Whether you're choosing a registered childcare centre, or establishing which relative is least likely to pierce your baby's ears in your absence, nothing compares to that heart-wrenching first step out the door and back to work.
For many 21st-century parents, the decision is inevitable. As the cost of living rises, many households rely on two incomes to keep afloat. Alongside this economic imperative, the old-fashioned assumption that Mum must stay home with the kids, no longer applies. More women are having children later in life and wanting to continue their careers, and why shouldn't they? Enter, the modern-day Mary Poppins. Hiring a nanny is becoming a popular option for many families, and not just the very well-off.
Annie's Nannies manager Sue Gibson says childcare assistance is quickly becoming the social norm. Not only is childcare becoming more common, it is also becoming more affordable. Work and Income is catching up with the trend and offers parents the chance to make some headway in paying for their childcare.
The subsidy and ECE hours can be applied to the cost of a nanny. Homegrown Kids director Stacey Dunn says that even without subsidies and ECE hours, nannies can be very affordable, especially for two-income families or those with more than one child. Dunn says a unique advantage for parents choosing a nanny, is the package deal: People have nannies for all sorts of reasons, but fulltime nannies are for those busy working parents who want their minds at ease about their children.
She started training for early childhood centre care, but quickly decided daycare centres weren't for her. But I decided the centre approach wasn't really for me.
Too much paperwork, and I wanted something a bit more holistic, more one-on-one. Allegra is a-mile-a-minute wee moppet, throwing herself between eating fries to hurling herself down the slides at the McDonald's playground in the Christchurch suburb of Merivale.
Puffed and with her pink bobbly hairties in her pigtails slightly dishevelled from a spirited game of tag with some other kids, she's back for some quick rehydration before careering off to jump on the mini-trampoline. With one eye on her busy charge, none of it phases Lexi. She is young and fit enough to give a spirited toddler a run for her money.
At only 22, Lexi's age could count against her for some families. But her youth should not be mistaken for immaturity. She may be young, but she's a stickler for manners and treats Allegra, who is still mastering the art of sitting still when eating, like a little adult. Lexi has a knack with children and a real passion for education. She and Allegra spend their days absorbing the world. As a nanny you're also an educator. I need to plan activities around learning and keep her really engaged.
As a babysitter, you don't have to do that. It's a lot more. I'm really blessed to have such a fantastic family, we get along really well. They can miss things when they're at work, so I make sure they're really informed about Allegra — what we did during the day, funny things she said, what upset her, or what she was really interested in — as much as possible. When Lexi left her last job caring for two little boys, it was a huge emotional wrench.
As a nanny you obviously do get really attached. They become like your own kids in a way. Not a problem for Lexi. It's never been a problem for me. A good parent can see it's a positive relationship for the child. Enter the Granny Nanny. Usually equipped with life experience rather than classroom learning, the Granny Nanny can double as a surrogate grandparent for a child, putting mum and dad's minds at rest when they leave for work.
Waimakariri nanny Andrea is in her early 60s and tasked with the care of a 4-year-old girl and a baby boy. She has been nannying for more than 15 years.
She has two adult children of her own, plus two grandchildren, and a great-grandchild. Andrea's children no longer live nearby, but she has filled the gap looking after other people's children.
I made that decision when I got into this, and I've stuck to it," she says. As an older woman, Andrea makes no apology for her get-stuck-in attitude and attention to detail. Unlike some other nannies, Andrea does "the lot".
She cleans, feeds animals, does the washing, keeps the kids occupied and generally helps out as and where is needed in the household. I do what I would do if I was in my own home. That means the parents can come home and spend time with the kids without all that extra stuff to do. And that can happen. On an isolated farm outside of Oamaru, a trip to town is a big deal and getting to a pre dhschool every day is nigh-on impossible.
Fortunately for them, recent years have given rise to a new trend in childcare — farm nannies. Most days Ruby hands over to nanny Natalia who lives in a cottage on the farm. The two met in the social circles of the tight-knit farming community. She cooks and cleans where necessary, and for Ruby, the support is essential.
Living on the farm means Natalia can pop up to the house for a few nights and Jack will be happy to stay with her while his mum is away. This suits our lifestyle. We really rely on her.
Whether you're choosing a registered childcare centre, or establishing which relative is least likely to pierce your baby's ears in your absence, nothing compares to that heart-wrenching first step out the door and back to work. For many 21st-century parents, the decision is inevitable.
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