The high cost of childcare

Thursday, August 15, 2013


I am very lucky to have my sister nanny for B right now.  As a child, I never went to daycare or even preschool so I have no real experience with it.  My mom stayed home with us.  You might think that I missed out on social interaction with other kids my age and didn't get enough mental stimulation.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  I was the oldest of seven kids so starting at age 17 months, I always had at least 1 playmate.  My mom also had a very close knit group of 7 friends who also had children that were around the same age as me and my siblings so we had regular play dates.  I never felt like I missed out on anything.  I was always appreciative of my mom that she stayed home with my brothers, sisters, and I.

Fast forward back to now.  Unfortunately, I can't stay at home with my baby boy.  Mommy and Daddy have to go to work to be able to pay the mortgage and to be able to afford to buy food.  I would love nothing more than to stay home with him, but it just isn't in the cards for us.

My sister is doing an awesome job with B!  She plays with him, takes him for stroller walks, and brings him to music class every week.  The little over-achiever even rolled over twice yesterday from front to back and is threatening back to front on a daily basis.  The problem is that my sister is not going to want to nanny forever.  She wants to go back to school to get her masters and to wants to ultimately end up with a teaching job.  This means that eventually little B will have to go to daycare.  I am dreading this for many reasons.

The costs of childcare in my area, and probably in most areas around the country, is crazy high.  I have inquired into a few centers near my house and they all have extremely high rates and very long waiting lists.  What is annoying to me, is that my husband and I both work full time jobs.  We work very hard, pulling in many extra hours a week as salaried employees.  I went to college and he did not.  We both make around the same salary (don't get me started on that one), which when combined, is enough for a comfortable existence.  We can pay our bills, we own a house, and we can afford to go on a simple vacation every year.  Where I live, if you are on welfare, you can get free or very low cost childcare at the same places that I would have to pay big bucks at AND you child does not have to wait on a waiting list.  They can skip the line and get right in.  How is that fair?

Like many of my good friends, my husband and I decided to have a child when knew we could afford the child.  We may have even waited so long that it cost us fertility issues, but that is a different story.  My friends and I work hard to pay for the things that we have.  Others around me get pregnant and then get pregnant again and again and cannot even afford the first child that they had.  They then get free child care as a reward.  I work my tail off (and I paid for college myself) and both my child and I get screwed.  I'll basically have to send my son wherever I can get in, even if it is not my first second or third choice because I have a job and make a decent living.  It makes my blood boil.

Oh and if we should be lucky enough to have a second child, the costs go up from there.  The second child would need to be in daycare from the time he/she turned 3 months old.  Half of either my husbands or my salary would go towards childcare costs.  It is sad and it sucks.  Long gone are the days where one salary is enough to support a family of 4.  I am not sure how my Dad was able to work to support 7 children.  We didn't get everything we wanted, but I never felt deprived.  We rarely went out to dinner, but I never went hungry.  I never flew to Disneyland, but we traveled in our van on a family vacation somewhere every year and we always had a great time.

I had a conversation with my neighbor who has two young girls.  She stayed home to watch them or had someone come to the house to watch them while she worked part time.  When it came time for her to send her kids to daycare/preschool, she found herself in a pickle because of waiting lists and the crazy application process that you would think was for an ivy league private education.  Because her girls had not gone to a center for formal daycare and were not on any government assistance programs, they were pushed to the bottom of the list.  The girls are bilingual and they could not get in anywhere.  Oh and I don't even want to think about the costs which my neighbor mentioned cost more than my public college education.

Then there is the option of home daycare.  I have some friends who are going to be sending their children to home daycares in the area.  The problem with that, for me anyways, is that they are not regulated by the state and this they do not have to abide by any specific rules.  I have heard horror stories from home daycare situations.  I don't think I would be able to concentrate at work, not knowing exactly what kind of care my child was getting.

Right now I feel quite trapped and overwhelmed.  I know I need to get on some waiting lists and take some tours of daycare centers.  I am trying to set all of this up while working my full-time job and taking care of B at night.  I am worried that I may have waited too long to start this process.  The problem was that I was too worried that I would jinx my miracle baby if I started looking at daycare centers when I was pregnant or even when he was a newborn.  Now we are screwed in a major way.

I have sought advice from several mothers groups and my friends and they have offered some advice.  I still feel like I am wandering around in the dark though, holding my baby close and dreading the day I have to leave him with people that I don't know, at a center that isn't close to my house, at a place that I was lucky to get into at all, and paying half of my salary to do it.  It is enough to make me sick to my stomach. 

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2 Responses to “The high cost of childcare”

  1. Do you have a long waiting list before you get the subsidized care where you live? My understanding of the situation where I'm from is that to get a daycare subsidy, you have to be employed and making very little money (as of 7/1/13, less than 100% of the poverty level) and then you have to wait on the list for typically more than a year to start receiving the subsidy.

    And if you are ever unemployed for more than one week, it is rescinded and you go back to the end of the line and have to wait all over again. And of course, poverty-level jobs don't tend to be super stable.

    I just looked, and actually where I'm from they've currently frozen applications in most cases. So, if you lose your subsidy, even if you're making literally poverty-level wages, you're SOL until you can get into headstart, except in very limited cases.

  2. We're still doing the daycare search, too, and feeling miserable about the price, even just for part-time. It's a terrible situation. Good luck with your search - I'm sure that in the end you'll find a place you'll be comfortable leaving baby boy.