In my previous post, I wrote about nanny search sites. When I first went back to work, I put my son in a home daycare. However, he started to show signs of not being happy there after 6 months. Instead of trying another daycare, I decided he needed one-on-one care. After much ado, I finally found a nanny. I have learned a lot from this experience. Within the last 11 months, I have gained experience in both nanny and day care.

Looking for childcare is one of the most stressful things a mother can go through, and certainly one of the most stressful experience I have ever gone through. It was stressful when I was searching for daycare and it was also stressful when I was searching for a nanny. However, daycare and nanny are different animals. I feel like I now have some perspective on this so I can compare the two.

Infant Care Nanny Day Care
Location Your Home Provider’s Home
Relationship Employer-Employee Consumer-Service Provider
Ratio 1-to-1 1-to4, as required by State
Schedule Flexible Standard
Licensing No Yes
Legal requirements Hard Easy
Waiting List No Yes
Likelihood to get sick Less More kids, more chances
Level of control you have High Low
Reliability One person Depends on size


While there is licensed and unlicensed daycare, in general daycare providers (home or larger centers) are regulated. Each state has licensing requirements for daycare centers and regulates them. Looking at daycares involves you going out to them. You can go to a local child care referral organization to get a list of daycares that are near your work or home. The information you get may not be up to date or complete though. The daycare might not have vacancy by the time you call them, or you might not get much more information than a name and phone number. It is up to you to do your leg work, call as many as possible and then go visit them. You will need to talk to the daycare provider and go check out the environment. The bigger the daycare, the more likely your child will get sick, and if your child is sick you will need to keep him/her home. On the other hand, the bigger daycare also gives you more reliability — if one of the staff is sick, someone else will be there to fill in.

Looking for a good nanny is to look for a good relationship — someone you can trust with your most valued treasure in the world and in your home. Ultimately, though, the relationship is an employer-employee relationship, and you will have to do your homework not only in scoping out the nanny, but also nailing down the administrative stuff like contracts, payroll, and taxes. Not all nannies will work when the child is sick, and you will need to have backup when the nanny is sick. Spelling out what you want and being very detailed about it is very important. The funny thing about this industry is that it is a popular “payment under the table” industry and you may find yourself working harder to do things legally. You are the boss, and being the boss is also not easy. You will have to manage your nanny, communicate well, and fire your nanny if things don’t work out for any reason.

Finding good child care is by far the most stressful thing that a mother, especially a working mother, will need to do. There is no easy choice.