Nanny Vs Daycare Vs Stay at Home Parents

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April 01, 2024
8 min read

Weighing Your Options

child with teddy bears

Whether you’re: 

  • Returning to work, 
  • Managing multiple carers 
  • Balancing budgets or
  • Seeking social development opportunities for your child 

The debate between opting for daycare, hiring a nanny or embracing stay-at-home parenting is a hot topic for many families.  

In this blog we’ll dive into the pros and cons of each to help you make an informed decision. 

The key point here is there is NO RIGHT and NO WRONG decision – it’s just about finding the right decision for your family.

Child Care and Daycare: 

Daycare is an incredible opportunity for your child to experience socialisation and structure early on. Quality of care can be really centre specific though and I always recommend parents check out their child care provider thoroughly – go with your gut on this one:

  • Does the environment feel right for kids? 
  • Are the early child care educators warm, kind, engaged? 
  • Does the place put a smile on your face?

Some really practical things you can look at are: 

  1. Their national safety and compliance ratings at the centre and 
  2. Ask about staff turnover (if it’s high it can be a red flag, if it’s low it’s usually a great sign). 

In terms of socialisation and child or youth development these centres can have the advantage.

Daycare Pros: Daycare Cons:
  1. Social Development and social interaction: Time spent in daycare or child care offers kids the chance to interact with peers, enhancing social skills and emotional development.
  1. Getting on lists early enough: across the country there’s often long waitlists to get into childcare centres – you often have to put kids down at birth to get in – if you’ve moved house or simply didn’t think about childcare it can be really difficult to get in.
2. Structured Environment: With set routines and diverse activities, daycare or child care can provide a structured setting conducive to learning and development. 2. Exposure to Illness: Children in daycare may be more susceptible to colds and other illnesses due to increased exposure to other children. If you’re trying to return to work it’s reasonably common that the first 12 months is littered with lurgies so prepare yourself for this.  This isn’t a reason to avoid childcare as whenever they start in a group setting be it daycare, kinder or school the exposure will happen – it probably just feels more acute when they are smaller.
3. Experienced Carers: In my experience early childcare educators are incredibly humans.  They have completed degrees or certification in early childhood and have a natural way with babies and children. 3. Less Individual Attention: With higher child-to-caregiver ratios, children may receive less one-on-one attention compared to a nanny.  But the educators at childcare will be formally trained with structured learning outcomes – your nanny may not be.  Most children will thrive in a group setting. 
4. Cost-Effective (sometimes): In terms of the cost of nanny vs daycare in Australia, daycare/child care is often the more budget-friendly option for families – depending on your family income you’re often eligible for significant discounts via the Child Care Subsidy scheme.  If you’re a high income earner with multiple children it may be a nanny is cheaper overall – this is really individualised. 4. Fixed Schedule: Daycare and child care centres have set hours, which may not accommodate unconventional or fluctuating work schedules.  See the note below on private nannies – if this is the case you may be eligible for subsidies. 

A private nanny:

For most families this is the most expensive option, but for many working parents this may be the only option to balance building two carers. There are still pros and cons especially compared to day care and the childcare choice.   

Nanny Pros: Nanny Cons:
  1. Flexibility: Nannies offer flexibility for parents with unpredictable schedules or those needing extra help around the house.
  1. Cost: In Australia, the cost of hiring a nanny can exceed that of daycare, making it a significant financial commitment for families. Consider a nanny shared with another family. In some circumstances where you’re geographically isolated, you work non conventional hours or you have special needs like needing a family therapist, you may be eligible for the Child Care Subsidy on a private nanny – if this sounds like you it might be worth investigating.
2. Home Comfort: Kids benefit from the familiarity and comfort of their own home environment, potentially resulting in less stress and adjustment for little ones. 2. Dependency: Relying on a single caregiver can pose challenges if the nanny falls ill or leaves the position.
3. Personalised Attention: With one-on-one care, most nannies can tailor activities and routines to your child’s needs, fostering a deep bond and providing consistent care. 3. Less Socialisation: Kids cared for by a nanny may miss out on the social benefits of interacting with a larger group of peers. But there are lots of ways you can find this through regular play groups and connecting with other families in similar positions.
4. They won’t catch as many lurgies: for parents returning to work in high pressure careers taking a large volume of carer days may not be a luxury they have 4. They may not have formal qualification in early childhood development: This absolutely doesn’t mean they won’t be a great nanny and great with your kids but early child educators through education do have a lot to offer – in great news lots of the educators often move to private practise 

Stay at Home Parent:  

I personally would have loved the opportunity to be a stay at home parent (even it was part time) and I’m envious of the mum’s and dad’s out there that get to do this.  In our case my career and our circumstances didn’t allow for this. And while I would have LOVED to have experienced it, it doesn’t mean it would have been easy.  I think being a stay at home parent is one of the hardest jobs in the world…but incredibly fulfilling.  Whilst parents that stay home have more time with their children than those in daycare centres, there isn’t necessarily a more positive influence over children’s development or the child’s life.   

Stay at Home Pros: Stay at Home Cons:
  1. Bonding: Stay-at-home care allows for maximum bonding time, with ample opportunities for nurturing your child’s development.
  1. Isolation: Parents may feel isolated or miss adult interaction and professional fulfilment.
2. Control: Parents have complete control over their child’s daily activities, diet, and schedule. 2. Financial Strain: Relying on one income can be challenging, and leaving the workforce can impact long-term earnings and career progression.
3. Cost Savings: Eliminating the cost of childcare can be a significant financial benefit for some families. 3. Less Socialisation for the Child: Without regular interaction with other kids, stay-at-home parenting can limit social opportunities for your child.

Child Development in Different Settings

When it comes to child development, the environment plays a crucial role. Research indicates that high-quality daycare facilities with trained staff can offer social, cognitive, and academic benefits for children, these children can exhibit better language and cognitive skills compared to those who stay at home or with a nanny. This is attributed to the structured learning environment, diverse social interactions, and variety of educational activities available in these settings. 

However, it’s important to note that the benefits largely depend on the quality of the daycare and the child’s personal needs and temperament.  And daycare also isn’t the only environment where you can create structure and socialisation.

Balancing Personal and Professional Life

The decision between nanny, daycare, or staying at home also extends to the parents’ well-being and professional life. 

Parents opting for a nanny are often  juggling demanding careers – they appreciate the flexibility and not having to rush babies and children out the door before they get to work. 

On the other hand, daycare can provide more structured schedules and socialisation opportunities for children, which some parents believe is beneficial for their child’s development and their own work commitments. 

Children cared for by stay-at-home parents allows for a hands-on approach to child-rearing, fostering a strong parent-child bond, though it may come with sacrifices in career progression, personal time and things that impact you in the future like super contributions.

Child Health Considerations

While the health of our kids is paramount, young kids getting exposed to lots of lurgies at daycare can strengthen the immune system over time and remember the exposure is going to happen eventually).

My Toddler Toolkit parenting program walks you through all the tips and tricks for great kinder and childcare drop offs.

Common FAQs:

Q1: Is a nanny better than daycare centers? 

ANS: The choice between a nanny and daycare depends on your family’s specific needs, budget, and values. A nanny offers personalised care but at a higher cost, while daycare provides socialisation and a structured setting.

Q2: Do daycare babies develop faster? 

ANS: Research suggests that children in daycare may benefit from socialisation and structured learning environments, potentially enhancing certain developmental areas. However, every child is unique, and quality of care is crucial.

Q3: Is it better for a baby to stay home or go to daycare? 

This decision hinges on individual family circumstances, including work commitments, financial considerations, and personal preferences regarding your child’s early experiences.

Q4: What is the best age to send a child to daycare? 

There is no one-size-fits-all answer, as children and families differ. However, many experts suggest that the toddler years (around 1-3 years old) can be a beneficial time to start daycare, as children begin to engage more with peers and can benefit from the social environment.

So what’s the verdict from a Paediatrician?

There’s no right or wrong answer here…Only you can choose a child care arrangement that works for you and your family. There are lots of pros and cons to all options.

When navigating the choices of nanny vs daycare vs stay at home, remember that each family’s situation is unique.

Family income, maternity leave, nanny costs, ability to take carers leave, your child’s temperament, where you are geographically are just some of the factors beyond child development to consider to decide if you would like to choose daycare or home care.

Weighing the pros and cons, considering your child’s needs, and assessing your financial and emotional readiness will guide you toward the best early childhood education and development decision for your family.

No matter what you choose, it’s important to not feel guilt, and remember that you are choosing what is best for your family.