Child Care Issues For Expectant & New Parents (page 2)
Child care can be a powerful issue for new parents. Many people are surprised by the strong feelings stirred up when they become parents. The deep love and responsibility you feel for your baby can be a source of anxiety as well as great joy. Most new parents say they were shocked by the realization that their lives would never be the same. Some say that their relationship with their own parents and partners changed and took on different meanings, for better or for worse. Others say their own ability to cope or feel in control was never as shaky as in those early months (years) of parenthood. With this turmoil as backdrop, it is no wonder that new parents often feel confused and anxious at the very thought of leaving their child in another person’s care.
All Parents Need Child Care
Whether you are at home with your baby and want time for yourself (or other family members), or whether you’re going back to school or returning to outside work, you will eventually have to (and want to) look for a substitute caregiver. In any case, you will have a variety of options from which to choose. You will also have the hard work of interviewing and making a choice that best meets your needs. You may go through a period of some anxiety, guilt or worry (call it what you will). Often these feelings drive you to seek the best care. You will find out as you go through this process that both you and your child can grow and develop and still remain the apples of each other’s eyes.
What’s Really Available?
You have a number of child care choices. There are licensed settings – either family child care homes or child care centers that care for groups of children. There are women (most, but not all, providers are women) who will take care of children from one family in the caregiver’s home. There are in-home caregivers who work in (and sometimes live in) a parent’s home. There are caregivers hired and shared by two or more families to reduce costs and provide companionship for their children. There are also other informal parentorganized care situations, such as exchanges, playgroups or babysitting co-ops.
Which kind of care will work for you depends on your preferences, your finances and how frequently you need the care. Luck and timing also play a role in making the perfect parent-provider match, although nothing can replace the hard work of knowing your options and pursuing them. BANANAS has a number of Choosing Child Care Handouts to help you in your search, including Choosing Infant and Toddler Care. This Handout describes the various options for infant care and gives you information on what regulations (if any) apply to each type of care. Another Handout, “Separating from Infants and Toddlers,” discusses the practical and emotional aspects of leaving a young child in care. Request our Publication List for a complete list of our Handouts or check our website at www.bananasinc.org. As you search for and begin to use child care, we hope these publications will be informative and helpful.
Issues For Stay-At-Home Parents
The availability of child care for stay-at-home parents is closely tied to what these parents can afford and how often they need child care. Many licensed child care programs (especially child care centers) will only consider enrolling children who need full-time or regular part-time care. Many caregivers who come into a parent’s home want regular, ongoing work. But there are still some family child care providers and in-home caregivers (especially teenagers) who welcome caring for children who need occasional care. Planning ahead and scouting around for care well before it’s needed is important.
Stay-at-home parents frequently turn to others for child care – exchanging care with each other, hiring an inhome caregiver to share with a friend, organizing a babysitting co-op or forming a playgroup. While some parents want time to themselves, many parents are looking for a child-centered social network to relieve their isolation. To find other parents, contact BANANAS for our publications on parent-created care and look through our files of parents looking for playgroups and exchanges. Contact other parents you may have met in your childbirth classes and support groups or who you frequently see in the grocery store or at the park. Parents at home are in the minority in many neighborhoods. If you are staying at home with your baby, reach out to others and take time for yourself. Although sporadic child care can be difficult to arrange, it is well worth the effort.
Issues For Parents Who Work Outside The Home
The child care choices of working parents also depend on financial resources and scheduling. Most parents face the added dilemma of deciding when to return to work and whether to work full- or part-time. Often these choices must be made during a short and frequently unpaid maternity leave when parents are exhausted financially as well as emotionally. BANANAS offers a special workshop every month called “Choosing Infant Care” to assist parents in sorting out the issues connected with returning to work after the birth of a baby. Call for dates and times or check the events calendar on our website at www.bananasinc.org.
Why Doesn’t BANANAS Make Recommendations?
BANANAS' child care counselors are available to help you explore your options and feelings. We are not able, however, to recommend a particular provider or even a particular type of child care. We attempt to keep our information as complete and as current as possible but we try to remain non-judgmental to be fair to all parents and providers.
Choosing child care is a very personal decision involving a parent’s values and expectations balanced against what is really available and how much parents can afford to pay. No one – no matter how knowledgeable about children and child care – can make the decision for you. In our files, you will find many providers and programs which are good, loving choices for your baby and some that are not right for you. The quality of the programs and providers will become apparent to you as you visit and check out references.
Commuting With Baby
There are different opinions about choosing child care which is near work or near home. As with most parenting decisions, no one way is the best. Having a child close to your job or school allows you to visit and to continue breastfeeding if you so choose. It reduces your response time in case of illness or emergencies and gives you a few more minutes with your baby during the commute. On the other hand, parents who choose to commute without their children find that the transitional time between work and home is their only time to be alone or shop and run errands before picking up the baby. Some parents choose child care near home so both parents can take turns in taking the child to and from care. Decide which option will work best for your family.
Who’s In Charge? (Besides Baby)
When you hire a caregiver to work in your home or to share with other families, you have more control over the child care situation than when you use family child care or a child care center. You call the shots about acceptable activities, routines and practices. When you use licensed care, you are one of a number of families making requests and sometimes contradictory demands on the provider. If you are happy with the way the provider is caring for your baby, getting your way in other areas may seem less important. You are always in charge of where you decide to put your child in care. Having made that choice, however, you must be prepared to be flexible and make compromises.
A work atmosphere which is supportive to families is invaluable. Know your employee benefits. As of 2004, California employees who participate in the state’s Disability Insurance Program are entitled to up to six weeks of partial pay to bond with a newborn baby, a newly adopted child or to care for a seriously ill family member. (For more info, visit www.paidfamilyleave.org.) Ask your employer to consider flexible work options if possible. Advocate for parents’ rights to use their own sick and vacation leave to care for their sick children. Ask your employer to explore “DCAPS” – a benefit which allows employees to set aside a portion of their pre-tax income to pay for child care. This can save both employees and employers money. Obtain permission to turn a bulletin board into a parent communication center where parents can post notices.
Reprinted with the permission of BANANAS, Inc. © 2007 BANANAS
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