Saving for College? Psssh — Better Pool Those Pennies for Day Care

Thursday, April 10, 2014

There are many things about parenting in this country that make me say, “Come on, America! Do better.” There’s the cost of college, the shameful state of maternity leave compared to other countries (this infographic shows that pitiful picture), and let’s not even get into the pressure cooker that is Having it All While Leaning In and Thriving at Mommy Wars —  or whatever the new motherhood work/life debate is this week.

Robot | Ms. Mary Mack

Does … not … com-pute.

Now we can add one more thing to the list: the soaring, often prohibitive costs of child care. A new report found that “the annual cost of day care for an infant exceeds the average cost of in-state tuition and fees at public colleges in 31 states.”

That’s day care for the babies. Costing more than college tuition. Come on, America! What the hell? There’s got to be a better way.

When I joined Team Mama five years ago, I met many newbie mothers who opted out of working because, when they added it up, financially it simply wasn’t worth it. These women were essentially working to pay for child care. It was cheaper to stay home and be the child care. Then there were other moms who just kept their juggle struggle going — piecing together day care options (hello, Grandma!), trying to make it work and make at least a little bit of sense for their families.

A friend of my sister’s, expecting her first child, works a very good job at a large company. However, they cost of the on-site day care is so high, this 30-year-old mama-to-be is seriously considering not returning to her gig after mat leave. She’s stressing about what to do about child care and the baby is not even born yet.

I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to work from home as a writer and journalist. I have a relatively flexible schedule, and am home when my kid arrives from pre-school. But that pre-school isn’t exactly pennies-a-day, and I have my own juggling act when it comes to office hours, household management (fancy talk for house chores and duties), and cramming in eight things into an hour.

Yes. There are no easy wins in this parenthood game. Stress and guilt and tough choices seem to come built-in. But I can’t believe that this is our only recourse as working parents: paying through the nose to have someone take good care of kids while we’re earning a living.

What about you? How did you figure out the child care puzzle? Leave a comment below. Always like to hear your take.

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