The great childcare question
Child care centres or in-home babysitting? Stay at home yourself or get professional carers, friends and relatives helping out? Getting the right child care in place can make the average adult want to sit down on the floor and throw the world’s biggest wobbly – and that’s not even considering the cost! Do you know what all the options are, and which one is right for you?
As much as we all love our kids, at the end of a long, hard day at work the very last thing we want to face is a pre-school temper tantrum (because, let’s face it – we sometimes don’t feel too far from wanting to throw one ourselves!). And it turns out that our kids might be suffering from a long, hard day at day care too! While studies have shown that kids who attend child care are more likely to be social and outgoing, new research suggests that kids who attend child care are more likely to suffer a developmental delay that makes them prone to frustration and screaming, so those terrible twos are going on even longer. In efforts to combat this, the government is introducing measures to improve the quality of child care and improve the qualifications of carers. Sounds great right? Well, maybe it is – but it’s pricey: the Productivity Commission reports that child care fees could go up by up to $42.75 a week as a result of these reforms.
Child care can be a frustrating business for parents and kids alike, so now might be a good time to review our options for the new year and find out what’s right for us – and what won’t break the budget!
Set up shop at home
Ever dreamed of walking out of the office for good and going into business for yourself? Well, now you can say you’re doing it for the kids! Having at least one parent working from home could potentially go a long way toward solving your childcare problems – without forcing either parent to give up their income. In Australia small businesses make up 35 per cent of industry (value added), so working for yourself can work out great – though you do have to make sure your business is registered properly and that you can get any necessary permits for operating out of a residential area. Of course, even though you’re at home, you’ll still be working and the kids will need to be entertained. Check out the 30 Day Challenge program for lots of fantastic, low-cost ideas for keeping the kids occupied while you bring home the bacon. Your local library can be a big asset, providing you with fun, educational books and toys – and introducing your kids to the games you played as a kid can ‘recycle’ the fun to a new generation. And when the work day is done, you won’t have to face a long commute before you get to spend quality time with them!
Share and share alike
Keeping the kids at home may cut back on the temper tantrums you have to face, but you still need to go out sometimes! If you only work part-time, or your schedule is flexible, consider forming your own ‘day care’ group with other parents: you can arrange to watch all the kids on certain days of the week in exchange for other parents watching yours when you need to work. On the other hand, if you need a full-time approach, or you’d just like a more professional arrangement, you could look into ‘nanny sharing’. Groups of parents can pool their resources to hire a nanny or babysitter to watch the kids – buying in a group allows you to split the cost, and you can arrange with the other parents whose house will be ‘home base’ when the nanny is in action.
Of course, for some of us, professional child care centres really are the most sensible option. Finding the most affordable options can be tricky, but there are some resources to help. Mychild.gov.au offers a search function to help you locate centres near you, and you can opt to select only centres that offer information on their fees so you can find something that suits your budget. Remember to look into the Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate to make sure you’re getting any assistance you’re eligible for.
Ultimately, finding the right child care options is all about deciding what’s going to work best for your family. There are a lot of different alternatives out there, so find something that makes you comfortable and stick with it. And the next time your pre-schooler throws a bit of a wobbly over how frustrating it all is – you can tell them you know exactly how they feel!
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Tags: 30 day challenge, child care fees, child care centres, money management
Wilson Luna is an author, wealth adviser and founder of Your Family Your Money. Your Family Your Money’s goal is to simplify traditionally complex financial strategies, demystify financial jargon and debunk common financial myths, becoming every family’s first stop for financial advice, information and inspiration.