Holiday bonuses for caregivers (guest post)

I can sum up my own stance on gift-giving for preschool teachers and babysitters quite simply: give as much cash as you can afford plus something sentimental if time permits. Annika’s feelings about holiday daycare bonuses were a bit more nuanced so I invited her to share them here.

Two years ago at this time of year I was in a quandary: how much should I tip or bonus my childcare provider for the holidays? My 6-month-old son had just started at a lovely home daycare and I didn’t know the protocol for these things – in fact, it hadn’t even occurred to me until some moms from my moms’ group started discussing it during one of our outings. Most of us had gone back to work and some of the other babies were in full-time daycare. The other moms were talking about giving a weeks’ pay to each of their babies’ main caregivers.

Graham had only been in daycare since early November and, while it was going well so far, it didn’t feel appropriate or warranted to give our daycare provider a large bonus after barely two months. I had just returned to work part-time after a six-month maternity leave so dropping a lot of cash would be tough on our budget. I wanted our daycare ladies to feel appreciated, but was unsure how best to accomplish that.

I can’t remember exactly how much I ended up giving that first Christmas. What I do remember is that later in the year, right before our daycare went on vacation for a week in August, I gave our two cherished caregivers another “unexpected” bonus. I was feeling very grateful for the love and care they gave (and continue to give) my son and I wanted to show it. We were doing better financially and I wanted to share the wealth. I put some cash in a card for each of them and wrote a little note of thanks. They were very appreciative – almost more so, it seemed, than in December!

I gave modest bonuses again last Christmas, but I also filed away the idea of the “bonus” bonus (like a “special special,” for Thomas the Tank Engine fans). In May, when my son turned two, I got two gift certificates at a local nail salon for our daycare providers. The cards I enclosed them in shared how thankful my husband and I were for Lorie and Linda’s help in helping to raise our son for the past two years. The gift certificates were a hit! One of them said she had never had her nails done before.

We are now contemplating sending our 2.5-year-old son to preschool, which might prove to be a harder transition for us than for him. We can’t imagine saying goodbye to the two women who have spent almost as much time raising him as we have. Quality daycare is so important in the working parent’s life, and I feel so lucky to have hit the jackpot with them.

How do you show your childcare provider how much you value them? Do you give a holiday bonus, or some other kind of gift, and do you ever show appreciation at other times of the year?

Related: Our formula for calculating holiday gifts for caregivers.

Thanks to Annika for sharing her experience and thoughts. She is the mom of a two and a half year old son and regular contributor to our Berkeley and Oakland parenting site,