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Alternate Child Care (I)
Grandparents & Babysitters
© Aug 1997 Alan S.L. Wong

Alternate Child Care

Should you decide to work, what are the pros and cons of the various alternate childcare options in Singapore? We will look at four options: grandparents' care, neighbourhood babysitters, live-in maids and child-care centres.

Grandparents' Care

Due to ties of relationship, grandparents are probably more committed to your children compared with paid help. However, there is a tendency for grandparents to be lenient with their grandchildren. Also, they may raise your children in their own ways and religion ... ways that you may not agree with. It is hard to dictate your preferences as you are afraid of souring the relationship (especially with your in-laws). Moreover, you are dependent on them to look after your children.

Life can be one big rush if the grandparents stay some distance from your place of work. Every morning, you rush to send the children to the grandparents' home before you go to work. In the evenings, you pick up the children before heading for home. If your children are at an age when they learn through play, then you may have to ferry not only your children but some of their toys as well. However, one big advantage of grandparents' care is the flexible pickup time. All you need is just a telephone call to inform the grandparents whenever you have to work late. It is most ideal if the grandparents can cook dinner for you and your family.

By the time you reach home, it is time for bed. The next morning, the cycle repeats itself. Consequently, some parents become "weekend parents" ... leaving their children at their grandparents' place during the weekdays and bringing the children home on weekends only. When this happens, guess with whom will the children bond and whose values and religious beliefs will the children pick up?

Neighbourhood Babysitters

The equivalent of neighbourhood babysitters is family day care where care is provided within the person's (sitter's) home.

The quality of child care is as good as the caregiver. How much do you know about the potential caregiver? What are her values? What is her philosophy of child development? What is the state of her health? In most cases, we know little except that she is available to look after your children at a reasonable cost.

The babysitters in Singapore are usually older women with little or no formal education. Their age may be a plus point in that they have experience in handling children. Most of the time, however, all they provide is physical care. There is no planned program for the children except lots of television.

Other plus points of babysitters are the homelike environment and the convenience because we tend to choose someone living in the neighbourhood. The adult-child ratio is probably lower than that in a child-care centre. However, unlike child-care centres, neighbourhood babysitters are not supervised or licensed by the government.