Kids are expensive. You've heard it before, and I'm sure - like me - you thought, "I'll just make my own baby food and save so much money!" If you're the superhero mom who actually followed through and really does make baby food - you're amazing. I've found other ways to save money, but there are some costs that you just can't avoid. Of course, the largest cost of raising a child is childcare. And there's no avoiding it - even if you're a stay-at-home parent you're going to need a sitter from time to time.
While the expense is a major buzzkill, what's probably worse is the difficulty in finding care that you love. I've had luck with daycare centers. Shep enjoys the curriculum, opportunity to socialize, and the fact that there's a slide inside the classroom. Of course, it's pricey. So pricey that we've looked into a nannyshare with friends of ours who have kids around the same age.
The issue with a nannyshare is that the two families might have different needs. We need childcare from about 8:30 am to 6:00 pm for an infant and a toddler - many folks we'd feel comfortable nanny-sharing with don't need those hours. There's also the delicate subject of child discipline and routines. My kid really loses it if he doesn't get a nap by 1:30 pm, while someone else might have better luck flexing their kids' schedules. We're totally ok with time-outs, which might be a no-go for the nanny or the other family. It's hard to have these discussions without coming off as judgmental, no matter your intention. And having a nanny in my home would mean I'd have to clean it and stuff, and I don't have the energy for that. I'm only sort-of joking.
Lots of daycares only offer full-time options for infants and toddlers. In-home daycares would rather have a full-time student (which is totally understandable), so if you want part-time you're bumped to the bottom of the list. Nannies also prefer full-time gigs with one family, usually in a long-term arrangement. Finding someone who's available from 9 am to 1 pm, Tuesday through Friday - that's a whole different issue. You're incredibly lucky if you can find one person to cover those hours for you. Instead, you're more likely to cover that time with two or three different nannies.
Of course, this makes childcare even more complicated. Now you're coordinating care while also working full-time. Who has time to keep track of all that? Not to mention the inconsistency. Will every childcare provider keep the same rules? The same rewards and discipline system? Will they each be reliable?
If you're lucky enough to have family nearby, and they're trustworthy - ask for help. Figure out who to ask for a Friday night date night, or a run to the grocery store. Perhaps offer a trade - pay them, bring them wine, or pick up their groceries while you're out. Do they have kids? Let them have a date night by watching theirs.
My family has struggled with childcare. We've been lucky enough to have family and friends pitch in. When we found out Rory was on her way, we very seriously thought about one of us leaving the workforce. But through creativity, research, and hard work - we made it work. Both of us are still working, and our kiddos are being well-cared for. Still, I know how much of a struggle it was to secure that care. Not everyone is so lucky, to be able to make it work. I know too many women who have left the workforce because childcare is too expensive or unreliable to justify their income.
This feels so wrong. Parents are doing the hard and thankless work of raising future responsible and productive adults. Without our kids, we have no future as a society. So why is this so difficult and expensive? When will we begin to recognize the value of a well-cared-for child, and a parent who can find a livable work-life balance? Not soon enough to help my family. Hopefully in time to help the next generation.
What problems have you run into while trying to find childcare? Have these problems caused you to change your work situation or leave the workforce entirely? Do you have any ideas on ways we can make childcare more accessible?