Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Why some parents stop saving for college and start saving for day care instead

My son loves his school. In an affectionate, nurturing environment, he learns socialization skills, masters safety scissors and learns insanely adorable songs. Because of the amazing teachers at his school, he can tell me who Johnny Appleseed is, can identify all his continents on a map, and gets plenty of exercise. We do his homework together every week to strengthen the concepts he learns there. I love his school and his fearless teachers. And I also know how lucky I am that we can afford to send him there.

The latest studies show that child care costs in the U.S. have increased eight times faster than family income. That means some families have found child care costs to be the biggest chunk of their family spending, and other families have realized that a year's worth of child care costs are about the same as a year's worth of college tuition costs. (Ouch!)

Here are some of the report's other findings:
  • Child care fees for two children (an infant and a 4-year-old) in a child care center exceeded annual median rent payments in every state.
  • In every region of the U.S., average child care fees for an infant in a child care center were higher than the average amount that families spent on food. 
  • In 31 states and the District of Columbia, the average annual average cost for an infant in center-based care were higher than a year's tuition and fees at a four-year public college.
My mother was a stay-at-home mom for a long time (thanks, Mom). Then my brother and I became latch-key kids (is that even legal anymore?) when she had to go back to work. She has lots of stories of our growing up, because she was there for every moment of it until we were old enough for pre-school. I've been a working mom and a stay-at-home mom - both of those situations are hard/wonderful for very different reasons.

So, this report has really resonated with me. At first I thought that there had to be a cheaper solution, but after reading the report it becomes clear that it isn't a option: Caregivers are already among the lowest-paid professionals in the U.S. I think about the kindhearted people who watch my son every day; the ones who have been there through potty training nightmares and on his days of great success. Yes, they deserve more money - there is no doubt about that.

But I also believe that education is important and should be available to everyone who wants it. So what's the answer?

Have you chosen your situation (stay-at-home mom/working mom) for a reason that is related to child care costs? If so, please share your story in the comments.


  1. We have the same situation in the UK, if not worse. I can't actually afford to go back to work after having my daughter (even though my job was rather well paid) because after tax I earn less than the cost of putting her in nursery. Go figure!
    Maybe it's the government's way of keeping mums at home with the kids? :)

    1. Thanks for sharing your situation, Dominika. It's a hard enough decision for any mother to make (go back to work or stay home), but it's even harder when you don't get to make that decision because the cost of daycare makes it for you. I will say that your daughter is lucky to have you with her, though!

  2. I am a full-time student right now, and my son (1) goes to day care every day. No doubt about it that it is very costly. At the school that my son goes to, most of the kids are under state assistance for the day care expenses+their parents are hard working people… Sometimes, I feel it isn't worth working if your paycheck is barely enough to put your kids in school-- from my personal point of view… I would rather be a stay-at-home mom.

    1. Thanks, Sophia, for sharing your story. It's a hard decision for many families when they realize that if both parents work, one of their paychecks will be entirely devoted to daycare costs. Scary stuff.