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Exploring Alternative Childcare

Communication, Collaboration and Consistency

Race and Elizabeth Skrmetta snuggle in for a picture with their au pair.

Photo provided by: Debbie Skrmetta

Parents today have a problem on their hands. With the available alternatives to daycare, how do they choose what’s best for their families? Nannies, sitters, au pairs – these are just a few of the options available. No matter which route is taken, much of what parents encounter with the childcare challenge is the same: communication, collaboration and consistency.

“Communication is important – you must talk,” says JLNO Sustainer Debbie Skrmetta. The Skrmetta Family has two children and employed au pairs from the time their first child was three months old until just a few years ago (their children are in high school now). Being direct with prospective au pairs during the matching process was key in finding the best fit for their family. Debbie says it was important for candidates to know what their expectations were whether it was activities, meals, household chores or how best to communicate with the children. “Being an au pair in the Skrmetta house is not a spectator sport,” she quips.

Active Megan Muncy was a nanny for nine years after completing her undergraduate degree. She also asserts that communication is key to a successful relationship between the employee and employer. “You are providing support both ways,” she says. The family needs to clearly communicate their needs and wants, and the nanny needs to also convey what she feels works on her end as well. Being “clear, direct and up-front” makes for the best collaboration.

Dr. Jennifer Bennett is a veterinarian who became a mother in her first year after her internship. She wanted an active role in her daughter Kinley’s care– something that would offer her a work-life balance while also enabling her to be more hands-on with her daughter. Luckily, her supervisor had been in a similar situation years before and offered the Bennetts an option to hire a nanny who would keep Kinley in a nursery room at the veterinary office. By having them close during the day, Jennifer can collaborate with the sitter and ensure that Kinley is getting the exact care that she would give her if they were at home. In addition, “Kinley has a wonderful opportunity learn healthy, ‘grown-up’ social interactions,” says Jennifer, something she feels is very important.

Conveying the important details and working as a team to guarantee your children are being brought up just as you want them to be is necessary if you want a successful partnership.

“Parents need to have their values reinforced whether it’s discipline, manners, or education,” says Megan. Debbie agrees, relating that this is something she looks for when screening candidates before interviews – similar ideals and principles are the first step to matching with the right candidate. This is also one of the reasons Jennifer finds having an in-office sitter so reassuring: she sees her values are being instilled even when she cannot be hands-on.

Whether you are expecting a child for the first time or it is your first time envisaging an alternative to daycare, these three C’s – communication, collaboration, consistency – are an important jumping off point to exploring today’s parenting conundrum; how to choose the best childcare for your family. Good luck to you as you research the possibilities!

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