How can childcare be this damned expensive?
May 30, 2017 11:24 AM   Subscribe

How do families with two working parents and school-aged kids make childcare work in expensive cities?

My oldest starts kindergarten this fall, which is supposedly a boon--no more daycare costs! Except, school is almost worse. School hours run 8-2:30, which is nowhere close to possible for us to swing on 40-hour work weeks. So we're looking at before and after school care, at $500/month. There's no school between June and September, meaning we either need to burn all our vacation time staying home to care for her, or find summer camp options. Summer camps appear to START at $400/week, and don't run 9-5, so we'd have to jump through scheduling hoops to make it work with full-time jobs. Now we're talking 8 weeks of summer camp (to say nothing of spring, Christmas, and winter vacations), and potentially another $5,000 in tuition.

Now add day care costs for our youngest, who will be starting after we both go back to work this fall. We have an absurdly good deal on daycare for an infant, and I'm still blanching: my back-of-the-envelope numbers have us outlaying something like thirty thousand dollars a year in total child care costs. That is obscene. That's more than our housing costs; it's more than the median net income. How do not-extraordinarily-wealthy people afford this? What are you guys doing with your kids during summer breaks? Do you have grandparents picking up shifts? (Neither of our parents are close enough for that to be an option) What am I missing here?
posted by Mayor West to Work & Money (41 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I used to spend several weeks at a time at my grandparents' house and used to love the stays. Some of my colleagues with children seem to have similar arrangements. If all parties are willing the distance just means somebody has to travel to drop off/get/pick up the kids.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:39 AM on May 30, 2017

To be honest, that sounds pretty normal to me. We pay more for daycare than we do for rent with just a single kid in a city with a fairly low cost of living. I actually know several couples for whom it was economically more advantageous for one of them to stay home full-time, as the childcare savings offset any lost salary.

One thing I've heard suggested, but we haven't been able to do yet, is to go halfsies (or thirds or fourths) on an in-home provider. The cost is generally lower, since you're not paying for overhead.

One terrible idea that I am nonetheless doing as I write this is working from home while watching the baby. It's a pretty bad idea because both your productivity and your childcare will suffer, but sometimes it has to happen. (My car is in the shop and I can't drive my daughter to daycare, hence why I'm trying it today.) But if you have an understanding boss and the kind of job that doesn't require you to give constant attention, it might work occasionally.

I suspect other viable answers are the usual suspects, depending on your class identification: either credit card debt or public assistance.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:39 AM on May 30, 2017 [6 favorites]

I feel your pain.

We use an au pair, who can pick up all the extra school holidays and breaks and before/after Kindergarten. He/she could also care for your youngest full-time so you get both kids' care for one cost. You need to have the space to host one though. We are supplementing summer with some part-day camps, at much cheaper cost, to give some variability for our son.

For the summer, we are also sending the kids to stay with grandparents for 1-2 weeks at a time - this will bridge time as our au pair's year with us ends and then next one starts. That would be a good option for a school-aged kid, but less so for an infant or toddler. It's a lot of time away from home, so I'm a little concerned about it, but I think the kids will have a lot of fun and the grandparents are really excited for it.

You could also pay to fly your parents in for 1-2 week blocks, as an option - cheaper than camp.
posted by handful of rain at 11:41 AM on May 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

So thirty years ago, I was a latchkey kid in kindergarten. Obviously, I don't recommend that route.

Some families use unlicensed care providers. Either a friendly neighbor or 'daycare lady' who needs some extra cash and is willing/able to commit to school pickup and have the kid(s) at her/their home. Others rely on family help. Some families set up rotating after school care - 2 or three families have someone who takes the afternoon off and handles all the kiddos on a given day. Oh. In middle school there were some kids that I babysat at their house after school. But I was the relief babysitter for days when the stay at home parent had another obligation or needed to take a kid to an appointment or something. I was mostly in it for the cable and the bounty of snack foods.

Some schools have before and after care on the premises with rates that are better than daycare centers can charge (largely because of reduced real estate pressure).

Nanny share and au pair programs are also possible, with attendant caveats about tax implications for all the options listed.

For summers, yup, traveling to relatives is quite common. We were super poor and my dad unloaded us on far away relatives for as much of the summer as he could. This works better in some dynamics than others. Still isn't exactly cheap though.
posted by bilabial at 11:46 AM on May 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Childcare for two working parents is inordinately expensive. We were paying 30% more than our mortgage payment to have two kids in full time daycare/preschool in a very expensive metro area. It was painful every month. We've moved to a different state in the last month, and childcare costs here are lower (largely because the state-mandated ratios are higher, alas) but we're still looking at extremely high costs for afterschool care for our oldest, who starts kinder this year, as well as full-time daycare for her little brother.

Some of the working parents I know make things work by adjusting their working hours so that one parent works, say, 6-2:30 while the other parent works, say, 9 to 5:30, which helps relieve some of the need for before and aftercare, as well as makes the logistics of camps a little easier. That's not possible with all jobs, of course, and it does cut down on the amount of time both parents get with the kids (and makes one parent solely responsible for each end of the day), but it can be a way to make things work for a while.

As for summer, the expense and scheduling hassles of camp can depend on what camps you choose - there are awesome and super fun camps (in my old city there was a Rock Band camp, which is basically just what it says on the box - teach kids to be rock and rollers) that are stupid expensive and have squirrelly hours, and then there are your average, this-is-basically-daycare camps (the Y often has these) that are less expensive and have more working-parent friendly hours. And yeah, as others have noted, flying in a set of grandparents (or, when they are old enough, flying the kids out) for a couple of weeks of "Grandma and Grandpa camp" can be a way to reduce your costs while also giving your kids a chance to spend time with their grandparents. YMMV depending on whether the grandparents in question are retired, etc.
posted by devinemissk at 11:46 AM on May 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

So the situation you're in was 15-ish years ago for me, but $30K sounds about right. Either the second parent had to bring all that in after taxes or one parent had to stay home. As far as I could tell even people with decent jobs were basically breaking even on the second parent working. The issue really came down to 1) what did the lower income parent want to do with their life? not everyone wants to be with their kids 24/7 and b) is there a big penalty in your particular job for stepping out for a few years? There are a bunch of reasons that stepping out of the workforce for a few years causes problems, whether it's tenure or pension accrual or whatever.

Our solution was my wife was at home until the kids were finishing middle school. But when I asked the people with two working parents how they made it work the answer I mostly came up with was spending an entire parent's income on childcare.
posted by GuyZero at 11:47 AM on May 30, 2017 [8 favorites]

I actually know several couples for whom it was economically more advantageous for one of them to stay home full-time, as the childcare savings offset any lost salary.

This is true for couples I know, as well.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:47 AM on May 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Among people that I know, this are the options I've seen people take:

-Nanny share
-Work opposite shifts from your partner
-Partner who makes less (usually the woman) works part-time
-Split the summer with other families (you each take the kids collectively for 2 weeks with 3 other parents)
-Unlicensed providers, some sketchy as all get-out, some OK
-Family support, even long-distance

Some combination of all of those is mostly what people do. I'm not sure there are any other options.
posted by epanalepsis at 11:48 AM on May 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I would expect care for two kids to cost the same amount as a part time salary. It's definitely more expensive than a mortgage.

We work it by flexing who starts when; one of us goes to work at 7:30 and picks the kid up at 4:30; the other one drops him off at 8:30 and works till 5:30. We are very lucky to have jobs with that kind of flexibility, but it means we don't need before-care. Our aftercare program is run through the school and is probably about what you are quoting (or it would be if we needed before-care, too).

Summers for us are camp, and yes, they're expensive, but $400 a week are the nicer ones. There are a good number of options in our tow for half that (and others for $600/week, if you want the fancy science museum camps). I will say, it was very hard to find out about what camps were available except by word of mouth--my son is in second grade and I'm still learning about all the camp options that are available right in my neighborhood that I'd never heard of. The cheapest is the one run by the school district that meets at the high school, and it is basically kids playing in the field or gym and babysat. The nicer ones are art camps or sports camps or something. Look for a Y, a Boys & Girls club, or look on your local school district website.

So we do several weeks of camp, plus staggered grandparent visits and vacation days. It's going to end up being six weeks of camp and three weeks of other arrangements this summer, running at about $1500 total for the camps.

(Crossposting with everyone who says the same thing)
posted by gideonfrog at 11:52 AM on May 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Yes, I wonder if you could do a nanny share? We do and it works out well. It's particularly good if you can find kids with the same ages/needs and obviously a great nanny. You could find someone with kids the same age, and preferably the same school -- the nanny could watch both infants during the day, and then go to pickup the older kids at school. (This works depending on how far from school -- our nanny just walks with the double buggy). The older kids are often self-sufficient in the afternoons so the nanny can spend more time with the infants. Our nanny also gives the kids dinners (she makes very simple meals, often while the babies nap in the middle of the day.) It's hard -- and hard work on the nanny (ours only works 4 days a week.) But if you split the costs of her salary, which should be generous for this number of kids, it will be less than 30k and involve much less drop offs/pickups. And if the situation works for everyone, it could be much nicer for the kids as well!
posted by caoimhe at 11:52 AM on May 30, 2017

Some schools have before and after care on the premises with rates that are better than daycare centers

This was helpful for us, in an expensive city. Saves transportation aggravation too, although you can't translate that into dollars.
posted by JimN2TAW at 11:56 AM on May 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

One other thought - for summer, I've found you need to start planning in February-ish, both to hit camp registrations and to be very strategic about your own family vacation, grandparent visits, etc. And I also agree that there will be cheaper camps to be had, more along the lines of basic YMCA type daycamps (nothing wrong with that) and less the fancy aviation museum's daycamp. When your school year calendar is published sit down and map out the breaks, in-services, half-days for conferences etc. If you use the school's aftercare you might automatically be able to pick up those days without needing to plan very much, but for anything else you'll want to know it's coming well in advance.
posted by handful of rain at 11:57 AM on May 30, 2017 [7 favorites]

Have you looked into the YMCA for summer camps and after school programs?
posted by pintapicasso at 11:58 AM on May 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

I want to add that the YMCA camp in my city (Portland ME) starts at $215 a week, but offers extended care from 7 AM until 8 PM I believe, and you get a $800 discount if you pay early. It also offers financial assistance. I know a lot of working parents who use their programs and I did when I was a kid.
posted by pintapicasso at 12:03 PM on May 30, 2017 [7 favorites]

Yes, that's about what child care costs.

I did, well, a bunch of different things. My son would go stay with my parents sometimes, like on spring break and things. I looked around and found less expensive before and after school and summer programs, like one that was run by the YMCA, and, when I was taking classes at a commuter campus, there was a 'teaching daycare' on campus with regular teachers, where student teachers would come in to read stories and things like that with supervision. That was quite a bit less expensive than regular day cares, and you didn't have to be a student to enroll your child. I have no idea if there are options like that available in your area, but it's worth looking for options that could get overlooked in a traditional search.

When he got a bit older, one summer, I hired an older friend of his, a nice, responsible boy whose family I was friends with, for babysitter rates. I'd fill up the refrigerator with snacks for them (that kid ate a LOT), and they'd hang out at my house, but with pretty close supervision from the other boy's mom, so they weren't totally alone. And I did a lot of trading with friends and neighbors as well, where we'd take turns with each others' kids so everyone would get some time off.

I also worked from home as much as I could.

And yeah, I used my vacation time too. It was just me, though. Maybe with two people, you can swing something every now and again. I wouldn't count on it, though.
posted by ernielundquist at 12:04 PM on May 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Right now, I work 6:30 to 3 so I can get off and pick the kids up from school. My wife works 9 to 5 so she can drop them off in the morning.
posted by trbrts at 12:06 PM on May 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Obviously different locations will have different prices. We (a non-religous family) found a local church had a summer day camp which was about $100 cheaper per week than most other camps. Typically 2-3 teens per 30 kids and maybe 1-4 adults per 5 groups. Even better, they accepted people from out of their perish, their hours were better than many other camps, and they even offered an extra hour later and/or earlier for $5 per day - an extra $50/week got us drop off/pickup times of 8:00-6:00!

After we adopted the kids, I think it was around year 4 that I first got to use a vacation day for actual vacation / time off for myself, instead of just so I could cover child care on a PD day. Don't forget the PD days.

There was some god stuff, but is didn't appear to be over the top as we never heard any of it from the kid. However, at least from the time I was in and around to witness, it appeared to be more "be good, kind, sharing", "community" and "welcoming" than trying to push actual scripture. We felt dirty sending him to a religous daycamp, but we held our nose and did it.

There's a reason that many people say they end up losing money being a dual income family with childcare.

Most people with less financial means will make finding local people offering childcare services with no accredation. When I was young, my babysitter chainsmoked and would have up to 7 kids (usually 4) in the house, not including her own daughter who was a year younger than me. I'm sure that still happens. There's no infants, no learning, lots of TV and mostly unsupervised free time with whatever toys you brought that day (or you begged to play with her daughter). Oh, we got field trips occaisionally to the grocery store, and rummage sales. Only once did we have to go to the hospital because of an injury (not me or my sister!).

I'm sure day care like this still happens.

Additionally, older relatives typically are roped into child care for those who's families aren't dead and/or estranged. For those who work part time and/or shift work, they can look into trading child care for looking after others children.

Like bilabial I became a latchkey kid, but I waited until first grade. I also spent summers before that a chuch daycamps, but my family was religous, so there was likely less nose holding with that. I mostly just remember singing songs at them; I don't remember homilies or readings like Sunday School.
posted by nobeagle at 12:08 PM on May 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

For summer camp, my school aged kid attends a camp that's about $1000 for the entire summer. It's run through the park district. It goes 9-4 or 9-5, and they offer extended hours (7-6:30?) for an extra $30/week. They do 2 week blocks that are loosely themed, and swim at the Y, and take field trips on Wednesdays. It's..... well enough supervised, I guess; it can be a tough crowd on the playground but my kid has survived in years past. It's in a low income area and they offer free lunch to the kids who attend camp and any other kid who shows up and asks for lunch.

The specialty camps are way more expensive. We have cost averaged the budget summer camp with the fancy Montessori preschool he has attended for the rest of the year. (Although that really wasn't much more expensive than most of the big daycare centers in town)
posted by telepanda at 12:23 PM on May 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

A couple things we did that helped:

* At first, my wife and I both worked part-time (30 hours/week each or so) and mostly opposite schedules, so that my daughter was in care only one day a week.

* We used mostly (licensed, official) in-home day care arrangements and, in one case, a state-funded day care provider that offered a sliding scale. None of those arrangements were the best possible day care in the world, but they were good enough.

* Had carpool and/or childcare sharing arrangements that allowed some flexibility so that our daughter could be dropped off at my wife's work if she was running late, for example.

* Arranged morning start times and afternoon quitting times for each of us so that one of us was available for either pick up or drop off.

* When I was a kid, my Grandfather was absolutely thrilled to be able to pick us up after school and stay with us for a few hours until one parent got home.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:27 PM on May 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh I should add, my wife and I still work mostly opposite schedules (she is in emergency medicine, so this is possible even working full-time) with a daughter who can ride the bus to and from high school and we still occasionally run into issues with juggling after school commitments and keeping her entertained in the summer. This does not go away, I'm sorry to say.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:31 PM on May 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yup, this is our life except my MIL moved in with us -- my youngest still needs care but my oldest (12) can come home. Daycare is more than our mortgage by quite a bit. Echoing that the summer budget depends on getting into the parks & rec/ymca less expensive camps. If you are really strapped budget-wise and don't mind the inculcation, a lot of my friends do church camp/vacation bible school at multiple churches.
posted by warriorqueen at 12:54 PM on May 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was a nanny in college - I had morning classes and made $1k/mo picking kids up from school, light chores, homework help, play with them until parents got home. I was salaried so they didn't have to stress if they ran late (and when they went on holiday I was able to study abroad); I was paid more than I would have earned in a lot of casual jobs. Once or twice I did something like... I picked up the tween early and dropped him at school for school camp.

Maybe that's an idea? Maybe there's a camp counsellor with morning classes?

Nth YMCA summer camp.
posted by jrobin276 at 12:58 PM on May 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Lots of great advice has already been offered. One bit to add – it is necessary/helpful to treat finding acceptable full-time summer care like you would planning a months long, multi-country vacation. It’s work, and it needs to start well in advance of the summer. In my city, you are out of luck if you haven’t locked down your plans by mid-march. A nice balance between ‘reasonably affordable’ and good quality can be found – but you have to put in the leg work to hunt down these care options.
posted by walkinginsunshine at 1:04 PM on May 30, 2017 [7 favorites]

As many have pointed out, there are several options. None of them are great. The cost of baby and child care may wipe out the earnings of one of the parents. On the other hand, the parent that stays home may fall behind, career wise.

Once school starts the cost is greatly reduced. This is a huge benefit. At this point the wise parents will start setting aside a significant portion of the cost savings for eventual college expenses.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 1:43 PM on May 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

We feel your pain too. We're in the exact same situation.

We don't have family in the area who are willing to help out, so how do we do it? We network like hell, first of all. We ask everyone we know for help, without shame. People are happy to help where they can. We drop off our oldest with a retired friend in the neighborhood who will keep him for an hour and then deliver him to school. We use the after-school care option at school. We make friends with as many stay-at-home parents as possible, to help with pick up when we can't swing it. We arrange care swaps with those parents on our days off (we each work a 4x10 schedule and so we each have a weekday off; that reduces our need for external care to 3 days/wk) Care swaps mean that we never really have a full day off though. I'm trying to convince my (retired) parents to move closer to us so they can help us, but I don't think they're gonna go for it. We're also trying to arrange a more formal care co-op at school, as there are many working parents in our situation.
posted by vignettist at 1:46 PM on May 30, 2017

Two related ideas:

I'm a teacher, so I am taking my daughter out of her daycare for the summer (she's an infant). Her daycare provider found a school age child who needed daycare for the summer to replace her. You might find that other daycares have similar openings, rather than looking at camps.

I'd also be happy to take an extra kid for a couple of days a week since I'm off work--maybe you could see if you can find someone on who wants to watch your kid along with theirs?

In answer to your more general questions, this is a national crisis, and it will be solved when people start getting paid more. In my area we're grateful to pay $300/week for infant care because it means we actually got a slot--many people are not so lucky.
posted by chaiminda at 1:47 PM on May 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

I just started back but basically I look at my job as personal fulfilment and groundwork for the future not as salary because I'm not making much over what we pay the nanny.

I recommend a nanny share for the summer. If you can get 3 or 4 kids you can pay a university student a very decent wage.
posted by TheLateGreatAbrahamLincoln at 1:50 PM on May 30, 2017

As a stay-at-home parent (because of daycare cost) I'm happy to do summer care for friends' kids (one or two at a time, not like an unlicensed daycare sitch), especially who are classmates or friends of my kids, for, I don't know, $150/week ish? Especially if I get bottles of wine or barbecue invitations as thanks. It's fun for my kids and a little extra helps. Remember there are costs for the at home parenting -- extra food, gas to go on outings, etc. -- as well as the value of the babysitting. I mean the point is cheaper childcare that's halfway between a favor and a service, but don't be stingy.

Similarly, it's pretty common for kids to go to a friend's house for two hours after school for modest payment. (Nurses who work convenient shifts quite often have an after school bonus kid around here.)

I take friends' kids on school holidays (that are not work holidays) in exchange for occasional Saturday afternoons or nights watching my kids so we can go out to adult things. It's really no trouble since I'm home anyway and keeps my kids busy to have a friend over on Casimir Pulaski Day.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:58 PM on May 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm in a lower COL city but yes: YMCA or Boys & Girls Club summer camp is where my kid is most likely going to end up next summer ($140 or $80/week respectively), with maybe one or two weeks interspersed at a more fancy-pants specialty week-long camp. The day camp I went to as a child, which was affordable to my parents (a junior professor and back office worker) in the 80s is now $2300 for six weeks (which, obvs, is not even the entire summer), so, yeah, no.

Both the Y and Boys and Girls Clubs have extended day programs, too.

The daycare center that my son was at when he was younger also had a program for school-aged kids in the summers. It wasn't, like, Space Camp, but it was a safe, friendly place for kids to go when school wasn't in. I had dreams of him going to special camps like I did when I was a kid, but that's just become unaffordable, and it's not like he'll know the difference.

The school he's starting at in the fall has before and after care (I don't know how much that is yet, they seem very tight-lipped about it), but the hours are kind of looking like it might actually be worth it to just hire a local stay-at-home parent who is looking for a little extra dough to take him to the bus stop in the morning and gather him from the bus in the afternoon and look after him for an hour until one of us returns.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:59 PM on May 30, 2017

I assume you are in America. Child care can be very expensive in other countries as well. However some governments take steps to assist. Looking at the economic costs of having one parent not able to work because of childcare costs; the Australian government has a childcare subsidy scheme. You get approximately 50% of your fees paid back from the government. With a cap of 7500 total for the year. But in exciting news, in response to a productivity commission report, the system is now removing the cap for those couples warning less then 250,000 a year. (Also slightly adjusting the % back once you earn over 250,000- it begins to taper until it reaches only 20% back for those warning 350,000).

Childcare is still very expensive where I am, but the subsidy really helps those with kids.
posted by daffodil at 2:20 PM on May 30, 2017

I can't comment on costs but my parents used a combination of unlicensed daycares and family members until about age 10; then I was a latchkey kid. It was a dense urban area so I had other kids to play with, most with parents or older siblings at home (I'm an only child). I'm guessing your kids are about 5 years apart? It was completely normal for a 12 year old to take care of a younger sibling before/after school. So you don't have many years of this, maybe 6 or 7 at most.
posted by AFABulous at 2:47 PM on May 30, 2017

Do either of you have access to a dependent care flexible spending account? You can use pre-tax dollars (up to $5,000) to pay for out-of-pocket dependent care expenses, such as afterschool programs and summer camps. Probably too late to get into one for this year, but start looking into it for next year.

Summer camps: as you hear about camps this summer from other parents, web searching, etc., start a shared document to keep track of locations, URLs, this year's costs, etc. For any camp that you're interested in, sign up for their mailing lists, so you'll know when they release their summer schedule and pricing. There are always discounts for signing up early.

If a camp runs from 9-3, they should also offer before and after care for a fee (ideally from 8-9, and 3-6). If a camp doesn't offer this, strike them from your list.

Check your local parks/rec system. Where I live, there's a super-cheap camp option offered by the parks department.
posted by mogget at 3:01 PM on May 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Second looking into parks and rec for both summer programs and school year care. In my city it's nearly impossible to get into but once you're off the waitlist, you're golden forever.
posted by padraigin at 5:52 PM on May 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

My wife and I worked opposite schedules and she had reduced hours for the first few years. We had no close relatives, no friends we could saddle with the challenges of our kids because both mine are extra challenging... and we just... suffered through it.

We went out a handful of times.

I remember back to the nonverbal days when we could go to a movie and keep the kid in the carseat faces the opposite direction for a midday matinee... then movies and dinner became a $120 dinner after babysitters were included.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:19 PM on May 30, 2017

Nthing Parks & Recs being the cheapest thing going; the community colleges near us also offer "kid university" at a more affordable rate, starting at the age of 6. I don't love it because it's academic all day with no playtime built in, but we're going to give it a try for two weeks this summer and see how it goes.
posted by vignettist at 7:13 PM on May 30, 2017

Two places:
1. Girl Scouts have day camps as well as sleepover camps. They're very reasonable.
2. Parks and Rec for your local city!
posted by heathrowga at 7:19 PM on May 30, 2017

A friend of mine found that an au pair was cheaper than full time daycare for two kids.
posted by salvia at 8:48 PM on May 30, 2017

I see you are in Massachusetts - me too. We have the most expensive childcare in the country! Yay us! We're #1!

We had two kids in daycare for awhile and it was about $25k, annually. It was a lot of money. Our salaries met it, but we didn't have wiggle room for extras. We were renting so we were at least not responsible for house maintenance or upkeep.

My parents and my in-laws do not live close enough to help out, though my parents have helped us financially before, when we needed the help (my husband got laid off twice in about two years so that was... fun). I work 7 to 3 so I can get my daughter off the bus (and therefore not pay for aftercare) and my husband works like 9-6ish but he can also work from home almost whenever, so that helps us a lot.

My oldest is 8 and so we've learned to save up money throughout the year to pay for camp. My city has a very affordable parks and rec option - $120 per week, but you have to sign up at the end of March/beginning of April and competition is fierce. Y camp by is is a little pricey, about $300/week. The Boys & Girls Club is an affordable option - they are about $215 a week and you don't have to pay in advance, you just have to pay the week or two before the session.

We also ship the kids off to grandparents, each set for a week, over the summer.

Networking and finding your "village" is key. We have made a bunch of friends with same-age kids in my city and a lot of people have the "But I have to pick them up at 4???" problem so I've picked up a few kids before and held onto them at my house or at a park until 5 or so, and so have other parents for me. It's honestly no big deal and sometimes it makes it easier so my kid is occupied and not whining at me that she doesn't want to leeeeeave. :) If I can work from home in the afternoon I'm happy to have my kid and her friends come over for an early release day if none of the other parents can get out of work in time.

It's really hard! Are you in a Facebook group for parents in your neighborhood? That's how I found out about most of the camp options. I don't know where you or your wife work but if it's anywhere in the Newton/Waltham/Watertown area, I can give you some names of the camps that are open to all, not just residents.
posted by sutel at 7:41 AM on May 31, 2017

I also just wanted to add that last summer I worked some weird hours, with permission, to leave early for camp pick up. One week it was at 2:30 p.m.!! My boss was very understanding and was sympathetic that it was just a temporary situation. It doesn't hurt to ask if you can leave early or come in late to help accommodate with camp stuff (assuming you have a boss who is cool with that).
posted by sutel at 7:42 AM on May 31, 2017

Echoing Eyebrows above wrt summer care: I'm a stay-at-home parent, and I watch my best friend's two children over the summer for $250 a week. (I live in a higher cost of living area.) Her kids are my kids' best friends, which helps a lot, but we have a great time; the kids call it Camp Kathryn and are already looking forward to it now.

During the school year, the parents I know do the spread shift thing mentioned above. One family can't cover the last 30 minutes before school, so they send their kid to my house on the way out the door, and in return they watch my kids for an hour once a week between when I have to leave for evening rehearsals and when my husband gets home. Another family has 90 minutes between when their kid gets home from school and when they get home from work, and they pay one of the teenagers on the street $50 a week to check on him after he gets home, make him a snack, and make sure he gets started on his homework. She doesn't stay, she just gets him set up. It's all very uneven and make-do but it works out ok.
posted by KathrynT at 9:26 AM on May 31, 2017

I'm a single mom and my childcare provider will get more of my take-home pay than I will. But I am a teacher so I don't need to worry about summers and holidays. My solution has been to stockpile money now, before he starts daycare on the fall, and use my savings to pay for it. I wish there was a better way.
posted by ficbot at 6:01 PM on June 3, 2017

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