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Have you discovered that traditional childcare centres are not the right fit for your family?

Are all the childcare centres in your local area unsuitable for your family’s needs?

Do you have more than one child and the cost of childcare centres mean returning to work isn’t worth it?

Before giving up on returning to work altogether, explore some childcare alternatives that could be the perfect fit for your family’s needs.

Family Daycare

Family daycare centres are the closest to a traditional childcare centre while providing a more ‘homely’ or ‘family’ experience for your child.

Typically Family Daycare Centres are run by a mother or father that have childcare experience but want the option to remain at home with their own children.

Pros:

As Family Daycare Centres are typically run by one or two qualified (minimum Certificate III) carers, the enrollment numbers are less as Family Daycare Centres still must abide by the Child to Carer ratios, which is four children to one carer.

With fewer children in the centre, your child is more likely to have more than adequate attention paid to them.

Family Daycare Centres are still required (in Australia) to adhere to the National Quality Framework that the traditional, corporate childcare centres are governed by. This means that the quality of care of a family daycare centre is not compromised.

In Australia, families are still entitled to the government issued Childcare Subsidy for family daycare centres.

Some family daycares may offer care outside of traditional business hours, which is perfect for shift-workers.

The family environment provided is conducive to your child’s learning needs being fulfilled and a sense of security being satisfied at all times.

Check out the Family Day Care Australia’s website for more information to see if family daycare is one of the childcare alternatives that are more suitable for your family.

Cons:

As there are typically only one or two carers in the Family Daycares, if your carer is sick, it can be hard for a replacement to be found. This means you may need to take a day off work if your carer is unable to care for your child. The same goes for when carers book holidays.

Au-Pair

An Au Pair is a carer that typically lives with the family and cares for the children of the family and does domestic chores while the parents work, often in exchange rent, food and utilities, and perhaps a small allowance.

Au Pairs are usually young foreign travellers who are seeking work while they travel around the world. Young people often seek to do Au Pair work to experience the culture, including learning the language, of the country they are visiting while making a small allowance to fund their travels.

A fantastic resource on Au Pairs and the legalities involved can be found here. If an Au Pair is an attractive childcare alternative for your family, checking the Au Pair World including information on visas required.

Pros:

Often the Au Pair is a native speaker of a language other than your own, providing an enriching cultural environment for your children, including the opportunity to learn another language.

This is a more cost-effective childcare solution for families with more than one child, that cannot afford the costs of a corporate childcare centre. An Au Pair often helps with domestic chores, which provides immense assistance for the family.

Cons:

As Au Pairs are often transient people, you will often be replacing your Au Pair as they leave to continue their travels.

The Australian Working Visa only allows an Au Pair to work with one employer for a maximum of 12 months, sometimes less depending on the citizenship of your Au Pair.

Transient Au Pairs could cause attachment issues for the child who must get used to a new carer each time.

It is hard to know if Au Pair will be a good fit for your family’s dynamic. It will be a matter of practice to effectively screen the Au Pair’s to determine the perfect fit for your family.

Friends or Family:

You could also save a lot of money (especially if you have more than one child that required childcare) by utilising friends and family. This is a great way for grandparents to feel involved in their grandchild’s life.

Pros:

You could save a lot of your hard earned money by utilising friends and family to care for your child on particular days of the week.

Even if you set up a barter system with friends that care for your child, this would be exponentially cheaper for you.

This could be an option used in conjunction with traditional childcare if the expense of traditional childcare is too much full time but friends or family can only commit to one or two days per week.

My daughter spends two days with my mother and we use daycare for the other three days.

This is an excellent way for loved ones to spend more time with your child and help form meaningful relationships. I used to love spending days with my grandmother as a child, in her sewing room while she worked, while my mum was studying.

Cons:

You will need to have 100% faith in the friend or relative you are trusting to care for your child, that they will respect your parenting choices, even if they don’t agree with them.

If you cannot be 100% certain that your parenting choices are respected, then you cannot leave your child with that person.

Friction between the parent and friend will not be a positive influence on your child.

It also will not make your parenting easier if the friend or relative is undermining your parenting choices while your child is in their care.

It would be terribly annoying to hear your child protest about eating vegetables at home because they are allowed to eat chocolate at grandmas, just as one example.

Children need consistency between carers that they spend significant amounts of time with.

Friends or relatives may have commitments that arise from time to time that mean they cannot care for your child that day. Which means you either need to take a day off work (which is fine if you have annual leave up your sleeve) or scramble to find alternative care.

What are your childcare alternatives?

At the end of the day, you can only choose childcare for your family if it’s the right decision financially, and the right decision intuitively.

The expense may be worth it if mum is experiencing mental health issues from being at home all the time. Or if career advancement in the future means that utilising care is a long-term investment for your family.

I hope all of these options, along with my previous article about styles of education available in traditional childcare (you can read that here) help you make a choice that is right for your family.

What do you guys think about childcare? Does it work for your family? Do you utilise alternative solutions to traditional childcare? Is there an alternative you use that I have not covered here? Comment your experiences down below so I can see how we all make it work as busy parents.

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