Childcare is HOW MUCH?

As I continue to apply for jobs, I’m forced to think about what I need out of a job.  What kind of benefits, how much vacation time, what hours, and — importantly — what pay I need to make it work.  What is negotiable?  What isn’t?  What is the bare minimum I need?

So I sat down with our current monthly expenses: mortgage, insurance, phone, internet, gas, groceries, etc.  I got a number I wasn’t surprised by.  It’s what we’ve been living on for the last year, more or less.

Then I calculated how much we’ll have in expenses once I get back to work.  Right now, my student loans are on deferment because of our low income/my unemployment.  When I go back to work, we’ll have to resume paying those.  We also owe money to my in-laws because they lent us money for the downpayment on our mortgage.  They’ve been kind enough to put those payments on hold while I went back to school and have been looking for work.  But once I get back to work, we’ll have to pay those, too.

And we’ll have childcare.  I brought up the website of the daycare we used while I was in school and checked their rates.  I remember that they were comparably priced, if not a bit lower than other area daycares.  We have a one-year-old and a 4-year-old, so I calculated the cost to send them to daycare full time.

WOW.

Childcare will cost more each month than our current expenses, minus groceries.  (With groceries, our current expenses are only about $100/month more than the anticipated cost of daycare per month.)  I’m blown away.  I know childcare isn’t cheap.  We paid for daycare while I went to school.  But some semesters, we had financial assistance, some semesters she only went part-time.  Also, as the kids get older, they get less expensive.  Plus, she was only ONE KID.  Adding another one-year-old to the cost adds A LOT to the monthly/yearly total.

After doing the math, my husband will just barely be taking home more than the cost of childcare.  Granted, our health/vision/dental insurance and his 401k come out of his paycheck, too.  So it’s not like he’s only working for the cost of daycare.  But after those (very important) deductions and the cost of daycare, he’s only taking home about $250 each month.  Yep, about $60 a week.

So I need to make enough money to cover all of our monthly expenses, plus my loans (but that’s a totally different story), plus contributing to retirement for me, plus savings… ugh.

After much number crunching and a visit to a take-home pay estimator, I came up with my magical number.  My bare minimum number.  But that can change, too.  If their insurance is super awesome, we may switch my family to that and save some money.  But if it sucks, we’ll have to pay an additional fee each month to keep me on my husband’s insurance (which is pretty decent, I must admit).  So that’ll cost money.

Anyway, the point of the post is this: DAYCARE COSTS TOO MUCH MONEY.  Yet, I don’t want the people who care from my kids to live in poverty, either.  So how do we fix this?  How do we, as a society, help people raise kids who will be contributing members of society?  If parents just sit home, milking the system, that’s what the kids will see… and what they’ll expect for themselves.  We need parents to be able to work and teach their kids a strong work ethic.  But people shouldn’t work just to pay for childcare.

Are tax credits the answer?  Government subsidies for daycare centers?  Higher maximum income for childcare assistance?  I don’t know.  I’m not an economist or politician.  I’m just a mom who wants to provide for my family.

A mom who is going to have a hard time sleeping tonight thinking about the nightmare that is the cost of childcare.

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