By Stacy Whitman
It may be the hardest (and most important) parenting decision you’ll ever make: who to entrust with the care of your little one while you’re at work, tackling your mile-long to-do list or grabbing some “me” time. There are many factors to consider—first and foremost, your child’s safety. But at this pivotal time in his development—when his brain is growing rapidly and he’s learning to talk, feeling endlessly curious and testing his boundaries—it’s also crucial that his caregiver understand kids his age, make him feel loved and secure, and encourage him to learn and explore. From day care centers and family child care to nannies and au pairs, each arrangement has its pluses and minuses. To determine which one best suits your family, think about your budget, your schedule, your lifestyle and your child’s temperament.
Once you’ve decided on the type of child care you want, it’s time to do some homework. Call around for recommendations. Meet every potential caregiver face-to-face. Ask lots of questions (click here for our handy list). Check all references. Finally, listen to your instincts. If you get a bad vibe (let’s say a caregiver seems too pushy or won’t look you in the eye), keep looking. It isn’t worth taking a chance—and Mommy really does know best.
NEXT: WEIGHING YOUR OPTIONS