How to Pick the Right Childcare Option: Daycares, Nannies, Au Pairs and More

Finding the right childcare is HARD! Hard, hard, hard. Some of us are luckier than others – having amazing family members around to help or living close to an awesome daycare! But the decision to leave your children all day in the hands of someone else isn’t easy. Most and many families need (or want!) two working parents, which leads to the wonderful world of childcare!

Below I outline options as an easy way to think through your decisions as a family. I hope it helps same you some time and energy!

1. Daycare

If you are lucky enough to find a daycare that is close to home or work, has availability, is affordable for your family and you like it, you have completely scored! Every town and city is different – varying by availability, cost, practices and proximity. If this is the route you plan to go, you should evaluate your options by touring daycares while you are pregnant so that you can sign-up or join the waitlist. Daycare centers and at-home daycares are your options in this bucket, they both have their pros and cons to consider. See my post here for more on evaluating daycares.

2. Family

If you are so fortunate to have family nearby that is willing and able to care for your young ones while you work – awesome! You will save on childcare costs and have the best benefit of all – your children spending time with family.

Make sure to have the necessary conversations upfront:

  • The times you will need coverage each week or year
  • Your daily expectations of the caregiver when they are with your children
  • How you can support them and thank them for this help
  • Their expectations of you in this arrangement
  • The best ways to communicate during the day or over the week
  • How you will continue to align for schedule changes, discipline, activities, and more.

It is important to make sure you are on the same page before starting this journey as it could get hairy if you don’t see eye to eye or have different expectations of the role, hours and potential compensation.

3. Nanny/Babysitter

The world of apps and the internet has changed the ability to find and retain an in-home childcare provider. My parents once told me that they use to follow the high school bus route home and ask kids getting off if anyone was interested in babysitting!

Make sure to:

  1. Review profiles thoroughly
  2. Read any reviews on their past experience
  3. Scope out their public image via social media
  4. Speak to references by phone (do not take an old recommendation letter “to the bank”!)
  5. Interview the candidate by Facetime and in-person
  6. Consider completing a background check on your candidate
  7. Consider asking them for their driving records
  8. Have them complete a paid “trial” (while you are there) before committing to hiring them (even if it is just a couple of hours). See my post here about this.

If you can find a caregiver through a friend, neighbor or family member who has firsthand experience, even better! Once you are confident, make sure you put your expectations of their duties and your compensation offer on the table in a clear way. They should understand the hours, your expectations of them with the children during the day, household rules, the hours, protocol for sick days or vacation time, compensation for driving the children or performing other duties (as necessary), when and how you will pay them for their time, and any other perks, benefits or standards. Check out my post here for more on this!

Some great search options for in-home childcare:

4. Nanny/Babysitter Share

A“Nanny Share” is a super popular way to have in-home care in many areas. See my post here for more about the logistics of a Nanny Share. There are quite a few pros and cons to this option.


  • Cost splitting between families
  • Socialization and friendship between children
  • Camaraderie between families
  • “Burden” sharing between families


  • Logistics can be more complicated
  • Personality matching must be on point between the families and each family with the nanny/sitter
  • Misunderstanding or disagreements may arise

5. Au Pair

We are currently on the Au Pair train. Our experience has been mixed. Our first au pair only lasted three weeks with our family and was generally a stressful, annoying, disaster. But, we gave it another shot and we are sure glad we did! Our current au pair is an amazing caregiver and wonderful part of our family! Visit my post here to explore the pros and cons of this option.

I did a TON of research on agencies to make sure I would be going through a reputable and trustworthy source. We ended up using both Au Pair Care and Cultural Care and ultimately ended up with our au pair through Au Pair Care. There are tons of sites out there, do not neglect to do your research!

6. Live-in Nanny/Sitter

Depending on your arrangement, this is either more affordable or more expensive than other options. I have known people who have traded childcare hours for room and board (especially if you live in a great place!), and others who require live-in and offer additional cash compensation for this convenience. Depending on your household needs and space in your home, this may or may not be an option to consider.

7. Gyms & Family Clubs

Gyms and other “clubs” have cropped up on the radar with some childcare offerings. This may include places like the YMCA and the JCC in various area, or newer additions to the field like The Wonder in NYC, the Bay Area’s ‘Bay Clubs’ and more. Some places require you to stay on site and set strict limits on hours while others are more lenient depending on their licensing and staffing. These places may allow you to have a coffee kid-free, take a business phone call, or work-out, depending on the set-up.

For us, The Bay Club became our second home when we were short on childcare. While the kids hung-out in their supervised play centers, I used the business center to work remotely. I suspect more and more options like this will arise and allow for parents to get some kid-free time to get things done. Though, it doesn’t replace full-time care if that is what you need.

8. Parent Swap

If you can find another parent to swap with, this is a great option! It doesn’t sit well for full-time care but could lend to some hours here and there. My mom used to switch-off with another mother in my community a few times a week. She would take Emily twice a week. Em’s mom would take me twice a week. Thirty-two years later, that’s still my best friend! Check out your local ‘mother’s club’ or community mom’s facebook group to see if anyone is interested!