When the men and women who fight for our country have families to protect and provide for in addition to the work they do for our country, the choices that they’re forced to make can be very complicated ones. In many cases, the most pressing issue is choosing the type of childcare that works best for their very specific needs; here are ten of the reasons why military families often choose private, in-home childcare over public daycare.
- Unpredictable Schedules – Even in times of peace and limited deployment, the schedule of an active-duty soldier is unpredictable at best. There are dozens of training exercises and other requirements that keep military personnel coming and going at erratic intervals, making it difficult to plan for center-based daycare in advance. When a non-military spouse works a non-traditional schedule, daycare centers may not even be an option as very few are available for late-night hours. This makes having a nanny an ideal choice because they can be more accommodating to less conventional schedules.
- Stationing in a Foreign Country – When soldiers are stationed to foreign posts, such as those in Korea or Germany, they usually have the option of taking their families along. In these cases, hiring an American nanny that lives on post with her family can provide a sense of community as well as assistance with childcare. Alternately, hiring a local nanny gives children access to supplemental language instruction from a native speaker, and a chance to truly experience a new, authentic culture.
- Deployment – All too often, deployments can last for a year or longer, leaving families suddenly reduced to what is effectively a single-parent household. Engaging a nanny can help the non-military parent to preserve the established family routine as much as possible, rather than sending them into the new environment of a crowded daycare center.
- Mommy Moral Support – For the wives of servicemen (and the husbands of servicewomen), hiring a nanny provides much more than a childcare option. It can also help them to feel that they have a support system in place, something that’s essential for preserving sanity during a long deployment.
- Specialized Programs – Many nanny agencies discount their fees and have incentives in place especially designed to cater to military families. When these are taken into account, hiring a full-time nanny can be less expensive and more enriching than sending kids to a daycare center.
- Manny/Nanny Gender Role Models – In recent years, there’s been a huge spike in the popularity of male nannies, also known as “mannies.” When fathers are deployed, a manny can provide the male role model and companionship that young children need; on the same token, a traditional female nanny can fill a similar role for the female children of deployed servicewomen.
- One-On-One Care – When a parent is suddenly removed from the household for an extended period of time, kids can suffer from separation anxiety and other emotional problems that may not make them the best candidates for group daycare. Many military families opt instead to hire a nanny, who can fill their child’s need for one-on-one attention and personal care.
- Creating a Sense of Stability – Deployments, sudden assignments, and other unpredictable aspects of life in a military family can make it difficult to foster a sense of stability in young children. By hiring an in-home private childcare provider, kids are greeted by the same face on a daily basis and are cared for in the familiar environment of their own home, which can help them to feel more secure than they would otherwise.
- Tutoring and Homework Help – One of the things that can fall to the wayside when one parent is deployed and the other is forced to work outside of the home is homework help and tutoring. As a result, kids can fall behind in their classes and suffer from feelings of inadequacy, and kids who spend their afternoon in a center may not have access to the homework help that they need. With a dedicated nanny, kids have the benefit of a much smaller environment, with far fewer distractions, and an adult that can offer assistance and coaching while parents are outside of the home.
- Extending the Family Unit – Most military families are stationed far from their own hometowns and extended families, significantly reducing the built-in support system that comes from being part of such a family unit. Even in civilian families, nannies often become a valued part of the family; in the case of military families, this can be one of the most attractive aspects of hiring a private childcare provider.
Working as a nanny for a military family is sure to come with its own set of complications and challenges, however it is an attractive option for many military personnel looking to find quality care for their children. At the same time, providing a much-needed service for the men and women who protect our freedoms every day is also guaranteed to be one of the most fulfilling, satisfying experiences that any nanny could have.
Most military children have the following experiences in common: frequent relocations, disruptions of education, separations from friends, feeling like an outsider in new schools and communities, missing a sense of permanency and connection, being separated from the military parent while that parent is abroad or away from home, dealing with the emotions of the non-military parent who is left behind, and feeling alone or unknown by others.
How these experiences affect children depends on the personalities and perspectives of the children. A brief topical overview follows.
Outgoing children are more likely to see frequent school and community changes as a fun opportunity to keep meeting new people, whereas shy children may see frequent school and community changes as intimidating and scary.
Children who are highly adaptable may not be bothered by disruptions of education, whereas children who prefer routine may find such disruptions more distressing. Also, children in more advanced grades may find it increasingly disruptive to their educational goals to change schools in the middle of a school year.
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