Child Care: It Never Gets Easier to Choose

8 years ago

My daughter started kindergarten this year, and because we wanted to ease her transition, we left her in her normal daycare for before-and-after-school care instead of putting her in the program run by the public school system.

Even though it cost $200 a month more.

Now that the school year is in full swing, we desperately want to switch her into the cheaper solution. The care is just as good, and going forward she'd be more likely to be in with other friends from school. The biggest drawback? The school-provided program has a two-week break in August.

For my husband and me, who have no family in Kansas City, two weeks is an eternity. Two weeks is too long for either of us to take off work. It's too long to tell a boss we need to work from home. It's too long to pretend to be sick. It's just two weeks too long for a break in childcare.

So we hem. And we haw. Could we string together some back-up? Pay the neighbors? When the public school program director called me to discuss it, she kidded, "You just need to find some dependable teenagers in your neighborhood."

I wanted to reach through the phone and wring her neck, because I've been looking for those damn dependable neighborhood teenagers for FIVE LONG YEARS, and I'm still paying my babysitters $10 an hour for one kid.

So back to the childcare thing. It sucks! It sucked when my daughter was a baby, and it sucks now. Even though I really liked her provider in the past two years since we've moved to the suburbs, I didn't like the price tag AT ALL. It was still another mortgage payment, no matter how you cut it. I honestly don't know how people with more than one kid can afford daycare.

The experience starts out sucking at the baby level. Do you go with in-home or institutional? Tela at Working Moms Against Guilt writes:

I was looking into both daycare facilities and people who watched children out of their home. The individuals who watched children out of the home were less expensive, on the wholesale, than daycare facilities. However, I felt, for some reason, more comfortable with daycare. For most people, it's quite the opposite. They like the homey, warm atmosphere of a home-run "daycare". I liked the facilities because they seem more professional, more capable, more experienced.

Others, like Jen at Jennepper prefer the in-home alternative:

The first time I took her to the sitter (we decided against the daycare center because of all of the reflux issues she was having), it was all very uneventful. The sitter picked her up, and Olivia smiled at her, and I left feeling pretty OK about the whole thing.

And still others start off working after their kids are born and run screaming from the world of work after bad child care burns them out faster than any scene straight out of The Office. Lena at The Cheeky Lotus writes:

Savannah went to after school care at the Y. I disliked it from the start. And by disliked I mean I spent a lot of time Googling the care providers names and spying through the windows at pick up.

I honestly thought once my daughter hit kindergarten -- especially because she's in all-day kindergarten -- that this whole care thing would get easier. HA HA HA HA

Sue Shellenbarger at the WSJ blog writes:

That frustrating three-hour window between the elementary- or middle-school dismissals and the end of the workday can drive parents to do risky things. Some leave kids home alone; others send them to malls, on the theory that any public setting is safer. One mother whose after-school program was running a long waiting list regularly sent her 12-year-old son to the public library. She told the librarian he would be coming and instructed him “to study there until we could pick him up,” says this Massachusetts mother.

So we're still struggling with this issue for now. I'm hoping we'll no longer be paying $20 a day for two hours of care by after the holidays.

What the heck do you do, if you work outside the home?

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