The scoop Care is provided in your home by a nonrelative, on either a live-in or a live-out basis.
Pros Being alone with a single caregiver provides your child consistency and undivided attention. There's no need to worry about drop-offs and pickups or packing a lunch—a big time and energy saver. Plus, if your little one gets sick, there's no need for a backup plan.
Cons As a boss, you'll not only have to give direction and supervise the nanny but also deal with personnel issues, such as reprimanding her if she's constantly late. If she calls in sick or takes vacation, you may be left in a lurch (though many agencies offer temporary nanny services). And it's hard to keep a secret—a nanny's privy to all your family dirt. (Remember The Nanny Diaries?)
While some states do regulate nanny placement agencies, most don't require nannies to be licensed, which means there are no safety precautions. And unless you're philosophically OK with using a "nanny cam" to observe her, you'll never really know what she does while you're at work.
Average annual cost $14,560-$50,960 (live in); $15,600-$52,000 (live out)
What working moms say "You get 100 percent one-on-one care that you won't get in any day care."
— Sarah Kearney
"My nanny knows my routine and my house—and while her first priority is taking care of my 3-year-old, she also finds time to do several loads of laundry, straighten up, make the beds and so on."
— Dana Sullivan
Let's face it: Child care isn't cheap—and prices can vary wildly depending on where you live and the type of care you choose. For example, in Massachusetts, the average annual cost for full-time care at a day-care center is $10,000 higher than in Louisiana or Kentucky. Likewise, you should expect to pay more if you live in a major city versus a small town. Typically, a nanny will cost you the most; a day-care center tends to be a bit more expensive than family day care.