Childcare options in S'pore: Which ones should you choose from & how much do they cost?

Childcare options in S'pore: Which ones should you choose from & how much do they cost?

One of my friends is five months pregnant. Instead of anticipating the arrival of her child, she has declared that she expects to have a nervous breakdown and has even started reading up on how to handle post-natal depression.

The reason? Her husband works long hours and her parents and in-laws have made it clear they have too many extra-curricular activities like mahjong to look after the baby.

She's freaking out about being left alone at home to fend for herself and the child, all while desperately searching for a new job.

Paying for a confinement nanny or a full-time babysitter would be out of the question give her family's current combined income.

If the above mirrors your own sentiments no matter how many happy pics you've posted in denial on Facebook, you're not alone.

Working parents especially have a lot on their plates, as without family support there is really no option but to pay for someone to mind the kid.

Short of hiring a live-in maid, which understandably many mothers are wary of doing, here are your options.

Infantcare / Childcare centre

If you have a full-time job and are consistently unable to be around to look after your kid on weekdays, a childcare centre is probably your best bet in terms of value for money.

While the cost of enrolling your kid at a childcare centre is certainly not low, it might still be cheaper than hiring a babysitter or nanny for the same amount of time - once your child is past the infant stage (ie. at least 18 months old). Infantcare is much more expensive.

Note that a childcare centre is usually not just a place where someone looks after your kid until you get off work.

Each childcare centre usually has an educational component, meaning after a few months or years at childcare your kid is going to come home and start speaking in a crisp Singlish accent out of the blue.

Choosing a childcare centre isn't easy, as despite the low birth rate childcare is quite a competitive industry in Singapore because nobody can afford to stay home and look after the kids.

How much you want to pay really depends on the brand of the centre and the educational methods they use.

Here are some popular childcare providers:

NTUC: These centres tend to be some of the more affordable ones so if you're price-sensitive, you'll want to see if there are vacancies first. (Price: $1,342.85 to $1,966.13)

Churches: Some churches in Singapore offer affordable childcare services. You don't have to be Christian to enrol your children. (Average price: $600 to $700)

Premium childcare centres: You might have heard of brands like Montessori and Blue House International and wondered why they were so expensive. Many premium childcare centres specialise in some special methodology that's supposed to turn your child into a genius. (Average cost of full-day childcare: $700 to $750)

If your baby is younger than 18 months old, you'll have to send him or her to an infant care centre, not childcare. Infant care is more expensive. Many childcare centres have an infant care branch, but expect to pay 60 per cent to 100 per cent more for infantcare. NTUC's My First Skool charges $1,342.85 to $1,966.13 for infantcare. (Average cost of full-day infant care: $1,500)

Note: Depending on your income level, you should be eligible for a certain amount of childcare or infantcare subsidies from the government of at least $300. If your combined family income is under $7,500 and the mother works more than 56 hours a month you can receive an additional subsidy.

Babysitting

If one of you is a stay-at-home parent or works flexible hours, you might be able to skip out on paying for childcare altogether, relying instead on a part-time or ad-hoc babysitter to fill in for you when you're not around.

While there isn't a clear distinction between a babysitter and a nanny, we shall take the term babysitter to mean someone who just minds the child, while a nanny shall be taken to mean a lady who also helps out around the house and often stays overnight.

There are tons of babysitters in all shapes and sizes. Some are older and very experienced, while others are students hoping to make a bit of extra pocket money. Babysitters can be hired in advance or on an ad-hoc basis.

For instance, if you have to attend a class once a week, you can schedule a weekly session in advance.

On the other hand, if your friends ask you out for a drink, you might want to hire an ad-hoc babysitter for that one night.

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