The word "nanny" instantly brings to mind the practically perfect Mary Poppins who sings, dances, and brings children on adventures in chalk drawings. Real-life nannies may not jump into chalk drawings with the children under their care, but they can be just as magical.

A nanny cares for your child in your home. A nanny covers your child's basic needs while you are away—supervising, protecting, feeding, and bathing. A top-notch nanny will also calm your child when frightened, comfort your child when hurt, encourage growth and learning, and provide a little TLC whenever needed.

The one-on-one care and nurturing does cost more than your regular daycare center. Nannies are the most expensive type of child care, making it beyond the reach of many parents. You can pay up to $600 a week for a nanny in a large urban center or as low as $300 a week in a smaller town. Keep in mind, most nannies work longer hours than teachers in a daycare center. The premium in pay is understandable. If good nannies are hard to find in your area, you may need to lure a nanny from another family with perks such as regular use of a car or theatre tickets.

The time a nanny saves and the comfort of being at home are worth the cost for many parents. Hiring a nanny means no daily pickups and drop-offs. Your baby stays at home in familiar surroundings and can stay on track with the same nap and feeding schedule. If you have a last minute meeting at work, it is easier to negotiate an extra hour with your nanny than a daycare center that closes at 6:00 pm every day, no exceptions.

A nanny also means your baby is exposed to fewer illnesses. If your baby does become sick, your nanny is still there to take care of your baby—unlike most daycare centers that require sick babies to stay at home. Your baby also doesn't have to compete with other children for attention, as happens in a daycare setting.

Nanny care is unsupervised—it's just your baby and your nanny. You only know what your nanny tells you, so it is extremely important that you find someone you trust. Your nanny is your child's primary caregiver during your work hours, which means no back up. If your nanny falls ill or quits, you could be left in a lurch until you find someone to take her place. You can make it a little easier on yourself however. Specify in your contract how much notice your nanny must give you if she resigns. Two weeks to a month are typical lengths of time—enough time for you to interview and hire a replacement.

When your baby is toddler or pre-school aged, socialization is an important part of their development. Social activities are not automatically planned with nanny care and will require you to be pro-active and encouraging. You can sign your baby up for regular play group classes and have your nanny bring your baby to the classes. You can also encourage your nanny to attend story time at the local library or go for regular afternoon walks to the park.

Nannies are more expensive, but most parents find it well worth the cost. The search to find a good nanny can be tiresome, but well worth the time and effort.

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