How has the cost of child care affected your career decisions?

President Obama wants to help families pay for child care. Sources in Minnesota Public Radio’s Public Insight Network tell us that child care expenses have been a factor in deciding whether to enter the work force. How has the cost of child care affected your career decisions?

  • I love what I do. I teach high school for a metro area district. I have three little ones who are in preschool and daycare. Our daycare provider (a home daycare) makes just $75 dollars less than I do a month. If she raises rates next year (which she should) and my school district has frozen salaries I will need to stop working.

    Yep, I absolutely chose to have kiddos. And I love my job. But one of the reasons teachers leave the field after 3-5 years has to do with the income to daily expense ratio.

  • Laura

    At this point in my career, there is no way that I could afford to have kids- daycare being a huge factor in that. Until I get a better job with a bigger salary, having kids is not an option because both my husband and I need to work to afford our mortgage payment. I’d like to be a young mom, and I’m turning 30 in a month, but I’m not willing to sacrafice our financial stability to do it. We probably won’t have kids for at least another 3-5 years, when we will hopefully be more advanced in our careers and more able to pay for daycare.

  • Diane

    Several years ago, the cost of childcare made it a reasonable, if not necessary decision to stay at home with my kids. While I can’t regret the time I had with my children, I am now faced with discrimination as I attempt to re-enter the job market. Based on my experience, I would advise parents to at least hang on to a part-time, paid job even if you don’t clear any money from it.

  • Al

    Thankfully we are now just past the preschool stage, but child care for 2 kids at a small church preschool was actually more than our mortgage. But as big a chunk of our budget as that was, we knew the pay for the teachers was pathetically low. We came out a few thousand dollars a year ahead with my wife working as a high school teacher. Part of the reason we still chose to send the kids to preschool was the socialization and learning aspect, which was well worth it. We were fortunate that our preschool allowed us to take the summers off without paying. Most preschools would not hold the spots. If we had had to pay for the 10 weeks, the decision would have been more difficult.

  • jessica Sundheim

    I stayed home off and on for ten years. In days of desperation, I worked in my home as a licensed daycare provider, I took my kids with me and cleaned houses, and I also worked part-time jobs opposite my husband. Without a degree, I cannot find a job that pays more than the cost of daycare. As a cashier my childcare provider makes twice what I make. I have worked 35 hours in a week for fifty dollars.

    The biggest affect the cost of childcare had on my career is that I couldn’t afford to go back to school. As a result, I’m having to finish my degree at the age of 31 (thanks to a childcare grant)- talk about issues of discrimination. How much is someone going to want to employ a 36 year old (which is how old I will be) at entry level?

    I’m still getting the degree. People can take away my chances of a career, but they’ll never be able to take away my education and the example it creates for my daughters.

  • Joanna

    As a single mother with no child support, there was no choice about paying for child care; I had to work so we could eat. But when she was little, it took every single penny that was not absolutely necessary to keep a roof over our heads, and for many years, we just made it. And I’m a professional. I was lucky to have good childcare and to be able to afford it at all, but I’d like folks to remember that not every person with children has two incomes and the choice of working or staying at home.

  • jessica Sundheim

    Thank you, Joanna. That is a really good point. There are programs to help low income, single moms, but if you are a professional there is not a lot of support. You must be extremely resourceful. I was surprised to learn in my Sociology of the family course that only 40% of single mothers receieve some child support, and only half them receive the full amount.

  • Chris

    My husband and I have juggled part- and full-time schedules for almost 10 years in order to care for our children during their preschool years; a grandparent has cared for them one day a week for that time, so with some schedule flexibility at our jobs and a family member close by, we had more “choices” than many families do, but full-time child care was always outside what we could afford. Instead, one of us had to scale back on work; my husband’s job was more secure and paid better, so I scaled back to half-time. I don’t regret the decision in the short-term – the ten years time (so far) with our children was well spent in terms of their growth and learning and being ready for school – but it has taken a significant toll on our family’s overall financial resiliency and on my long-term financial security – in addition to generally lower pay for part-time work, I have almost no retirement savings and a lot less Social Security credit banked than my husband during the same period. We’ve never qualified for child care assistance but have never been in a financial position to afford good quality care…so the cost of child care for families like ours is hidden from public statistics and reflected mostly privately in my lower income, no/low retirement savings and reduced Social Security credit. Now, as my husband’s income has flattened out quite a bit (because of rising health care costs) and we are struggling to keep up with pretty modest household expenses (almost all travel/entertainment eliminated for the past decade, 2nd hand clothes and household items, etc.), increasing my hours isn’t an option for our family because the cost of child care would completely cancel out my additional earnings. We’ve been very willing to make substantial reductions in consumption and comfort as part of choosing to have children, but in a recession, we’re finding that the high cost of child care really limits our family’s options for adjusting to higher costs for basics like food, energy, health care and higher education.

  • I was lucky enough after my first was born that I had a job where I could work form home. It was stressful, but I rearranged my hours to work during naps, before my husband left and after he came home, and spare moments here and there during tummy time or exploring time or other bits I will call “independent learning” so I don’t sound like a bad mom,

    That worked for almost 10 months until the amount of interaction she needed was more than I could give her and still keep up my job.

    We sought out the daycare center associated with my husband’s office. It was very expensive (the same as our mortgage cost) but high quality, and she adored it. We never regretted that decision.

    The real irony of the situation is that we have his income, which isn’t enough for us to live off of, or we have my income, which is enough for us to live on, but I have no insurance. So, he works for the insurance, and I work for the bills, and because we both have to work, we need daycare.

    Should we ever be successful at having a second (we had a miscarriage in October), we would literally be at a point where his entire salary would be going to daycare or health insurance, and mine would go to other household expenses. There will never be an option for one person to just be at home without working. The best we can hope for is another 10 months of being able to work with a baby at home, which might get us most of the way to pre-K.

  • Erika

    My husband and I are having our first child and have been looking for some sort of affordable child care for several months at this point. Our options have been limited to in home daycare with strangers and still a high cost or some how makeing one income work. Which staying home is not an option at all. We looked into assistance but the only way to qualify is to be a single parent that does not make much or be the poorest of the poor. Its absolutely rediculous how much it costs, the median price we have found so far is $310 per WEEK.

  • Melissa Crawford

    I currently work full time at a minority owned construction company. My husband stays home during the daytime with our 5 yr old son. We seriously struggle to get by, on the low end of the “middle class” or the high end of “poor”, we use food shelves, and I have applied for housing help and other recourses and have been turned down because of my income being slightly over the limits.

    My husband cannot make what we’d pay out in daycare expenses, so he doesn’t work during the daytime. He does however, work a part time job in the evenings which covers the cost of his gas and prescriptions and things which he needs. I applied for daycare assistance so perhaps my husband could get a daytime job and we could see each other in the evenings however, the waiting list was closed.

    YES, in the end, daycare costs do effect our work situation at our house, however, daycare providers do deserve to be paid a good living wage.

  • Joseph

    When my wife and I had our first child, she left work. At the time, she was working as staff (though not teaching) in one of the suburban school districts. We decided that it made no sense for her to work when her salary at the time would basically cover child care and not much else. It wasn’t worth the stress and hassle.

    We eventually had a second child and have been lucky that my work has compensated me well enough that we can afford to be a single-income household. We’ve definitely had to make some sacrifices here and there, but in the end it’s been worth it. My wife does wonder what she will do for a career when she is ready to return to working outside the home.

  • Kelly

    The cost of child care is correlated with the quality of child care. Not being able to afford QUALITY child care kept me out of the workforce while my children were too young for kindergarten. I’ve witnessed chaotic child care settings and don’t want to wish that on anyone. But, I’ve been lucky to be able to stay home instead of put my children in poor quality day-care. Not everyone is so fortunate.

  • Jason

    Having children is a choice.

    If you can’t afford child care, don’t have kids and expect the rest of us to pay for their upbringing.

    The world is overpopulated anyway. Adding more people to the world is simply not necessary or even a healthy thing to do.

  • Alison

    So Jason, only the wealthy may reproduce? I think it is kind of sad that we increasingly move toward a wage system where only college-educated professionals can afford to have children. Real income for the working class who used to be able to afford to provide for children has been steadily decreasing.

  • jessica Sundheim

    You know Jason, I’m glad your job is a sure thing. I had a very similar outlook about seven years ago. My husband ran an environmental learning center at a decent wage, until funding was cut and it closed. What do you propose I do with my children, now? Let’s get realistic in this country and realize that until the second coming of Christ or the perfection of all things there will be divorce, job loss, death, illness, etc. Parenting is costly and difficult and we live in a society that expects far more from parents and yet puts it at the bottom of the list to our country’s detriment. As a citizen I find it frustrating to know that women pay a disproportionate cost to parent their children.

  • Mary

    While affordable child care is a necessity for some women, Motherhood is a “career”, lifestyle choice. Choosing to place my children in child care was one of the most serious decisions I had to make so I forced myself to examine my values and priorities after my first child was born: Will I take motherhood as seriously as I take marriage, college and/or graduate school, financial planning and car maintenance? In order to do anything well, something has to give so the cost of child care becomes more a question of what price am I prepared to pay, what am I willing to sacrifice for my values and priorities, for my choices.

  • Bao Vang

    My kids are 3 and 2 and they are 1 year, 1 month and 1 day apart, which means that when my son was born, my daughter was barely 15 months old. This would have meant paying for two infants for daycare at a cost of $310 per week per child. For $620 a week, I could have put both of my kids in daycare, but with both my partner and I working, it would have eaten up one salary and cut deeply into another. So we made the decision that one of us would stay home. It ended up that my partner would be the stay at home parent and I would be the primary income earner. Yes, we struggle, some months it hard to make ends meet, but I know that my kids will have better memories of being with their dad that they would have never gotten if we had put them through daycare. Even though we made that financial sacrifice, in the long run, it was better for our kids.

    I used to work for a nonprofit that would place families into the child care program that would help to pay for childcare. The childcare program had a 5 year waiting list and that was 10 years ago. Why have such a long waiting list?? In five years, most kids will be in kindergarten already!! The system is ridiculously skewed and not to the favor of family!

  • Jennifer

    I stayed home with my first because Funding for my position was unsure. It took me 15 months to find a part-time job that fit my family’s needs ( my husband travels for work and we don’t have family in town to help). Then I got pregnant. My position was contingent on grant funding and we weren’t having much luck. I went back to work after my 2nd child was born, but my paycheck barely paid the child care bill for a toddler and infant in center-based care. Our child care rates went up and we still didn’t have a grant to cover my project. Plus my supervisor was very unsupportive of my pumping milk for my baby.

    So again I find myself home with my kids, until a job that pays enough to justify child care and is supportive to working families comes along. I might add that I have a masters in social work and work in human services.