In recent years, many people have left the work force, began working from home, or gone to work in a hybrid work environment.
In other words, people’s childcare needs have changed.
We’ve also seen significant increases in childcare costs and decreased availability of childcare. According to Care.com, approximately 85% of families needing childcare are spending 10% or more of their income on childcare each month.
Also, more than 50% of American families live in a “childcare desert,” a geographic area in which the demand for childcare outweighs the supply of childcare centers and providers.
The combination of all these factors has led to more and more parents seeking flexible and part-time daycare schedules — generally 3 days or less per week.
What are the pros and cons of part-time care? What is the feasibility, cost, benefit to the parent, benefit to the child, and benefit to daycare provider for 1,2, or 3 days a week daycare?
Putting your infant or toddler in daycare 1, 2, or 3 days per week can be a great arrangement for stay-at-home parents or working parents with a flexible schedule. The two biggest things to be aware of are finding a provider that can accommodate your schedule and managing your child’s reaction to bouncing between home/relatives/daycare. A lot of big providers won’t want to hold a spot in class for a child that comes 1 day per week, for example, but smaller in-home daycares may be more accommodating.
Let’s take a closer look at the pros, cons, and considerations of part-time daycare.
Daycare 1 Day Per Week
The most common parents seeking 1 day a week care are stay-at-home parents who need time to run errands, get to appointments, etc. — or parents who may work but have a family member who cares for their child the majority of the time.
- Stay at home parents or family members that are functioning as primary caregivers get time away to rejuvenate and have some adult time and interaction.
- Children are exposed to a new environment and have the opportunity to socialize with other children regularly.
- The cost is not prohibitive for most families (the typical cost even on the upper end is $50 a day).
- It may be difficult for the child to have their routine disrupted just once a week, which can result in separation anxiety and difficulty with drop-off.
- Due to the childcare desert, finding a daycare that is willing to accept a child for only one day a week may be very difficult.
- It may be difficult for the child to build trust and attachment with a daycare provider that they only see weekly.
While one day per week at daycare is a great arrangement for stay-at-home parents, and it’s useful for filling in gaps if a grandparent or other relative watches the kids most days, it can be hard to enact.
The biggest drawback here is that it can be difficult to find a childcare provider who will accept a child for one day per week.
Your best bet will be smaller daycare chains or in-home daycares — or at a chain like KidsPark that offers parents tons of flexibility on hours.
Daycare 2 Days Per Week
This option may be a good fit for parents working part time, parents who do part of their work at home and can keep their child with them while they work at home, or parents who have a family member that can care for their child 2 or 3 days a week.
- If the daycare provider does charge part-time rates, this can be an affordable option for families who may have challenges with fitting childcare costs into their budget.
- It is possible with 2 days a week, 2 families may be able to combine with one family using 2 days of care and the other family using the other two days; creating one “full time space” for the provider and the 2 families splitting the weekly cost.
- If the 2 days at daycare are consecutive, this may allow for the development of some level of routine for the child. Hopefully, this would result in less separation anxiety or stress than 1 day a week daycare.
- For the same reasons as 1 day a week it may be difficult to find a provider willing to sacrifice a space in their daycare for a part-time child unless the family is willing to pay a full-time rate.
- If daycare is not 2 consecutive days a week, each drop off may be like starting over for the child and there may be considerable separation anxiety.
- To maintain their own financial stability, daycare providers may need to charge a higher daily rate than what would be the average daily rate for full-time children.
Having multiple days per week, especially consecutive days, at daycare will help the child feel more comfortable there and form a better connection with teachers and peers.
It can still be tricky to find a provider who will accept this arrangement, however you may be able to “pair up” with another family who needs 2-3 days per week care to form a complete spot — making your enrollment more appealing to the daycare center.
Daycare 3 Days Per Week
- Consecutive days allows for a child to build relationships with other children as well as have a sense of routine.
- If a daycare provider charges a part-time rate, it may be more financially feasible for a family.
- If a daycare provider charges a full-time rate, it would give the family flexibility to use a 4th or 5th day in a week when needed, or to just transition to full-time later if circumstances change.
- Because it may be difficult to fill the remaining 2 days with another child, many daycare providers would charge a full-time rate.
- If it is not 3 consecutive days, it can be difficult for the child, parents, and daycare provider to gain a sense of stability and routine. It could result in a feeling of “starting over” 2 or 3 times a week, which could be stressful for all parties involved.
Daycare 3 days per week gives parents a lot of flexibility, but it can get expensive — especially if you can’t secure a part-time rate.
It can also be a lot of back and forth for children. However, lots of time in the school environment is great for their confidence and development.
In all 3 scenarios, part-time daycare allows parents to have the benefit of socialization for their child and a mental, emotional, and physical break from childcare themselves.
Having a child attend daycare presents opportunities to be part of a community of families who are in the same phase of life and understand and relate to many of the challenges you may be going through.
Just seeing each other at pick up and drop off and socializing for a few minutes can lead to connections and friendships that may not be made otherwise.
The hardest part will be finding a childcare provider who can accommodate your schedule, not to mention how your infant/toddler adapts to the change in schedule.
Consider any arrangement on a trial basis and be prepared to re-assess along the way!
For more, check out:
- Are daycares open on weekends?
- Why is my child so cranky after daycare?
- Why is diaper rash at daycare so common?
Hope this helps!