Thinking about your childcare options?
Starting a family is an exciting time, and one that comes with many decisions that need to be made.
For many parents, discussions about what happens at the end of parental leave happen long before baby even arrives. You might have a clear idea of what this new chapter looks like for you, or maybe you’re reading studies and surveys considering facts and figures. It may come down to a gut decision, a last-minute change of heart, or a carefully planned long-term outlook.
However you make your decision, the important thing to remember is that every family circumstance is different. When it comes to deciding whether you return to work or stay at home, there’s no right or wrong choice – only the best choice for your family.
With that in mind, there are some things to think about that can help you on your way to a decision.
Who will take care of your little one?
One key thing of course to think about is who will take care of your child or children if you do go back to work. You might choose to leave them with family or friends, or consider options like nursery or daycare. You might also want to explore options such as pre-school or Montessori. Factors like the length of your parental leave and/or how old your baby will be when you plan on going back to work will play a part in this decision, as well as things like budget, availability of childcare, and your own personal comfort levels.
Your support networks
Do you have family and friends nearby who are able and willing to help with childcare? If so, you might want to discuss if helping with the baby would be an option, whether that’s full time or as part of a combination approach of family help and formal childcare.
What does your work day look like?
Do you work shifts, or work from 9am – 5pm? In a post-Covid world, are you required to go back to the office full-time, or will your work accommodate a combination of days in the office and working from home? If you need to travel to work, how much extra time will your commute add to your total time away from your family, and how will this impact things like pick-up and drop-off from childcare? Having an idea of what your new schedule will look like will also give you an idea of your little one’s new schedule, too.
How might your child adjust to daycare?
You know your baby better than anyone. Every child is different, and things like their milestones and personality will impact whether they are ready for a change in environment like day care. Some kids might thrive in a new environment, while others might need a little more time. It’s important to consider their health and happiness and how they might adjust to this change when making your decision.
Of course, 1 key factor in all of this is your budget. If you plan on going back to work, your EI benefits will end, and you’ll start generating income again. That said, you may also incur the additional costs of childcare at the same time. Thinking about your wider financial situation and weighing up how much you’ll make versus how much you’ll spend in the process of going back to work is often a big factor for many parents.
Staying at home
There are many pros to staying at home, especially if you have more than one child.
Being at home allows for quality time and bonding, and is a way to make sure you’re present for special moments in those early formative years. You may also find that there’s more balance between taking care of baby and household jobs, as time not spent picking up and dropping off from childcare can be spent doing other things.
Of course, 1 key benefit of not sending baby to childcare is not having to pay fees. However, as your earnings will be impacted by time off work, you may have to make some adjustments in your everyday life to accommodate this continued loss of income.
Daycare provides kids the chance to experience independence, as well as to further develop verbal, social and other key skills. If you don’t feel they’re quite ready for childcare but don’t want them to miss out on this opportunity for development, you might want to look for local classes or baby or toddler groups. These provide not only a chance for learning, but also the opportunity to socialize for both you and baby.
If you don’t return to work, you may find your social interactions are limited, so it’s important to find ways to stay connected to the people and things you enjoy to help prevent feelings of low mood and isolation. No childcare often means no break, and there can be many emotional challenges that arise with providing constant care. It’s important to prioritize your mental wellness during this period to help prevent things like burnout, anxiety, and stress.
Returning to work
It might be that you feel your baby is ready to take the next steps in developing, that you feel ready to return to work, or that you can’t afford to be off work any longer. Whatever the reason(s), if you’re heading back to the workplace, there are some benefits to look forward to.
If you return to a physical work environment, the change of pace and setting can be a welcome change. If your employer is one of many that will continue to accommodate working from home, you might find your focus and productivity is boosted without the distraction of little ones around. Many parents enjoy being back around co-workers and having the opportunity to socialize again, allowing you to build and rebuild connections while exploring new job opportunities and goals.
In terms of career development, going back to something you’re passionate about can make you feel happy and fulfilled. A return to work also means the pay cut you took during your time off is restored. Again, on the other side of the coin is the cost of childcare, which can be substantial depending on where you live.
A report from The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives | 719kbOpens a new website in a new window found a wide range in the cost of childcare in Canadian cities in 2020. The median cost for infant care in Quebec was $181 per month, a figure that rose to $1,866 a month in Toronto - the highest in the country. Thinking about things such as your take-home salary, whether you’re a single or dual income household, and how many children you have (or plan to have) in childcare will help determine if the cost is viable.
There’s also the issue of availability. The pandemic caused many childcare centres to close, and some childcare providers have left the sector altogether. Many childcare and Montessori schools have waitlists, with some parents adding their baby’s name to the list before they’re even born, and so local availability may play a big part in your return to work.
While for some, time away from their children is a welcome change, others may struggle with the separation. Only you can decide if you feel ready to go back to work, and what that return will look like to you.