If you are going to work outside of the home, who is a better caregiver for your young child a professional daycare facility, or one of the grandparents? Who will look after your child while you are at work? Not everyone has the luxury of making the choice between grandparents and professional daycare facilities, I realize this. Not every child has grandparents who are still alive, grandparents who are able and willing to look after them, or grandparents without boundary issues that would make them a poor choice. Here, we'll look at the benefits and problems with both choices for those who are able to make this decision, and who are in a dilemma.
Professional daycare facilities
Professional daycare facilities have several benefits that lead many parents to enroll their children. To start with, a daycare is a business, making your dealings with them formal and businesslike. This may mean that you are in a better decision to make certain requests or demands and to be confident that your wishes are respected. You pay a daycare facility good money, and in return you should expect them to take good care of your child.
They cannot bottle out suddenly on any one day, and if one employee is ill, another will replace her. A daycare facility is one that you can formally count on to take care of your child, every day. Daycare workers have experience with many children who are exactly the same age as your child. They are paid to have lots of patience for your little one, and to show their best face. Your child will be surrounded with other kids, and will hopefully make some good friends there.
Then, there are organized play and craft activities that will turn your kid's day into one filled with fun, and with a good dose of stimulation. Your child will get all that "socialization" that many parents are so concerned about, without question. A daycare facility should always be licensed, and all its workers (and especially volunteers, if there are any) vetted by the state. Parents should always be sure that their child is absolutely safe in a daycare facility. This can be an advantage, if you have checked that the daycare is licensed and all the workers have been scrutinized. It can also be a huge disadvantage, because these things do not always happen. A child's safety should always come first, but many parents assume that the daycare has this covered without checking themselves.
I'd like to take this opportunity to shamelessly promote a book called Protecting The Gift, by child safety expert Gavin de Becker. The book has a list of questions to ask, and instructions on how to vet your daycare facility. Plus some horror stories that will absolutely ensure you do take these steps. You can also read more about this topic by clicking: How to choose a daycare facility for your child. Another possible disadvantage of a daycare facility is a rigid schedule or routine, with little room for the child's own creativity or wishes. Kids may all take naps at the same time, for instance, and all engage in the same activities at the same time. And because of the professional nature, a daycare worker will never care about your child's personal inclinations quite as much as a good grandparent. Cost would be the final obstacle that we'll discuss here. If most of your salary is used to pay for the daycare, something isn't right. Unless, of course, you enjoy your job so much that you are willing to work nearly for free. Hang on, one more disadvantage lots of kids in one space may mean that your child gets exposed to viruses frequently, and may end up ill pretty often. That would mean you still have to arrange for alternative childcare, because sick kids can't come to daycare.
Those who love and trust their kid's grandparents (either your own parents, or your partner's) may have a powerful child rearing ally. If you see eye to eye on parenting issues, having a grandparent look after your child while you work can be a blessing for everyone involved. The advantages are obvious. There are so many of them that I think bullet points will work better here:
- Your child gets to spend time with his or her beloved grandparents.
- The grandparent gets to spend time with their beloved grandchild.
- You all forge closer familial bonds than you may otherwise, and you yourself may get a new chance to develop a deeper relationship with your parents or inlaws.
- Your child may have more say in what his day looks like, and get to choose some of the foods he eats.
- Your child could take plenty of trips out of the house, and see more variety than she would in daycare.
- I am not for a moment suggesting that grandparent care should be free, unless you all really, really want it that way. But it will probably be a lot cheaper than daycare.
- You have already taken years to "vet" the grandparents, and if you think they are suitable candidates to look after your child, you would trust them completely. That is really, really important.
Now for the drawbacks. Grandparent care can still work out if you have slightly different parenting philosophies, but only if you have a very good discussion first. You should make sure you both understand each other, and can tolerate each others' opinions. Don't assume it will work out a grandparent, as a close blood relative, will always be much more involved in the child's upbringing (vs simple care) than a daycare facility.
You also have to make sure that the grandparent actually really wants to look after your child, as opposed to feeling pressured into it. If your parents or in-law would rather be doing retired people stuff, they should be able to. You should also make clear agreements on the amount of time your kid spends in the grandparents' care, and you should at the very least offer to cover expenses. If you are significantly better off financially, a salary is not a weird idea by any means. You should make sure that the arrangement can be discussed by any party at any time.
If the caring grandparents' health goes downhill, don't expect them to carry on caring. And if you notice that your child is not being cared for in the way you would like, you too should be able to say "enough" without ruining your relationship with the grandparents forever. From the safety perspective, it is also important that you discuss that your child should constantly be supervised by your parents or in-laws, and that they do not leave your child in anyone else's care without your consent. Some grandparents may feel tempted to allow your child to go play at a neighbor's house, for instance. Stuff like that is dangerous, unless you are very sure it isn't. All of this is, of course, based on the understanding that the grandparents are not overbearing, boundary-crossing, personality disordered folks. It does happen. In many families. If you are in a family like that, get some therapy and enroll your child in a good daycare.