The Child Care Dilemma: Nanny, Daycare, Au Pair – Oh My!


The text message came at about 5:37 a.m. I was half-awake, of course, because I was also very nervous about my new job.
“I am incredibly sorry to do this to you. I have had a family emergency come up and cannot watch your son. It’s possible I am unavailable this entire week.”

Crap. Today is my first day returning to the private sector work force. My son was comfortable with this mom who was watching my son and so it made the decision easy to use her. I was very unprepared for the bombshell the morning of my first day of my new job.

Child Care Options

The Nanny

She/he gives full attention to your children. Nannies are generally paid on an hourly basis and can watch your children in their home but traditionally will come to your home. They are paid based on experience and essential job responsibilities you agree upon. Pay ranges anywhere from $12/hour to $25/hour based on factors like age, number of kids and experience.

  • Nanny Pros: Personalized attention for your kids, works with your schedule, a helpful (and usually awesome) addition to your family.
  • Nanny Cons: Pay, sharing your living space, your own general paranoia about the 1000 things that can go wrong.
  • To Consider: Some families do a nanny share. This is an agreement between 2-3 families where they have a nanny watch both kids or kids on different days. If you’re interested in this route, make sure you put together some kind of agreement (could be in writing) with the families so you don’t get in a sticky situation.
  • Search: and are amazing resources. If you choose to go this route, be very clear and concise about what you want in your advertisement. Finding a nanny who agrees with your parenting philosophy about attachment parenting, feeding (bottle/finger foods), tummy time, etc will help you narrow down the right person. During the interview, feel free to use your children (it’s a great test of their ability to think of their feet and it worked for me every time).

Daycare (In-home & Centers)

  • In-home daycares provide the comfort and individualized attention (usually) because they are in a person’s home that can sometimes offer more flexibility in hours, pay and supporting the needs of the child. Some in-home daycares are licensed and others are not. The licensed in-home daycare listings in your area can be found on Oregon’s Office of Childcare site . In-home daycares are generally run by a small staff (sometimes even one individual) and they offer reasonable day or weekly rates. They generally have a smaller group of children and can be more flexible to your needs regarding dietary restrictions and/or sleeping schedules.
    • In-Home Pros: Cost, some individualized attention
    • In-Home Cons: Scheduling
    • In-Home Daycare Rates range from $25/day to $60/day.
  • Daycare Centers: Licensed child care facilities include organizations like KinderCare, Bright Horizons and the Learning Years. These institutions generally have a monthly fee, based on age (anywhere from $800 – $1600 for infants/toddlers). There is generally a very set schedule for the entire class/group of students. Classrooms are generally based on age (e.g. infant classroom, wobbler classroom) and kids eat and sleep at the same time. Their hours are amazing because they revolve around multiple parent schedules so they tend to be open as early as 6:30 a.m. and close as late at 6 p.m.
    • Center Pros: Open most of the time for parents, fixed schedules, cost, food provided
    • Center Cons: Fixed schedule (may be tough for kids who are adjusting)

Au Pair

Au Pairs are young adults who participate in a cultural exchange program (from a different country). Programs vary but generally run anywhere from nine to twelve months. In this case, children get individualized attention but the Au Pair generally has a limited number of hours he/she can work (45 hours is the max in most cases). Host families are required to provide lodging, food and transportation for the Au Pair, and there are several different companies that help facilitate this process. There’s usually an up front fee paid to a company, and then a monthly (or weekly) stipend the host family gives the Au Pair. In my research, the monthly cost was approximately $1,000/month to the Au Pair but there are up front costs to get matched.

  • Au Pair Pros: An addition to the family, slightly lesser in cost than a nanny, an opportunity to expose your family to a different culture or language.
  • Au Pair Cons: Costs can be expensive especially as you are providing housing; family fit can be difficult when finding the right person as you’re not interviewing in person. 

Family Caregivers

Last but not least, family and/or friends can be a great option. On that morning, I was able to quickly call my mom and dad to figure out a way that they could help us. The only price of that free care is the insane amounts of unsolicited advice I need to listen to every time I go there. That said, it’s generally free!

What child care options have worked best for you and your family?