Taking Care of Children Costs An Awful Lot of Money

Some sobering facts on childcare.

Photo: teofilo

If you’re a person with a child and a job or a person who has a job and is considering a child or really just a person with a shred of compassion, then this piece on the cost of childcare in the United States is well worth your time.

Having a Child Will Bankrupt You

I don’t have children, but friends of mine who do have moved out of New York recently in part because the cost of putting their child in daycare proved to be way too much. Somehow none of this is particularly surprising because everything is expensive, but seeing the facts and hearing the stories makes it that much worse.

In a recent poll, the most common challenge parents said they face when trying to get child care is the price. The average price of day care for an infant reaches as much as $17,000 a year; it’s nearly $13,000 for a four-year-old. Putting two kids in a center costs families more than what they typically spend on food and, in much of the country, on housing. In 28 states and Washington, D.C., sending an infant to day care costs more than sending an 18-year-old to public college. The price tag has been climbing at an extraordinary rate: The cost for families with a working mother rose 70 percent between 1985 and 2012.

It’s not news that women are overwhelmingly expected to handle the bulk of childcare. What’s disheartening is the fact that due to that expectation, the number of women in the workforce is slowly declining. Women want to work, but the cost of care for their children is so much that often, it’s easier to be a stay at home mom in order to simply survive.

Sarah loves being a mother, but she would really like to be a high school teacher. Yet she just can’t see how she could afford child care, even with a salary and the money her husband brings in from his job in IT. “We’re middle class…. But I cannot sacrifice $400 a week for both of my children,” she says. “I don’t know when I’ll return to work, and that’s frustrating.” She anticipates getting a job once her son is in kindergarten, when she is nearly 40. Sarah dreams of having a third child, but has written the idea off as impossible. “If I did, that would financially ruin us,” she says. “As much as I would always want another child, I just couldn’t afford it. It would bankrupt us.”

Also included in this piece is a bit on the fear-mongering war against child care, sparked by sensationalist stories of rogue nannies, real-life nightmarish daycare scenarios and the underlying fear of working mothers and how it might negatively impact the child. It’s not the most uplifting thing you’ll read this week, but it’s certainly one of the most important.

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