Navigating your childcare options in a post-COVID world


When we found out we were expecting our first child, we were ecstatic. Our excitement soon gave way to panic, however, as we realized that we needed a plan for childcare. As full-time physicians early in our careers, neither of us was prepared to drop to part-time or become a stay-at-home caregiver. Not knowing where to start, we turned to our friends and colleagues, and of course, the Internet, for advice on our options.

Dr. Kelly E. Hathorn

In our research, we discovered three things. First, with COVID-19, the cost of childcare has skyrocketed, and availability has decreased. Second, there are several options for childcare, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Third, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Our goal for this article is to provide an overview of the common childcare solutions and provide some practical tips to help other physicians determine what might work best for their family and situation.


Using family members to provide childcare is often cost-effective and provides a familiar, supportive environment for children. Proximity does not guarantee a willingness or ability to provide long-term care, however, and it can cause strain on family relationships, lead to intrusions and boundary issues, and create feelings of obligation and guilt. It is important to have very honest, up-front discussions with family members about hopes and expectations if this is your childcare plan.

Daycare, facility-based

Daycare centers are commercial facilities that offer care to multiple children of varying ages, starting from as young as 6 weeks. They have trained professionals and provide structured activities and educational programs for children. Many daycares also provide snacks and lunch, which is included in their tuition. They are a popular choice for families seeking full-time childcare and the social and educational benefits that come with a structured setting.

Dr. David W. Creighton

Daycares also have some downsides. They usually operate during normal workday hours, from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., which may not be convenient for physicians who work outside of these hours. Even with feasible hours, getting children dressed, ready, and dropped off each morning could add significant time and stress to your morning routine. Additionally, most daycares have policies that prohibit attendance if a child is sick or febrile, which is a common occurrence, particularly for daycare kids. In case of an illness outbreak, the daycare may even close for several days. Both scenarios require at least one parent to take a day off or have an alternative childcare plan available on short notice.

Availability of daycare can be limited, particularly since the COVID pandemic, creating waitlists that can be several months long. Early registration, even during pregnancy, is recommended to secure a spot. It can be helpful to find out if your employer has an agreement with a specific daycare that has “physician-friendly” hours and gives waitlist priority to trainees or even attending physicians. The cost of daycare for one child is typically affordable, around $12,000 per year on average, but can be as high as $25,000 in cities with high cost of living. A sibling discount may be offered, but the cost of daycare for multiple children could still exceed in-home childcare options.1


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