SUBURBAN INSIGHTS | Why Understanding a Town’s Childcare “Culture” Matters

Sep 5, 2023

Different towns have different norms. Here’s what you need to know. 

In our latest edition of SUBURBAN INSIGHTS, Patti Natiss, Suburban Jungle’s Head of Strategy & Emerging Markets shares her thoughts on childcare in the ‘burbs – what you need to plan for and what to consider as you’re deciding where to call “home.”

Nannies, au pairs, daycare, stay-at-home parents, after school programs – there are countless approaches to childcare. While there’s no “right” way, most communities do tend to heavy-up in one direction or another. And that’s an important consideration when you’re choosing a suburb. 

“We’ve seen it over and over – childcare culture can impact a family’s ability to adapt to a new community,” says Patti Natiss, Suburban Jungle’s Head of Strategy & Emerging Markets. “If you’re a stay-at-home parent in a town filled with au pairs, it might be tougher to make friends at school drop off and pick up. If your kids go to daycare and your town has lots of nannies or stay-at-home parents, your child might miss out on afterschool playdates.”

Determining your family’s childcare strategy

Before considering how a town’s childcare culture will impact you and your family, the first step is to determine what works for you. Depending on your schedule, budget, and your crew’s personalities, one option may immediately pop to the top. Consider this:

Need full-time (plus) care?

Nannies and au pairs are great options if you and your spouse work full-time or need all-day care for any reason. The perks of in-home childcare are clear – not only do you have someone dedicated to your kids full time, but there’s likely a high level of flexibility built in. Au pairs, for example, can often work any 45 hours per week that works for your family, meaning you can mix-and-match daytime and evening or even weekend support. 

Most au pairs are paid around $200-$400 per week, plus room, board, meals and access to transportation. Depending on the agency you work with, there will likely be placement and registration fees – though most families say they spend less than $20,000 per year. 

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Nannies may have even more flexibility depending on your arrangement. Live-in nannies, especially, will likely help out during evenings and weekends – if work travel is a challenge, this could be an ideal arrangement for your family. 

“Make sure you talk about driving,” says Patti. “Au pairs will drive. Nannies may or may not. If that’s important to you, be sure and discuss early on and determine how you’ll handle driving – if your nanny will use your car, how you’ll manage insurance, and what your daily schedule looks like.” 

Nannies, though, tend to come with a higher weekly fee than au pairs. In the NYC suburbs, expect to pay around $18-$26 per hour for a full-time live-out nanny for one child. Each additional child ups the rate by a few dollars.

If you opt for a live-out nanny, keep in mind their commute. Many families are eager to keep their current nanny post-move – and that’s a lot easier if you opt for a town that’s accessible via train. Even better? If you’re in a neighborhood that’s walkable to and from the station.

“We’ve placed many clients in Pelham – where people can walk to the train from their house,” Patti says. “This has allowed many families to bring their current nanny with them after the move.”

Need help in the mornings and afternoons? 

If your kids are in school during the day and you just need morning and afternoon coverage, you have a few options. Many schools offer before and after school care. These options tend to be very affordable – usually $20-$50 per day – and have the added bonus of keeping all of your school-aged kids together. 

Depending on your school, these programs may offer basic care – homework support, playground time, snacks – or may be more immersive and themed. 

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“Some schools offer after school programs that are extremely popular – even for families who don’t need childcare,” says Patti. “Many schools offer after school soccer, cooking, arts and crafts, STEAM, and more. Your kids will have a chance to hang with friends and try new activities – always a win.” 

Need different support throughout the week? 

Daycares tend to offer some flexibility, ideal for families who need different levels of care throughout the week, month, or year. Based on your kids’ ages, some offer pick up and drop off services to local schools, while others allow for personalized schedules – some full days, some half days, and some “off” days, as needed. 

While rates vary based on your schedule and number of kids, the average suburban daycare tends to cost around $900-$1,500 per month for one child, full time. 

Understand your town’s childcare culture 

With a better understanding of your family’s childcare needs and potential post-move plans, the next step is to explore the community – and connect with your Suburban Jungle Strategist.

“Again, there’s no right or wrong way to approach childcare – just what’s right for your kids and your family,” Patti says. “Then, talk to your Strategist. Just like other lifestyle considerations – commutes, nightlife, schools – childcare should definitely be a factor as you’re deciding what suburb fits your family best.” 

Childcare on your mind? Let’s talk! Contact Suburban Jungle now for a free Suburbs Strategy based on your unique lifestyle. 

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