Advice Column, Parenting

Nanny, Creché, Au Pair – What’s Best For You?

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There are few things in life that are more daunting for any parent than handing over your precious little child to someone else to care for. Whether it is a Mom returning to work after maternity leave, or a stay at home Mom needing some help at home, finding the right child care, and the right person to care for your child is a decision that requires a lot of thought and planning – and ultimately, following your instinct.

In an ideal world, or one the pictures in magazines would have us believe, we could all blissfully stay at home with our kids, frolicking in parks, doing crafts or baking, and not having a care in the world. However, in reality, most Moms today need to work, whether from home, or traveling to an office each day. Most stay-at-home Moms are also finding that they need some assistance with the kiddies, to get other tasks done, or simply for sanity sake.

Moms feel tremendous guilt about “outsourcing” their childcare. But we need to acknowledge and understand that there is nothing to feel guilty about. In past times, wealthy families would also have “governesses” or nannies, and even in the poorer families, older children and family members would help to care for smaller siblings and children. The only difference now is that we have considerably more choice about who can look after our children, and where they can be cared for. But there are always factors to consider in selecting the right childcare option.

A few questions parents can ask, when selecting the best child care are:

  1. Do we have a family member that can assist caring for our child?
  2. What budget do we have for child care?
  3. Would we prefer our child to be in a group of children, or receive one-on-one care from a caregiver?
  4. What are the most important characteristics we need in the caregiver/school/nanny?
  5. Is my child in good health, or prone to getting ill (kids with lower immune systems should be kept home)?
  6. If my child attends crèche/school, who will be able to tend to child on sick days/during school holidays – so I have a granny, friend, maid I can leave child with?

These questions will help to guide you with regards to whether having someone care for baby at home, or taking baby to crèche are more suitable.

With home-based childcare, you normally have the option of an Au Pair, or a Nanny. The main difference between Au Pairs and nannies are that Au Pairs tend to be young ladies who are studying, or have just completed studies, and are working to either gain experience, or tide themselves over. An Au Pair will have a car and driver’s license, and are well suited to position where children can be taken to and from activities and extra-murals, and can help with home-work. In my personal experience as someone who trains and places child-minders, I have found that you do get some Au Pairs that are suited to caring for infants and small children, but I have found that the most value in Au Pairs is found when they are assisting older, more active toddlers and school going children. Au Pairs are costly though. The current cost of an Au Pair can range from R7 000 – 12 000pm for a full day Au Pair.

Nannies are generally ladies that have a more basic education, and are very well suited to infant and child care. Because the majority of nannies range from 28-58years of age, these ladies are maternal, and often have had children of their own. A well trained nanny will be able to do all day to day care of the baby, such as nappies, bottles, sleep routines, bathing, feeding etc… as well as have a good knowledge of what to do in the event of an emergency. A nanny should also understand the importance of play, and will mentally stimulate a child as well as taking care of the physical needs of the child. A good nanny will make sure that the child develops not only by growing, but through play and social stimulation as well. Most nannies are also prepared to have an element of domestic work as part of their day-to-day duties; however, it is crucial that the nanny and parent both acknowledge that the care and well-being of the baby or child will come first. Many parent’s also employ a nanny-domestic to perform domestic chores in the morning (when kids are at school/crèche) and tend to kids in the afternoons or if the kids are off school ill, or on school holidays. Nannies can either reside at the premises of the employer (generally Monday to Friday), or can travel to work daily. A good Nanny or Nanny-domestic will cost from R2 500 – R4 500pm, depending on hours, duties, experience etc…

Crèche’s are available all over, and today, we are seeing more and more companies opening day care facilities and crèche’s for the children of their staff – making it easier for working parents to drop and collect children from crèche. All crèche’s do need to be registered with provincial government, and need to adhere to certain regulations regarding safety, caregiver-to-child ratio’s etc… Children attending crèche are also exposed to other children, and thus have loads of social interaction. Unfortunately, due to this social interaction, children attending crèche are often prone to picking up bugs from one another, for this reason, most Paediatricians’ recommend keeping kiddies home until 3yrs. But that can be quite long for many kids, who do need the interaction sooner. Most crèche’s open early in the morning, and cater to parents who can collect their kids a little later (around 6pm). Some crèche’s cater to parent’s who also want to send children half-day, or a couple of days a week. Crèche’s can range from around R2 000pm-R5 000pm.

At the end of the day, there are no right or wrong answers, and the choice of child care is a very personal choice. Parent’s need to select the option that best suits them, and their requirements. Investigate all the options, and choose the one that suits you. When you meet Nannies, Au Pairs, or visit crèche’s, follow your gut-instinct, and choose the right option for you.


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