Going Back to Work after Baby: Choosing Childcare in the UAE
The pros and cons of nannies vs. nurseries
This is part 2 of a series on Going Back To Work. Read part 1 on "Feeling Stressed about Going Back to Work?" first!
As you prepare to return to work, one of your first priorities will be to weigh the pros and cons of your childcare options. If you have family here who can look after your little one(s), or if you and your partner have complementary schedules that can enable you to always have someone at home, this might be ideal, but is very rare for most of us who are living here as expats. For many families in the UAE, the choice comes down to nanny vs. nursery. So how to choose?
1. The benefits of hiring a nanny: Finding a good nanny who can provide childcare in your home means that you can have individualized, one-on-one care for your child, which is the envy of many working parents the world around. A nanny can care for your child even when he or she is ill, when a nursery would probably require you to keep the child home that day. Whereas a nursery probably closes for all public holidays and perhaps for the winter, spring and summer breaks, a nanny's schedule can be organized to match your work schedule. Finally, a good nanny can grow to love and be loved by your child. She will become another primary caregiver who your child really attaches to and feels secure with (whereas many nursery staff members may come and go.) This secure attachment can be an important way for your baby or young child to cope well with mama going back to work. Another, not inconsequential, upside, is that most nannies in the UAE will also be prepared to do housework and perhaps even cooking, in addition to childcare, which can be a life saver for exhausted working parents!
2. The disadvantages of hiring a nanny: On the downside, a typical "nanny" in the UAE may not have any special training and may have quite limited education in general. She will not have any supervision while she is caring for your child, so you need to trust her implicitly and have confidence that she knows what to do in the case of an emergency, medical or otherwise. Language and cultural differences may mean that communication between you and the nanny can be challenging and there may be misunderstandings and miscommunications that you don't even realize are happening. If the nanny is unable to get out of the house with the child both she and any older toddlers may suffer from lack of social stimulation and interactions. And of course a nanny will herself become ill sometimes, will need time off for holidays and family emergencies, and may decide to leave at any time, leaving you and your child needing to start all over again. And there are the challenges and expenses of acquiring a visa and now providing health insurance for your nanny.
3. The benefits of a nursery: A good nursery will have staff with training and experience in early childhood education or at least in child care. They will be trained in basic first aid and a nurse will always be on the premises who can provide emergency medical care when necessary. The staff should be well-supervised by qualified professionals, and if one staff member is ill or away, there will be others who will fill in. There should be excellent communication between the staff and the parents, and if there are misunderstandings there is accountability with the management. The environment and the activities will be age-appropriate and stimulating to the child's brain and development, and the child will get plenty of social interaction, (which is important for older toddlers.)
4. The disadvantages of a nursery: Unlike a private nanny employed by you, you may struggle to find a nursery that covers your work hours and you may have to adjust your hours to their schedule, Nurseries can be extremely expensive, and yet they will close for holidays, for rain days, half-term and between-term breaks and some may even close for the entire summer. You often have to pay additional fees for "camps" during those breaks , which can get really pricey. Your child will also not be able to go to nursery if he or she is ill, even if it is something that doesn't seem very serious. In addition, it is likely that care providers will be looking after multiple children, and your child may be cared for by multiple people rather than being able to attach to one trusted person. Group settings do not work for all children. Because many nurseries don't pay their staff very well, there may be high staff turnover, which can mean that attachment can be difficult. The care will not be as individualized as it can be at home, and may not include as much one-on-one holding, rocking, and affection. The biggest downside may be that children in nursery get ill a lot--especially in the first year. Your child will catch everything and you probably will as well, which means missed work time.
So there is no one right childcare solution that is "best." Weigh the pros and cons (and come up with your own list) and decide what will make the most sense for your family.
What were the deciding factors that determined what child care choices you made? What do you know now that you wish you knew then? I will be posting a couple more articles on this topic, including how to handle returning back to work when you are breastfeeding, and what to look for and how to choose a nanny or a nursery.
Good luck and let us know if this has helped you in your decision-making process!
Amy is a former midwife, an IBCLC, a licensed BabyCalm and ToddlerCalm consultant, an infant massage instructor, and co-founder of Love Parenting UAE. I also managed a baby unit in a nursery in Dubai and worked as a nanny back in my university days. I am also a working mother and had to negotiate going back to work after each of my daughters were born.