Going Back to Work: The Search for Quality Child Care
Child care for babies is an emotional hot topic among moms. Everybody has an opinion on the subject and to say we feel “torn” about how to manage our lives, or our employment, or our careers while raising our children and trying to have a life is definitely an understatement. Best-selling books and articles are written about it and we pay a great deal of attention to how others work out their own situation. Why? Because there is no single answer, no single solution that is adequate for everyone.
My opinion is that none of us should be made to feel guilty about our well-considered decisions. If you plan to return to employment at 6 weeks, 3 months, or a year after your baby is born, that’s FINE. If you think it’s your destiny to care for your children and home as your full-time occupation, that’s FINE too. These decisions are guided first by our belief systems and second by our capacity to make the decision actually work. Whatever choices you make, if you give your baby your best efforts (and you will), the likelihood is exceptionally high that everything will turn out JUST FINE, if not wonderfully.
Among the 9 million moms of children under the age of 3, just over half are employed (57%) and of these 70% are working full-time. So, about 5 million moms of infants have figured something out that works for them. You can too.
In this post, I provide some links to help you get started in understanding what’s involved in getting your child care needs met. Then, in the next two posts I will focus on home based and then center based child care. The National Association for the Education of Young Children has an outstanding website for parents and families including listings of accredited programs throughout the United States. The NAEYC Accreditation Standards are the most widely accepted standards for infant care though they are voluntary and not incorporated into most state standards which vary widely and are typically lower on staff qualifications and adult:child ratios.
Next, Child Care Aware will give you an overwhelming amount of information of state by state standards for home based child care providers and center based providers. It’s more technical, but check out their State by state fact sheets on child care and Costs of Child Care. Infant care is very expensive and in 35 states it is equivalent to the cost of one year of state college tuition and fees.
Last, but not least, friends and family will probably be your starting and ending point in discussing your child care options. If there is one thing to be said, it’s that what should seem like a simple thing to figure out is really a major deal. In the final analysis, that’s why your gut reaction is such an important factor in your choice.