A mother in my multiples group shared this article today, depressingly titled “Childcare now costs more than rent. No wonder women are opting out of the workforce.”
Read the article; here’s a quote:
These sky-high costs are a fairly recent phenomenon. Citing the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bloomberg reports that the costs of both childcare and nursery school have risen 168% over the past quarter of a century. Meanwhile, consumer prices have increased 76%. In more practical terms, this means that the average cost of childcare is about $18,000 per year
I don’t mind publicly saying that childcare for our two 4-year-olds costs us $24,000 per year. That is just daycare. It doesn’t cover feeding them, clothing them, childcare for date night, toys, going to the museum, etc.
Obviously, children cost a lot – it’s expected, it’s something you take into account when you decide to have babies. It shouldn’t have to be the deciding factor in whether you “can” have more kids. There are people who think this is fine, I know. The age old “poor people shouldn’t have basic human rights” argument. However, this isn’t a “poor people problem” – this is an outrage for all of us. Consider this:
But even for parents higher on the income scale, paying for childcare is no small feat. Indeed, the EPI study notes that in 33 states, as well as in D.C., childcare costs more than sending a child to college—provided that the school is public and in-state.
33 states! And DC!
What options do single parents have? What about when you’re a teacher, making an abysmal salary because America doesn’t value quality educators or education in general, and your choices are quit and struggle the rest of your career to re-enter the workforce since everyone else at your age has tenure, or to keep working, and get a second job to pay for childcare? What about all the other people who make exactly what daycare costs, and decide to stay home, and are questioned for their dedication to their jobs for the rest of their careers? Trust that women are the ones who most typically end up being the full-time caregivers (despite dads being awesome at it too).
With a third kid on the way, we can’t afford to send all three kids to daycare next year. We just can’t. It’ll be just a bit over$3,000 a month for all three, which my calculator tells me is $36,000 for the year (although it ends up being slightly higher, due to new year registration, art supply fees, and application fees). That is slightly more than half my salary. I get paid really well! So does my husband – we both work for progessive companies who value every employee, single, married, or with families. We have a couple options available to us that we’ll explore (we’re considering an au pair), and things will be fine. The twins only have one more year of daycare before they can enroll in Kindergarten in North Carolina (they miss the summer birthday cut-off to start in 2016). We’re getting off very lucky, based on this article. Lots of families won’t.
Childcare is excrutiating, because you want your kids to be with people who will care for them and about them. You want people who have been trained and trained well. You want people who aren’t doing it until the next best thing comes along. And that ends up meaning they must be highly educated, and they have to paid well. And those costs are passed directly along to the parents. So what about those other countries where childcare isn’t 30% of the family budget? The government helps ensure that first, education isn’t so exorbitant that you pay for it the rest of your life (shout out to Nelnet), and second, that childcare is adequately subsidized.
Since women are the group most affected by these rising costs, it’s not hard to see that our national disinterest in genuinely improving education, lowering the cost of higher education, and better subsidizing childcare is base discrimination against women. It’s discrimination against a LOT of groups, but women bear the brunt of childcare, and are paid 0.79 cents on the dollar to men, so where does this money come from? Too often, it means women are once again regulated to the home and everyone else can continue on with their lives like there is no crisis. Hey, out of sight, out of mind!
Of course, here’s the disclaimer that I don’t mean to say that women and men who actively choose to stay home with their little ones are somehow on the wrong side of history. I think that anyone who takes a job with no benefits, no salary, no vacation, no time off, literally 24-7-365, and maintains their grace, humor, and most importantly, love for their family are some sort of super hero. I can’t do it, personally. But we can all benefit from better access to better childcare across the board. A parent that wants to stay home with their babies but also would love to take up painting benefits if they can drop their babies off a few hours one day at minimal cost, and trust that their child is getting the best care after their own.
There’s no reason we aren’t doing better at this, except that it isn’t clear that this is a major priority. We can change that by contacting our congress people, by bringing this subject up more and more often, by starting conversations about it, and by caring how our children and everyone else’s children are cared for when we can’t do it ourselves.