So we already knew that childcare costs more than college — and most mortgages. And yet, it has never hit home quite so hard as this week, as a Reddit thread posted Wednesday on r/Parenting and titled, “How much do you spend on childcare per month?” has started picking up traction here in the sad, stressed interwebs of parental life in 2020.
“We are just about to be paying $600 per month for part time childcare for my 8 month old, & my husband is upset that the cost is that much,” the original poster, u/psychreader, writes. “I told him this is very cheap compared to others & that we should be fine paying this (we can afford it, my husband is just frugal) I’m wondering what the average is for most households?”
And the responses that poured in certainly say: Hell yes that is very cheap.
“I pay about $3200/mo (baby is $1800 of that),” wrote one poster whose toddler and baby “both go full-time to the same center.”
Another wrote that they pay “$2600 a month for 5 days a week full-time for our 14 month old,” adding, along with a sad-face emoji, “We live in the Bay Area.”
“$600/month for a part time spot for an infant is CRAZY cheap,” writes Laura_Borealis. “We paid $1100/month for my potty-trained 3-4 yr old to attend 3 day a week preschool, no lunch provided, and their day ended at 3:30pm.” Although, she notes: “I also live in the Bay Area.” Aha.
But while the West Coast and NYC are certainly expensive childcare hubs of the universe, the numbers are still pretty rough regardless of where you look. For me, full-time childcare while schools were closed in Nashville, TN, would cost me $600 per week for my one child — the fact that the OP is paying that per month sounds too good to be true.
“It’s not quite that but still bad elsewhere. We were paying around 2000 a month for four days a week for a toddler in Minneapolis,” writes RonaldoNazario.
“We are paying $1600/mo for a place in the burbs,” writes questions9529. “We are hurting pretty bad money-wise making it happen.”
We could go on and on here, but the message remains the same: childcare costs are off the rails in the United States, and it’s hurting working families. And it’s hampering millennial parents’ abilities to do things our parents’ generations considered normal and achievable — like, you know, buying a house.
Kristina Haynie of Child Care America previously told SheKnows that “depending on the state, we found that center-based child care for an infant can comprise anywhere between 18% and 42% of average millennial household income. There’s a lot in the media about the financial pressures that millennials face, including student loan debt and the inability to afford a mortgage. High child care prices put an even bigger strain on a millennial family’s household budget.”
Plus, there’s a Catch-22: Folks like me, an Elder Millennial single parent with a salaried job and a Master’s degree, won’t qualify for free or subsidized care in most states. But neither can we afford to pay for the astronomical costs of the care that is available to us.
“Because many millennials have college degrees, they may make too much money to qualify for any kind of child care subsidy assistance,” Haynie explains.
And, as some Redditors point out, the cost of care forces plenty of partnered parents to make the tough choice for one parent to stay home full-time — because they just plain can’t afford to work.
“If one partner basically makes minimum wage or a little bit over, I think it’s stupid to buy daycare in lieu of staying at home,” writes TheRealLibertyCall. “Earning that little would mean you’re working in order to not have to deal with the children.”
This was the case for SheKnows writer Kimberly Zapata, who was forced to quit her job and become a stay-at-home mom.
“It was an ironic outcome of the supposed American Dream,” Zapata writes. “I’d done the work, gotten multiple degrees, landed the big-city job, and yet I still couldn’t afford daycare — or any type of care — for my kids.”
Plus, childcare costs in the U.S. are only expected to climb. So what on earth can parents do? Plenty of us have begun to get creative, seeking out nanny-shares or “pod” schooling in an attempt to band together and cut down costs. But even these options tend to be workable mainly for parents with some means and flexible work schedules, and what we really need is widespread systemic support that serves all. Fortunately, Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris has some ideas.
“My mother raised my sister and me while working demanding, long hours,” Harris said. “So I know firsthand that, for many working parents, juggling between school schedules and work schedules is a common cause of stress and financial hardship. But this does not have to be the case.” She’s proposed a bill that will funnel money into low-income schools and allow them to stay open until 6 p.m. to bridge the gap for working parents.
As disheartening as it is to read the absurdly expensive laundry list on Reddit of so many parents’ childcare costs across the country, it gives us hope that working parents everywhere will put their money where their mouth is — or rather, use their voices to save their money! — and vote for change.
Here are a few ways to keep kids busy at home — until we can all access free universal childcare, that is.