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The Childcare Conundrum

The Childcare Conundrum

Can’t my baby watch herself? Of course I know this is a ridiculous notion, but my husband and I have joked about it before. Here’s why: childcare is one of the only situations we’ve run into with a zero-sum solution for our household. While I want to be a great mother, (call me crazy) I also WANT to work, which means we need to have someone to care for our daughter.

Day Care Image 1-8-13First of all, there is the expense of childcare. I would guess anyone with young children knows childcare is expensive! Here are a few facts from the Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2012 Report from Child Care Aware® of America.

  • Nationally, the cost of full-time care for one infant in a center ranges from about 7 to 16 percent of the median income for married-couple families with children.
  • In 2011, the average annual cost of full-time child care for an infant in a center ranged from about $4,600 in Mississippi (least expensive state) and $15,000 in Massachusetts (most expensive state). For a full-time, 4-year-old in a center the cost ranged from $3,900 (MS) to $11,700 (MA).
  • Center-based child care fees for two children (an infant and a 4-year-old) exceeded annual median rent payments in all 50 states and DC.
  • In 35 states and DC, the average annual cost for center-based care for an infant was higher than a year’s in-state tuition and related fees at a four-year public college.

These costs are challenging for most families, and are especially overwhelming for single parents, or for two-income families living paycheck to paycheck before starting a family.

Childcare image 1-8-13

Decision Factors
Besides the high cost associated with childcare and how that factors into the decision, there are plenty of other considerations like health and safety, educational development, socialization, and convenience among other things. Making the right decision seems impossible, given the competing studies and statistics supporting day care centers vs. in-home centers vs. nannies, a family member, and on and on.

From our personal experience, we’ve found that no matter what, our choice has specific challenges that come along with it, and this varies by child and age, making the decision even more difficult.

Why this is worthy of a blog post?
The challenges with child care (for a working mom especially) weigh heavily into a parent’s budget, day-to-day schedule, and creates stress. For women especially, it affects the types of hours worked and the types of jobs she takes on. It affects the perceptions her employer has on her performance. It affects how much discretionary spending her family has, or may require cut backs to core household expenses. Child care is not a simple subject, and has a major effect on the child and on the professional success of the parent(s) (and especially for moms).

Every mom with young kids that I know regularly calculates out how much money she is actually earning by working—and in most cases this is a surprisingly low number once childcare is subtracted out.  It’s funny though, I haven’t heard of any of my male friends who do this.

I’m writing this post because it’s something that needs more attention and discussion. Without better childcare options or more flexible work environments, it will be impossible for parents (especially women), to reach their full professional potential. When parents (specifically women) get out of the workforce, organizations lack the diversity that is needed to be successful. In my eyes, this becomes another zero-sum situation.

What works for your family? Why did you make that choice? What other challenges do you see with childcare? What should employers do, if anything, to make childcare less stressful?

A USA manufacturing advocate, an idealist, a champion for women, a believer in good, a corporate survivor, a spreadsheet and organizational junkie, a healthy living proponent, a wife, a mother, and an entrepreneur. She took her 15 years of retail and corporate merchandising experience, coupled her passion for the American dream and hard-working women, mixed in an inspiring figure (Rosie the Riveter of course), and created rosieMADE LLC. Find on .

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  1. FOURDOG - August 16, 2013, 11:15 am Reply

    My husband and I have our own business and we now work at home (with employees). While this sounds like a great option to be home with the kids, it’s almost worse for them. Our older boys are in school but our 3 yr old has been home with us most of the time — we tried part-time preschool for a while but decided to cut costs and keep him home and now he goes to early intervention preschool 4 mornings a week. We find ourselves interacting with him less, using tv or ipad to keep him occupied and getting frustrated when he pulls us away from what we are working on. Our solution has been to have my husband mostly responsible for him when he’s home during the day which means he’s just not going to work during those times. I’m sometimes jealous of the moms that get to stay home with their kids and not juggle work but at the same time I know I’d go crazy not working and when it comes down to it, we couldn’t survive financially at this point in time due to our financial obligations. This is working for us at the moment but it’s less than ideal.

    • Alicia Vanderschuere - August 16, 2013, 12:13 pm Reply

      Thanks so much for sharing your personal experience! I’m sure making these decisions, and then adjusting them has been (and will continue to be) difficult for you and your husband! I think it’s really important for people to discuss the challenges (and costs) associated with childcare, since it impacts so many people. Through those discussions, better solutions can be created!

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