Data from Pew Research shows that, since 1965, mothers have almost tripled the amount of paid work they do each week, and dual-income households have become more the norm than the exception. Equal shares of working mothers and fathers say it is difficult to balance work and family responsibilities and often they feel rushed or pulled in different directions. Still, many working parents feel that remaining in the workforce is a necessity or beneficial for their families.
Busy parents often seek assistance to help manage their families' daily activities. Parents must weigh a host of factors when choosing among the various types of caregivers who specialize in looking after children.
One of the first types of places working parents turn to when looking for caregivers for their children are neighborhood daycare centers. These generally licensed and state- or province-managed centers charge a tuition for enrollment in a set number of hours per week or month. Daycare centers may operate out of private buildings or be associated with churches, schools or community centers. Some daycare facilities are run out of private homes.
Larger centers may have more flexible hours to coordinate with parents' schedules. Some daycare centers also may provide some measure of educational support to children in addition to general care, meals and entertainment. Daycare centers can be ideal places for childhood social interaction and give kids an early taste of traditional school environments.
Some children flourish under the care of a nanny, or an individual who comes into a private residence to watch children from the comfort of the children's homes. While the primary job of the nanny is to be in charge of the children, according to the Nanny Network, some nannies may be willing to do other domestic activities related directly to the children they watch. This may include cleaning, laundry and shopping. Advantage to hiring a nanny are that the childcare comes to you and the nanny can provide more focused attention for a child than that afforded kids in group settings.
An au pair is typically a young person from a different country who comes to work for a family in exchange for housing and a weekly salary. (Note: The term "au pair" also may pertain to live-in domestic childcare providers.) Au pairs may be placed through an agency, which helps regulate and screen potential caregivers. Childcare provided by an au pair can be affordable because some costs are offset by the room and board provided. However, some au pairs also are given a certain portion of funds to be put toward educational expenses.
Much like a nanny, an au pair can offer one-on-one interaction with a child and other household services as they relate to watching and managing the kids.
Parents often need a few hours here or there to bridge scheduling gaps in childcare. This is when a babysitter can be a good choice. A babysitter is often a young person who watches children for a few hours when parents are away from home. Many babysitters are family friends or neighbors with no special training in childcare. Yet, an increasing number are seeing the benefits of carrying CPR certification and other types of babysitting training offered through organizations like the Red Cross and Safe Sitter.
According to the United States Department of Labor, while wages for many American workers have stagnated, babysitters have seen their wages rise exponentially, about nine times faster than inflation rates, since the early 1980s. Sitters may fetch anywhere from $10 to $17 per hour depending on their experience. High wages also are attracting older sitters to the babysitting pool.
Working parents also have the option of relying on family members to care for their children, but this may not always be a viable long-term solution. Some families use a variety of caregiving solutions to fit their needs.
Any care provider should be thoroughly screened and vetted to ensure kids' safety.