I feel like I just hit the jackpot because…
I JUST WROTE MY LAST DAYCARE CHECK!!!!!
I just instantly got a raise because next year, my children will be going to Kindergarten in our public school. While our school district charges a fair amount of participation fees for things like sports (i.e. “pay to play”), it doesn’t even come close to the cost of paying two concurrent daycare tuition fees.
How much of a raise did I get?? Out of sheer curiosity, I decided to tally the fees and see how much I averaged per month.
Keep in mind that I had the double whammy of twins, so for the entire duration that they’ve been in school, I’ve been paying 2x the tuition. Some could argue that I’ve kept it contained to 5 years because if you have two separate children a few years apart, you are spreading out the same cost over more years. I also have to caveat that I was lucky because I was on maternity leave for 4 months after my twins were born, and then my folks watched the kids for a couple months. When my folks stopped watching them, I only had them in daycare for 4 days for a short while before going to 5-day care. Basically, the amount I spent is a few thousand lower in total than it could theoretically have been.
And the answer is…[Drumroll, please]…$3,100 after tax dollars per month – over more than 5 years of childcare (does not take into account the fact that each year, I put away a nominal amount pre-tax for the dependent care expenses). You do the math.
(This does NOT include the upcoming few months of summer camp that we’ve prepaid since we’d have to do that anyhow if they were in public school…)
Some might say that this is because I chose to put my kids into an expensive daycare – I will argue that that’s not true. I am the cheapest person EVER and my husband and I have always been conscious of incremental fees associated with things like aftercare during their summer programs. In fact, we shopped around before finding a place that worked for us. Truth be told, we are probably paying less than many parents in our area pay in order to cover childcare expenses. The fact of the matter simply is: It is the average price you pay for the ability to be a working parent (of 2) in Connecticut.
This brings me to the point of this post. My intent in saying that I paid that much is not to be a brag of any sort, like “Whee! Look at me! I make so much money and am instantly richer now!” In fact, the point is quite the opposite. What it is intended to do is highlight is the sad reality of the fact that unless you make over $40K after taxes, the struggle to cover childcare is real. Consider this:
- If we did the math, my cost year was just over $37K. Let’s reduce that by 25% to account for the fact that I do live in a fairly pricey town. That brings us to $27,900 a year.
- Assuming you took zero vacations (worked 52 weeks) over the year, you’d have to make $537 a week (most of which would be after tax) to break even. That does not even factor in basic living expenses like food, clothing, housing, healthcare.
- Assuming in those 52 weeks, you worked a 40 hour workweek (which is a broad assumption), you’d have to make over $13/hour to break even before even factoring in living costs.
- Now consider the fact that Connecticut minimum wage is $9.60. If you are making minimum wage but working 40 hours / week, you are still only bringing home <$140 per week before taxes.
See the problem??
Last year, I wrote a piece about the need for increased public funding for early childhood education (excluded non preschool childcare) and you could probably extend the point about that piece to include childcare in general. There is a pressing need in this country, and in particular in states like Connecticut, to provide options for parents to comfortably return to work – the fact remains that there is a tremendous disparity between the willingness to work, and the ability to do so. Until we close that gap, parents, families and households will continually struggle to make ends meet.
This is not “pay to play” – it is “pay to work.”