Graduated Learning: Life after College

I got my degree, I got a job…now what?

The childcare decision revisited March 9, 2018

When we had our first child, it was pretty obvious that we’d both keep working.  I took the full 12 weeks of maternity leave allowed through FMLA, then headed back to work.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I came back to work part-time, with a flexible schedule that allowed me to work however much I could each week as long as I worked a minimum number of hours.  This definitely helped with my transition back to work, especially when I was still breastfeeding/pumping, and even now when trying to juggle the life of a working mom along with sharing the daycare pickup/dropoff responsibilities with my husband (especially when he has a business trip and I have to do both dropoff and pickup!)

We found our daycare with help from my Employee Assistance Program, who helped narrow down choices to nearby options that had openings.  The daycare center is very conveniently located relative to both our jobs, and we’re really happy with the care and education she’s gotten so far.  And she’s happy, too!

Of course, the one thing we’re less happy about?  The cost.  Daycare is EXPENSIVE.  And I know this cost often weighs on people when making the decision:  should a parent stay home?

As I mentioned in my last post, we’re expecting again (due late May/early June) and so the discussion came up again.  Should one of us stay home?  Or should we keep paying for childcare, now for two kids?

I have plenty of friends who have chosen to be stay at home parents, for both financial and personal reasons.  They’re awesome people, and I think they made the right choice for their family.

But for us, for now, we will follow the theory that childcare is an investment.  A quick calculation shows that childcare for two at our current daycare is about 25% of our combined full-time salaries (gross pay).  Of course, after taxes and healthcare, and acknowledging that I’m only currently working around 75% of full time (so I only get paid around 75% of my salary) the percentage of take-home pay (net pay) creeps much higher.  And of course, this year, with me going on maternity leave (which is not all paid, and when paid, is not at 100% pay), and probably dropping my hours back down a bit to accommodate my pumping schedule, we will probably be spending quite a lot of our income on childcare.

But we both see good futures in our jobs, and know that leaving the workforce entirely, even for a few years, could have significant impacts on our careers.  Being away from our careers for an extended amount of time will make it harder to “get back in”, if we haven’t been in the industry for a few years.  And once the kids are in school, we’d want to be back at work, anyway.  And as this great article points out, there’s more than just the lost wages when leaving a job for a few years.  You miss out on 401k contributions (yours and your employer’s, and any of the growth from those contributions), some of your potential social security benefits, and all the raises you would have gotten.  And, with our other big expense (mortgage) it also makes more sense to have two salaries, even if one (mine) is less for a little while from maternity leave and reduced hours (as mentioned above).

On top of all the financial reasons, it’s also a personal reason.  If I’m being honest, I don’t think staying home with my kid(s) is the best choice for any of us (parents or kids).  I’ve seen how exhausted I can get from just a single day taking care of my daughter (on a day she’s sick, or daycare is closed, or my husband is gone for a weekend day for work) and I can’t imagine being able to do this every single day, especially now with an infant set to enter our lives in less than 3 months.  And my daughter benefits greatly from being among her peers, and learning every day from people who are actually trained educators.  She gets variety every day in fun (and educational) indoor and outdoor activities.  I don’t think I could offer that level of education and fun every single day!

Yes, my husband could be the one to stay home instead, as he somehow manages to survive the day better than me when he’s home alone with our daughter all day, but as mentioned above, we see other benefits to having our children attend daycare.

And of course, we could seek out a less expensive option.  Either a nanny or finding a cheaper daycare center.  But most centers around here are around the same price, but less convenient to get to which means it would still mean less time one of us could spend at work to take care of pickup/dropoff on time (which at least for me, means less pay, so that defeats the purpose of finding a slightly cheaper location).

I know everyone’s situation is different, and I wouldn’t dare judge people on whatever decision they made for childcare.  I just wanted to share how we came to the decision to continue with daycare.

I’d love to hear from you on your childcare/work situation, and how you came to that decision!





6 Responses to “The childcare decision revisited”

  1. We made the same decision, for many of the same reasons. Ultimately, neither my husband nor I wanted to stay home, and luckily we both make enough that there was never a question about affording it. I do feel guilty sometimes, but it very much comes from a place of societal judgment fears more so than any desire to be home.

    I think so many of us feel this urge to justify and defend our decisions because it seems like no matter what your choice, you are judged. I try to remember this whenever someone with a SAHM wife not-so-innocently says to me that they just thought their kid really needed a mom at home. 🙄


  2. We made the same decision, and our reasons were very similar. My mother was a SAHM, and she was fantastic at it. I always thought I’d want the same thing. It turns out that I do not. I like working, and Baguette definitely benefited from day care in a variety of ways–including the fact that they were able to help us identify atypical development and behaviors, because they have a larger sample size than we do.


  3. singleincomelife Says:

    We also live in an area with really expensive daycare. We had our first kid in 2012 and a 2011 CNN article listed our state as one of the top 5 most expensive states for childcare (though you guys take the cake with MA landing at the #1 spot… sorry!). Daycare made sense financially when we only had one child, but very clearly didn’t with two. So we pulled my husband from work to become a SAHD when child #2 arrived. It made more sense to pull him rather than me because of our salary differences, but also because he was more willing to be a stay at home parent than me. If the roles were reversed and he made more than me, I don’t think I would want to stay home with the kids. I’d still have them in daycare even if it took my entire paycheck to pay for it. Fortunately, he was willing to take one for the team and our set up has ended up working out nicely for our family.


  4. I love the perspective that childcare is an investment. I used to think that whenever I have kids I would stay home no question about it, but lately I’ve been thinking that utilizing childcare at least part-time would be good for my potential future children, and especially for my own mental health. I still don’t totally know how I’m going to feel about it when it happens, but I know childcare will definitely allow me to find fulfillment in my own work, whatever that might look like.


  5. I didn’t realize you worked about the same amount of hours as I do (80% time for me). It has been soooo much better than FT.


  6. […] spend well over five-figures a year in daycare. And she has written two great articles about how daycare spending has affected her finances. (We also wrote very similar articles about how “pulling yourself […]


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