How do average people afford daycare?
January 13, 2010 9:39 AM   Subscribe

How do two 'middle class' average working parents afford daycare for their infant?

My wife and I are at wits end about daycare for our little one. I work full time as a Systems Administrator ($40k) and she as a Success Coach ($35k). We work for the same company, and my wife was only given 6 weeks off due to her not being with the company for a whole year. We are living off of my salary and 60% of her pay for disability. She has approval to work from home 2-3 days a week, but due to her job she will need help with the little one at home. Historically my management does not like me working from home unless it is an emergency. I am the only IT guy for 200 users and 3 offices. Getting a raise is out of the question, but I am still about to propose working from home when I can.

How do people do this? We have searched high and low and we cannot find someone for less than $1000/Month. I did the math and having my wife stay home will not work unfortunately. This is incredibly stressful and we are just stuck. Family is 4 hours away, and the only friends with kids we have would add another 4+ hours to our commute due to traffic.
posted by NotSoSimple to Work & Money (44 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Au pair? Not free, but much cheaper than $1000/month.
posted by electroboy at 9:53 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding looking for other families to do a co-op thing with a sitter. You can also look into sharing care with other parents (your wife would watch the kids one day, another parent the next day, etc. or on alternating shifts). This is not just your "friends" with kids, but also people in the neighborhood. Look into options with church or community groups, even if you might not share their religious philosophies.

Also, it's not a big help, but child care expenses (up to a maximum) are generally deductible on your taxes (even if you don't itemize).
posted by melissasaurus at 9:56 AM on January 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

This will probably sound overly judgmental but working from home is not a childcare solution. That means doing a half-assed job for your employer and doing a half-assed job raising your child.

If you need full time childcare, $1000/month sounds right, to on the more affordable side. You can't live on $60K/yr, but you want to find someone to help raise your child who can live on less than $12K/yr?

Options as I see it are:

Find a way to live within your means.
Find a nanny share that might make it more affordable.
One of you works part time and you find another family with a part time parent and you trade off child care.

Sorry I can't be more helpful, but I think you need to face the reality that the first thing up on that list is the real solution. You might need to make some serious sacrifices to make your budget fit.
posted by mzurer at 9:57 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Where I live, middle class working parents take their kids to a nursery, which is cheaper than one-to-one care for reasons of scale. I never heard of anyone having a nanny without also having an enormous income.
posted by emilyw at 10:01 AM on January 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: We do not know anyone in this same situation. I wish we did so we could collaborate a little, wouldnt make us feel as alone.

Good terms, yes. My MIL came for a week but she is hesitant to leave work. I might be able to get a week here and there but nothing steady unfortunately. The YMCA here is booked solid for a year and the sliding scale worked to be over $1k/m as well. We were a bit disappointed.

Au pair sounds good but we do not have the room. We also rent and that would violate our lease agreement on more than a few items.

I posted on our work bulletin board so hopefully I get something. I am getting desperate to where I am going to start posting fliers on mailboxes. I know there are stay at home moms in our neighborhood, but I dont know how to inquire.
posted by NotSoSimple at 10:02 AM on January 13, 2010

Sorry, looks like au pair have quite a few upfront fees that actually make it much more expensive than your other options.
posted by electroboy at 10:06 AM on January 13, 2010

From more of a financial than a parenting POV:

Remember to take into account the tax credit you'll get back for day care expenses and get your withholding adjusted accordingly. Check with a CPA on this for specifics, but you could get up to $3k back for it, which would effectively cut that expense by $250/mo.

And this is probably going to sound like a dumb question, but... what's the disability for? Is this just the cut she's had right now while she's not working for her maternity leave? If you can make ends meet currently, and by going back to work full-time she gets an extra $14k/year, and care costs $12k/year, while that's pretty basic math I think the tax credit and additional taxes should come close to washing out, and it seems like that actually probably works out pretty good.

That plus a little budgetary trimming and you may be living kind of slim, but you still ought to be able to be relatively comfortable unless you live in an area with a really high cost of living.

But if any of my assumptions here are wrong, of course, that throws things off.
posted by larkspur at 10:07 AM on January 13, 2010

Wait, wrong again, still about half the price, or about $7000/yr.
posted by electroboy at 10:09 AM on January 13, 2010

Oh, and since the kid is new, figure out what you're going to need to do to adjust your withholding for that, too, if you haven't already. (Another possibly-dumb thing, but some people forget.)
posted by larkspur at 10:10 AM on January 13, 2010

Best answer: $1000 a month is pretty typical. And only sending your kid part-time isn't as good a solution as it might sound; we've found that day cares don't charge just half price for half time care, $1000 becomes $700-800, not $500. I assume this is because they need lots of staff overlap to deal with part-timers and still keep the state-mandated ratios.

I don't know what your cost of living is, but we are in a similar situation as you income-wise. Our solutions:

1. We work at the same place, so we only own one car. It can be a pain if someone needs to go out of town, but we make do.
2. House is very small.
3. Can't afford to have a second child until the older one is old enough for the infant/toddler cost of $1000/month to drop down to the preschool rate.

It stinks, yes, but you asked how people afford it and that's my two cents.
posted by Knowyournuts at 10:13 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, this is the hardest financial part of having a child. Around here $1000/month would be on the cheaper end of daycare. Don't forget to factor in the tax benefit you get from childcare. (And I don't want to preach, but this IS something that you think about before getting pregnant...)

* Option 1: one of you quits to stay home with the child. Don't just look at salary currently, but potential earnings. If either of you leaves the workforce for ~4 years, will it screw you out of future jobs? She probably has professional contacts that she needs to maintain. You probably have technology to keep up on.

* Option 2: expand your idea of childcare - in-home (person runs daycare in their house), au pair, co-op nanny, undocumented people, and call EVERY childcare center in your area and find out what their rates are (if they even have openings... around here you are on at least a 9 month waitlist). Look on Craigslist and in the paper for people running off the books childcare. Note that if you're paying someone off the books, you're not able to get your tax write off.

* Option 3: working from home while doing childcare? Are you CRAZY? This is just impossible. I'm not sure how old your kid is, but as a mommy of a 14-month-old, I can assure you that there is no way that one could actually be a good employee while being at home with an infant/baby.
posted by k8t at 10:15 AM on January 13, 2010 [5 favorites]

If you have a few years experience, I would just try to find a higher paying job in your situation.

When I was younger I went to a womans house who watched kids in her home. It was cheaper than daycare, but takes more work to find someone good.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:17 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

You need to meet other parents who can help you figure this out. And one-on-one childcare might not be affordable but there are plenty of nurseries and daycares for this sort of thing, no?

- find a yahoo group for parents in your area
- find a meetup group for parents/kids in your area
- join a mother's group somehow (see above)
- google for mom/dad/parenting blogs in your area
- go to some kind of storytime at the library, ask other parents
- look at library for bulletin board
- UU church, even if you're not religious, will likely have some ideas
posted by barnone at 10:17 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Post your location - city/state/neighbourhood and people might be able to give you more direct advice for your area.
posted by barnone at 10:18 AM on January 13, 2010

Ten years ago, my husband and I did it by me taking a substantial paycut and career rewind in order to have more flexible hours. That was not, unfortunately, a win-win solution.

Can either of you adjust the hours you are required to be on site? In other words, can one of you work 9-5, and the other more like 3-11? Or can one work Sunday - Thursday, the other Tuesday - Saturday? That would still require part-time childcare, but the cost would (hopefully) drop too.

In case you aren't aware: Childcare costs for children generally drop as they age. You may want to ask your preferred childcare provider about pricing structures later on. If it turns out that childcare expenses become easier to shoulder when your baby is six months or a year old, then you can present whatever you're proposing to your boss(es) as a plan with a finite ending.
posted by gnomeloaf at 10:18 AM on January 13, 2010

Have you looked at family daycares at all?

Our son is in a family daycare in the Boston area that is between $1100 - $1200/month ($55/day) and is $300 less than the least expensive center we found. This cost is on par with the other family daycares in the area and substantially less than most centers.

I learned that my job had an association with an outside company that helps locate childcare, back up care, and even things like summer camp programs for kids. This was a benefit through my employer and was of no cost to me, but even so the cost had I paid out of pocket would have been quite minimal for a listing of 10 providers in the area ($40 to do the legwork). They came back with 3 licensed family daycares that we could afford and of these we interviewed two and went with the one that had a spot available. You may find that there's a company like this near you that you can use to help your search, and your state's childcare website should also have a way to search for providers.

That said, rent + childcare is more than half of our take home pay and is probably almost 70% of it, and money is really, really tight and unexpected circumstances like a car needing work does affect us considerably. But we make it work because we have to. We're not saving much and we still do use the credit cards more than we would like, but that's what we do.

If your employer has a flexible spending account benefit for childcare, it will help in the longterm if you can take advantage of using it. I'm hoping to take advantage of this next year when enrollment comes around again. This year I couldn't get my act together in time. The tax deduction for childcare, while a lot less than it should be, is a life saver once a year.

Point is, money will be tight, but if we can do it (and we probably make about as much as you guys do, too, and for a good while we were making substantially less than we are now while my husband was a student) you'll find a way, too! At first it was like pulling teeth for me to write that check every month, but now that we've found a rhythm, it's not so bad. We've both become more aware of our spending and sort of naturally cut back on little extras that have made a difference.
posted by zizzle at 10:23 AM on January 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

Check your state daycare licensing Web site. This probably exists, and may include home daycares on the list of licensees. Home daycares seem to be significantly less expensive than daycare centers, at least where I live.

But yeah, next to rent, daycare is our biggest bill. And it's not far off the rent bill.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 10:23 AM on January 13, 2010

It might be helpful to know your general geographic area - the cost of and solutions to childcare problems are pretty region specific.

Point one: if your wife is able to work from home 3 days per week, you may not need a full time, full pay child care provider for those days. You can instead hire one or more "mother's helpers", who are usually younger, less experienced babysitters who work for less pay (teenagers and college students, mostly). I paid my mother's helper (a teenager) $10 an hour, but I live in an extremely expensive area. Your going rate might be more like $6-$8. The problem is that since most mother's helpers are attending school, you will probably have to find more than one to cover all your working hours.

Point two: As posters have mentioned above, your best bet for infant care is to find a nanny share. Are there any parenting groups in your area? Often such groups have email lists or message boards where parents who want to share a nanny post. I would trust a local parent's group over Craigslist. Also, you may want to seek out local parent's groups and ask them this very question (how to afford childcare).

Point three: I know that you say that you did the math, but once you factor in the cost of childcare, even with the best case scenario you may just be breaking if your wife continues to work full time. Your household income will decrease if you switch to one income, but your household expenses will also decrease. Now that I am a full time stay at home mom, I have the time to tightly control our budget, shop for everything used, use cloth diapers, bake, buy in bulk, and all sorts of other things I never had time to while working. Even with fixed costs (rent, utilities, etc.) remaining the same, we've managed to get to a point where we are putting as much money into savings as we were when I was working.
posted by Wavelet at 10:27 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Checked user's former answers, etc., and it seems you work in Portland, is that right?

Also, could you explain why she is getting 60% "disability" pay? Is this because she is home with your child part-time and it has been more than 6 weeks?
posted by misha at 10:35 AM on January 13, 2010

Nthing the recommendation for in-home daycares, they are significantly cheaper than daycare centers (and personally I prefer them), which are usually cheaper than nannies. You need to start joining some local parenting groups to get leads and recommendations on childcare. Look online, you will find a ton of mailing lists.

My two little ones are in an in-home daycare during the day, while me and the spouse work together at the same company. You will have to search through a lot of in-home daycares to find the good ones, but once you have found a good one, even if they don't have spaces they will generally have a network of sorts and can recommend others in the area that might have openings.

Also please post your location, so the hive mind can help you out more specifically.
posted by Joh at 10:37 AM on January 13, 2010

It all depends on how far off from meeting the mark you are and how much room you have to plug leaks in your budget. If you are WAY off the mark, then you need to look at major life/career changes. If you are slightly off the mark, then it is time to sit down and look at where you can possibly find money in your current budget. Things to consider include are you buying lunch everyday or bringing your own (that can add up quick for 2 people), are you on the best cell phone plan, do you have any monthly subscriptions that are nice but not necessary, are you bargain shopping on groceries, etc... You'd be surprised at how much money you can "find" just be reevaluating your finances. Also if your company offers a Flex Spending Account, I would recommend that you take advantage of it.

I'm not sure what your religious affiliation is, or if you even have one but some churches/temples/mosques offer child care programs and/or might be able to point you in the direction of getting some more affordable help.

The truth of the matter is that paying for daycare is EXPENSIVE. There is no way out of it... The one thing to remember is the you get what you pay for, for better or for worse.
posted by lrkuperman at 10:41 AM on January 13, 2010

Oh, another point: are either of your work hour's flexible? One of my coworkers solved this problem by changing his work hours from 6 am - 2 pm, while his wife worked from 10 am - 6 pm. So, they only needed a child care provider from the hours of 10 am - 2 pm, rather than for a full day.

Note that this does not halve the cost of child care (part time child care is usually per hour more expensive than full time), but it does reduce it.
posted by Wavelet at 10:43 AM on January 13, 2010

You are going to have to adjust your lifestyle. Can you find a more affordable place to live? Lower your 401k contributions for the time being? Get rid of a car? Move cities? You will figure it out, but your just going to have to be flexible and do your research.
posted by jasondigitized at 10:56 AM on January 13, 2010

Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that you will save loads of money on entertainment, since your little one will provide it!

After ours was born, we didn't go out to a movie for ages, and I really didn't miss it. Dinners out (2 meals, 2 drinks, and a big tip) turned into takeout (one shared dish, drinks from our fridge, and a small tip).

Gosh, we must have saved $200/month or more, just by staring at the baby.
posted by Knowyournuts at 10:57 AM on January 13, 2010

Welcome to the other side, NotSoSimple. This country is not set up for parenting. Workplaces are structured to expect all employees to either be childless, or to have a childgiver at home fulltime. Any deviation from one of these models is considered aberrant. Which is jacked. Hey, you had the baby. America wants you to suck it up.

Folks, his wife is on disability because her employer got a note from her doctor saying she can't come back to work right after giving birth. So the postpartum condition is considered a short-term disability worthy of insurance coverage. More evidence of the system's complete fuckedness. Actually having had a baby isn't worth squat.

You now have to play the cards you've been dealt. Childcare is pricey. $1k/month for infant childcare is about average in my experience. Also, if she's breastfeeding, your wife may find it really really hard (read: physically painful) to be away from the baby for any length of time. It's also true you'll save money on both work/commuting and childcare if someone is home full time, as noted by other posters.

You might want to find another apartment with cheaper rent. Or a new job in a place with a lower cost of living.
posted by mneekadon at 11:01 AM on January 13, 2010 [8 favorites]

I just wanted to nth looking at in-home daycares. If you put in some effort interviewing and being picky you'll likely end up with a great provider. Please don't put your child in the first one you find (unless it's amazing) just because you need care. There are a lot of sucky daycares.

I run a home daycare and often hear people complaining about the costs of daycare. I just wanted to derail for a minute and list some of the things that the $1000 is paying for:

wages for the care provider and any helpers
the provider's housing costs and utilities (no lights, no daycare)
food (at 5/days a week that's 20 meals and 40 snacks your child is getting)
diapers/wipes/misc. supplies (if provided by the daycare, some do some don't)
laundry (a never ending job for parents and daycare providers)
toys, books (including replacements, kids are always tearing books or breaking toys)
furniture, dishes, bottles
wear and tear to the provider's home (trust me, there is a lot)
the cost of training, including first aid
arts and craft materials and other consumables
bedding - play pens, cots, sheets, pillows, blankets
professional memberships
printing, photocopying, other office expenses
and more.

When I have a full time child in my care (right now I have 5) I spend more time with that child then their parents do. I have a direct impact on that child's development and future behaviours. You can easily google for research on how important the early years are. It really bothers me when people dont' want to pay very much for childcare.

You are making more than enough money to pay $1000 a month and you have known for quite a while that daycare was something you were going to have to budget for. Either stay home and take the paycut or happily pay the money to have someone else raising your child.

I apologize for the derail, this is something I face daily and it really bothers me. Please feel free to mefimail me if you want some tips on what to look for in a good daycare.

All the best with your decisions.
posted by Abbril at 11:02 AM on January 13, 2010 [13 favorites]

I realize the economy sucks, but you should be working on your resume. Unless you are entry level, non profit, or maybe very rural, $40K is not "sole provider of IT support for 200 users" scale. In the meantime, see if your bank, credit union, or employer offers financial advisory services so someone can help you estimate your new tax situation and you can change your withholding to at least bring home a little more cash.

At the end of the day, though, since you can't change the local going rates for infant care, and you can't move somebody in/near to help for free or cheap, and you can't change the flexibility you receive from your current employer, you're probably going to have to try to find more money and/or more flexibility somewhere else.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:09 AM on January 13, 2010

It won't be fun, and probably isn't even easy in the current economy, but you could pick up a part time night job to help pay for daycare. I was working 1 full time and 2 part time jobs for a while when we had two in diapers.
posted by COD at 11:10 AM on January 13, 2010

Best answer: Congrats on the new baby. This is stressful enough without the financial worries and I can totally relate to both. It was hard as hell for me, as a single parent at half your income.

Keep your chin up, it does get better. :-)

One of the things you'll have to get used to is that you will need to make some deep lifestyle changes to accommodate the new costs. This sucks, but having kids is a sacrifice. It seems like you are having trouble with this (but I might be reading in).

1000 a month of child care is not unreasonable at all, and actually lower than I would expect. You can afford it - your takehome has to be ~4000 a month or more so I would think you can find other costs you can cut.

You *REALLY* don't want to skimp on child care. The early years are the most important and your choices now can have real long term effects. That is not to say that money = quality, but it's very hard to provide quality care at low cost.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:19 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

As far as I'm concerned, "sharing" a babysitter is not an option. It's totally unfair to the sitter, and actually, most of them would simply up their fees to cover another child.

Until my daughter was in school, I worked two full time jobs for a while, just to pay for daycare. There are no easy solutions. One option would be for your wife to stay home, and for her to also babysit a few other children. That way, she can be home with yours but still bring in an income.
posted by fairywench at 11:55 AM on January 13, 2010

Response by poster: larkspur: Called my CPA today actually. She clued us in on being eligible for $2400 credit for daycare, and a % back on both federal and state. Many people asked about disability. Since my wife has not been here for 6 months (At time of birth) she is not eligible for her maternity leave. It is only 3 days paid anyway. So instead of going 6 weeks unpaid and having her benefits lapse, we did short term disability to get 60% of her pay and keep her benefits. 60% of something is better than 100% of nothing. Witholdings were already adjusted. We have been advised to wait out until we get our return just to make sure and we can adjust for next year.

Knowyournuts: Yes they do not just half it. However I was just tipped off by a co-worker of a small in-home center. She is flat rate $40/Day which includes everything (Diapers as well) and that might be our best bet. She said she might have an opening, but she is waiting on a pending child. We work @ the same place as well. We can go down to 1 car but as of right now my wife dosnt want to do anything drastic. Surprisingly I am totally OK with it.

k8t: Yeah my wife is planning for the 'I cant do it myself' for WFH. That is why I am proposing with my boss to see if I can as well. With two of us we can handle it. My job is a little more 'hands off' with the phone than hers. Also this job is somewhat temporary. She is an elem teacher w/ a Masters. We moved right when Oregon decided to cut budgets and lay off tons of teachers. So when she can get back into the classroom she will be leaving this position.

barnon: I really need to look for groups. Great suggestions, I was blank as to ideas where to look. Also we are in Portland, OR. West side Beaverton area.

gnomeloaf: Adjusting hours is easier for her than me. I am direct support for our coaches so only between 8-5:30 are working hours for me.

mneekadon: Exactly. I was really surprised at this attitude here. My wife is breastfeeding so going back to work is going to be tricky. Moving is a hard option, as we are locked into our lease.

Abbril: I am not refuting the cost and saying it is a waste. Just currently for our finances it is insanely expensive :)

COD: Would love to pick up a second job but I would never see my family and my wife is very adament about it. I have this provider attitude and am willing to work insane hours if it means we can do it/comfortable/less stressed.

I do appreciate all of the quick and detailed responses. It has sparked some others angles I either shrugged off, completely forgot about, or have never even considered.
posted by NotSoSimple at 12:34 PM on January 13, 2010

You say your wife doesn't want to do anything drastic, and that she is adamant you don't take a second job, which implies to me one of two things:

1 - You CAN afford child care, but don't want to have to cut back to the bare necessities. With the money you are making, and the fact that you are renting, you should be able to make child care work into your budget. It won't be fun, but it should be doable.

2 - You CAN'T afford child care, and your wife doesn't fully understand that. I know that you two would not ever want to be homeless or bankrupt, but if you truly can't afford child care and you don't do something drastic, that is what will happen.

We're just about to have our first child, and I am most likely leaving my full time job so I can stay home, and will work part time during nights and weekends to fill in the budget gap. We decided that we would rather do this than have someone else raise our child.

Things we have had to do or are going to do to save money: No going out for food or entertainment. Get rid of cable, land line telephone, magazines, itunes, etc. Sell stuff on ebay and craigslist. Shopping smart by using coupons and keeping track of pricing from week to week, so that we know when something is really on sale.

If this was done and you still were coming up short, you could get rid of your internet at home, change your cell phones to a prepaid plan and then never call except for emergencies, sell your cars and rely solely on public transit, move to a really small place that costs less or rent out a room to someone else.

Every couple with young children that we know right now makes significant sacrifices in order to provide for their children. Many of them make much less than you do (we are in the Seattle area, which I believe has a comparable cost of living), and are able to get by. It is not easy by any stretch of the imagination, but you guys can do it!
posted by markblasco at 1:00 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

If your employer has a flexible spending account benefit for childcare, it will help in the longterm if you can take advantage of using it.

I was going to emphasize this. The limit is $5,000 per year (i think), but it saves a significant amount in taxes. I use one and it comes out of my paycheck pretax and I never even see it, so it's like I never even had the money.
posted by Big_B at 1:03 PM on January 13, 2010

In my experience the in-home providers are way more flexible on scheduling, too. We pay $50/day and use the service three days a week. This is pretty cheap by San Francisco standards but I totally love our provider.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 1:16 PM on January 13, 2010

"Every couple with young children that we know right now makes significant sacrifices in order to provide for their children."

This is it. My wife quit after her second meternity leave ended. We have had two more kids since, and we just...don't spend much. *shrug* No fancy clothes, no travel (though who would these days with multple kids?!), no movies, no dinners out, only enough cable TV to get multiple PBS stations, etc., etc.

It *will* get better: the stress and effort of the newborn will give way to a toddler who doesn't spend all day asleep or eating, and then you'll get a potty-trqined kid who doesn't need diapers all the time, and so on. It certainly is a lot of work and sacrifice, though, while you get there.

When my wife still worked, we paid for care. A fancy place, then a smaller one, then a semi-in-home place, and then a YMCA. The local Y eventually added a kindergarten, too, which beats the town schools. So that worked out great for us.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:18 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

You're the only IT guy for 200 users?
With 3 locations?

I know this is totally unhelpful, but you are understaffed & overworked & almost certainly underpaid. I just left a job where I was one of two IT folks for 300 users at 10 locations, and I had nightmares for a week after quitting. If you can't afford a help desk person, can you get an intern?

In any case, you have my sympathy and my sincere best wishes.
posted by Erroneous at 1:20 PM on January 13, 2010

When I was a kid, my mom stopped working full time and stayed home with me during the day. She worked in the evenings for extra money. This worked out well for me since it meant I always had a parent home with me.

I've known other couples who have done this for the first couple years of their child's life. It can be a strain on the marriage, but seems to have been worth it for the people I have known.
posted by parakeetdog at 1:47 PM on January 13, 2010

However I was just tipped off by a co-worker of a small in-home center. She is flat rate $40/Day which includes everything (Diapers as well) and that might be our best bet.

Man, I don't want to burst your bubble, but: I'm a childcare provider, and in my experience interacting with other nannies and daycare workers, the less you pay for childcare, well, the less care your child gets. The worst nannies I've known are the ones who are paid beans. I don't want to get preachy and handwring-y, as I know you're trying to cut corners and of course you will try to ensure your baby is in good hands, but $40/day means you're budgeting less than $5/hour for someone to specifically care for your baby. This daycare might be an exception, but I would be incredibly vigilant about a place that charges so little for that sort of work.
posted by zoomorphic at 2:17 PM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've had pretty great experiences with in-home care.

In Cleveland day-care is $200 a week, anywhere. I used Craigslist and asking around to find my son (now 19 mo) wonderful childcare for $100 - 150 a week. I leave him with a local stay-at-home Mom who is just looking for supplemental cash. It's not a day care. (One Mom I know who does this watches 5 kids including her own for $25 a day. She makes more than me.)

I think the trick is posting your own very detailed Craigslist ad i.e. 'Can my kid stay with you and yours?' and then reading through the responses like they're job applications. Look for grammar, and how carefully the person read your ad. Then interview the people you like. It might take awhile to find someone good and in the meantime going a few thousand in debt for a temporary childcare situation is totally worth it. The ease of in-home care could also really reduce the stress on your wife during those tough early months.
posted by debbie_ann at 3:27 PM on January 13, 2010

If you are in the greater Portland area - try UrbanMamas They have message boards about childcare as well as many place to post if you are looking for a nanny-share or other form of daycare option. They'll also have mom group postings etc.

My local hospital, and most of those used by friends, all host free new mom support meetings a few times a week for the first 6 months or so. They specifically encourage moms who attend to form mommy groups out of these meetings and that's how I would up in mine!

We went though all of this (it was agonizing) and eventually found that we break even with a part-time nanny but at least I'm accruing social security, retirement and medical benefits and I'm thrilled with my choice but it isn't a bargain by any means.

Best of luck with whatever you find. It's OK to be absurdly picky about this choice. Take advantage of all the tax breaks and flex plans you can get your hands on. Realize that if you don't break even at first your daycare costs will grow considerably less once your kiddo is potty trained and can make it into a larger class size (preschool age).
posted by rosebengal at 3:28 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

@zoomorphic Cost for daycare can vary drastically from location to location, even within the city. In my area I make the top of the range at $40/day and I provide everything except diapers. I offer music and movement classes, sign language learning, local organic, homemade food. Basically, the best of the best but my area won't support a higher fee. Now, if you go 15 minutes from me people are charging $50/day just to be in the same house as the kids and aren't providing nearly the same level of care. Price doesn't always reflect quality in this business.
posted by Abbril at 6:09 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: "I did the math and having my wife stay home will not work unfortunately."

Don't forget to consider the net present value of her future earnings. If she drops out of her career for a few years, she may never be able to get back on the career ladder and she certainly won't end up earning as much as she would if she continued to work. It may be worth it to take on some debt now to pay for day care and keep her working if she has the potential to make a lot more in the future.

So many couples fuck up the "math" of daycare vs. wife staying home because they focus entirely on current cash flow, instead of considering expected lifetime earnings.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:01 PM on January 13, 2010 [5 favorites]

Home daycares seem to be significantly less expensive than daycare centers, at least where I live.

This. My son is 3 1/2 and has been in care full time since he was 11 weeks old. Without having found two in-home providers (first was a terrific grandmother-type woman, she retired and my son is now in in-home care with that woman's niece) we would have been totally screwed. We pay about $150 per week for care (meals provided, we provide diapers and wipes, etc.) which is about half the going weekly rate for care in our area. Our care provider cares for our son along side her own daughter and another girl. She has a BA in child development and was a private nanny for eight years before she started her own family. Her rate is so low, basically, because her costs are also low.

That being said, we're still paying more per month for childcare than we pay monthly on the actual mortgage-portion of our mortgage, and I work two jobs (one full time and one part time) to help make ends meet. (In our case, I make a substantially higher income but my husband's employer provides our kick-ass health care benefits, so neither of us can really quit, given that my son has some ongoing medical issues.) There have been a lot of sacrifices in terms of our quality of life, and, frankly, I would give just about anything to be a stay-at-home mom rather than having someone else spend more time daily with my child than I do. So, look carefully at your life and lifestyle before you make the move to full time care. If there is any way you can swing having your wife stay home full time (or even work only 2-3 days per week) do that.

The important things in life are not all financial. We're lucky to have a decent child-care arrangement, but if we could possibly arrange our life in such a way that I could stay home with my son, I'd do it in a heartbeat, even if it meant a big drop in way of life.
posted by anastasiav at 10:37 AM on January 14, 2010

Response by poster: Just for an update. We ended up finding a home based daycare for $40/Day which included diapers, formula/food. It is a little out of our way but it works. Nice place, ran by two sisters who we like. So far so good. The flexibility in days is really nice.

I am home on Tuesdays with my wife (Who is working from home with me) so that works. We only take her 3 days a week currently and it is working out. My wife kicks butt @ work M-T and takes it easy on Friday so she can keep our little one at home.
posted by NotSoSimple at 4:09 PM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

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