Lead Balloon

Rant: Cost of Child Care
August 11, 2007, 7:44 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Two more things on our list of things to do before baby: 1) Interview and find a pediatrician, and 2) Find out what the heck we’re going to do with this baby once I go back to work. The pediatrician part was relatively easy. We got a couple of referrals from friends or co-workers, made the phone calls and set up appointments to interview them, hopefully over the next couple of weeks we’ll have chosen one we like and moved on.

The child care piece, though…Not so easy. When we bought our house I was a little excited about the fact that there’s a day care facility right at the entrance of the neighborhood. I thought, “How convenient…that’s a no-brainer.” For quite some time, I’d been fooling myself into thinking that there was no decision to be made there – the convenience factor alone would dictate that THAT was the place we’d take our children as long as we lived in this God forsaken neighborhood. My only fear was a waiting list…So a few months ago I called and found out there was no waiting list at the time, and I felt better…Pushed this “to do” further down on the list.

Then I started thinking…I work from home. Wouldn’t it be great to have someone come to our house to take care of the baby? I could nurse and feel like a “working stay at home mom”…I’d be able to oversee the care of the child and never feel disconnected. It’s the best case scenario. And, like the overall climate and weather in California, there’s a price to pay for the “best case scenario”. It’s expensive. And let me stop right here to say that in my discussions with others about child care, some people really think that expense should play no role in the determination of what’s best for the child. You make do, you do whatever you have to do, to give it the “best case scenario” in care. I’m here to tell you, those people are crazy and obviously don’t live in the real world. Maybe their cars are paid for. Maybe they don’t have student loans. Maybe they just need to shut the F up and leave me alone.

The cost of child care is OUTRAGEOUS. There are those of you moms who are reading this, nodding your heads and saying, “She’s right, it’s pretty crazy.” But there are those of you out there who have no children…You’re maybe sitting there drinking a really nice glass of wine, maybe wearing something you just bought yesterday, a cute little something that you just had to have for $120….maybe you even have a handbag worth more than the stove you never use to cook meals for yourself because you’ve got the convenience of eating out all the time… Let me just warn you now. Try for one month to put $1,000 of your salary away for childcare. Once you see how that feels – do it for a full 12 months. That’s $12,000.

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here – I’m not complaining about having to pay $12,000 a year for child care. This is part of parenting when one parent can’t stay home and when you don’t live in a small town. (I qualify that “small town” bit because I’m hearing my mom and sister’s thoughts right now…about how if I lived in my hometown there’d be plenty of nice grandmas who would take care of my child for next to nothing. And trust me, I’ve considered packing it up and moving a couple times over the past few months.) I’m complaining because that $12,000 a year doesn’t buy me the “best case scenario.” Seriously, if I wanted someone to come to my home everyday from 8-5, I’d be paying three or four times that. Not kidding. You get what you pay for.

We were pretty much set on this one caregiver we found who takes care of no more than five children in her home. We went to her house, interviewed her, and we loved her. Her house was clean, the child care area was spotless, she loves what she does and came highly recommended. Her price was even LOWER than everything else I’d researched. There are a few issues…we’d pay for three weeks of vacation for her a year. Not to mention her sick days and continuing education days. That means for over three weeks a year we’d have to find alternate care for the child and pay double for those days and weeks. That reason alone would not be enough to say no, though. We’d pay for that. She also has hours that are a little more difficult for us to keep – 7:30 – 5:30. Everyone knows that 5:30 is near impossible to make on many work days. She’s not just right down the street, unfortunately. Even though I work from home and could handle this most days – I do travel. And when I’m traveling, the pressure that would put on Todd to get to this woman’s house to pick up the baby each day…It just isn’t very feasible. Our hearts were a little broken when we finally looked at each other and decided that this lovely woman might not be an option for us at all.

So I visited the day care near our home. It smelled like urine. I observed the infant rooms. The caregivers didn’t look clean or really loving toward the children. They didn’t even look attentive enough, I thought. There was this one baby on its tummy up against the wall, just lying there and staring at me through the Plexiglass window. Was anyone watching her? The sink area looked dirty and the worst part…the cribs they had for the babies to sleep in were more like stacked cages. Cages with warped and uncomfortable looking mattresses. Did I mention that it smelled like urine in there???

So we were back to square one – ready to pay the $1/minute fee for every minute past 5:30 that one of us couldn’t make it to the woman’s house I mentioned earlier to pick up the kid. We were resigned to deal with the unpredictability of her sick days or vacations and finding alternate care from God only knows who, I mean, everyone we know works or lives too far away to help.

Then I went in for my bikini wax. (There are, after all, areas of my body that I can’t see anymore but need to remain kempt.) Anyway. To distract myself from the excruciating pain of the waxing (or “sugaring” for those of us with ultra-sensitive skin), I started to tell the woman removing two layers of my delicate skin with a ball of warm sugar about my child care dilemma. She had the very same concerns about the home care lady. And she didn’t like what she heard about the day care. I had wrongly assumed that all day cares were like the one I visited, and she encouraged me to get up and go check out one down the street that many of her clients use, she’d heard great reviews. I had time before they closed, so I stopped in. And it was different. It was much better. It smelled great! The parents and caregivers were happy. The caregivers looked like they’d showered before coming into work. It was bliss! I was just dreading the part of the tour where they discussed price. I was waiting for them to tell me that this place was much more than we’d imagined we’d be paying for child care. But it wasn’t. It was more, for sure. $50 more a week than the home care lady. Also more than the cage sleeping urine smelling day care in our neighborhood.

But it was still quite a distance (in the wrong direction) from our house, not too far away from the home care lady’s house, actually. So I called Todd. Told him it was much better and that we had more research to do, maybe there was one of the same caliber closer to our house And as I was on my way home, still talking to him about this on my cell phone, I drove past a day care that I’d never seen before, tucked away from the street a bit, about a mile from our house. And it was the same “chain” of places as the lovely one near the bikini wax place! I made a U-turn, went in and visited, and was delighted to find that it was also nice. It also smelled good. There were no baby cages.

This place prefers to be called a “school”, rather than a day care. It’s a day care. Although it does have a full curriculum for learning at all ages (even infancy – complete with sign language!) and a private kindergarten for kids who reach that age. I have friends who refuse to call their child-care institution a “day care” also, and I’m starting to see why. Maybe day cares have cages and urine-scented air fresheners? The thing about all these places, though, is that you can drop off and pick up your child between the hours of 6:30 am and 6:30 pm. This one is just a mile away. I think I convinced Todd last night that, even though our child’s care is the most important factor, we might have to pay a bit also for convenience. I don’t care if someone slaps me around and tells me that parenting isn’t convenient. Or that I’m a horrible mother for not paying a huge premium for keeping the baby at home. This is what is best for us.

Now we just have to pay the deposit and turn in the application form to secure our “spot” in the infant room for November. This is all becoming so real. And scary. Good Lord, I hope my house never smells like urine.


7 Comments so far
Leave a comment

That sounds like a step in the right direction. Just learn to trust your insticts, trust your child, and trust your gut. Even sweet little grandmas who charge little to nothing have issues. And you know what I am talking about. One of the most important decisions you ever make in your life will be the “Who will take care of my child?” question. I can remember lining up a nice lady who would come to the apartment and keep Bay while I was gone for 24 hours and her backing out less than a week before I had him. Then I remember Betty coming to the house when I got home from the hospital and telling me she would keep him and that I wasn’t going to argue and I wasn’t going to pay her (that part didn’t last long). It was like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders. Good luck, all will be well!

Comment by Big Sis

Thanks, HB. You’re right.

Of course, there’s just not a Mrs. Renshaw around when you need one. My artifical plants need a little mayonnaise.

Comment by leadballoon

And a ketchup sandwich. YUM! And she could dress your little boy in doll dresses. And she could get him hooked on trashy World Class Wrestling. And…..

Comment by Big Sis


Also, you’re doing the right thing for baby Luckey; you’re going with your gut. I’m actually very happy with our “school,” and Ryder’s been there since he was nine weeks old.

Comment by jen

There is no HIM… 🙂 I think it’s a boy. But you just never know…we still don’t know. Last night at Todd’s parents’ house we looked at his baby pictures in comparison to the 4D sonogram…the baby looks EXACTLY like him.

Comment by leadballoon

small towns may indeed have grandmas keeping kids. but their old-school methods might not be the best thing for Y2K7…and there is the “stroke factor” or they might just flat out die on you. also…i know the day cares around here (small town) are @#$%ing disgusting. however, if your living expense was that of a small town…then you could pay for someone to come live w/ you 24/7.

Comment by Sam

Sam, how much would you charge to come live with us 24/7?

Comment by Lauri

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