Day Care vs. Babysitter: Which is Better?

As a parent, one of the things we might have to do is work… outside the home. You know. A job that brings in money. Part of this may result in your child(ren) being in day care. I know a lot of you who read here are stay at home moms, but I also know many of you work.

While I’m not sure when I’m going to work, and at what hours they will be at, and even if I will need to find care for Lucas, I want to look at all options available. Even though I think I already know what I want and what is best, it’s great to hear from other moms who have been-there-done-that.

My wish is that when I have to find care for Lucas it will be someone that comes to our house. I don’t care how much it cost. It’s worth it! Honestly, I dread putting my son in day care. It scares the crap out of me.

I want to look at both though: a day care center or a babysitter/nanny. Which is better, and why?

I’ve worked in both settings. . In my experience, the day care centers were always busy, crowded and dirty. When I watched children at their home, we played games, ate healthier foods, they slept in their own beds and had loads of fun.

Maybe some parents don’t have a choice in which care they choose. What did you choose and why or what do you hope to choose when you return to work?

Here are a few positives and negatives in both situations… 

Positives of Day Care Center:
  • Play and socialize with with other kids (we get this from play groups!) 
  • Be around a wide variety of people and activities 
  • Usually cheaper than home babysitter (around $3-7/hour from what I’ve seen so far)
Negatives of Day Care Center:
  • Lots of children
  • Not as much (or any) 1 on 1 time with child
  • More germs
  • Different care givers- high turn around rate at most day care centers 
  • Food isn’t as healthy 
Positives of Home Babysitter:
  • Child can nap at home and be in his/her own environment
  • 1 on 1
  • If your child is on a “special” diet or you use cloth diapers or have “special” requests, it’s easier to meet them
  • You can get to know the care giver better and feel more comfortable with them 
  • You don’t have any say in what they play with (at home you provide the toys, games, crafts, etc) 
Negatives of Home Babysitter:
  • More expensive ($8-11/hour)
  • What if they cancel last minute? A day care center would always be open. 
What else is negative about having a home babysitter? Anything?
I know I’m missing a lot of positives and negatives here, so I’d love to hear from you. What has been your experience with a day care or a babysitter?

Side note: My husband and I are going to open a day care center… one day. I have high expectations for the care that a center provides. HIGH. I have not been impressed with any of the day care/learning centers I have seen around here. I hope that one day I’m able to open the most amazing center ever!

Published by Samantha Mellen

Certified personal trainer & health coach helping women transform their lives through fitness, abundant mindset coaching and internal peace. Mom of two boys, living life in Alaska.

32 thoughts on “Day Care vs. Babysitter: Which is Better?

  1. I prefer in home care. We have a sitter that lives just across the street that charges us only $30 a day for both kids, 2 days a week. She gives them healthy foods and naps in beds and takes them to the park and all sorts of good things. She has 2 kids herself so there is nice group interaction. Plus she can give one on one attention which is important since my son is potty training. She is a nurse that works weekends so I am comfortable having the kids there. Works for us!

  2. I think it depends… you hear stories about home babysitters abusing or neglecting kids… which usually doesn't happen in daycare since you always have more than one person watching them. This doesn't happen often, I know…. but you just never know unless you know the person, ya know?

  3. We are a military family and our situations change just about constantly so as you can imagine I have had every kind of babysitter/daycare service imaginable for my two oldest children. I would have to say out of all of them I prefer my children being in a Developmental Daycare Center. In these centers they actually work with your child and teach them things that you would teach them if you were able to be home with them. They have strict policys on cleanliness and organization and for the most part they are monitored closely by the state they are in.(Every state has their own laws of course) Children also become socialized with other children and learn to be independant. For most children this type of atmosphere is very entertaining and enriching. If you find a quality center the turn around is not so much because the people love their jobs and stay.

    I would definately stay away from in home sitters (the type that run the center from their home) just because there are so many variables with these types of centers and they are not as highly monitored as say your own house or a daycare facility would be.

    The only other option would be to have someone come inside your house but they tend to be more costly and who knows what they would try to teach your child. Of course if you were to find the right person than that would be a different story.

  4. We are a military family and our situations change just about constantly so as you can imagine I have had every kind of babysitter/daycare service imaginable for my two oldest children. I would have to say out of all of them I prefer my children being in a Developmental Daycare Center. In these centers they actually work with your child and teach them things that you would teach them if you were able to be home with them. They have strict policys on cleanliness and organization and for the most part they are monitored closely by the state they are in.(Every state has their own laws of course) Children also become socialized with other children and learn to be independant. For most children this type of atmosphere is very entertaining and enriching. If you find a quality center the turn around is not so much because the people love their jobs and stay.

    I would definately stay away from in home sitters (the type that run the center from their home) just because there are so many variables with these types of centers and they are not as highly monitored as say your own house or a daycare facility would be.

    The only other option would be to have someone come inside your house but they tend to be more costly and who knows what they would try to teach your child. Of course if you were to find the right person than that would be a different story.

  5. I am a working mom and have been since my kids were babies. It's a tough balance, but it is doable.

    We chose to use a daycare center that is close to our home vs. close to our workplace (I work 25 miles away). We toured several centers before choosing the one we have been at for 3 1/2 years. We chose it for several reasons:

    Minimal dates closed (holidays, etc.) because neither of us get most of the holidays off.
    There are no sick days… they are always open.
    There is always someone there as back-up in case something happens while our kids are there, whether it be lack of patience, illness, emergency, etc.
    Our center has a low turnover rate and always has since they opened 10years ago.
    They have a very structured program & automatically turns into a reputable preschool program when the kids turn 3.
    Flexible hours… we can drop off/pick-up early/late depending on our work schedules.
    It is secure… no one is driving them around.
    I could go on & on.
    Most of all, we have grown to have a great parent-teacher relationship with all of their teachers.

    We did not explore the option of having someone come into our home because we wanted our kids to experience a setting with other children their age.

    We did tour a few in-home places and they freaked me out. There were too many age ranges in one house… not enough focus on any one particular age group for long enough periods. They can call in sick at their own leisure and take vacations. They are not typically as structured as a center. I don't like TV for my kids & I can't control that if they have a TV in their home.

    It is a tough decision, but ultimately you have to do what feels right for your family. They should all be willing to allow a drop-in visit so you can get a feel for what they are like on your terms.

    Please don't get down on yourself for having to make this decision. It does not make you any different as a mom and Lucas will turn out to be just fine. It is a part of life and in the long run, he will respect you for that 🙂

  6. I was just sick thinking about leaving my son to go back to work. I desperately wanted to stay at home with him, but with student loans to pay off, I needed to work. I searched all around and did not find much that I liked. I would cry and cry any time I thought about leaving my son in a daycare or with someone I didn't know. Finally, I found out that a woman from my church was willing to babysit. She is a stay at home mom of 6 (5 are in school all day), a strong Christian, very pro-breastfeeding (so I could send breast milk rather than formula), was willing to cloth diaper, has a degree in psychology-and believes in meeting the emotional needs of the child, takes the kids to story time at the library, was cpr certified and a certified child caregiver, and treats every kid with tons of love. It is so wonderful having her. She only has her 2 year old at home during the day, and she babysits an 18 month old occasionally. I know that my son gets the attention he needs with her, and she is so concerned about his well-being. My son has had some health problems, and she has been praying for him, and has been extra sensitive to his needs. I can not explain how grateful I am to have a child care provider like her. I have a degree in education and know from experience the importance of children having one-on-one attention. I knew that many daycare centers are unable to provide the kind of attention that is optimal for developing children. Having a babysitter like I do makes it so that my son basically has a second family. During the hours he is at the sitters, I know that he lives in a way that is similar to how he would if he were at home with me. Plus, it is wonderful to see how he lights up when he sees his sitter-he just loves her 🙂

  7. Oh, man, if someone like you opened a day care i would consider it! I won't even take Jordan to the gym one so i can work out for an hour! i took logan a few times and there were kids either A) staring blankly at teh tv or B) chewing on the filthiest toy EVER! No thank you!

    I feel so lucky that I am able to stay at home and it stinks to live on one income but we can get by for now. My only babysitter (Mom) lives 6 hours away! I would have trouble trusting someone else, but I guess I'd choose in-home over a center, and in your post, it sounds like that's what you'd prefer too.

  8. I was a nanny for 13 years before having my daughter, and I worked in a daycare before that. I personally feel the nanny route is the best, if you can afford it. There are people that choose the nanny field as a career, as I had done, and if you find a good match, to me it's the next best thing as a stay at home mom.

    One of the negatives about daycare is that if your kid is sick, they can't come in. I think that balances out the negative that a nanny may need a sick day.

    The main thing is to be comfortable with who you leave your child with, no matter if it's at your house or at a daycare. When you find that right match you'll know.

  9. Lauren has only been in a center so that is pretty much all I can comment on, although I was at an in home sitter when I was younger. Lauren's center is very structured. They have specific times to do crafts and they even have preschool time. She has learned so much. They have a lady come in once a week to do special music time with them above and beyond what they normally do and Lauren loves it. Sure there is lots of kids but I think that helps her socialize better. There also might be kids that come and go and I think that helps her to adjust to new and changing enviornment.

    If I were going to switch her to an in home sitter I would want to make sure she would be getting the same kind of daily activities and not be sat in front of a tv all day.

  10. I have my child in a home daycare, and I have to disagree with the previous comment regarding monitoring. Mine is licensed by the state (which was something we wanted), and she gets visits from her inspector randomly about once a month (sometimes more frequently). She has a rough schedule she follows, and adapts it towards the ages of the children she cares for. Activities include age appropriate arts and crafts, LOTS of outdoor time (she has a beautiful huge backyard), and learning time. I feel like I get the best of both worlds….my son gets social interaction with the 5 other children there, but the small number of children limits his exposure to germs (although I feel some exposure to germs is good!!). She has backups for when she is sick, so I don't have to worry about that. She is also pretty strict about not accepting sick children, which I think keeps the germs to a minimum.

    The key for me….when I have picked him up the last week or so, he cries when he leaves. AS heartbreaking as that is for me, it helps me to know he loves it there and is well cared for. She has been doing this for 15 years, and that in itself says a lot to me.

    Although I would love to have someone come to my home, it would almost negate my husband's income. You can't get GOOD help here for less than $10-12 per hour….include your commuting time, and you are paying about 45 hours a week….$24-28K per year. Compare that to what your take-home pay is, and you may find it isn't worth it.

  11. It depends. There are always pros and cons of everything. Including Daycare and Babysitters.

    I have had both and overall, prefer daycare. Reason being my son can interact with other children which is very important to me. We don't live very close to family, where he can see his cousins and what not and we just moved to a new neighborhood and know NO one so the social interaction is important. I also like how there is more then ONE adult on hand for the children. Of course there are things I don't like [like him always getting a snotty nose… etc].

    I had a babysitter for about a year. She was good but at the same time, LAZY! I would come home for lunch [I worked right down the road] and she would have all the blinds shut, lights off… it was so dark in the house. She would be lounging on the couch just watching TV. I later found out that whenever my son went down for his naps… GUESS WHO ELSE went down for a nap too? The sitter! Normally I wouldn't mind but im not paying you to take naps at my house. I am paying you to be alert and there for my son.

  12. We don't use either but my brother and his wife do. They took their dughter to a daycare and they ended up taking her out due to repeated illness. She got headlice, not an illness but she missed school, then she got the flu, then scarlet fever. There are just too many germs floating around. Since they took her out she hasn't been sick and she is going to public school so she is around more people than at daycare.

    Also the daycare was closed holidays that they still had to work so they ended up getting sitters on top of that.

  13. My husband has worked at a few highly respected daycare centers, and so I know first hand that i would never put my baby in one. Ever. Unless it was a in-home daycare with an exceptional person and that baby being the only infant there. Definitely. I'd hire an in-home babysitter first.

    Kids, I think i would use a daycare, since it's just fun playtime for them.

    Toddlers, I'm not sure. I think it depends the kid and the level of personal interaction & closeness they prefer for their care provider. Daycare teachers, regardless of the quality of the daycare (usually) are stretched really thin so they don't really get any 1-on-1 time with any of the kids, and some really need that.

  14. oh, and most daycare centers are stretched really thin on staff too. At the last place my husband worked, he had to come into work regardless of how sick he was. He even threw up there a few times and had to fight to go home. Not a good place for young immune systems, IMO.

    his new place is much better about that, but still any illness spreads like wildfire! Sick kids (and sick husbands) are no fun.

  15. We started with a in home day care and had a awful experience. Then we had our parents watch our daughter. Then we hired a babysitter, that lasted a little less than a year then we hired another that lasted a week. I loved the first babysitter. Now we are lucky enough to have found a daycare/preschool that is perfect. It is owned by someone we met through church so its someone we can trust. Its clean. Organic and natural whole foods are served. It is not in a living place. If I could be a sahm I would do so in a heartbeat but that is just not possible.

  16. I was a nanny for a year and a half. The family that hired me had never met me before they called me for an interview. They did a background check, a driver's license check, and a credit check. I'm pretty sure they called all fifteen or so personal references I had provided them. Both of them also made a point to drop by unannounced during the day, which I thought was very wise. They were also close friends with many of their neighbors who (I could tell) were keeping a close eye on us. So, there can be plenty of accountability even in these sorts of arrangements. You may have to work a little harder at it, but it's possible.
    I loved those kids like they were my own. On weekends, I continually felt like I was missing something when I'd go places without them.
    One perk for them was that on days that needed to be slow (because they had a cold, or had participated in a big activity the day before, or had gotten exhausted over the weekend) we could have a slow day. On days they needed to get out and play and run and go, I could easily accommodate that as well. I think children benefit from a general routine, but they are not robot,s and they have needs from day to day that “schedules” cannot always accommodate.
    They napped beautifully for me, in their own beds (after a few weeks of playing “who's the boss.” We could go places with their family friends and their former nanny and her children, so they stayed very connected to them (and were PLENTY socialized–believe you me). Plenty of outside play time was very important to their mother (for good reason) and so that was a top priority for us everyday.
    Additionally, they had an opportunity to learn that they are not the center of the universe all day. Sometimes, we had to stop by the store. Sometimes, I had to get gas in the car. Sometimes, I had to load the dishwasher. I think it's important that children see the daily work that has to be done, and that it is a part of life. It's not all music time, then snack, then play time, then art. And stopping an activity is more than just “clean up time” and “nap time.” It's life, with pauses and rhythms and other peoples' needs to be met–including adults' needs.
    I honestly think in-home care costs more for a reason. Just my two cents, 'cause you asked. =)

  17. This comment isn't about daycare, but I wanted to tell you about a book we read in our home and I thought of you. It's called (I'm A Big Brother!) written by Ronne Randall. It's a great book AND the little boys name is Luke. My Lukas loves it even though we don't call him Luke. Just thought I would share with you

  18. I would opt for in-home care for the positive reasons you mentioned. But, unless you're taking home 15-20 bucks an hour at your job, one-on-one in-home care would be eating up the majority of what you're working so hard to make (going by our local rates, at least.)

    Would you ever consider taking on one more child to watch in your home part-time? A few moms I know do this, and they mostly love it. They make about the same amount of money as they would working outside the home minus child-care expenses. And they get to be with their child all day! It seems like you would be especially “desirable” to parents who want to cloth diaper and breastfeed.

  19. I've had good experiences with both. It just depends on the situation and sometimes on the child.

    I love your blog! I'll be back.

    Come on over for some mom inspiration and encouragement.

  20. In today’s society, there are many benefits of hiring a nanny:

    1. COST. If you have two or more children, it may be cost effective for you to hire a nanny as many daycare centers can cost you more. Also, many families are using “nanny share”. This is an arrangement in which two families share one nanny. This cuts down on costs but you still experience the benefits of having a nanny.

    2. HEALTH OF THE CHILDREN. You may have healthier children by keeping them away from the large groups of children typically found in daycare. Germs are easily spread from child to child, so daycare centers can be breeding grounds for every cold and flu of the season. When your children contract illnesses, it takes an emotional toll on both you and your children. Further, they may miss school, you may miss work, and you may incur expenses associated with doctor’s visits and medications. Your children’s exposure to germs, and thus the risks discussed here, can be dramatically diminished by simply using the services of a nanny.

    3. WORKPLACE PRODUCTIVITY. If your children are sick, many daycare centers will not accept your children. However, if you have a nanny…http://blog.nannies4hire.com/benefits-of-hiring-a-nanny-2/309

  21. For our family our lil one who was born at 25wks our doctors strongly advise us to not put our children in day care too many germs and if he gets sick it will be dangerous. So our kids don't go. I have heard a lot of horror stories of day care. So I guess everyone has a different story, if I had no choice I would do an inhome babysitter!!!

  22. For us daycare was what worked out best – we started out at a small center then moved to a home daycare setting.

    The home daycare setting was the perfect situation for us. There were kids to socialize with, but still a lot of one on one attention. At most there were 8 kids there and 2 adults, but usually it was just 4 or 5 kids. My boys LOVED it!!

    And while yes, daycare does mean your kids will be more sick this only actually lasts for the first 6-10 months that they are there, after that their immune systems are stronger and they aren't sick as often.

    I definitely think their are pros and cons to both – for us daycare made the most sense – and a home daycare was the perfect situation to the concerns of being lost in the crowd.

  23. For us daycare was what worked out best – we started out at a small center then moved to a home daycare setting.

    The home daycare setting was the perfect situation for us. There were kids to socialize with, but still a lot of one on one attention. At most there were 8 kids there and 2 adults, but usually it was just 4 or 5 kids. My boys LOVED it!!

    And while yes, daycare does mean your kids will be more sick this only actually lasts for the first 6-10 months that they are there, after that their immune systems are stronger and they aren't sick as often.

    I definitely think their are pros and cons to both – for us daycare made the most sense – and a home daycare was the perfect situation to the concerns of being lost in the crowd.

  24. I am with you and have a strong preference to have someone come to my home rather than sending my (13-month-old) child to daycare. I am starting work next week and we have pieced together sitters… My husband changed his work schedule and will be home Mondays and Fridays, my neighbor who used to be a nanny and is now a substitute teaching aide will do one day a week, and the other two days my daughter will go to her grandma (my mother-in-law)'s house. This way, she will be home mostly, be able to stay on her normal routine and diet, and be mostly with family. It is a lot of different things but she has always been fine with going to different people. I do wish that our neighbor had a child, too, so that she could have some peer play time during the week, but we go to library story times, parenting group with other kids, and have play dates with friends on the weekends. Good luck in making your choice and finding the right care provider! It will work out.

  25. I did not read all of the above posts, but I will tell you that I'm a teacher and so get some of the best of both worlds. I get to stay home for holidays with my munchkin (turning 2 in May) (+ #2 on the way!) but I think he benefits from his childcare situation. Here's the lowdown on his childcare, which I LOVE!
    – It's a Montessori school.
    – There's not 1 tv in the building.
    – All the food is prepared fresh there, in the kitchen… based on the Feingold diet.
    – Along the same lines, the food prepared is very multicultural – He's tried foods that we don't serve at home b/c I wouldn't know where to begin or even think to serve them.
    – The “decor” is “homey” as opposed to lots of bright, day care colors. There are rugs, natural tones, wood furniture, and non-flourescent lights in the ceiling.
    – They spend 3-4 hours outside each day, weather permitting.

  26. I'm sure someone has said this, but here's my 2 cents: I worked for 5 months after S was born and during that time we had him in what I consider the best of both worlds – an in-home provider. I would have LOVED him to be here with a nanny, but financially, that just wasn't an option. We found a women right in our neighborhood who watches kiddos in her home. She has no more than 6 kiddos at any time, and no more than 2 of them can be under a year. We vetted her VERY carefully and thoroughly and were very happy with her. It took a lot of work to find someone we liked, but I was very happy with the arrangement. I ended up being about to stay at home, which was my ideal, but it had nothing to do with the care he was getting. I say the best of both worlds because he was getting very individualized attention and care, in a home setting, and yet because there were other kiddos – mixed ages up to 3 – he got great socialization!

  27. We really lucked out that when I had to work full time for 4 months my mother-in-law came and stayed with us and took care of our son. I stay home with our children right now but plan to go back to school in a year or two. We will probably use a daycare centre at that time but not sure. I had a nanny growing up and it was ok but it would have been nice to have been around other children more.

    Whatever you decided to do make sure the person/people who will be looking after your child have a criminal record check AND a child welfare check done. You don't want to leave your child with someone who had their own children taken away for neglect or abuse.

  28. While I hope we don't ever have to put Tommy in daycare and I can stay home until he (and any other babies!!) enter school, I know it's a possibility. I know Tom and I would prefer an in home provider, but Tom is very nervous about allowing strangers alone in our home with our baby for the following reasons:

    1. We have guns in the home. They're locked up and ammo isn't with the guns, but still. The 'what ifs' are scary

    2. There's no one to babysit the babysitter if that makes sense

    3. Babysitters snoop. We've all done it, and they'll continue to do it. What if they steal something?

    4. They'll need a key, which means they'll always have access to your home even when they're not babysitting.

    With that said, I'd still prefer an in home provider. We'd only hire someone from an agency or reputable site like care.com or sittercity.com and since Tom's a cop he can run a background check.

    You can always get a nanny cam too! To be honest, I'd probably have them come over for a couple of hours to start, set up the nanny cam, stay close to home and observe. That way you can come home at anytime if you don't like what you see. I'd also recommend randomly dropping by. Catch them by surpise. Once you do these thinga a few time you'll know better how comfortable you are with them in your home with your child.

  29. I have choosen a daycare center. I have a friend who had their baby shaken by a in home provider. For me the center is piece of mind. There are always two people in my son's room, if one teacher gets upset she can step out instead of hurting my child. There are dirty busy daycares out there but with a little looking you can find a safe clean, loving center.

  30. One negative of an at home babysitter is that you are sort of at their mercy. There are no checks and balances on that person and how they want to watch your kid. Obviously choosing an awesome babysitting up front will take care of many of the problems, but still, if the babysitter wants to do something differently than how you have requested it, there's nobody around to remind her that she needs to do it your way. Also, there's nobody to offer the caregiver a respite from the baby on those difficult days.

    But with that said, I still wish I could bring someone to my house to watch the baby. My little one is in daycare because it costs about $5/hour. I just can't afford $10/hour, which seems to be the starting cost around here.

  31. As a nanny and ex-daycare employee, Nanny is better. Negative- when YOU or the NANNY decides to leave when your child is VERY attatched to this person and is use to seeing them 5 days a week 40+ hours.

    Amanda

  32. I am a babysitter myself, i live off of it. i just recently lost 2 jobs due to day care… im just about to be jobless and thanks to this childcare place. can anyone tell me why? i clean, cook, read to the child(ren)….. what can a day care give that i cant? and just because of a 5 dollar knock off…

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