Before we had kids, I never gave a thought to how much it costs for someone to care for your child when you had to do things like work. Going out at night, yes, I knew what an hourly sitter cost (these are the things a child-free person obsesses over), but I had no idea how much money we would be shelling out just so my baby would be cared for while I went to the office.
It turns out, in my Brooklyn neighborhood anyway, that a full-time nanny would cost our family over $26,000 a year. Day care was cheaper, and we got away with $13,000 a year. Still a good amount of money for one child, and once we had two children, we knew it was time to move to a less expensive city.
Although we pay less in California, child care still takes a massive bite out of our budget. While I may be going broke covering pre-school and day care, the price of child care is still not nearly high enough.
The people who take care of my children, and have taken care of my children in the past, deserve much more. When I've worked full-time, they have spent more of the week with the most precious people in my life than I have. These women (it's always been women) have loved my children, taught them new languages, taken them out to the park when I would have pleaded, "It's too cold!" and made sure they were safe no matter what. That's worth a lot more than the highest I ever paid -- $26,000 a year.
Yet, most middle-class parents go through a poverty spell when children arrive. Mostly due to the high cost of child care. We certainly did, and it's a tough spot to be in, even though our combined salaries were much greater than the barely living wage of a nanny.
It's something we've struggled with since our first child was born. Our need to keep our heads above water, while feeling like whatever our caregivers are being paid -- it's never enough. But it's more than we can afford.
I don't know a simple solution to early child care costs for those that aren't wealthy. I also don't know how to convince society-at-large that people taking care of our most vulnerable citizens -- be it child care workers, nurses, teachers, police, or firefighters -- deserve to make more money. Care-taking has never been valued much in our particular society, and I can't help but wonder why.
Do you think your child's caregiver is paid enough?
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