In-home childcare providers (nannies, sitters or au pairs) can be among the most expensive childcare options (though that isn’t always the case), but they’re often a great option for people who can afford them.
Here are a few advantages:
Convenience: Your sitter comes to your home — or even lives in it — so you don’t have to worry about schlepping your child to and fro every morning and evening.
Control: Not in a creepy way, but you’re the boss. You can hire a sitter for only the hours you need, setting a regular schedule or building in flexibility, if all parties are amenable. You can also set the salary and the terms of employment, though there will be established norms in your area, and you should familiarize yourself with them. (Note: Because you are your sitter’s employer, you should be mindful of and careful with that power and make sure to treat her with particular kindness and respect.)
Choice: In a daycare situation, you may not know in advance who the person taking care of your child’s needs will be. With a nanny, you can choose precisely who will bond with and nurture your child. You can also choose how your child will spend his or her days and set his or her schedule, within reason.
Meanwhile, here are the disadvantages to having a nanny:
Price: Find the going rate in your area, but in New York City the hourly rate can be anywhere from $10 to $20 (the upper end of the range may be for nannies caring for more than one child), and then there are taxes and vacations and bonuses. Some parents pay weekly or monthly, but working out the details can also be time-consuming and complicated and potentially emotionally fraught. You should get all of the details straight and clear with your nanny before she begins work.
Lack of privacy: Some parents are uneasy about looping a new person into their family. Having a nanny can make you feel exposed – you have a witness for all of your parental and housekeeping failings.
Feelings of competitiveness: Some parents – particularly mothers – may find themselves concerned that their child prefers their nanny’s care to theirs. It’s a common, though unpleasant feeling.
Emotional complications: Is the person taking care of your precious offspring an employee, a family member, a friend? Managing your relationship can feel like a job unto itself. Some parents just don’t think it’s worth it.
Lack of predictability: Nannies are people, and people get sick. Their cars break down. Their subways are delayed. If your nanny is sick or late to arrive, that can mess up your own work schedule. That’s generally not an issue with daycare centers, which have more workers and therefore more reliable coverage.
Lack of oversight: If you work outside the home, you really don’t know what your nanny and your child do all day, especially if your child is too young to tell you. In a daycare center, there are other people around. Some people find that reassuring. Also, most states set certain basic standards for child-care facilities and regularly inspect them. That is not the case with most nanny situations, though many nanny placement agencies will do basic criminal background checks.