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6 Childcare Options for Working Parents

Childcare Options for Working Parents




Written by:

Barbara Mighdoll

Women are feeling empowered now more than ever to pursue careers and entrepreneurial goals and have a family. This means both parents working parents must split responsibilities in caring for kids, and maintaining households. It’s a tall order, and to do it all, you really need some support. If you are pregnant, you are likely navigating childcare options and working them into your new baby budget. If you have already returned from maternity leave, you've been through this process, but may realize what you chose isn't serving the needs of you and your family.

Reliable childcare is one of your best tools for juggling everything that’s important to you (even if you work from home). But juggling to find the right childcare is exhausting. There are actually more childcare options out there than you think.

IMO relying on family for childcare is incredibly nice from a budget perspective, but having a professional caretaker who works for you (or at a facility) is a totally different ballgame. There is a level of feedback and direction you can provide in these situations that is difficult to do with a personal relationship like family. Of course the most common are daycare facilities or a full-time nanny, but you can find other options too that suit your schedule, budget, and expectations. Since I've navigated the maze of mommy-nanny Facebook groups, daycares and the au pair program, I am dedicating my post today to share the childcare options you can consider as a working mom. 

Childcare Options for Working Parents

6 Childcare Options for Working Parents

Full-Time Nanny

A full-time nanny is the most expensive childcare option on the list, however, it allows you to exercise the most control. Your nanny will come to your own home and focus all her attention on your children. Additionally, you don’t have to conform to normal daycare hours, but you can hire a nanny for any hours a week you want, which may be ideal if you work long or odd hours. Of course, you'll need to discuss a unique or flexible schedule as part of your nanny interview process.

Depending on your area, it can be really difficult to find care in standard daycare facilities. But, nannies tend to be easier to locate. Just like daycares, you’ll need to shop around and do lots of interviews to find a long-term nanny that’ll meet your expectations. Make sure to have all their duties and expectations listed on the job offer. Beyond childcare, this might include light housework, cooking, transporting, pet care, and teaching. 

In the Bay Area, full time nannies can cost anywhere from $55,000 – $70,000 annually. It’s a high price tag, but if you have the means to cover it, you’ll love the peace of mind and control you have when your child is in your own home with a vetted nanny. 

Full-Time Nanny Share

If a traditional nanny is out of budget but you are attracted to all the benefits of one, a nanny share is a really good option. It’s where you and one or more families hire the same nanny to watch your children. Think of it like a curated daycare. You choose the kids and the childcare provider!

Parents benefit from the reduced cost. Nannies benefit because usually, their salary goes up when multiple families are contributing. And kids benefit, because they get more socialization opportunities and get the fun experience of traveling to each others’ houses. This option definitely takes a little more management to coordinate schedules, location, and pay, but it does significantly reduce the cost and still gives you that focused care you’re looking for. 

When looking at averages in the Bay Area, nanny shares cost $35,000 – $50,000 annually, which is about 30% less than a traditional nanny.  

Au Pair

An au pair is a live-in 18 to 27 year old who watches your children in exchange for cultural immersion, a dedicated room in your home and weekly stipend. Usually, these are women from overseas traveling to the United States with a legal visa good for 2-years. If you’re new to this concept and think it sounds kind of risky, it’s not at all! To find au pairs, you go through reputable agencies like Cultural Care, Au Pair Care, or Au Pair America and they take care of all the background checks. You'll have the opportunity to go through a thorough au pair interview process to find your perfect match.

We decided while we were pregnant with Caden that this was the route we wanted to go for three main reasons. First, we loved the cultural exchange element. Since raising bilingual children was a goal of ours, we knew having a bilingual caretaker was necessary. Second, we loved the flexibility that comes with an au pair. With long work schedules, work events and our love to travel, we wanted the ability to change hours ad hoc, and bring them on vacation with us. Third, the cost was a strong factor. Believe it or not an au pair is highly economical (at least compared to childcare options in the Bay Area).

Now that Caden is in preschool 3 days a week, our au pair drops him off at school and watches Willow full-time. Of course, he’s home for 2 of those days too. She’s like a member of the family, and we’re not sure what we’d do without her! 

To find our au pair, we went through Cultural Care. The cost of an au pair is about $28,000 a year after factoring in agency costs, weekly stipend, food, housing and additional benefits (unless you live in Massachusetts which abides by different payment standards, and honestly is hard to make sense from an economics perspective).


Daycare is a large-group childcare setting. There are a couple of different types of daycare options, including in-home-based daycares and daycare centers. An in-home daycare is usually a person licensed by the state to provide regulated daycare services out of their own home. These centers have fewer kids than large facilities and provide a homier feel. However, they may not get some of the structure and dedicated curriculum time of a center.

A daycare center will typically have children broken up by age and in rooms with many kids and multiple teachers. They follow state regulations for ratios, cleanliness, safety, and more. With these centers, your child normally has a set routine with outdoor playtime, crafts, age-appropriate lessons, naptime, and more. The concern with daycare facilities is the downsides of the high ratios. Your child won’t always get the attention they need and, at times, balls are dropped that could hinder your peace of mind about your child’s care. 

Because these centers run with so many more kids than a nanny or even a nanny-share option, they can keep their costs much lower… and in-home daycares are even cheaper since they don’t have the cost of running a facility. The price also depends on your child’s age, since infants need more of a caregiver’s attention than a toddler. The costs really vary in the Bay Area with options ranging from $20,000 – $40,000 annually. 


Depending on your child’s age and the type of facility, preschool could be another childcare option. Most preschools have 2, 3, or 5 days a week options. Unlike a daycare, they’re focused on teaching your child life skills and early academics to foster independence and kindergarten readiness. Of course, they still have plenty of opportunities to play.

There are many types of preschools out there, and the price will vary a lot based on the number of days per week, what they offer (i.e. prepared snacks and meals) and their teaching style. You can expect a range between $15,000 and $30,000 in the Bay Area. Here are a few kinds: 


I realize “traditional” may be subjective. I’m referring to the standard curriculum with circle time, felt boards, fun songs, and learning crafts. These are the most common types of preschools out there and focus mostly on preparing your child for kindergarten.


Montessori preschools are characterized by play-based learning, minimalism, small class ratios, and individualized progression. 

Language Immersion

A language immersion preschool is what it sounds like; it’s a preschool in a foreign language! This is what we’ve chosen for Caden because bilingual learning is important to us. It has the structure of a traditional preschool but with a dual language twist. 

Reggio Emilia 

Reggio Emilia preschools focus less on kindergarten prep and our standards for academics, and instead zeros in on a child’s sense of emotional wellness. Self-esteem, positive expression, and compassion are all a big part of the day-to-day “teaching.”


The Waldorf method is based on building up “flexible learners” who have deeper wisdom and understanding of humanity. It’s similar to the Reggio Emilia method since it doesn’t focus on flashcards and times tables. Instead, kids learn through art, folktales, homesteading activities, and socializing. I've found this type of curriculum tends to charge a bit more, with tuition costs going up to $45,000 in the Bay Area. 


Faith-based preschools follow a curriculum most similar to a “traditional” preschool, however, they incorporate their religious affiliation into day-to-day teaching. This could mean they tell Bible stories, pray regularly, or attend chapel. These daycares can be much less expensive because the church or religious institution itself provides funding so you may expect to find tuition as low as $8,000 in the Bay Area. 


If no option fits you perfectly, you could do a combination! That’s essentially what we do with Caden since he spends just 3 days a week in preschool and then spends the rest of the time with our au pair. You could have your child in part-time care at one place and then have family members or sitters fill in the gaps. 

This works for school-age kids as well as toddlers who have most of their day taken care of with school! Even consider staggering your and your husband’s work schedules, so either you or him could provide more care.

Childcare Options for Working Parents

What To Look For In A Childcare Provider

Matches your parenting/teaching style.

First of all, you want your childcare to match your parenting. The methods you use to train your child should be the same between you and your childcare provider. They should also be willing to reinforce parenting decisions like breastmilk feeding, cloth diapering, voluntary nutrition restrictions, and religious/cultural needs. 

Has a schedule and curriculum you can follow. 

The curriculum or schedule your provider uses should be available to you. Beyond that, you should be able to research it and understand it. This way, you can ensure it’s a proven program that’ll produce the results you’re hoping for!

Aligns with your eating/nutrition standards. 

What kind of snacks are they feeding the kids? How do they do lunchtime? These are important questions if you’re a mom who has high nutrition standards. If you’re keeping sugar from your young kids, maintaining a dye-free diet, and managing medically necessary dietary restrictions, your childcare provider should support that. Also, how will they encourage your child to eat unwanted food or eat at the desired times? Their methods should match yours. 

Comes highly recommended. 

Read reviews and believe them. If you can, actually talk to a parent that uses or used the provider as well, to hear the pros and cons of the facility or nanny. Read reviews on multiple platforms too, because they may have the power to delete negative comments on some pages. 

Exudes a fun, caring, and stimulating feel right when you walk in (or meet them) 

What’s the vibe you get right when you meet the provider or enter the facility? Trust that instinct you get from the initial visit or meeting. I find these gut instincts are more reliable than we give them credit for. 

Hires qualified and attentive staff (or is personally qualified and attentive). 

Whether you’re hiring a nanny/au pair or visiting a facility, ask about the qualifications of the staff. Even if they don’t need a degree to work for you, ask about work history and training that’s been given. When you’re meeting with the provider, also watch how the person or staff members interact with the other children and your kids. 

Has safety standards that pass your scrutiny. 

If considering a facility or in-home daycare, do a thorough inspection for safety concerns. Maybe you see an infant sleeping in their car seat or you see broken and dirty toys. Or, maybe there are uncovered outlets and unlocked doors. Don’t compromise on safety! 

As far as a nanny or au pair go, make sure they understand your safety standards and share similar values. They also need to be first aid and CPR certified. 

Low ratios and consistent staff. 

Turnover is something you’ll always battle at facilities. You can avoid this by hiring a nanny/au pair or by attending an in-home daycare. It’s a definite downside to a facility, so try to gauge the consistency (or lack of) while visiting. Also, ask about ratios to confirm it’s legal and appropriate for your child. 

Has a thorough handbook of policies and procedures. 

They must have the rules and processes written out in a handbook. That protects them and you from future issues. A nanny/au pair won’t have this, but some things should be outlined in a contract. Once you’ve hired them, you could work together on a sort of handbook to make sure everyone is on the same page. 

Is licensed by the state. 

Both in-home daycares and daycare centers should be licensed by the state. It is true that small in-home daycares can avoid this, but I wouldn’t personally feel comfortable taking my child to a home that had not been inspected and monitored by the state. For nannies/au pairs, hire through reputable agencies and really dive into their resume. 

Will relieve your mental load.

Referring to nannies or au pairs, this means that they will manage everything for the children during working hours – laundry, meals, cleaning, packing, etc. If you go the nanny route, I highly recommend searching for someone who is willing to go beyond just household tasks for your child, but is willing to do light cleaning, fold/put away your laundry, or help meal prep during nap time for your child. If I were to hire a nanny, this would be 100% a requirement. You can expect to pay them a nominal amount more per hour for these added services, but as a working mom, it is absolutely worth it.

Childcare Options for Working Parents

Choosing the best childcare option for you

Having kids and a career is a balancing act. It’s something I wasn’t quite prepared for as a first-time mom, but when giving advice as a second-time mom, I always warn of the challenges of work-life balance with children. 

Get good childcare to help you be more present with your children and stay focused on your career. You have options, and I’m sure you can find something that checks all your boxes! For more parenting tips and working mom advice, check out my blog! By simplifying your life and calming the chaos, you can find true harmony between work, marriage, and parenthood.


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