Child care

Child care – your options

I took my son for his first day at a proper child care centre last week, with my knees shaking as I walked. While I was hyperventilating at the stress of leaving my two year old with a big group of strangers for the first time, he barely looked back as I left him playing happily with a train set. When I picked him up later he was smiling and excited to tell me about his day so it was a total waste of energy for me to be so worried.

Choosing which type of care you’ll put your child into is a big decision. Here’s a quick rundown of the different options and what they’ll cost you.

Child Care Centre
Privately owned child care centres have a range of children from small babies to pre-schoolers and lots of qualified carers to keep them entertained, fed, clean and safe. They can be quite pricey – up to $140 per day in some inner city centres but you’re entitled to a 50% rebate on the costs, capped at $7500 for the year. Most kids love the bright and fun environments of these centres and many even provide nappies and food. The drawback is that colds and other bugs can spread between the kids quite quickly, resulting in missed days that you still have to pay for. Lots of child care centres have long waiting lists so it’s worth putting your name down for a few as soon as your child is born if you live in a highly populated area.

Family Day Care
You have the option to send your child to the home of a qualified, approved carer along with two or three other children. Family Day Care Australia is overseen by the government and can be really cost effective because it’s only around $10 an hour and you still get the child care rebate. Complications can arise when your child’s carer is sick or on holidays, leaving you searching for an alternative.

Occasional Care
These child care centres don’t lock you into set days and set fees – you only pay for the days that your children attend. As with child care and family day care, it’s a good idea to check them out and let your child become comfortable there gradually before you leave them for full days.

Nannies
Nannies offer one on one care for your child or children in your home, for as many hours as you want to pay them for. You don’t get any cash back on a nanny, so they’re an expensive option, but you might be able to get them to do some housework for you if you ask nicely! Nannies charge per hour, starting from around $18 depending on their age and qualifications. They are a great option if you don’t work 9 to 5.

Nanny share
There are agencies which will put you in touch with other families keen to share a nanny in your area. The nanny will look after children from both families and the cost to you will be less than an exclusive nanny. Have a look online for a nanny sharing agency near you.

Mummy Nanny
I missed out on getting my son Rafferty into child care or approved family day care when he turned one and I needed to go back to work so I found an amazing Mummy Nanny who was qualified to work with children but who had her own daughter to look after. We worked out a price that equated to about as much as I’d have been paying at a big centre after the rebate and Raff just loved visiting her and her little girl while I was at work.

Trading off
If you’re not working full time you can team up with another mother in a similar situation and watch each other’s kids on your days off. This is essentially free but you might find yourself wishing you were at work full time on busy days when you have more than one child in your care!

Au Pair
An Au Pair is usually a young student or traveller from overseas. They live with you and care for your kids for between $200 and $300 a week and work to conditions that you’ve all agreed upon. Some won’t come if they can’t have their own bathroom and others will only work with children over the age of two. Au Pairs are really cost effective for big families if you’ve got the space and don’t mind opening your home to a stranger.

Grandparents
Who loves your kids as much as you do? You’re in luck if you have access to grandparents who are keen to take on some child care. They take payment in the form of hugs and kisses!

Different mums find different solutions that work for them and their families. Good luck deciding on the child care option that works for you!
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