Childcare expenses and thinking (and paying) justly!
By far our largest expense as a family is childcare. It is more than our mortgage and homeowners insurance combined. It is wicked expensive and it isn't even full time. We have a childcare provider come to our home 3 or 4 days each week (depending on the week) and care for our two children. It is much cheaper than 2 children in full-time daycare and part time daycare is very rare. Also, day care care on the Island (where we live) is very uncommon, they are mostly in home. Fundamentally too, having someone comes to our home is convenient. In a life where we already have a significant commute it is really wonderful to not have to get the kids up, dressed, fed, dropped off etc before I leave for work. We have done that dance and it is hard!
We pay a bit under $2000 a month and we do it all legitimately- meaning we pay taxes etc. Remember where I said that this is much cheaper than 2 children in full time daycare (in our region). Seriously isn't that unbelievable! A is amazing! She does so well with the girls. She makes all of our lives easier, supports our girls playing with others and independently. Frankly, She rocks!
Let me tell you folks, despite our love for A, it hurts to pay that much. Sean and I sometimes fantasize about the days when our children will be in school! We have talked about the possibility of me staying at home. I do make more than that, but we could probably swing it. Except that I love my work and am a better Mama because I work.
We COULD find cheaper childcare. We could hire someone under the table and not pay taxes. We could hire someone who is not in the country legally and who probably has children at home who are being raised by other family members; we could cut corners like not giving our CCP (child care person) sick days or vacation day or we could not pay her when we have time off (like over Christmas or Thanksgiving).
We choose not to; as Sean says sometimes simple living and just living is expensive. We choose to pay our childcare person a living wage (and even that is arguable). It's not a lot for a person's salary but working 3/4 days a weeks her pay is adequate. Giving her paid time off for being sick and for vacation is something that I think is important from my employer and we choose to give her the same right. Because I get several chunks of time off throughout the year and all federal holidays we choose to give our CCP the same time off and she still receives the same amount no matter how many days worked. It's called a salary. That way she can create a budget. She can manage her life and anticipate her realities. She also can care for our children better if her world/life is stable!
We do not do this perfectly and there are a lot of other choices that families can make that are also just...but these issues are complex...
So why am I sharing this with the world?
- Because, childcare expenses are one of these things that parents don't talk about. We are all trying to figure out how to make it work because it's really fucking expensive to be a working American with children.
- I am sharing it because we have it easier than others and we need to recognize how freaking hard it is: imagining how single parents, parents who are impoverished in some way, parents who have complex realities, parents who have twins manage childcare and their realities is important before we attack people's decision to not work, to choose inadequate but cheap care, etc.
- I am choosing to share because a. I feel very proud of our choice to treat our childcare provider ethically- but there are days when it is very very difficult to make that choice. When I ponder, "if we didn't pay our CCP for the two weeks I have off at Christmas we could take a week long trip to see Buddy and the family in the spring." I can go crazy- so I share this to honor that being ethical is not easy.
- I repeat, treating CCP in an ethical manner is challenging.
- Finally, I share because I believe we need to have a national conversation about how we treat the people who care for children: Childcare personnel, teachers, especially! The people who care for our children should be paid well, educated well, affirmed well! I would also appreciate the more of my tax dollars were spent on subsidized childcare more than prisons and especially more than putting drug users in prison and trying to kill people via the death penalty....