My Story: My Daycare Experience
Do you need suggestions for inexpensive day care? You are asking the queen of daycare alternatives here! As a mom of five ranging from age 18 to age 6, I have had every arrangement known to man!
In home care tends to be cheaper than day care centers, and you have more control over who spends time with you child. Dependability here can be a drawback -- if the sitter is sick, the parent is stuck. One year we needed a sitter just for the summer, but dependability was very important to us. We found a wonderful, enthusiastic college student majoring in education. We paid a slightly lower rate than usual, and offered a bonus at the end of the summer. It was divided into two parts: one for coming every day (or arranging a mutually acceptable alternative), and one half for being on time each day. And, of course, she had to stay through the summer to get any of it! It worked very well. Had we continnued with in-home child care, we would have continued this as a quarterly bonus system.
Consider trading day care with another person who works a different shift. Even if this can't be worked out for every day, it certainly saves over nothing at all!
With center programs, check on their sick/vacation policies. Some charge you even if your child doesn't attend due to illness or vacation. Some offer a discount if you pre-pay two or more weeks at a time.
Several years ago, we had four children in daycare (during the summer), and I really was paying more than I was earning. But, had I quit my job to stay home with them, I would have lost my seniority and pay scale, and been hurting once school started again. I did NOT ask for a "scholarship" (personal choice) but many programs do offer a sliding scale. Our solution was to barter for the service. The day care's playground equipment was in awful shape, and they wanted new. They had the resources for some materials, but not enough to have someone build it, and if they didn't have to use the "pre-built" kits, they could get more for their buck. So my husband and I exchanged designs and labor for a reduction in day care expenses. They had to staff it anyway, and having my children there did not require them to add additional staff (since they were in different age groups). We negotiated an amount with the day care that made it affordable for us, and they got great equipment. It was a great solution for both of us!
This is an area, however, where cutting corners isn't always a good idea. From my experience, the most important thing is finding someone who shares your values, beliefs, and parenting style. Someone who disciplines the for same things you do in the same way you would. Someone who is free and liberal with praise and encouragement. And if that costs a little more, so be it! It is worth every penny!
As a working mother of five children (ages 18 to 6), I learned very quickly how to balance time, money, attention, and a sense of humor. My favorite activities are those in which our family can spend time together.