Nanny vs. Daycare: Which Is Right for Your Family?

You’re ready to find childcare, but what’s right for you—the individualized TLC of a nanny, or the socialization and enrichment offered by a daycare? We’ve laid out considerations and realities to help you think through your situation and find the option that’s right for your family.

No matter which route you take, Park Slope Parents is here to support you through the challenges, joys, and decisions of parenting. Join us today!

In this article

Realities of a Nanny

Realities of Daycare

Things Nannies AND Daycares Can Help With

Member Experiences with the Nanny vs. Daycare Decision

 

Realities of a Nanny


Flexibility. A nanny can work with your schedule.

One-on-one attention. Even with small classrooms, a daycare won’t offer the level of personalized attention that a nanny can.

Consistency. With a nanny, you’re getting one well-known person coming at established times.

Convenience. In-home care is the ultimate when it comes to convenience, as you don’t have to travel for drop-off or pick-up.

Familiar environment. Some kids may appreciate the ability to stay with a nanny in an environment where they’re already comfortable, while others may thrive with getting out of the house and into a new place like a daycare.

More adventure/flexibility, less oversight. A nanny has the ability to take your child(ren) on adventures to places such as museums and classes. Then again, you may have less oversight and control over their day-to-day activities. 

Household coverage. A nanny can do things like let in repair people and handle tasks around the house (if your work agreement covers it).

Overnight/travel coverage. If it’s spelled out in your work agreement, your nanny can be a trusted person to provide coverage overnight if you go out of town. They may also be able to travel with your family and help out during vacations (again, include this in your agreement).

Access during the day. While some daycares offer communication and photos of your child throughout the day (sometimes through an app), a nanny is more of a direct line and can be easier to get ahold of if you need updates.

Fewer germs. Naturally, exposure to illnesses is lower with just one person than with a whole class of kids and teachers. That being said, kids who had a nanny will still get all those colds later when they start Pre-K. Most parents will have to deal with kids staying home sick at some point—it’s more of a question of “when” than “if.”

Employer/employee relationship management. With a nanny, your employer/employee relationship is collaborative and evolving, whereas you can offer less input about childcare styles, etc. at a daycare. On the flip side, however, when you hire a nanny, you are becoming the manager of an employee in your home, which is a commitment of time, energy, and resources. In addition, you become responsible for someone’s financial wellbeing, which was a heavy responsibility for many who had to decide whether to continue paying their nanny during the Covid lockdown when they had lost income as well.

Not regulated in the same way as a daycare. While there are of course legal considerations and requirements around employing a nanny, they’re quite different from those in place at a daycare. When enrolling in a daycare, you can be sure that the facility is following a set of officially regulated guidelines, whereas, with a nanny, things like background checks and quality control are up to you. You have some reassurance if you hire a nanny through an agency, but hiring nannies in Brooklyn is mostly through word of mouth, many times through the PSP Classifieds. 

Less reliable (potentially). If your nanny happens to get sick, you’ll be left needing to find a back-up. Barring closures for Covid-19 or other special circumstances, daycares will be open when you expect it to be open. Also, if your nanny happens to be dealing with unreliable transportation or other personal situations, you could be delayed by them showing up to work late.

Higher cost. Typically, you’ll be paying a higher hourly rate for a nanny than a daycare (see our Nanny Pay Surveys for pay rate information). However, a nanny share can help reduce costs for the families involved. Check out the Guide to a Nanny Share for info on determining whether a share is right for you.

Can provide immediate support if you have another baby. If you’re considering having a second (or third) child, a nanny can be helpful right away, vs. waiting four or more months to enroll a baby in daycare.

Extra expenses. In addition to the base pay, you’re looking at potential extra expenses for things like baby/kid classes; MetroCard/transportation subsidy (if that’s part of your work agreement); extra food; bonuses; and pocket money to spend on baby/kid outings.

Responsibility for choosing enrichment activities. While a nanny may come equipped with some plans/resources for learning and fun, much of the burden will still fall on you to choose developmentally appropriate activities, while at daycare, a professional takes care of these things for you.

Legal responsibilities. When you employ a nanny, you’re responsible for things like Paid Family Leave, workman’s comp, and taxes. There’s guidance on our page about Paying on the Books.

Requires room in your home. If you live in a small apartment and work remotely, that means you’ll be sharing space with the nanny during times that they’re not taking your kids out to the park, classes, or other activities. That adds another layer to navigating your employer-employee relationship and brings up practical considerations (children in the background of your Zoom calls). Your work may be disruptive to the nanny and child, and their presence may make it difficult for you to focus.

Check out The Work-from-Home Parent’s Guide to Finding a Nanny for more considerations.

Possibility for a nanny share. If you partner with one or more other families to hire a nanny who will care for your children together, you pay less and your kids get more socialization. However, nanny shares are not right for every situation. The PSP Step-by-Step Guide To a Successful Nanny Share has all the information you need to decide whether one would work for you, and if so, to take steps toward making it happen.

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Realities of Daycare


Note: There’s tons more information on daycare and how to find the right facility for you in the PSP Guide to Finding and Securing Daycare. We also have reviews from members for local Daycare Providers and Daycare for Under 1. Here are some topline thoughts when considering daycare. 

Lower cost. Overall, daycare will be less of a strain on your wallet than a nanny. Plus, you’re typically paying a flat fee for the whole care package—including enrichment activities and classes—rather than potentially paying for extras like classes, transportation, and pocket money for a nanny. That being said, if you’re enrolling two or more kids, the cost savings may diminish when compared to a nanny.

Licensing and government oversight. Daycares are governed by established guidelines that help ensure the safety and wellbeing of both children and staff (you can read specifics from the New York State Office of Children and Family Services). That means you have a baseline set of regulations that you can check into to help reassure yourself that your child is in good hands.

Supervision of staff/standard of care. Like in any other workplace, daycare staff are supervised and held to a standard of care and set of norms with regard to how they interact with your children. With a nanny, on the other hand, you’re relying on one individual to keep themselves in line even if they may be having a rough day or something going on in their personal life. 

New environment. Some kids may thrive with getting out of the house and into a different environment, while others may prefer to stay in a space that’s already comfortable for them. Also, commuting to daycare can give you more time with your child and allow you to expose them to new aspects of life in NYC, like the subway!

Access to a wider range of resources for play and learning. With a daycare, you’re getting guaranteed access to a new set of tools and experiences to help your child develop, whereas with a nanny, you’d be responsible for supplying resources on your own dime.

Educational focus. Many daycare teachers have formal training in early education and will expose your child to a curriculum focused on skill-building as well as helping them get ready for a formal, structured education in the coming years. Nannies may have training too, but you’re likely to see more structured lesson plans with daycare—plus, the staff have experiences with a wide range of children and can help you understand where your kid is at with developmental milestones.

Socialization with other kids. Although a nanny can certainly set up playdates as well as having nanny friends they hang with, a one-on-one childcare situation may not offer the level of interaction and potential new friendships that a daycare will. Also, depending on the set-up of the daycare, your child may have the opportunity to learn from older kids or “mentor” younger kids which could help with things like potty training and eating. 

Less one-on-one attention; more caregivers to love. Even with small classrooms, a daycare won’t offer the level of personalized attention that a nanny can. On the other hand, having multiple caregivers with different personalities and styles can be a big benefit to your child.

Set sleeping and eating schedules. Daycares will typically get all of the kids onto a similar schedule, although you may be able to request modifications based on your child’s specific needs. This could be a pro or a con depending on the level of control you want to have over when your child gets used to sleeping and eating.

More turnover (potentially). Rates will vary depending on the facility, but more teachers (as opposed to just one nanny) typically means more turnover. Check out this article in EdSurge, which has info on turnover rates for early childhood educators. That said, nanny situations do not always work out either, meaning you have to find another nanny (and all the extra work that entails). 

Check-ins and monitoring. This varies widely depending on the facility, but some daycares have built-in systems (cameras, apps) to help you stay connected and check on your child throughout the day.

Knowing what’s happening. Daycare staff can’t react as quickly to inquiries throughout the day about how your child is doing since they are taking care of more children. However, some daycares have monitoring set up so you can see what’s happening during the day. Nannies should be more easily accessible, but limiting phone usage may be harder to manage/enforce with nannies, if that’s something that’s important to you.

More germs. We all know that kids love to spread illness—although, on the other hand, more exposure can build greater immunity at an earlier age. 

Standardized pandemic precautions. Most daycares will have standard routines involving staff vaccinations, testing, and sanitizing. With a nanny, it is up to you to determine their vaccination status and have potentially difficult conversations with them about the precautions you’re comfortable with. At a daycare, these difficult conversations are outsourced to daycare management rather than falling on you.

Dealing with sick days. Many daycares will require kids to be fever-free for 24 hours before returning to the facility if they’ve been sick. That means you may need to find back-up childcare on short notice when your kid comes down with something. A nanny, on the other hand, may be fine with caring for your kid even if they are ill.

More limited hours. Although extended hours may be available (usually with an extra fee attached), many daycares have a standard pick-up at 6:00pm, which could be a challenge depending on your own schedule.

Less flexibility. Daycares will have a set schedule throughout the year, which means you may find yourself needing back-up childcare during days that the daycare is closed but you’re still working.

More reliable. Barring closures for Covid-19 or other special circumstances, daycare will be open when you expect it to be open, whereas if your nanny happens to get sick, you’ll be left needing to find a back-up.

A home daycare can be a happy medium. Home daycares—formally known as group family daycares—are one of the many types of childcare facility available in NYC, and may provide a sort of balance between individualized vs. group care due to smaller group sizes and lower staff turnover. 

May be more difficult to find. Daycare for infants and young children is in high demand, and you may find yourself facing long application processes and waitlists. Put your name on waitlists early, and check in with the facilities often. 


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Things Nannies AND Daycares Can Help With


Whichever route you choose, you can be assured that you’ll have support with many key basics, such as:

  • Establishing a routine
  • Working toward developmental milestones
  • Starting solids
  • Potty Training
  • A warm, caring environment
  • Stimulation and learning

 

Member Experiences with the Nanny vs. Daycare Decision


Space

“A big factor that impacted our decision to choose daycare is that my partner and I both work from home, and given the amount of video calls we are on, it would be untenable to have our baby and a nanny in our small, one bedroom apartment with us during the day (partner works in bedroom and I work in living/kitchen area). This may be a factor very specific to NYC living!”

“One very big factor for us in making this decision a few months ago was space! … We don’t have a big enough apartment for two work spaces in the home AND a play space for the baby and another adult. We considered renting a coworking space in the neighborhood, but that was going to further add to the price difference between nanny and daycare.”

 

Opportunities

“At daycare they learn from each other as well as trained adults. They get to do things and experience friendship from an early age and learn how to develop those friendships.”

 

Oversight

“With the nanny, we can check in, see how she’s doing via text or the nanny cam (she knows there’s a camera and said it’s okay with her; it was very important for us to be transparent about that).”

 

Added responsibilities as an employer

“I am the manager of a 10-person team at work and I have no time or desire to also be the manager of an employee in my home as well! I much prefer daycare, where someone else is running the operation :)”

“I already juggle professional relationships at work, and I didn't want to spend my out-of-work time being a manager and handling all the thorny conversations that entails- around pay, performance, alignment of expectations, and so on.”

“One thing I also think to consider is whether you are prepared to be a truly good and ethical employer in a situation where there is usually a huge imbalance in power and privilege -- which I think we saw become particularly relevant during the pandemic. For instance, if another shutdown / stay at home order were to happen, are you prepared to keep paying a nanny indefinitely when they are not actually providing you with any work? Even if your own income was reduced in such a situation? Are you prepared to ungrudgingly grant them their own Paid Family Leave, disability, etc, if needed?  In addition to the time and energy it takes to manage an employee that other people have pointed out, we saw it as a fairly big moral responsibility to take on being the sole source of someone's livelihood, particularly given the power dynamics -- and we were not quite prepared to do it.”

 

Pricing

“With twins, the price difference between a full-time nanny and two places in a day care is a lot smaller. And some of the downsides of day care (having to get two kids out the door in the morning, having two kids to be sick frequently - and how you arrange caring for them with two working parents) are amplified by having twins. In the end, we figured that, even if there was a small savings with two daycare spots (which is a big if), that it would be a false economy when all the rest was figured into it - missed time at work when kids are sick, etc. 

For us, if we had a single child, we would have chosen daycare, no questions asked. But since there were two the same age, it was a pretty quick and easy decision to go for a nanny.”

“We found most daycares only offered a 5-10% discount for the second child, so there was a smaller gap between what we'd pay for a nanny and what we'd pay for daycare.”

 

Commuting

“I chose a daycare close to my work so I get to spend commuting time with the baby, which is about an hour more time together every day. During our daily commute, I get to expose him to the subway and other aspects of living in New York that he will need to learn to live in the city.”

 

Language

“I felt very strongly that I wanted our daughter to be a polyglot and to understand Cantonese, which is what my family (but not my husband's) speaks. … I think we were very lucky to find a bi-lingual nanny (as opposed to just a Cantonese speaking). We were pretty close to giving up our search. If there were a bilingual Cantonese/English daycare or bilingual Cantonese/English primary/secondary school options, we would have likely gone that route.”

 

Nanny as parenting mentor

“Something I never would have considered in advance: as a first time parent, I have learned so much from my nanny, who has years of experience working with young children. She has guided my husband and I through major transitions (dropping a nap, dropping bottles), has helped us make sense of behavioral shifts and issues and troubleshooted with us (i.e., when my son started biting his friends), and has given us so many good practical tips (what shoes were most stable for his first steps, snacks to try).”

“We got lucky in that our nanny took care of the twins but also took care of me; I found her a huge support and voice of reason when I'd get anxious about our kids gaining weight...she also made sure I was eating well and taking care of myself, and more recently has been a huge advocate of overtime so my husband and I taking some time to ourselves.”

 

Socialization for kids with a nanny

“My nanny has a network of other nannies she is friends with and my daughter grew up seeing the same kids several days a week, and developed relationships with those other nannies too. They would go all over brooklyn (prospect park, fort green park, pier 6, dumbo, occasionally the aquarium). We used to like that our kids have a better social life than we do (if only it was a joke).”

“[My] nannies self-organized (and were the de facto leaders of) a playgroup with nannies they trusted / liked / held similar values to who were working with kids of similar age. I specifically sought out very social nannies who had long experience in the neighborhood who would help construct a social life for my children, since my husband and I aren't really extroverts. The members of my daughter's nanny posse communicate about whose kid or family members are sick and stay away from each other as necessary, rotated playdates between houses in the winter, attend classes together with the kids, and help look out for each other's charges as needed.”

 

Child-led/unstructured play

“I’m not American and I find the push to start formal schooling earlier and earlier here a bit much. There’s so much research on kids and the importance of play and also anxiety related to academics and I wanted my daughter to just play in a non instructional environment. A nanny can follow child-led play much more than day care, which seems to have scheduled activities.”

Household help

“Our nanny is great about helping around the house while our baby naps. She will do all our laundry, tidy up, unload / load the dishwasher, vacuum the endless trail of crumbs the kids leave, and food prep (for all of us) on certain days. This is a huge benefit to us and lets us spend quality time with our kids when we are around / on weekends.”

 

Final words of wisdom

“I try to remind myself that these decisions are hard but they aren't immutable. In other words, you can decide one thing, try it out, and then do something else if it doesn't work out. There is so much pressure that we place on ourselves as parents and we face lots of unsolicited external pressure. I need to remind myself that we need to feel confident in ourselves that we are doing the best that we can to make the best decisions for the family in a particular moment in time!”


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