On Childcare Costs, Childhood Dreams, & More: A Friday Chat

Including the winner of our guessing game!

The Price is Right

ESTER: Hello! Thank god we never have to live through THAT week again. But we’re not going to talk about the elephant in the room.

NICOLE: I get it, elephant in the room. Well played. So what are we going to talk about instead?

ESTER: Thank you. Well, first of all, I thought I’d announce the winner of our “Price Is Right”-style cost of childcare guessing game!

What Does The GOP Think About Out-of-Control Childcare Costs?

Childcare for two littles for this month, July, cost Ben and me a grand total of …

NICOLE: Wait, can I guess first? I didn’t guess. Um … $14,000. A year. $1,150ish a month. Wow, that’s probably way low. What is it?

ESTER: $1150 a MONTH? Nicole, *one kid* costs more than that.

NICOLE: With “Price is Right” rules maybe I can be closest without going over??? But probably not. Our commenters are smarter than me re: cost of childcare. What is it actually?

ESTER: $3375.


ESTER: Yup. July cost us $3375 in childcare. That’s almost twice as much as our mortgage payment. (Thank god we got a good deal on that mortgage.)

NICOLE: What if you used that to, like, get a second apartment and… there’s no scenario where this doesn’t end with you either running a daycare or managing a daycare that someone else runs as your employee. Hmm. But it’s fascinating that it costs half as much to house yourselves as it does to house your kids during the day.

ESTER: Isn’t it, though? We tried to plan things such that we wouldn’t be paying for FT childcare for two littles at the same time for very long. BG (the older one) starts Pre-K at the beginning of September, and that’s free, except that there are lots of half-days and vacation days and even a full day ends at 2:15 PM, but STILL, there will be savings. And we’re going to switch to a babysitter for BB (the younger one) so that the sitter will be able to also take care of BG when necessary during the work day. That will be cheaper.

But in case anyone was in doubt about there being a childcare affordability crisis, that number again was three-thousand-seventy-five dollars. For one month. You’d think I could send them to boarding school for less!

NICOLE: Plus they’d learn how to be wizards! I always loved boarding school books as a kid and secretly dreamed that my parents would send me to one. You know, one of those famous boarding schools in rural Missouri. Was that one of your secret childhood dreams as well?

ESTER: You could have gone to an elite Eastern institution like the main character in Prep! She hails from a working- or middle-class Midwestern family. Come to think of it, why has no one made that into a coming-of-age, fish-out-of-water movie yet? I love that novel.


And the wizards are in Massachusetts, right? I’m not as up on all these new Harry Potter-related developments as I should be because I get a little snooty about what’s canon and what isn’t.

I would have gone to Hogwarts in a second, if it existed and I had been able to as a kid, but otherwise, no, it never occurred to me to dream of boarding school. Not sure why. I went to the same school K-12 so I guess it didn’t seem possible to break up that momentum.

NICOLE: Okay, so here’s a question: what did you want to be when you grew up? I read Joanna Petrone’s interview with Dr. Campbell and I found that whole idea of “what we want to be when we grow up has the seeds of where we might fit into the working world” fascinating.

Why It Matters If You Once Dreamed Of Being An Astronaut

ESTER: Me too! But I only have the most boring, predictable answer: I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Though there was a period when I wanted to be Bernadette Peters, too. I do think it’s a great idea for people considering a career switch, though, to go back and think about what you were passionate about as a child, before all that superego messaging kicked in and took over. (“I should be responsible, make money, make my parents proud,” etc.)

What about you? Ballerina? Firefighter? Ballerina-firefighter?

NICOLE: Definitely ballerina. There is a drawing somewhere of me as a ballerina, one of those “what I want to be when I grow up” classroom assignments. But in my baby book, when my mom asked me what I wanted to be, I said “Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.” I was sort of actor-dancer-singer for a long time, and then I learned how to read/write and I decided to be an actor-dancer-singer-author, which means I probably wanted Julie Andrews’ career. You know she writes children’s books, right?

ESTER: I did know that, yes! She has so many talents. The cool thing about Dorothy is that she’s also an explorer. The original Doro the Explorer, if you will. (Toddler humor, sorry.)

NICOLE: Swiper no swiping! Wait, but she steals the silver/ruby slippers, so that lesson clearly didn’t take. For me I think the big career takeaway, which I didn’t really put together until I was an adult, was that I wanted to have a job where I shared stories with people and I wanted to be kind of self-contained. Actors and dancers and writers work with other people, but they’re also responsible for their own stuff.

ESTER: Yes, they’re definitely independent, though not solitary. Writers are more on the solitary side things. They’re also all performers, albeit in different ways. It’s hard, though, because very few small children, in my experience, are not performers, at least to some degree — they crave attention and applause.

NICOLE: But there’s a difference between “look at me!” and “look at me because I’m putting on a show.” It’s the self-awareness that you are performing, and the choice to perform. Maybe. I might be overthinking this. I put on a lot of shows when I was a kid.

ESTER: True and sage. I was obsessed with stories, too. I think I wanted the story to actually have the spotlight — I was okay being in the back, behind it, urging it forward and hoping it succeeded.

NICOLE: That’s where I’m a little different, I think, and why one of my longer-term office jobs was a good-enough fit but not quite right. When I was doing executive assistant stuff, I was good at what I did and I was supporting a lot of other people, including when they published books and put together large events. I picked up a lot of administrative tasks, like “can you take a copyediting pass on this” or “can you arrange this table so it looks good to visitors.” People kept saying I could make a career out of that, and I kept thinking “I do not want to be behind the scenes in five years.”

ESTER: That’s a good insight. Have you ever had a realization like that that turned out to be wrong? Where you really thought you understood something about your personality or character as it should be applied to your career and then found out you were mistaken? Someone was telling me recently about how he always thought he was an academic and then dropped out midway through his PhD program because he finally got that he had misunderstood some key facets of himself.

NICOLE: I mean, I stuck through my MFA program out of grit and maybe spite. I was going to finish, damn it. But by the beginning of that last year, I was very certain that I was also not going to be an academic. I like teaching, but that world was not a good fit for me, and I was really crushed.

I also wasn’t going to be a theater director, which is what I did my MFA for and something I thought I would do in addition to teaching. I didn’t have the patience for it, I don’t think. It was also a behind-the-scenes job that I mistakenly thought was an in-front-of-the-scenes job. Directing involves a lot of sitting and watching other people, both of which I am terrible at.

ESTER: I didn’t set out to direct in college but when I started I actually discovered I liked it a lot. In such an interesting way, life seems to reward our taking on a mix of what we know we want to do, what we try, and what we’re willing to tolerate.

On that note, HAPPY WEEKEND. The winner of the “Price is Right” Childcare Costs guessing game is … PAJane, who guessed $3300!

A friend with a 3yo and a 3mo pays $1100 in rural PA.

Congratulations! Email me and we’ll figure out about your prize.

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