On Christmas Eve, my father-in-law asked me the question that I’ve been getting a lot lately, “When can I expect a grandson?” or more commonly, “Do you think you will have another?” The answer to both questions, in either case, is “I would love to have another, but the high cost of childcare makes it seem impossible.”
Some things in life, you just have to find out the hard way, and childcare is really no exception unless you are a huge pre-planner. Prior to having our daughter, I had absolutely no clue how expensive childcare was, and it still baffles me when I really add up the numbers. So let’s do a little math.
We have one child, and our daycare costs $165/week, approximately $9,000 a year (rounding up). I’ll be the first person to admit that it is much more reasonably priced than some of the other ones we considered. Some of the area daycares go up to as much as $225/week or about $11 or $12k annually. If you already have a child in daycare you likely know this, but if you don’t, these numbers can seem quite startling. According to this article, the cost of childcare surpasses average in-state college tuition rates in 33 states. So basically, while I am putting my child in daycare, I could just as well be putting her through college.
Now let’s factor in that the median household income in Knoxville is $45,151. That means, if a typical household has a child in daycare, daycare compromises nearly 20% of their income (and that’s if they are paying for one of the lower priced daycares, like ours). For us, it’s closer to 12% but that is still a pretty big chunk of income going toward childcare. Not to mention, if you started looking around in some other states, the cost of child care increases dramatically. (In DC, you can expect to pay around $22,000.)
If I were to have baby number two, the number we would spend on childcare would double, with us spending approximately $1,200 a month on childcare. Either my husband and I would be forced to stay home and we would quickly wind up on Tenncare going down to a one-income household.
You can see why a second child is out of the question for us at this time. A lot of people say, “Everything works out,” or “You’ll figure it out,” but I’d rather not gamble away our home or cars on the chance that we can come up with an extra $9k a year. Yes, I would LOVE to have a second child, but I also want to make sure my daughter has a roof over her head.
Now, there is a BIG flip side to all of this. The wages childcare workers earn are minimal, and if I really took the time to factor how much I pay per week converted to an hourly wage for those who care for my daughter, I am definitely getting a steal for only $3.60/hour. Realistically, shouldn’t the people responsible for teaching my daughter her ABCs, her colors, her numbers, only be making slightly more than minimum wage? They definitely deserve far more. But it is also scary to think that should minimum wage be increased (which I’m 100% for), daycare might become completely out of reach for thousands, possibly myself included.
I must commend my daycare on doing an excellent job at doing what they can to help parents afford the cost of childcare. I arrived to pick up my daughter from daycare to find a note on the entrance informing parents that beginning in 2016, vacation weeks will no longer be available in an effort to keep daycare costs down and affordable. While it is an unfortunate consequence, I am happy to sacrifice one vacation week to maintain the affordability of our child’s care. Not to mention, I also recently found out the director allows parents to work part-time at the daycare to help offset the cost; they also have a fall festival that serves as a fundraiser to help pay for things that they need, such as coded security locks for the main entrance.
While childcare certainly is quite an expense, you cannot put a price on peace of mind for your child’s safety and well-being. While I hope someday that we can afford a second child, I am thankful for what we do have, which includes a happy and healthy 2.5 year old and finding a daycare to which I truly don’t mind writing a check.