Congrats on the new little one! We have two kids, an almost-three year-old and a 9 1/2 month old. Until last month they were both in a large (around 200 kids) center about a block from our house. We’ve recently moved them to a home daycare a couple of miles away, but still about 20 miles from where we work (hubby and I carpool into downtown every day together).
The pros and cons are similar to what others have mentioned. The center was great for its location, though many people prefer a daycare close to their place of work. That would have been difficult for us, because both of our kids HATED HATED HATED riding in the car until about 6-7 months. I mean, nonstop, top-of-their-lungs screaming from the moment we buckled them in until we finally arrived wherever we were going. Imagine dealing with that for 45 minutes two ways each day in rush hour traffic. I have been told that most kids love riding in the car and may actually be lulled to sleep (ha–where are those mythical children??), so using a center close to work will probably be okay for you.
Other than location, we also never had to worry about staff sick days with the center, there were lots of age-appropriate activities for both kids and the facility was new with a library, computer lab, large inside gymnasium, etc. Downsides were the cost, staff turnover, and the kids were CONSTANTLY sick–if they didn’t have a cold or ear infection, they were at least constantly stuffy and sniffly. We called it “daycare crud”, and we as parents always seemed to have it as well. We were always sitting at a zero balance on our sick leave as a result.
We are pleased with the home daycare we’re using now. The owner/lead teacher is a former kindergarten teacher, former daycare center director who is now completing her master’s in early childhood ed. In other words, very qualified, at a much more reasonable rate (about $300 a month cheaper). There’s virtually no turnover in her assistant teachers, and none of us have been sick a day since we moved the kids. The cons? The age range of the children is larger (infant to 4 yr olds), so it’s harder to incorporate lessons, though they do quite a bit of arts and crafts, and music, and they have a learning theme each week (last week it was “caves”, this week it’s “oceans”). The kids also get a lot more one-on-one attention. On the other hand, she also has about 2 weeks of paid vacation each year that we have to cover ourselves, or find someone to stay with the kids those days and end up paying double.
If you can find a really well-qualified home daycare that you feel comfortable with, it will probably save money in the long run, but honestly either situation has its good points. You just have to decide what will work best for you. Good luck.