopped being sick, he gained a ton of weight, and is doing wonderful now. That alone makes it very hard to send him back to day care when the summer ends and our babysitter goes back to school.

Another reason I really don't want my kids in our current day care is that it is run by a church and they include "chapel" activities for the kids, increasing as they get older. It didn't really bother me when my daughter was younger because she really was too young to even vaguely be brainwashed into that garbage. I think even the church recognizes that because they don't really start with it until kids get older, probably between 2 1/2 and 3. My daughter is now almost four, though, and so she has had some of that. Partly for that reason, we also pulled her down to just one day a week, a day that is not a chapel day. What really clinched that for me was when she started spouting some god talk - nothing much, but enough for me to decide that I would no longer subject her to the child abuse that is religion.

So now we need to find a nanny for both of them for when the summer ends. My mother-in-law is here now, helping out, and we are also having babysitter help while she is here for the summer, but that ends in August.

We heard about a site online where you can find nannies, babysitters, and people looking for both. It cost money to subscribe to it, but really, not all that much money, and given what actual agencies and such charge to find nannies, it is a pittance. Much like any such search, it is hit and miss. We've met a few people that we really did not like, and few that we have. The main problem is finding someone we like who also is available for the time we'd need her, who is affordable, and who can make a committment to it for at least until my son starts kindergarten, which is in four years. I'd rather not have to go through this whole process more than once, if I can avoid it.

One woman we talked to a bit had excellent qualificaitons and we really liked her, but we really could not afford her - she wanted $650 to $700 a week. For comparison, day care for two kids cost us $341 a month (down from $379 - the price before our daughter was potty trained). We really can't afford anything more than the cost of day care, though we can't get a nanny for that little, given it is 50 hours a week. Which would make us stuck, except that my parents may help us out to cover whatever extra cost there will be. One might wonder why they don't just offer to help watch their grandkids. Well...

Our primary problem has always been a lack of family nearby who can help us out with childcare. My parents actually aren't that far away - but they really aren't close either - over an hour drive - and they are not exactly young. My mother will be 72 this year, my father 67. Both are semi-retired. Both have little inclination to help out in that regard except in the direst of emergencies - like when we had to go to the hospital one time. Since they don't help directly that often, what they do is they send financial help. Not usually alot, but enough that it is helpful. But a nanny would be a lot. Probably they are willing to do that because of their own concerns about their grandson's health. It is not like they have all that much money - they, like us, are solidly middle class, with sensible finances. But we don't have a lot of extra money. The economy isn't exactly great now - we are both on reduced income now because of it, and we never had that much to save each month.

Looking forward, my daughter will start kindergarten next year. If she were in day care, that would save us a lot of money. If we have a nanny, we'll still probably be paying the same - that would mean us paying that extra money for the next four years, until our son enters kindergarten. (I won't even contemplate a third child right now - I can't imagine how we could manage it, but I guess we'll see in the next few years).

In the end, regardless of the cost, if we can somehow do it, I think it will be worth it. I really don't want the religious crap being poured into either of their brains. I'd rather innoculate them against it by teaching them critical thinking skills. Starting over with another day care just isn't an option we'd consider. Firstly, the day care we have now is actually the cheapest one we found. It is also very very close to our house. And it actually is a lot better than a lot of the other day cares we looked at when we first started looking for one.

Having a nanny would also yield other benefits. The kids would probably eat better. The house might not be quite as trashed, as there would be someone here to pick up a bit, something two working parents seldom have time to do, and there would not be the mad rush to get two kids ready to go to day care in the morning, nor would there be the mad rush home each night to pick them up.

Still, the process of finding someone has been hard. We've never done it before. We don't know how it will turn out. A nanny is more than an employee - it is like interviewing someone to join your family. During the week, this person would be in our home more than we would, and would spend more time with our kids than we could (at least in waking hours). Several times I've been about ready to give up on the process and just send the kids both back to day care full time in August. That would be the easiest, cheapest thing to do. My son would be older than he was when he had problems and he would be in a different room, so he may do better. And the religious stuff won't be reinforced anywhere, so it probably won't leave any lasting damage - after all, it didn't for me when my parents put me in day care and preschool run by a church. The lack of damage was probably because my parents are not religious at all and we never did anything religious.

There is one woman we both like who seems capable and is willing to commit for the time we'd like at a price we could afford. But I wonder - can she really commit to that long? She is young, only 19, but then, so is the babysitter who is here during the week now. I really don't have any experience with this sort of thing - but then again, maybe I do. I have certainly had to deal with lots of child care issues over the past four years. Finding a day care, dealing with a half dozen different regular babysitters, and now even having an almost-nanny for the summer.

I probably would not hesitate to get a nanny as much if we could really afford it, on our own, and could pay someone what would be considered a professional rate - perhaps the $650 to $700 mentioned above. I don't know. For now, the search continues.

1 comment:

Machele said...

Hello =) Stumbled across your blog "Finding a Nanny vs Day Care" and wanted to introduce myself. I have been a nanny for 18 wonderful years. I realize your blog was written some 9 months ago, but decided to leave some in-put anyways. My name is Machele and I can say that your are right about the ups and downs of each decision of where your children will be cared for. A nanny is probably a tad more expensive than day care, but, you just have to out-weigh the pluses and minuses. In Michigan a nannies pay can vary from city to city. On average a nanny gets anywhere from at least current minimum wage per hour (by law) up to $11-12/ hour, or a salary of average hours needed each week X what ever hourly pay you agree upon. Time and a half for hourly paid nannies for anything over 40 hours. For one child I usually charge $8-9/hour and for 2-3+ children $9-12/hour. The current economy has hit everyone hard, and I am lucky to get minimum wage for 2 children these days. I see families all over the place looking for a nanny at $3-4/ hour! How could anyone live on such pay? Us nannies get frustrated and feel degraded when we see that. If a family cannot afford to at least pay the legal minimum wage, they should seek a day care instead. I know of a nanny making $4 an hour working 36-40 hours/week which has forced her to find a second job and then she has no time for school or child related courses to keep fresh and up-to-date on her profession. I'm sure she isn't able to stay at 100% by the time she juggles two jobs and believe me, no one should be less than 100% when they are caring for children. She has no choice and it is dis-heartening. All this said, I have had offers from families who are wanting to pay cash and there-fore can afford a nanny easier- is this right? It's up to who you are asking... but families need to keep in mind that paying cash means no getting a pre-taxed amount from your job to pay for daycare (for companies that offer that) and no claiming childcare on taxes. The nanny has to realize that she is not having money put into soc sec and has no income to show for things like credit cards and loans. It's a toss up for both. Another nanny I know accepted $7.50/hr cash from a family and it works for them really well. (she is paid $320/week for hours worked between 40-45)
The biggest thing us nannies wished more parents took into consideration is that at a day care, they are paid by several families to make an income- where a nanny depends on one family for income. That being said- you can see where offering a nanny $3-5/hr just isn't right.
This had to be a hard decision for you, and I hope all has worked out well for you.
All my best,
Nanny Shel

~You never stand so tall as when you kneel to help a child~