Childcare Costs and Family Planning
With childcare costs on the rise, expanding our family hasn't been so easy.
Last month, Huffington Post published an infographic titled, “Childcare Unaffordable For Low-Income Families.” One map showed how much, on average, the cost of putting an infant and a four-year-old in childcare for a year would be by state. The second map outlined for which of these states this cost was more than that of a minimum wage job for that year.
Truth be told, though, when I viewed these maps and the monetary costs, I didn’t even think of low-income families, but rather my family in the state of Washington, where having two children in childcare at those ages, the exact ages my children will be when baby sister makes her entrance into this world, would cost between $15,000-$19,999 a year. Seeing those numbers makes me gasp. And really solidifies why we waited so long to have another child.
In the time since I’ve had Abby in 2009, I’ve watched friends and family, whom already had one child, add 1-2 more children to their brood. And as much as my husband and I wanted to give our daughter a sibling, we knew that financially we couldn’t afford it. Actually, two kids in childcare is really what we couldn’t afford. And the thing is, we aren’t low-income at all. We both have great jobs, we own a house and cars. But with student loans on top of the cost to put Abby in childcare, there was no room in our budget for another childcare cost unless we wanted to walk away from our house or sit at home doing nothing, living paycheck to paycheck.
Some may argue that one of us should stay home with the kids. Trust me, my husband would love to. (I’m a career girl and we’ve talked over and over about how if one of us could stay home, it would be him, especially with my great health insurance.) However, we are home owners, and when we purchased our house before starting our family, which was very important to us in our plight for a brood, we knew we’d both have to work. And we are OK with that.
The only other option we had was to wait it out for my mom, who lives 3,000 miles away, to retire, move here and take on childcare, something she’s been dreaming about since we had Abby. And after Abby turned three last November, the conversations of a second child began. We couldn’t go for it until we got confirmation from my mom that retirement was on the horizon. What an awkward conversation to have with your mom.
“So when are you planning on retiring?”
“When are you planning on having another baby?”
We went around in circles like this for a month, each of us not wanting to pressure the other to make a decision. Finally, my mom hinted at that she’d like to retire in about a year or so. My husband and I decided to go for it, not knowing how soon we’d get pregnant. And what a blessing it was to learn that we conceived in our first month of trying.
Our second daughter is due just about a month to the day after Abby turns four. We didn’t think we’d have four years between our children. When we had Abby, we thought maybe a three year gap would be good. But this four year gap will actually be perfect for many reasons, but mostly, the biggest hindrance that will go away is childcare costs. Well at least part of it.
Baby sister will be taken care of solely by my mom when I return to work. Abby will either go down to part time preschool the remainder of next school year, or zero preschool depending on what my mom can take on. We have summers off, per usual, as I’m a teacher. And the following year Abby will most likely be in part time pre-k as she prepares to enter Kindergarten, while baby sister is at home with my mom. And when Abby does start Kindergarten, we’ll talk about part time childcare for baby sister so she has other toddlers to socialize with and can begin to learn skills as she gets closer to preschool age.
You see, a lot of thought has gone into this. A friend once told me that if we waited until we could afford another kid, then we’d be waiting forever. Well, we didn’t wait forever, and I really believe that for my family, this was the most responsible thing to do. My husband and I know what it’s like to struggle growing up and we don’t want our children to feel this way. I’m not saying that they will get whatever they want, but we do want them to feel comfortable, and never know what it means to struggle. We’ve worked so hard in our professional lives to get where we are so that we can do this, and we want to keep the momentum going.
Ultimately, that Huffington Post infographic, not only highlighted how difficult it is for low-income families to attain quality childcare, but it also is a huge eye opener to the rest of the world of how you can work so hard, attain a middle class status, at whatever level you are in within this class group, yet still struggle to have it all. I’m grateful for my mom’s support so my husband and I can have our American Dream, yet I yearn for others to be able to as well.
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