Staying at home to look after your offspring is a great idea. However, this is not an option that everyone can take. For parents who both work, alternatives abound. Consider the following:


1. Preschool-cum-childcare centre

Babies from two months old can be cared for at an infant care, and toddlers from 18 months old are eligible to attend a preschool. Typically they would join the Pre-Nursery class whose minimum staff to children ratio is 1:8. At Nursery 1 the ratio is at 1:12, increasing to 1:15 at Nursery 2, 1:20 at K1, and 1:25 at K2 levels. By this time, the larger grouping would sufficiently prepare your child for Primary 1, where he or she will be in a class of 30 students.

The Government has recently launched the Early Childhood Development Agency to oversee centre-based care and education services, including kindergartens and child care centres. This operates a one-stop portal to child care services at Child Care Link. Here, parents can find and select a centre for their child.

Khim Lim, a mother of three children aged seven, five and two-and-a-half years old sends all her children to full day child care. This is despite having to fork out between $600 and $1,300 a month for each of them to attend.

The family lives with the children’s grandparents and they have a domestic helper at home, but Khim says that she prefers to have her children learn independence and social skills at school instead of being pampered by grandma and grandpa at home. She reckons that this also gives the grandparents time for themselves and the freedom to travel at any time.

Ms Mahaletchimi, 28, who has been teaching at a pre-nursery for three years, agrees that being in school can help children develop social skills. “Teachers know how to create suitable situations and to reinforce these skills in daily routines. It is best to start to educate the child physically, intellectually, emotionally, and socially from a very young age, around 17 or 18 months old.”

Cost

Around $873 for full day and $648 for half-day (for children 18 months old and above). Fees for infants at infant care centers are between 46 and 65 percent higher. Figures taken from ECDA statistics

2. Relatives

Grandparents make handy child care providers, especially when they reside nearby. So do grand-aunties and grand-uncles. Their genuine love for the child makes them trusty caregivers. They also provide familiarity and stability for the child.

Roni Tam, a mother of two girls aged seven and four, used to send her daughters to her mother’s home every morning and pick them up every night when they were still living in Hong Kong. After they moved to Singapore, both girls were enrolled in preschool-cum-childcare. Roni commented that she only realised how shy the girls were while in the care of their grandmother, after she saw how they blossomed among friends in the child care centre. Since then, says Roni, each girl has “learned that the world is not just her”.

Andrea Muliana has been arranging for his mother, his mother-in-law, and his mother’s single younger sister to fly to Singapore from their Indonesian hometown on a rotation basis since his daughter Sydney, now one, was born. He plans to continue doing this until Sydney is 18 months old and secures a place at the preschool where she is currently on the waitlist.

Each imported babysitting-relative stays with the family for two to three weeks each time. Andrea and his entrepreneur wife decided on this option because they want their child to be cared for by a family member. That the total monthly expense is still lower than infant care fee is a bonus.

grandmother and grandson

3. Nanny

Parents find nannies through advertisements and word-of-mouth recommendations. Most ‘old school’ nannies are not formally qualified, but have years of experience in looking after babies and young children.

Most newer nannies are trained by either the Association for the Early Childhood Educators (AECES) or Adventlinks – SAUC Education Centre Pte Ltd. These organisations also provide parents with referrals. Other alternatives include websites such Find A Nanny which has lists of caregivers and families seeking one, or agencies like Just Us which offer flexible childcare and eldercare arrangements.

Patricia S. Nesamani of Just Us shares why some parents hire a nanny:

  • Undivided attention for your child in the familiar and safe environment of your own home
  • Personalised and customised care in daily routines
  • Flexibility in schedule and reinforcement of values
  • Consistent care and ability to bond with one same primary caregiver
  • More control on exposure to virus and germs, meaning less need for parents to take time off work to care for their sick child

Lim Ee Ping is a mother of four children aged eight, four, and three-month-old twins. She hires a nanny two to three times a week on the days when she has to ferry her older children to enrichment classes. She has known the nanny for many years and considers her a family friend. Ee Ping prefers this arrangement to putting her babies in infant care. “This will reduce the chances of viruses coming into the house, because once any of them catches an illness, it will start a cycle would include all four children getting sick,” she says.

Cost

Service from Just Us caregivers (who are all Singaporean or Malaysian) cost between $18 and $20 per hour on weekdays and $22 and $25 per hour on weekends for a minimum of four hours a session.

4. Drop-Off Points

According to ECDA statistics, there are 1,065 child care centres with 98,560 places in
Singapore as of June 2013. Out of the 82,229 places occupied, 22,120 children are on a flexi-care programme. This means that they go to the child care centre for a few hours a day, instead of fixed half or full day programmes.

For younger children of preschool-going age or below, such a an ad-hoc arrangement could be difficult. They need a stable routine, with familiar faces. This is one of the reasons why some child care centres do not offer such a service.

However, in certain child care centres, emergency child care can be arranged for students who attend half-day school. In this case, they would stay on for the other half of the day at a fixed fee. This is for situations when the parent is unable to leave work in time, or has been irrevocably delayed in picking up the child.

Whichever option you pick for your child will have to be one that suits your family’s needs and schedules as well as your child’s temperament. But remember, nothing can take the place of pure, unadulterated mummy and daddy time and love so do shower all that on your little ones whenever you can!